CEUs for ABA Therapists


CEUs for ABA Therapists

Understanding Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for ABA Therapists

Healthcare is a rewarding career which allows you to make a positive difference in the lives of others. But becoming a healthcare professional isn’t always easy. Specialized education and certification are required, which can be costly and time-consuming. But it’s important to understand medical professionals, including ABA therapists, are never truly finished learning.  

Even after earning a graduate degree and becoming certified by the required professional organization, you’ll still need to return to the classroom frequently. Here’s a closer look at Continuing Education Units and the role CEU ABA requirements play in effective therapy.

Why Applied Behavior Analysis Requires On-Going Education

Applied Behavior Analysis was created in the 1960s but has only recently seen a surge in popularity. ABA therapy focuses on understanding and modifying behavior in real-world settings. It’s especially effective when treating individuals on the autism spectrum.

Many behavioral adjustment therapies focus heavily on techniques created in a laboratory setting. But ABA therapy is different. It emphasizes the important connection between behavior and the environment. According to Autism Speaks, ABA therapy:


  • Adapts to each individual’s specific needs
  • Focuses on behavior in the home, school, and community
  • Teaches skills required for everyday life

ABA therapy’s flexibility is a major reason why it’s so effective. The therapist identifies the client’s specific needs and problem areas, then develops a treatment plan to provide solutions.

But ABA therapy’s flexibility also poses unique challenges for the therapist. ABA techniques are regularly updated and changed. Continuing education is necessary (and mandatory) for therapists to stay informed.  

CEU’s 101

CEU stands for Continuing Education Unit. They’re classes, seminars and other events which behavior analysts are required to complete to stay certified.


The Behavior Analyst Certification Board issues professional certification for two groups of people:


  • BCBAs (Board Certified Behavior Analysts)
  • BCBA-Ds (Board Certified Behavior Analysts – Doctoral)

BCBA professionals are allowed to provide behavior-analytic services independently. They can also supervise BCaBAs (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts), RBts (Registered Behavior Technicians) and others who work in similar positions.

Certification is mandatory for BCBA professionals, so in a way the individual’s opinion of the usefulness of the classes is irrelevant. He or she has to keep up with their CEUs, or they won’t be allowed to work.

Fortunately, the CEUs are far from a bureaucratic waste of time. Instead, they play a vital role in providing the best possible care to patients. Therapists often find continuing education to be informative, useful and even fun.

However, balancing CEUs with a full-time career isn’t always easy. Finding time for classes and other instruction can be challenging. Plus, BCBA continuing education requirements can feel difficult to navigate, especially if you’re new to the industry.

BCBA Continuing Education Requirements

The certification cycle lasts two years for both BCBAs and BCaBAs. You must meet all CEU within the appropriate two-year span. Extra units can’t apply to future years. Also, you can’t make up any lost units after the expiration date has passed. These practices ensure all information taught stays relevant.


Here’s where it gets a little complicated. Continuing Education is measured in units. Different professionals require different amounts of completed units for certification.

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board recognizes seven different types of continuing education such as classes, seminars, and others. But not all types are the same; they’re worth different amounts of units. Additionally, you’re not allowed to repeat courses for more units.

Plus, certain types of units have mandated minimums. For instance, you’ll always have to complete at least some classroom instruction. But you can then add seminars and events. The different options allow you some leeway in selecting the type of continuing education you prefer.


Requirements for BCBA

As the most experienced professionals in an ABA setting, BCBAs require the most continuing education. Thirty-two units are required every two years. Four CEUs must be in Ethics. Additionally, supervisors are required to complete three CEUs in Supervision.    


Requirements for BCaBA

Assistant Behavior Analysts have a slightly easier workload. They’re required to complete 20 CEUs in the two years. Four must be in Ethics. Supervisors are required to complete three Supervision CEUs.

Note that BCaBAs aren’t particularly common in the industry. They often earn significantly less than a BCBA, but the education requirements aren’t significantly easier. Many industry professionals recommend earning a BCBA instead of a BCaBA.

The 7 Types of Approved Continuing Education

Type 1 – College or University Coursework

Classroom learning is the most common, and usually most familiar, type of CEU. BCBAs must complete courses at the graduate level, while BCBAs can choose from both graduate or undergraduate level courses.


All courses must be directly related to behavior analytics. Additionally, classes must be taken at a BACB-approved college or university. You must submit both a course syllabus and transcript to claim continuing education credit.


Fifty minutes of classroom instruction earns the student one continuing education unit. Generally, this works out to 15 CEUs per semester. College coursework has no CEU limit. You can earn all the required units through classroom instruction if you wish.  


Type 2 – Authorized Events

Completing certain events authorized by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board also earns CEUs. These events are provided by various sponsors, not the BACB directly.

You can earn all the required units this way. A certificate or letter from the Authorized Continuing Education provider is required to claim credit.


Type 3 – Non-Authorized Events

You can also earn units by completing seminars, conferences, workshops, symposiums and other events directly related to behavior analysis – even if the BACB does not specifically authorize the event.

