ABA Insights: Important Questions to Ask In a BCBA Interview

ABA Insights: Important Questions to Ask In a BCBA Interview

Over the last 11 years, the job demand for BCBAs has increased by 4, 209%. From 2019 to 2020 alone, a 17% increase in BCBA job postings was observed (BACB, 2020).  The need for BCBAs in greater more now than ever. In North Carolina alone, there is 1 BCBA per 120 children with autism. Nationwide, there is one BCBA per 43 children with autism (NCABA, 2019).  For BCBAs, job searching can sometimes be nerve-wracking.  A BCBA’s job search can sometimes be overwhelming by the sheer number of job opportunities available and company’s seeking to meet high demands for services for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.  Interview processes are often filled with tons of questions from the company. Ofteninterviewees forget that a BCBA can interview the company themselves. While it is important for a BCBA to show an employer why they are the best fit for the position, it is important for a BCBA to determine if the company is the best fit for them prior to signing an employment contract.  Let’s dive into some questions a BCBA could ask a potential employer 


How many clients are on my caseload? 


According to the Counsel of Autism Service Providers (CASP), it is recommended that without the support of a BCaBA, that they support no more than 6-12 comprehensive cases (cases receiving 30+ hours per week) or 10-15 focused cases (cases receiving less than 30 hours per week).  If a BCBA is asked to take on a case larger than this, the quality of their practice may be jeopardized, and their work-life balance may suffer (CASP, 2020).  


How much case supervision does this company strive for?


According to CASP, it is recommended for a BCBA to see a client for 20% of their RBT direct service hours due to the level of responsibilities. In addition, CASP reviews that this 20% may need to increase for some clients, dependent upon specific case needs. Responsibilities of a BCBA include but are not limited to directly observing and monitoring implementation of teaching procedures, making program modifications, training staff and/or caregivers, crisis intervention, data analysis, coordinating with other care providers, report writing, and developing transition plans.  It is important that a BCBA works with a company that enables them to provide an appropriate about of case supervision to drive client outcomes.  


How many client hours am I responsible for?


The question above is important to ask, as this will directly impact a BCBA’s work-life balance.  Taking into consideration the recommended amount of case supervision indicated by CASP, a BCBA must ensure they are only taking on a caseload size that is appropriate.  In addition, the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts indicates that a BCBA should only take on the amount of work they can handle (BACB, 2014).  For example, if a BCBA were to take on a case load of 18 clients and 350 client hours per week, this would put the BCBA at working around 70 hours per week, not including drivetime, work meetings, and other work-related projects, to provide the recommended supervision by CASP.  In another scenario, if a BCBA were asked to take on a caseload of 6 clients and 130 client hours per week, this would put the BCBA at working 26 hours per week, not including drivetime, work meetings, and other work-related projects to provide the recommended supervision by CASP.  The latter client caseload enables a BCBA to provide adequate care to their clients, all while ensuring they have time to complete their other responsibilities and promote work-life balance.   


What do you like most about the culture at your company? What things would you like to see change?


By asking an interviewer about their company culture, a BCBA can determine if the working environment will satisfy their individual needs. In addition, it is important for a BCBA to be in an environment that fosters collaboration, community, and growth. A BCBA is required to keep up with the ever-changing science as well as be prepared to take on a variety of clients. By being in a company culture that enables collaboration, a BCBA will have the opportunity to both receive and give mentorship as they continue in their careers.


What are my working hours?


An ABA company often has long business days, to enable clients to attend services at a time which is most convenient for them. As such, this can put a BCBA working long hours. It is important for a BCBA to ask this question, to learn more about the company’s attitude towards work-life balance. This will allow a BCBA to determine the flexibility of scheduling as well as the job requirements of the company they are interviewing with.


Do you provide in-home and clinic-based services?


Data from a study conducted by Plantiveau et al. in 2018 indicate that a large contributing factor to burnout amongst both RBT and BCBAs is providing home-only services. Being a BCBA can be an isolating and challenging job at times, and it is important for a BCBA to put themselves in a work environment where they can develop a community of colleagues to rely on during challenging times. By working all in-home, BCBAs and RBTs may rarely see colleagues and prevent them from forming a community with people working through similar challenges. In addition, this limits the amount of collaboration and mentorship that BCBAs and RBT may contact.


What is the BCBA turnover at your organization?


By learning about the rate of turnover at an organization, a BCBA can gain more insight as to what the company culture is like. High turnover, even in a field like ABA that experiences a decent amount of turnover, may point to issues with leadership within the company, a stressful work environment, lack of support within the company, etc. A BCBA should find an ABA home that is supportive in nature to foster their own growth as a clinician. Asking this question may help a BCBA determine if they have found the right fit for them.


What are you doing to ensure quality of care for your clients?


The most important responsibility that a BCBA has is that to their clients: ensuring that they are providing them with the most effective care possible. By asking a company what quality assurance procedures they have in place, a BCBA can learn if a company’s values align with their own as a clinician. A BCBA is also able to learn the value a company places in a client and their progress. While an ABA company is a business, at the end of the day, the thing that is most important is ensuring our clients are making important and socially valid gains.


As a BCBA progresses through a job search, it is important for a BCBA to ask the right questions so they can make an informed decision on moving forward with the company. Finding the right fit for a BCBA may take some time, however, a BCBA should remember the impact that an employment decision may have on their own practice of behavior analysis as well as their work-life balance. 


Behavior Analyst Certification Board . (2014). Professional and ethical compliance code for behavior analysts. Retrieved from http://bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/160321-compliance-code-english.pdf   

Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2020). US employment demand for behavior analysts: 2010-2018. Littleton, CO: Author.   

 Plantiveau, C., Dounavi, K., & Virués-Ortega, J. (2018). High levels of burnout among early-career board-certified behavior analysts with low collegial support in the work environment. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 19(2), 195–207.