Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

Tiered Model of Education FAQ 

 Updated February 2023


How do Tiers 2-4 (recognition) differ from Tier 1 (accreditation)?

The Tiered Model consists of a comprehensive evaluation of your entire program, following the same nine standard areas reviewed for accreditation (mission, curriculum, outcomes, administration, resources, faculty, student services, public disclosure, and the program contents). However, accredited programs and recognized programs differ in that the accreditation status is only granted to the degree programs with experiential learning, that have graduates, and demonstrate a track record of quality. Tier 1 accredited programs have undergone the rigorous self-study application, site visit review, and formal decision process. Tiers 2a through 4b are designed to approximate accreditation, granting a recognition status for programs moving toward accreditation. The Tiered Model also permits the recognition of different types of programs (degree and non-degree), with and without experiential learning, and those offered outside of higher education institutions (outside of the United States). Like accreditation, the recognition status of programs might be used for certain regions to establish professional practice requirements.


How do Tiered Model programs differ from my current VCS?

ABAI-accredited and recognized programs of the Tiered Model have gone through a comprehensive evaluation of the entire training program across the nine standard areas, whereas the BACB VCS is an administrative review of coursework hours and faculty. The scope, content, and requirements of each differ. In verifying course sequences (VCSs) for BACB coursework eligibility, ABAI reviews only coursework content hours reported in the syllabi and faculty qualifications. Table 1 demonstrates the main differences between the current BACB VCS and the Tiered Model standards.


Table 1

Summary of Tiered Model and BACB VCS Standards 



Does ABAI require specific program names/types or require the program to be housed in certain department? What if my program is not an Applied Behavior Analysis program or housed in an ABA department?  

No, ABAI does not specify the degree name, program type, or department so long as it encompasses the necessary behavior analytic instruction and faculty requirements, and the overall goals and mission of the program are focused on behavior analysis and the training of behavior analysts. ABAI’s recognition is not limited to applied behavior analysis programs. The programs can be housed in Special Education, School Psychology, Health Sciences, and other related departments. We also encourage training programs that emphasize the experimental analysis of behavior, clinical applications of behavior science, and organizational behavior management and systems to apply for recognition.




Does my program have to apply as a specific tier?

ABAI will help you evaluate the appropriate tier. During the eligibility request and application process, your program will indicate if it is housed in an institution of higher education, whether it awards academic degrees, and whether it requires experiential learning. Based on these features and the fulfillment of standards, ABAI will establish the tier.


What if we do not have all the tier requirements yet?

Programs should first conduct their own self-evaluation across the standards to identify areas of improvement, and to develop short- and long-term goals. Programs should also refer to the published Guidance for Transitioning to the Tiered Model to help move from a VCS and review what is needed to prepare for the recognition application. ABAI encourages programs to complete the Tiered Model (online) application in its entirety so we can begin a comprehensive evaluation, peer review, and provide guidance on areas for improvement.


Should my program apply for Tier 2 before applying for Tier 1?

Programs that are transitioning to the Tiered Model, do not yet have a graduate, or have identified other areas of improvement are encouraged to start at Tier 2. Beginning at Tier 2 can help your program adopt and adhere to the standards as soon as possible and aid the program in its own self-assessment to pinpoint those areas of improvement. It is important to note that each program has their own program-specific goals, timelines, curriculum plans, and resources to analyze prior to deciding when to apply. The eligibility criterion of requiring the program to have at least one graduate is temporarily waived for VCSs transitioning to the Tiered Model and applying for recognition (Tiers 2a-4b) through December 31, 2025. However, programs seeking accreditation (Tier 1) must have at least one graduate from the degree program aligned with the standards.


Do degree and certificate/coursework programs apply for recognition separately?

Each distinct program warrants a separate application, though it is up to the program to decide whether and when to seek recognition for each program type.


Do programs apply for recognition of each modality separately?

It largely depends as to whether they are two distinct programs. Factors such as admissions criteria and processes, program requirements, and faculty arrangements may distinguish the programs. Please contact ABAI if you are unsure whether your program constitutes one application or two.


What happens if our application is not approved as a certain tier?

ABAI may provide a deferral and/or temporary recognition with specific steps to address within an appropriate timeframe. ABAI may also deny an application from a program that fails to meet the standards.


Is Tier 2 the same as "pre-accredited" or "provisional accreditation"?

No. The ABAI Accreditation Board’s “provisional accreditation” status is specific to accreditation (Tier 1).


What are the fees?

Programs applying for Tiers 2a-4b will follow the fee structure in Table 2. The fee structure is organized into four regions based on the country’s income per capita; details of each region are located here. Every program is required to pay an initial application fee and an annual sustaining fee. Table 2 summarizes the fees for applications and annual sustaining fees which are paid during the annual report submission. The accreditation (Tier 1) application and fees are detailed on the accreditation website, and VCS application and fees are detailed on the VCS section of the website.


Table 2

Application and Annual Sustaining Fees for Tiers 2a-4b

Region Category    New Application    Annual Sustaining   
A $575 $290
B $430 $215
C $345 $175
D $230 $115

Note: fees are subject to change.




