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BCBA Fieldwork: Is Remote Supervision Right for You?

In February 2024 the behavior analyst certification board (BACB) published US employment demand for behavior analysts: 2010–2023 which states that the demand for board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) has increased every year since 2010- with a 14% increase from 2022 to 2023! With this rapid increase in the need for providers- remote supervision could help meet the demand by allowing trainees to accrue supervised fieldwork hours more efficiently. The benefits of remote supervision and its various platforms for both trainees and supervisors are obvious! They include:

  •         Flexible Scheduling
  •         Diverse Supervisor Options
  •         Increased Opportunities for Fieldwork Hours
  •         Competency Tracking Tools
  •         Seamless Documentation Technology
  •         No Travel Time or Costs
  •         Options for Individuals in Geographically Isolated Areas (e.g. rural settings)

All of the above are good reasons to utilize remote supervision platforms, but as behavior analysts we must be driven by philosophic doubt- meaning we continually question what is regarded as fact (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2007). Armed with doubt, let’s break down some possible limitations of remote supervised fieldwork based on individual needs and preferences. When considering the limitations, ask yourself:

Ethically, do you have the time-management skills for remote supervision?

Just because remote supervised fieldwork is convenient, flexible, and cuts down on the time spent commuting- it is still a considerable commitment. Ethically, before entering a supervisory relationship it is important for both parties to take accountability of their current personal, work, and scholarly commitments to ensure that they are in a place to invest time and resources into this relationship. Remote communication does have the benefit of being well-documented through emails or text and easily accessible to both parties. When deciding if a remote supervised fieldwork is right for you- it could be easy to only focus on the positive aspects of this supervision modality when it should be examined as an experience that will take hard-work, planning, and effort. Ask yourself if communicating effectively in a remote relationship might be more time-consuming for you because you can’t just pop into a workspace in an ABA clinic or office to ask your supervisor a quick question. On the other hand, consider if the time you do spend with your supervisor will be a more quality experience because it is time set aside to seek out their guidance without the distractions of a traditional workplace. 

Are you a self-starter? 

Fieldwork, remote or otherwise, requires a great deal of autonomy for the trainee. In my experience, it is extremely difficult to continually follow up with trainees to ensure that they are starting tasks and progressing through their unrestricted hours for a given period. Obviously, supervisors check-in and guide trainees- but they are usually far too busy to walk trainees through every task they assign. Even if a supervisor did have the time to lead a trainee through their fieldwork, it's important to train the next generation of BCBAs to be self-sufficient. Similarly for supervisors (unless they have a consulting supervisor over them) most of the time their supervisory relationships are independent. As a BCBA supervisor for close to 7 years- in my own supervisory roles I collaborated with other professionals and BCBAs with more experience than I had, but they did not check up on my work or supervision meetings. In the field of ABA, you need to have the motivation and discipline to initiate supervision tasks and finish them to completion. It is always good to have a plan for open communication prior to the onset of supervision so that supervisors can give trainees feedback if they need to work on their self-management techniques. 

Is there a need for you to pursue remote supervision?

Trainees, think about the potential supervision you have access to already. If you have a diverse group of supervisors that work in areas that align with your goals- then you might not need to pursue additional fieldwork opportunities. While remote supervised fieldwork can offer an even wider range of experiences, and the chance to gain hours quicker- this might not be necessary in every case. It is important to keep in mind that trainees are encouraged by the behavior analyst certification board to seek out multiple supervisors, and it may be useful for those supervisors to be experienced in a variety of settings. If you have this covered as a trainee- it might not be particularly useful to pursue remote supervised fieldwork in addition to the supervision you are already receiving. 

Do you have a HIPAA compliant work area?

Another factor to consider is the availability of a HIPAA compliant workspace for supervision activities and meetings. Writing client reports, reading progress notes, and even making materials may involve a client’s personally identifiable and health information. It is important to always have HIPAA best practices in mind when working- remotely or not. However, when remote you may not have access to a secure office or clinical location, so you will have to ensure your home office and computer are HIPAA compliant workspaces to protect identities and personal information about your clients. If you do pursue remote supervision- a great first meeting with your supervisor could be how to set up a secure, safe workspace for yourself that protects your client’s confidentiality! 

Do you have a plan for technical issues?

While remote supervised fieldwork offers amazing benefits- there may be technical issues on the trainee or supervisors end to include internet connection problems or devices that fail. These can be frustrating, and while they are technically a limitation- luckily, technical issues aren't super common and can usually be avoided with planning. For example, it’s a good idea to make sure that devices are charged before supervision meetings. As a seasoned BCBA with years of in-home observations– I always have a backup hotspot just in case I am somewhere with limited wi-fi for internet connection. 

Is learning about new technology or apps aversive to you?

Finally, and maybe the most obvious reason why remote supervised fieldwork would not be a good fit for someone is if they avoid learning about new technology and applications. If you are not interested in seamless supervision documentation and having forms automatically filled out- it could be difficult to rely on these technologies. If remote supervision platforms seem intimidating- it could be helpful to request a demo of several different apps to see which ones you are comfortable using. It might be scary to think about depending on an online platform to store years of work between a trainee and BCBA supervisor. When learning about supervision platforms, ask if any allow you to export your documentation offline so that you can have paper copies printed for safekeeping. Additionally, remember that utilizing an online platform to give or receive supervision doesn’t mean you can’t start small- use the tools offered for a few hours a week and see if they make your life easier before fully committing to use them for your supervisory experience. While new technology can be difficult to get the hang of, remember that there are options for tracking BCBA fieldwork that are user-friendly and intuitive. Consider that most of the companies you will be working for in the field of ABA have different levels of technology they use for billing, data collection, and session notes- so getting comfortable with tech tools that will help during your career is a good idea even if you feel hesitant to use them. 

Additional Limitations

This is not an exhaustive list of all of the limitations of remote supervised fieldwork when pursuing a BCBA credential. As an analytical field, there should be more discussion on remote supervised fieldwork and its application as technology evolves.  However, reflecting on the constraints listed above can be an extremely helpful first step when trying to determine if remote supervision is right for you. 



Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2024). US employment demand for behavior analysts: 2010–2023. Littleton, CO: Author.

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.