MSABA Field Hours FAQ

Field Hour Requirement FAQ

Why are the number of hours of supervised clinical training requirements changing?
Due to consumer requests for more rigorous training for behavior analysts and a growing behavior analytic workforce, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) committee has decided that trainees need more supervised experience and guidance from supervisors.

Anyone applying for BCBA certification after January 1, 2022, must meet the new supervision requirements; the final BCBA exam offered under the previous requirement will be in December 2021.

What type of supervision is offered in the OnlinePsychology@Pepperdine program?
While you are enrolled in your PSY 620 practicum course, you will accrue supervision hours from a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA)/site supervisor located at an ABA-based agency during each term you are enrolled in the course. The supervision category you will accrue hours under will vary depending on your fieldwork site and the frequency and intensity of supervision accrued each month with your site supervisor. This supervision category you will accrue hours under varies with your number of cases and how much time your site supervisor can dedicate to your supervision in a given month. You may accrue both concentrated and regular supervision throughout your fieldwork experience. Concentrated supervision hours are weighted at 1.33:1, and regular supervision is weighted at 1:1. The total hours needed to take the BCBA exam ranges between 1,500 and 2,000 depending on the category (regular versus concentrated) of supervision you receive.

Why 20 hours per month of supervised clinical training?
The 20 hours per month required by OnlinePsychology@Pepperdine meets the minimum monthly hour requirement of restricted hours as required by the BCBA. Over the course of 3 terms, students will likely complete, at a minimum, a total of 165 hours. Many students collect more than these hours.

Pepperdine’s decision to require 20 hours per month while enrolled in the practicum course ensures that you complete a portion of your fieldwork hours while enrolled within the academic program, allowing you opportunities for developing your data-based decision-making skills, and it ensures that you are able to balance field experience with your graduate studies. It also ensures that you receive the appropriate amount of restricted hours and supervision needed to adequately work as a behavior analyst.

How do the new requirements benefit me?
The total number of fieldwork hours needed to take the BCBA exam give you more hands-on training, more preparation with BCBA- or supervisory-level activities, and a greater network of professionals to better prepare you for a successful career in ABA.

Do I get to customize the 20 hours per month with my practicum site or are certain hours dedicated to unrestricted and restricted?
Whether you collect restricted or unrestricted hours depends on your fieldwork site and supervisor. In general, BCBA trainees initially accrue restricted hours, and as they become more competent at providing behavior analytic services, they begin collecting unrestricted hours. The BACB requires that a minimum of 60 percent of fieldwork hours be unrestricted, and you should discuss with your sites whether they can provide you with unrestricted activities throughout your fieldwork experience.

Is there a chronological order to restricted and unrestricted hours, or can they be completed simultaneously?
Trainees may complete restricted and unrestricted hours simultaneously. But usually, trainees complete more restricted hours initially, and more unrestricted hours toward the latter half of their experience.

Who makes the decision of my preparedness to transition into unrestricted hours?
Your on-site supervisor and clinical director will make this determination based on your agency’s policies and procedures.

Am I under supervision the entire time when collecting hours?
No. The type of fieldwork completed (supervised or concentrated supervised) will dictate how many of your monthly hours need to be in supervision. Students completing concentrated supervised fieldwork (CSF) must spend 10 percent of their total time in supervision each month; students completing supervised fieldwork (SF) must spend 5 percent of their time in supervision each month. For example, if you accrue 100 fieldwork hours in the month, 10 hours would need to be contact time with your supervisor if collecting CSF, and 5 hours would need to be contact time with your supervisor if collecting SF.

If my practicum site agrees, can I gather more than 20 hours a month during the program?
Yes. You are welcome to clock more than the 20-hour-a-month requirement if your practicum site agrees. However, per the BACB, you may not work more than 130 hours in a calendar month. We encourage students to speak with their site supervisor if this is something they are interested in.

What happens if I finish my practicum hours early? Do I just attend the class?
To complete the requirements of the course, such as presenting on your clinical cases in class, you will need to continue working at a practicum site and accruing the minimum fieldwork hours, as well as supervision frequency and intensity, while enrolled in PSY 620.

I’d like to learn more about the updated requirements. Where can I find more information?
You can always visit the BACB website for the most up-to-date information.

Placement FAQ

How soon should I start looking for employment at an ABA site?
We recommend students start exploring opportunities as soon as they apply to the program. Students who get a head start on their search and find employment early on will be less likely to require placement, as their employment sites may already be approved or be more willing to function as the students’ practicum fieldwork site after having evaluated the students’ competence as a behavior technician.

When would I start working at the ABA site if I’m new to the field?
Our most successful students start working in an ABA position at least one term (90 days) before starting their official supervised hours for the Practicum. This trial period is often requested by ABA agencies before they assign their BCBAs to invest their time and effort into providing supervised hours to graduate students who are new employees. This will also give you time to acclimate to the ABA field and test out your newly acquired skills before your official supervision begins.

To clarify, I’ll actually be working at an ABA job during Practicum? Will my Practicum experience be paid?
Yes. This field is unique in that individuals providing ABA services under the supervision of a BCBA are typically paid. These are not considered “internship” positions at the fieldwork sites; you’ll be an employee. The pay and benefits for the Practicum position will vary from site to site. You must also ensure to abide by all policies and procedures of your employer/agency.

What happens if I don’t get the job after an interview?
You will continue working with our placement team to find another site for an interview. If you do not secure a site by the term before you are supposed to start your Practicum, you will need to put off registering for Practicum for another quarter, which could delay your graduation date. It’s in your best interest to start searching early and take an active role with our support teams to get your ABA position secured with time to spare.

Can I start clocking my hours early if I already work in the field OR get a job in the field before the official Practicum terms start?
According to the BACB, you may begin to accrue fieldwork hours once you have started qualifying course work for your BCBA certification (i.e., after your first class meeting), and after you have secured a qualified supervisor (see the supervisor qualification requirements in the BACB’s fieldwork standards). However, these hours would not contribute toward the practicum course requirement, and you must still collect the minimum fieldwork requirements for passing the practicum course across the three terms needed for graduation from our program. Since this early experience will not be overseen by our program, it is up to you to secure your contract with a supervisor and ensure that these hours meet BACB’s requirements. It’s recommended that you connect with your placement specialist as soon as possible to discuss your specific situation if you are admitted and enroll in our program.

After graduation, can I stay on with my practicum site?
As an employee of the site, you may continue to work there or pursue a different site. Your state’s employment laws would apply for your continuation with the site (e.g., site needs, etc.).