How many faculty are required for the program to be accredited or recognized? What is the required ratio of faculty to students?

ABAI’s standards do not specify a required ratio of faculty to students. The standards request the program to demonstrate (in standard area 6 and its component standards) the faculty are sufficient in number and quality to fulfill the program’s mission. It is important for the program to provide an analysis of faculty workload and teaching requirements, supervisory roles, administrative duties, class sizes, and other information beyond a student-to-faculty ratio.


Do all faculty have to be BCBA-Ds?

No. Standard 6-100 states “The faculty consists of behavior analysts who document their expertise in the applied, experimental, or conceptual analysis of behavior. The core faculty consists of full-time doctoral-level behavior analysts. Other program faculty, full- or part-time, have master’s or doctoral degrees in behavior analysis or a related field.” The faculty standards do not specify certifications nor licenses. Not all doctoral-level behavior analysts are BCBA-Ds (though your program’s objectives may necessitate relevant training, certification, or licenses).


How are faculty defined and how do we report qualifications?

The program must report the number of core faculty, associated faculty, and other contributors to the program. “Core Program Faculty” are faculty members who devote at least 50% of their professional time to program-related activities – this does not include broader department administration or teaching in programs outside the accredited or recognized program. “Associated Program Faculty” are faculty who do not meet the criteria for core faculty but make a substantial contribution to the program (e.g., faculty within the department that teach program courses). “Other Contributors” are individuals who have a role in the program, but to a much more limited extent than core or associated faculty and have minimal contact with students (e.g., adjunct faculty, supervisors, seminar presenters, etc.). Programs will also articulate the faculty qualifications, their full- or part-time status, provide a brief description of their roles, and submit curriculum vitaes for all faculty.


Is the thesis/equivalent required for all tiers?

Yes, for Tiers 1-4b at the master’s and graduate-level equivalent programs, a thesis or equivalent is required for accreditation and recognition. Additional information is detailed in standard area 9 and its component standards (via the application template) and the published guidance on the Documents and Resources page.


Can our program provide options for students to do a thesis or an equivalent project?

A program may offer students the option to complete a thesis or an equivalent, so long as it meets the requirements of the standard (9-109). Programs must ensure all students complete a thesis or equivalent project prior to completing the program.


What if the program doesn’t offer supervised experiential learning?

If a program does not currently offer practical or research learning opportunities, they may apply to Tiers 2b, 3b, or 4b. Your program may develop a supervised experiential learning component over time and move to the respective “a” tier – please refer to the guidance for details. To be eligible to apply for Tier 1 (accreditation), your program must have developed the supervised experiential learning requirements and systems, with at least one graduate having completed the experience as part of their program requirements.


Does our program have to offer practical training that meets the BACB fieldwork requirements to qualify for Tiers 1, 2a, 3a, or 4a?

No, but it is an option. The purpose of the supervised experiential learning standard is “to develop skill in professional practice or research.” The required number of supervised experiential hours differs across the graduate and undergraduate levels. The required supervised experiential hours are like instructional hours, with the goal of program faculty overseeing the development of the students’ skills in professional practice or research – which is commonly done via theses, projects, basic or applied research, interventions that change behavior, etc. Some programs may offer some (or all) of the fieldwork for the BACB’s requirements as one way to fulfill the standard, but it is not a requirement.




When can my program apply for recognition in ABAI's Tiered Model?

Programs may apply for recognition via the Tiered Model of Education now if they believe they meet the standards. The first step begins with an eligibility request (see the "apply" page for instructions). Seeking recognition is voluntary, as it is with accreditation and VCS status. We hope programs find value in improving upon their current operations and see the model as a road map for obtaining the highest level of recognition in the training of behavior analysts at the local, regional, and global levels.


What will happen to my VCS if the program does not obtain recognition via the Tiered Model?

Currently, nothing. Most programs may maintain their VCS status through December 31, 2025. Effective January 1, 2026, the VCS system will no longer exist, though programs can still offer behavior analytic coursework for students seeking BACB certification via Pathway 2 (through December 31, 2031). It is important to note that the VCS is limited to BACB coursework requirements for Pathway 2 eligibility. VCSs do not require a full review of the program and therefore are not assessed for quality. ABAI encourages all programs, especially those with graduates who will no longer be eligible for BACB certification (e.g., those operating outside of the BACB's authorized countries as of 2023), to look towards full program evaluation and quality review via the Tiered Model to strengthen the local and regional training of behavior analysts.


How long does it take to complete the self-study application?

It varies. Some programs can assemble their application within a few months given resources and operations available in their institutions. Some programs reported spending several months reviewing and refining their data-collection systems, improving their program operations, and working on the self-study report application. Programs may download the standards and application templates at any time from the ‘documents and resources’ page (independent of eligibility and application status).


How long does the review process take?

The entire review process takes about four months; it includes the application submission, review meeting or site visit, report assessment, the program’s response to the report, and the Board’s formal application decision. It is most helpful to first pinpoint when your program can arrange the review meeting (or site visit) and plan approximately two months before and after that timeframe for your estimated “application window.”






Modifed by Eddie Soh