ABAT vs RBT: What are the Differences and Similarities Between These Behaviour Technician Certifications?

Feb 15, 2024

The information contained in this article is accurate at time of publishing (15/2/2024)

Behaviour technicians are professionals who provide direct applied behaviour analysis (ABA) services under supervision to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental issues. Behaviour technicians are responsible for implementing behaviour intervention plans, collecting data, and monitoring progress.

There are different certifications available for behaviour technicians, each with its own requirements, benefits, and challenges. Two of the most common certifications are the Applied Behaviour Analysis Technician (ABAT) and the Registered Behaviour Technician (RBT). In this article, we will compare and contrast these two credentials and highlight their similarities and differences. 

What is an ABAT?

An ABAT is a behaviour technician who is certified by the Qualified Applied Behaviour Analysis Credentialing Board (QABA). The QABA is a non-profit organisation that was established in 2012 to meet the growing need for more credentialed professionals providing ABA services. QABA certificants are trained in all aspects of ABA with qualification in autism and related issues.

To become an ABAT, one must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Possess a minimum of a high school diploma or national equivalent
  • Must have completed 40 hours of approved assessment-based ABA coursework (including 3 hours in Ethics and 5 hours in Autism Core Knowledge)
  • 15 hours of supervised fieldwork
  • Recommendation from their supervisor
  • Criminal background check conducted by the QABA Board through our 3rd-party background check provider, or evidence from an employer that there has been no change in status since the last background check was completed
  • Successful passing of accredited exam
  • Agree to the QABA Code of Ethics and all renewal requirements
  • Renewed every 2 years

What is an RBT?

An RBT is a behaviour technician under supervision who is certified by the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (BACB). The BACB is a non-profit organisation that was established in 1998 by Dr. Jerry Shook to meet professional credentialing needs identified by behaviour analysts, governments, and consumers of behaviour analysis services. 

To become an RBT, one must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Complete 40 hours of BACB-approved training
  • Pass a background check
  • Complete a competency assessment
  • Pass the RBT examination
  • Renewed annually

What are the similarities between ABAT and RBT?

Both ABAT and RBT are entry-level certifications for behaviour technicians who provide direct ABA services under supervision to individuals with ASD and other developmental issues. Both certifications require the following:

  • A minimum age of 18 years
  • A high school diploma or equivalent
  • 40 hours of approved training
  • A background check
  • A written examination
  • Ongoing renewal with continuing requirements 

Both certifications also adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct that outlines the standards and responsibilities of behaviour technicians. Both certifications are subject to disciplinary actions for violating the code of ethics or engaging in misconduct.

What are the differences between ABAT and RBT?

While ABAT and RBT share some commonalities, they also have some notable differences. Some of the differences are:

  • BACB certifications, including RBT, are only available for individuals who reside in the US, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, while the ABAT certification is available to candidates regardless of which country they reside in.
  • The certifying organisations: ABAT is certified by QABA, while RBT is certified by BACB. These organisations have different missions, visions, and values, as well as different accreditation statuses.
  • QABA is internationally accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a personnel certification agency, while BACB is nationally accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) as a professional credentialing organisation.
  • ABAT requires 15 hours of supervised fieldwork experience in the initial application phase, while RBT requires an initial competency assessment. 
  • The ABAT coursework incudes a unit on Autism while RBT does not.
  • The recognition and acceptance: ABAT and RBT have different levels of recognition and acceptance in the field of ABA and among funding sources. RBT is the older and more established certification. ABAT is newer, but it is gaining popularity and acceptance in many regions and markets. The recognition and acceptance of ABAT and RBT may vary depending on the state, country, insurance company, or employer.

Ongoing supervision requirements

Both ABAT and RBT require ongoing supervision by qualified professionals to ensure the quality and effectiveness of their services.

The qualifications of the supervisors: ABATs can be supervised by QABAs, QASP-Ss, BCBAs, BCaBAs, licensed behaviour analysts, or licensed psychologists who have ABA within their scope of practice while RBTs can only be supervised by BCBAs, BCaBAs, or BCBA-Ds.

Which certification is better: ABAT or RBT?

There is no definitive answer to which certification is better, as it depends on various factors, such as where you reside, personal preference, career goals, availability of training and supervision, cost and time commitment, and market demand. Both certifications have their advantages and disadvantages, and both certifications demonstrate a minimum level of competency and professionalism in providing ABA services.

To learn more about these 2 certifications, download the ABAT and RBT candidate handbooks at the links below.