A signed and dated certificate is required to claim credit. Attending non-authorized events can earn up to 25% of the total required units.


Type 4 – Instruction

You don’t have to be a student to earn CEUs. Teaching either a Type 1 or Type 2 event can earn them, too. CEUs are earned on a one-time basis for each event, provided you were present (but not necessarily teaching) for the entire time.

Up to half of the total required hours can be earned via Instruction. You’ll need to provide either a letter from the department chair, on official university letterhead, or a letter from the Authorized Continuing Education coordinator.   


Type 5 – BACB Events

The BACB provides a variety of events which you can attend to earn units. Events include seminars, conferences, and other activities. You can earn up to 25% of the total units this way.

Authorization for these hours is provided from the BACB directly via the attendee’s unique BACB Gateway Account.  


Type 6 – Exam

The certification board offers an exam you can take during the final year of the certification cycle. BCBAs take a BCBA exam; BCaBAs take a BCaBA exam. You don’t have to take the exam at all, but it can be the easiest and fastest option.

If you pass the exam, all continuing education requirements are satisfied. But if you fail, you’ll lose certification completely. Even if you’re confident in your understanding of the material, taking the exam can be a bit risky. You don’t want to lose certification simply because you had a bad experience on test day.   


Type 7 – Scholarly Activities

You can earn units by publishing ABA-related articles in a peer-reviewed journal. You can also earn hours by servings as a reviewer or editor of such an article for a peer-reviewed journal. These CEU credits can only be claimed for the cycle when the published articles appeared.

Writing the published articles is worth eight hours of continuing education. Reviewing a published article is worth one CEU. Up to 25% of continuing education units can be earned through Scholarly Activities.  


Total Required Continuing Education

No more than 75% of total CEU can come from Non-Authorized Events, Instruction, BACB Events, and Scholarly Activities. At least one-quarter of the hours must be from Classroom Instruction and Authorized Events.


Ethical issues related to behavior analytics play an important role in continuing education. The BACB has created a list of ethics requirements to incorporate into instruction. Common topics include:


  • Creating an ethical culture in an organization
  • Ethical issues related to technology and media
  • Ethical implementation of non-behavioral therapies


BCBAs and BCaBAs who perform supervisory duties are required to obtain additional training. Each certification cycle requires three Supervision CEUs. The Supervisor Training Curriculum Outline details approved content.


Supervision and Ethics courses often overlap. Unfortunately, hours can’t be applied to both. If you complete a course which is eligible for both Ethics and Supervision CEU, you’ll need to pick which category to apply the units towards.

Understanding the Importance of CEU

ABA Therapy is a growing field. If you’re new to the industry, you’ll likely be surprised at how much there is to learn within each two-year cycle. But there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. CEU for ABA can be organized into a few different fields:  

New Techniques

ABA therapy involves developing behavior strategies for real-world situations. But the real world is constantly changing. Continuing educations focuses on new techniques which help patients face current challenges, such as issues related to technology and social issues.

New Information

Autism spectrum diagnoses are increasing, which might be due to improving diagnostic methods, an increase in affected individuals or other factors. Staying up-to-date on the latest autism news improves the effectiveness of treatment. Continuing education helps therapists learn updated medical information which might not have been available during their earlier schooling.


Networking with ABA Professionals

Finally, conferences and classrooms provide plenty of opportunities for ABA therapists to network and socialize. Expanding your ABA network helps when you’re searching for a new hire or need another professional connection. Plus, you can make new friends, too!

Reinforcement of Existing Knowledge

The key to retaining information is often repetition. You might have mastered a topic when in graduate school only to forget the details after a few years in the working world. After all, you’ll generally focused primarily on information which relates to your patients.

Continuing education helps keep you sharp in ABA topics you don’t necessarily deal with every day. CEU keeps you abreast of the entire ABA curriculum, which can be useful if you change jobs or encounter patients with specialized needs.

Where can ABA Therapists find CEUs?

Fortunately, finding continuing education opportunities is usually easy. Major colleges and universities typically offer a variety of classes related to behavior analysis. If your schedule makes attending a physical class difficult, online classes and webinars might offer more flexibility.


Your employer can also be a helpful resource. They might be able to direct you towards seminars, conferences, and other CEU opportunities. Remember, you won’t be able to work without certification. As that affects both you and your employer, many companies are more than willing to help you stay certified.

Professional organizations are another great resource. They often host conferences which count towards your certification. Joining a local organization helps you find events held near you.

Personal connections and recommendations are also very helpful. If you have friends in the industry, try to take some classes together. Not only is that often more fun, but having someone to study with can make learning the material easier.

Final Thoughts

After completing graduate school, you’re likely ready to step out of the classroom and into the professional workplace. The idea of continuing education might not seem very appealing at first. But continuing education in ABA is the best way to provide effective care for your patients.

ABA therapy is a field forever in flux. New ideas and techniques develop all the time. Classes, conferences, and other continuing education opportunities will allow you to provide the best possible ABA therapy year after year.

Have an ABA practice? Learn how CodeMetro can help you manage your organization’s everyday needs from scheduling and data collection, to billing and  payroll here.

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