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Understanding BCBA Fieldwork Hours

Updated: May 4

For aspiring behavior analysts, the fieldwork experience can be daunting. Frustration and confusion are often expressed by student analysts. If you're pursuing BCBA certification or considering doing so, continue reading for the answers to the commonly asked fieldwork questions.


Note: The BCBA Handbook is your best resource for understanding each requirement for becoming a BCBA, including fieldwork experience. We'll review several common components in this Q&A, but reviewing the handbook in its' entirety is strongly urged.

 

What are BCBA Fieldwork Hours?

BCBA fieldwork consists of 1,500-2,000 hours of activities applying behavior-analytic concepts and principles to real-world situations (pathway 4 only requires 500 hours, though that pathway will be eliminated in 2027). Your fieldwork experience is supervised by a qualified supervisor (i.e., a BCBA). The end goal is to prepare you for a role as a behavior analyst. While coursework provides the knowledge, there is no substitute for actively applying that knowledge with actual clients. This is why fieldwork experience is a vital component.


When can I start BCBA fieldwork?

You can start your fieldwork hours as soon as you attend your first course and sign a supervision contract with a supervising BCBA!

How many BCBA hours can I accrue each month?

You can accrue between 20 and 130 hours per month. If you don’t accrue at least 20 hours in a given month, you cannot count those hours. You can work more than 130 hours per month. That is totally fine! Simply do not record hours beyond 130 on your fieldwork documentation.

How long does BCBA supervised fieldwork take?

If you max out on 130 hours per month, you can expect to finish your fieldwork hours in 11.5-15.5 months. However, many trainees accrue fewer hours each month. A more realistic range of time is 18 months-3 years. Don’t forget, you can accrue hours while attending your masters program! That will help decrease the total time the process takes.



What are restricted and unrestricted hours?

Unrestricted tasks are all of the activities a BCBA is likely to do. The goal of BCBA fieldwork is to prepare student analysts for the role of a BCBA. Because of this, it's required that the majority (60%+) of the fieldwork experience centers around activities that develop BCBA-related competencies.


Unrestricted activities may include:

  • Creating data systems

  • Conducting assessments

  • Writing FBA reports, treatment plans, progress summaries, or other clinical documentation

  • Analyzing and interpreting data

  • Supervising and training staff

  • Evaluating and modifying interventions

Restricted activities include the direct implementation of therapeutic and instructional procedures. This is typically the role of a behavior technician or other paraprofessional role. You don't have to do restricted hours at all. You can complete 100% unrestricted with no restricted hours. Most people do both, though.

The one requirement is that you must have at least 60% unrestricted hours and no more than 40% restricted. For those accruing 2,000 hours, this means you must have at least 1,200 unrestricted hours, and you cannot accrue more than 800 restricted hours.


It's important to be aware that the BACB's guidance on fieldwork activities is somewhat generic to encompass the wide array of populations and manners of applying behavior analytic principles. The BACB provides several examples in the BCBA handbook of allowable activities, though they won't directly answer whether a particular activity counts.


You cannot mistake this vagueness to mean they are lenient or that just any activity will count. It is ultimately up to the BCBA to determine what does and does not count toward your hours. Keep in mind, though, it is also your responsibility to have a thorough understanding of the guidelines. In the event that you're ever audited by the BACB, you may need to provide supporting documentation to demonstrate that the activities you did during your fieldwork experience should have been counted. If your supervisor assigns you a task that you know can't count toward your supervision hours, yet they tell you to count them, decline this, politely pointing out why that activity cannot count.


Can you give some examples?

For sure. This can be a little confusing, especially for those who haven't started their hours yet or those who are new to the field.


Perhaps your supervisor delegates RBT scheduling to you. They assign you the responsibility of entering schedules into an online platform, modifying sessions, calling staff to inform them when sessions are canceled, etc. Scheduling is not behavior-analytic in nature and, therefore would not count toward your fieldwork hours, even if they are a part of your job duties.


Your fieldwork experience should encompass activities that will best prepare you for a BCBA role. Scheduling, administrative duties, laminating stimuli, or other tasks that aren't behavior-analytic and/or duties specific to a behavior analyst cannot be counted.


The BACB provides further clarification in the handbook. Here is a list of unacceptable activities. You cannot do any of these activities for restricted or unrestricted hours, per the BACB.

  • Attending meetings with little or no behavior-analytic content

  • Providing interventions that are not based on behavior analysis

  • Performing nonbehavioral administrative activities

  • Nonbehavior-analytic training related to service delivery (e.g., crisis management, CPR, billing systems)

  • Completing nonbehavioral assessments (e.g., diagnostic assessments, intellectual assessments), paperwork, documentation, billing, or any other activities that are not directly related to behavior analysis

  • Attending professional conferences, workshops, or university courses

  • Didactic-course assignments (e.g., completing homework assignments, readings, etc.)


What are the monthly supervision requirements?

The following table shows the monthly supervision requirements for both supervised and concentrated supervised fieldwork. The primary difference between the two is with the concentrated path, you can complete your hours quicker. However, you would need more monthly supervision. Some supervisors may not have the capacity to provide concentrated supervision, so if that is something you're interested in, clarify this before agreeing to supervision


Supervised Fieldwork

Concentrated Supervised Fieldwork

Number of total hours

2,000

1,500

Number of supervisor observations with a client

1

1

Number of contacts with supervisor

4

6

% of hours supervised

5%

10%

You can do a combination of supervised and concentrated. Hours accrued under the concentrated supervised fieldwork are accrued at a value of 1.33x the supervised fieldwork. Therefore, use a multiplier of 1.33 for any months that you accrue hours per the concentrated fieldwork requirements. Talk to your supervisor about how to do this.


