Board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) are typically master’s-level clinicians. They have received specific education and training in evaluating and changing problematic behaviors into productive life skills, most notably in children and adults with autism.
On average, BCBAs earn about $66,000 per year in the United States, though this number varies greatly by state and city. Two of the biggest influences on BCBA salaries are years of work experience and geographic location. BCBAs see varying salaries across different work settings as well, such as if they work in private practice, schools, or nonprofit organizations.
The job outlook for BCBAs is strong, as the demand for behavior therapy services across the country continues to grow. Already widely accepted as the foremost treatment option for autism, applied behavior therapy (which BCBAs implement) is successfully being used more and more frequently for the treatment of other developmental and behavioral disorders.
What Board Certified Behavior Analysts Do
BCBAs are graduate-level therapists who are certified in behavior analysis. BCBAs most commonly work with children and adults with autism in order to reduce problematic behaviors and develop positive and practical life skills. This field of therapy is also applied to individuals with other developmental disorders.
- BCBAs employ applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy to gain a better understanding of how behavior works, how it is affected by environment, and how learning takes place.
- BCBAs tailor ABA therapy programs to each of their clients by assessing their needs, identifying individual behavior goals, and often supervising registered behavior technicians (RBTs), who help to implement appropriate interventions.
Average BCBA Salary
According to PayScale, the average BCBA salary in the U.S. is about $66,000 per year. As with most jobs, BCBA salaries are greatly affected by years of experience. The more experience you have, the more you can expect to earn.
These are reported BCBA salaries based on years of experience:
1 to 4 years: $64,000/year
5 to 9 years: $68,000/year
10 to 19 years: $71,000/year
20+ years: $69,000/year
There is the potential to earn significantly more as a BCBA, depending on your exact position. Clinical or center directors, for example, who are BCBAs report earnings of $80,000 to $90,000 per year.
BCBAs in private practice have the potential to earn over $100,000 per year. In high-demand areas, BCBAs may make more than $145,000 annually.
BCBA Salaries: Best States & Cities
BCBA salaries tend to be higher in larger cities where there is more demand for behavior therapy. According to Indeed, states that pay higher than the national average BCBA salary are California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
As of May 2020, the highest paying cities for BCBAs are:
San Jose, CA: $113,443/year
- Chicago, IL: $105,942/year
- Denver, CO: $103,844/year
- Atlanta, GA: $102,578/year
Houston, TX: $99,758/year
Beverly, MA: $97,665/year
Miami, FL: $96,791/year
While there is more demand in major cities, there is good demand for BCBAs throughout the entire country. As of 2022, these states had the highest demand, in descending order, for BCBAs:
There is also a high demand for board certified assistant behavior analysis (BCaBAs). From 2018 to 2019, the demand for assistant BCBAs increased 157%. The states with the highest demand for assistant BCBAs are:
Companies That Hire BCBAs
Private companies, nonprofit organizations, schools, and health care facilities all hire BCBAs.
BCBAs often work as independent contractors. This means they are not employees, but are contracted by companies or organizations to come in and implement behavior therapy programs.
Whether you wish to work full-time or as a part-time consultant, there are many work settings available to you. Common job settings for BCBAs include:
Mental health clinics.
Autism-related nonprofit organizations.
Public and private schools.
- Local and state government entities.
BCBAs are often based out of a company or organization, but they spend a lot of time implementing their interventions in schools, clients’ homes, and various community settings. You will likely travel between settings in order to promote the development of proper behavior skills across multiple areas of your client’s lives.
Based on your own goals as a behavior therapist, you can select which work setting appeals to you most. Certain settings focus their services on children, while others provide treatment for adults with autism, adults who are recovering from a traumatic brain injury, or adults with other developmental disorders who are trying to live more independently.
Job Growth for BCBAs
The outlook for BCBA job growth over the next decade is strong. The demand for behavior therapists in the U.S. has grown significantly since 2010 and continues to grow.
According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, the demand for certified behavior analysts has increased every year since 2010 in every state. The nationwide demand for BCBAs has grown 800% since 2010.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of behavior therapy is predicted to grow significantly faster than average. From 2018 to 2028, the BLS predicts 22% job growth for this occupation.
The ever-increasing number of autism diagnoses and expansion of most insurance plans to cover ABA services are two reasons for this trend. The clinical use of ABA therapy also extends beyond its well-recognized use for autism, making BCBAs even more in demand.
With greater need for ABA therapy comes more job openings and higher BCBA salary opportunities in 2022.
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Autism Speaks.
- BCBA Spotlight: Why Demand Is Surging for BCBA Talent. (September 2019). HealthCare Recruiters International.
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
- Applied Behavior Analysis Salary Ranges. Cambridge College.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors. (April 2020). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- US Employment Demand for Behavior Analysts: 2010-2019. Behavior Analyst Certification Board.