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The Complete Guide to Becoming an RBT

Table of Contents

RBT, BCBA, BCaBA, and BACB, you’re not alone if you’re a little confused. These are some of the acronyms describing the professional roles available in the behavioral health industry. 

More specifically, these are the men and women who work with adults and children with developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.

If you’ve always been interested in helping an autistic child improve their social skills or reducing another’s harmful behaviors, perhaps it’s time you investigate a career in the behavioral health industry.

The first step to working in this industry is becoming an RBT or registered behavior technician. This specialized group of people delivers autism therapy directly to their clients. Their role is crucial in teaching individuals on the spectrum new skills and behaviors. 

If this interests you, read on to learn how to become an RBT.

What Do Registered Behavior Technicians Do?

A Registered Behavior Technician is responsible for implementing the ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) treatment plan BCBAs (Board-Certified Behavior Analysts) designed. 

The majority of RBTs work individually or one-on-one with their clients. Their responsibility is to teach and perform interventions outlined in that client’s treatment plan.

RBTs have extensive training to correct problematic behaviors, such as aggression, using techniques including positive reinforcement.

RBTs must also collect data. Apart from teaching, this is their second-greatest responsibility. 

While working with their clients, they are trained to observe and note the client’s reaction to various stimuli. This valuable information must be relayed to the RBT’s supervising BCBA so teaching goals and behavioral routines can be adjusted accordingly.  

Who Should Become an RBT?

The ABA principles and strategies within the RBT training course can be helpful for parents, educators, or others who would like to learn more about applied behavior analysis. 

Yet the following professions are the ones that would particularly benefit from RBT training:

Happy hospital worker
  • Individuals who work with people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Hospital staff and administrators
  • Occupational therapists
  • Speech pathologists
  • Hospice supervisors and staff
  • After-school activity staff
  • Daycare supervisors and employees
  • Parents of children with problem behaviors
  • Teachers substitute or permanent
  • Emergency response technicians
  • Care staff in residential or group homes
  • Parents of children who are developmentally delayed
  • Case managers
  • Home health aides 

Is Becoming an RBT Worth It?

Simply put-yes! Becoming a registered behavior technician is a tremendous starting point for a career working with individuals on the autism spectrum. 

Whether you plan to remain an RBT or work towards a higher level of certification, this is a meaningful career path if you particularly enjoy assisting people of all ages and abilities in learning new skills to help them flourish.  

How Long Does It Take to Become an RBT?

If you’re particularly motivated, becoming a registered behavior technician often won’t take longer than a month.

You must complete the 40-hour RBT training and then pass the RBT exam before being certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and officially becoming a registered behavior technician. 

First and foremost, you must meet the following criteria :

  • Be a minimum of 18 years old
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Graduate from high school with a diploma or the equivalent
  • Complete the RBT training
  • Complete a competency assessment
  • Pass the RBT exam

Fulfill the RBT training requirements.

Becoming an RBT begins with fulfilling your training requirements. Apart from your RBT certification, training is the second most crucial step. Fortunately, there are several different ways to acquire your accredited training. 

Through your current employer

RBT training may already be available if you’re employed with a clinic, special-need school, or private agency specializing in ABA therapy. Many companies and groups will pay for your RBT training if it means you will continue to work with them. It’s a win-win system.

Through post-secondary coursework

If you’re enrolled in a post-secondary institution, check if your school offers RBT training. Whether the RBT course is in-person or offers RBT training online, take advantage of this opportunity while you continue pursuing a degree.

Through a private company

Numerous private companies offer an RBT course. Some are even offered online so you can take them at your convenience. Once complete, then you can register for the board exam.

It’s important to remember that a certified ABA specialist must supervise all RBT training.

Passing your competency assessment & RBT test

Once your RBT course is complete, you can undergo a competency assessment. During this evaluation, you’ll be tested regarding your skills with clients. If an ABA therapy agency currently employs you, an assessor might attend one of your appointments. 

Conversely, if you’re not already working in the industry, the assessor will evaluate your training with a paid actor portraying the client. 

The assessor will also ask you questions virtually or in person regarding your training, your ability to document sessions, and the different concepts within ABA therapy.  

Once your assessment is complete, you can register for the RBT test. Usually, it is administered in a controlled environment on a predetermined date.

You’ll receive a pass or fail notification the same day you complete the exam, and within 24 hours, you’ll be emailed your official RBT certification.

Is Getting An RBT Certification Hard?

According to the BCBA’s 2022 annual report,  77% of students pass the RBT test the first time they take it. 

Yes, the RBT test is hard if you don’t prepare. The best advice is to pay close attention when completing your mandatory 40-hour training course. If the RBT course is good, it will provide you with all the information you need to pass the exam.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Being an RBT

It’s essential to consider the pros and cons of a career as an RBT before embarking on your certification journey. 


Strong demand for RBTs

There is a strong job outlook for RBTs. These paraprofessionals will be in demand far into the future, thanks in part to the rise in autism diagnoses. The need for certified professionals such as RBTs who can provide specialized therapy is rising; therefore, RBTs will enjoy greater stability and security than the national average. 

Choices of work settings

Whether working in a school, residential treatment facility, clinic, or a client’s home, an RBT can work almost anywhere they want. Unlike many professionals, RBTs can choose to find a work setting that suits their interests. 

Happy RBT with child

The inherent reward of helping others

The most rewarding part of becoming an RBT is helping others. You are in a unique position to make a tremendous difference in the lives of your autistic clients. 

By implementing behavior plans and teaching new skills, you enable individuals to grow and develop to their fullest potential.

Witnessing a client’s progress and growth can prove incredibly poignant and fulfilling. 


Burnout and Stress

Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of working as a registered behavior technician is the stress you will encounter. You often work with children who have ongoing behavioral issues or exhibit challenging behavior. Correcting or teaching alternative behaviors is undoubtedly not something that’s accomplished overnight.

Additionally, working one-on-one with autistic children can be emotionally draining. Not all of your young clients will progress quickly or learn new skills how you’d like them. 

Both situations can lead to burnout if you don’t monitor it properly.  Self-care and actively seeking support should be high on your priority list.

Initial Costs

Obtaining an RBT license and certification can be expensive. Not only do you have to complete a training course, but complete the exam and the ongoing renewal process. These costs will vary depending on where and how you train, but taking a good look at the costs before embarking on this journey is essential. 

BACB Code of Ethics

RBTs are expected to adhere to the BACB Code Of Ethics. They must also attend regular meetings regarding their clients and maintain detailed records and data regarding their treatment. Many hopeful RBTs don’t realize the administrative work needed to maintain their certification and play an active role as a therapist. 

How Much Money Do RBTs Make? 

While the salary for an RBT will vary depending on location, working environment, and professional experience, their earning potential is tremendously competitive. 

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board estimates that the average annual earnings for an RBT start at $30,000 to $50,000.

Get Your Questions Answered from Heartlinks

The decision as to whether you want to become an RBT requires tremendous thought. Questions like, “How do I manage stress?”, “What are my career aspirations?” and “Do I want to help others?” deserve honest and definitive answers.

With steady job growth, competitive pay, and many personal rewards, a career as a registered behavior technician might be just the professional pathway you’re looking for. 

If you have any more questions about the process of becoming a Registered Behavior Technician, reach out to us today.

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