Is there a limit to the number of monthly supervised hours?

Absolutely not! You can receive supervision for more than 5% of your total hours. The BACB sets forth minimum acceptable standards. A higher percentage of supervision may be beneficial and, in some cases, necessary for maintaining a high level of client care.


Can I do Remote BCBA Supervision?

You can! There are many companies, like ATCC, that offer supervised fieldwork remotely. It is important to note that you still need to maintain the monthly requirements, including one client observation each month. Check out our Remote BCBA Supervisor Database to locate a supervisor.



What are the pathways to becoming a BCBA?

There are currently 4 pathways, though 2 will be eliminated in 2026. You can learn more about the pathways to becoming a BCBA here.


What should I do if my fieldwork experience doesn't feel right?

I firmly believe that everyone is not for everyone, and that is okay. In other words, your supervisor may not be a great fit for you. Having a supervisor who fits your needs can make a big difference in the level of quality supervision you receive. If something doesn't quite feel right, advocate for whatever changes may be needed. I.e., more tasks assigned, increased feedback, additional support in XYZ, etc. If your requests are not acknowledged or addressed, you may want to consider seeking supervision elsewhere. This might include seeking employment elsewhere or securing external supervision.


Can I have more than 1 supervisor?

Yes, you can! As long as you have a contract in place with each supervisor, you can accrue hours with more than one supervising BCBA. If you have more than one supervisor within the same organization, then the supervisors can collectively work together to meet all of your monthly supervision requirements (i.e., you might have 2 contacts with Supervisor A and 2 contacts with Supervisor B). However, if you have supervisors in different organizations, each of them will need to independently meet all of the monthly requirements.


Let's break it down further. Imagine you work for ABC Company. You have one supervisor there, but they aren't providing you with as many hours as you'd like. You secure a remote supervisor outside of your company who provides you supervision to supplement your hours. In this case, your supervisor at ABC Company and your remote supervisor will each need to observe you with a client at least once per month, have 4 supervisory contacts, and supervise a minimum of 5% of your hours. Your total hours must still be between 20 and 130 per month. You cannot accrue more than 130 hours monthly, even if you have multiple supervisors.


Who counts as a client?

The BACB considers a client as anyone who receives behavior-analytic services in any setting. They further clarify anyone to mean a person or group of people. A large majority (around 70%) of the field works with the autism community, so many people accrue their hours while working with autistic children in the ABA field. However, this is not required. Any person or persons who would benefit from behavior analytic services can count as a client. Important note: Clients cannot be family members, friends, or anyone else that would constitute a dual relationship.


Do I have to be an RBT before becoming a BCBA?

No! Being an RBT is not a prerequisite, nor do you need to be an RBT to accrue fieldwork hours.


How long does the fieldwork experience last?

You can accrue a maximum of 130 hours per month. This means if you are maxing out hours, you could complete your fieldwork hours in as little as 11.5 months if you are going the concentrated route (1,500 hours) or 15 months if you are going the traditional route (2,000 hours).


Typically it takes between 1 1/2 and 3 years for student analysts to complete their hours. It is important to note that you cannot exceed five consecutive years though. Factor this into your plans if you expect to take breaks along the way or if you'll be accruing hours on the lower end of the range (reminder: You can accrue between 20 and 130 hours monthly).


Can any BCBA supervise?

No. A supervisor must meet one of the following requirements.

  • A current BCBA with no current disciplinary sanctions. Must complete an 8-hour supervision course and meet ongoing supervision CEU requirements. If they have been a BCBA for less than one year, they must receive ongoing consultation from a qualified consulting supervisor.

  • A licensed or registered psychologist certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology in Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology who has tested in ABA.

  • An authorized Verified Course Sequence (VCS) instructor.

You can check the BCBA Registry to confirm that your potential supervisor meets the requirements to supervise.


How do you track Fieldwork Hours?

Maintaining a record of your fieldwork activities is critical. The BACB advises keeping records for seven years in the case of an audit. Both the Supervisor and Supervisee should keep copies of all documentation. Try the Ripley Fieldwork Tracker to record your hours.


Learn more about fieldwork documentation:


Can I count hours if I didn't receive supervision in a month?

No. You must receive supervision every month you accrue fieldwork hours. If you do not meet the monthly requirements, you cannot accrue hours that month. If you work a partial month due to a vacation or client cancelations, for example, you may be able to prorate the month. Talk to your BCBA about how to do this.


Can I accrue BCBA fieldwork hours during periods of time off?

I get this question often lately. For example, someone is taking a maternity leave or an extended vacation and will not be working for a few months. Technically you can accrue hours in these circumstances. However, this is only the case IF you continue to have access to a client. You must meet the monthly requirement of 1 observation with a client each month, so if you don't have access to clients during these periods of time off, then you would not be able to accrue hours.


More resources

The following links are more BACB resources specific to the fieldwork experience. I highly recommend reviewing each of these.







Note: Some links shared are affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission. This does not change the total price that you pay on any products or services.

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