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​CSPG 203 - Behavior Analyst and Behavior Specialist

August 9, 2023

Behavior Analyst - Behavior Analysts evaluate students' behaviors to develop treatment plans with the goal of improving communication and behavioral skills over time. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the scientific study of principles of learning and behavior. Applied behavior analysis is a systematic approach for influencing socially important behavior through the identification of reliably related environmental variables and the implementation of behavior change techniques. 

Behavior Specialist – Behavior Specialists design, implement, or evaluate a behavior modification intervention component of a treatment plan, including those based on applied behavioral analysis, to produce socially significant improvements in human behavior or to prevent loss of attained skill or function, through skill acquisition and the reduction of problematic behavior.

Grade Level Scope

A person employed in the position of Behavior Analyst or Behavior Specialist is qualified to consult, train, and provide services for students in Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12. 

Required Credential(s)

Behavior Analyst:
The Pennsylvania Department of Education does not issue a Behavior Analyst certificate.  Behavior Analysts must hold at least one of the two credentials below to perform behavioral intervention and support services for students with autism and other identified disabilities, as well as for regular academic students: 

    1. A current Board-Certified Behavior Analyst certificate obtained through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB); OR
    2.  A current Behavior Specialist license issued by the Pennsylvania Department of State. 

Behavior Specialist:
The Pennsylvania Department of Education does not issue a Behavior Specialist certificate.  Behavior Specialists must hold a Behavior Specialist license issued by the Pennsylvania Department of State. Questions regarding how to obtain a Behavior Specialist license should be directed to the PA Department of State.

Special Considerations

A Behavior Analyst and/or Behavior Specialist may:

    • Provide professional development and serve in the role of mentor or advisor in the area of their credential;
    • Provide services to individual students or groups of students, or implement district-wide systems for developing behavior plans based on Applied Behavior Analysis;
    • Serve as a member of the Evaluation and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team; and
    • Provide parent training.


Behavior Analysts and Behavior Specialists are restricted from performing duties reserved for PDE-certified school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, home school visitors, and special education teachers. In the area of mental health professionals in schools, positions including school counselor, school psychologist, and school social worker must be filled by individuals who hold PDE certifications in the area corresponding to the posted job title. LEAs should not rename these roles to avoid the hiring of PDE certified individuals to fill positions. In relation to IEPs, PDE does not determine who is appropriate to be identified as a service provider on an IEP. This decision is determined by the IEP team and is outside the scope of the Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality. Questions related to this should be directed to the Bureau of Special Education at Additional questions or individual school entity questions should be referred to district solicitors.


Chapter 49: §49.11, §49.18 (a), §49.101§ 49.102 (b) (1) & (2) 

49 PA Code, Chapter 18, State Board of Medicine – Practitioners Other than Medical Doctors, Subchapter I Behavior Specialists: § 18. 521, § § 18.522, §18.523, §18.524, §18.524, §18.524, §18.525, §18.526, §18.527

This supersedes all earlier CSPG’s carrying this number. No previous printing dates on this subject.

Summary of Changes

Date of Revisions​Major Changes to CSPG #203
  • Aligned staffing assignment to duties permitted by the Pennsylvania Department of State.
  • Updated CSPG to include information regarding Behavior Specialists.
  • Clarified that the Pennsylvania Department of Education does not issue  Behavior Analyst or Behavior Specialist certificates.