The average salary for a certified behavior analyst in the U.S. is about $60,000 per year. Most often, a behavior analyst is a BCBA (board certified behavior analyst).

The four levels of behavior analyst certification (BCBA-D, BCBA, BCaBA, and RBT) require varying levels of education and practical experience. All certifications require you to pass a national certification exam before you can work as a behavioral analyst.

Behavior analysts of all levels work in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, nonprofit and community organizations, large companies, and private practice.

The lower certification levels that require the least amount of education offer the lowest salaries. The potential for career and salary growth increases with each certification level.  

Behavior Analysts

Behavior analysts work in the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA), focusing on behavior, its consequences, and the use of various techniques to improve behavior.

The goal of behavior analysis is to improve quality of life through behavioral changes. Behavior analysts teach their clients effective and socially appropriate ways of behaving that will lead to better social interactions and positive responses.

There are many potential applications for ABA. Behavior analysts are employed in a variety of settings, from hospitals to schools to large corporations. Behavior analyst jobs are found in all of the following specialties:

  • Autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities 
  • Behavioral pediatrics
  • Behavioral gerontology 
  • Brain injury rehabilitation
  • Clinical behavior analysis
  • Education 
  • Treatment of substance use disorders 
  • Prevention of and intervention in child maltreatment
  • Organizational behavior management 
  • Sports
  • Health and fitness
  • Sustainability

Many behavior analysts begin their career in a general ABA setting. With experience, you may develop an interest in a specific branch of behavior therapy. Likewise, professionals from related disciplines, such as special education teachers, occupational therapists, nurses, and speech and language pathologists often decide to add a behavior analyst certification to their resume.

Demonstrating knowledge of behavioral analysis and intervention is a valuable skillset that makes many professionals more valuable to their employers and clients.

Behavior Analyst Certification Levels

To become a behavior analyst, you must get certified in the field of behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is the national governing body that offers behavior analyst certification at four different levels, depending on your educational level.

The four credentials offered by the BACB include:

  • RBT. Registered behavior technicians are paraprofessionals with a high school diploma. They work closely under the ongoing supervision of a master’s or doctorate-level behavior analyst as part of an ABA therapy team.
  • BCaBA. Board certified assistant behavior analysts have a bachelor’s degree and work under the direction of a master’s or doctoral-level certified behavior analyst. BCaBAs work directly with clients on behavior goals outlined by the supervising BCBA. BCaBAs can supervise RBTs.
  • BCBA. Board certified behavior analysts have a master’s-level certification in behavior analysis. They can work independently or lead treatment teams of RBTs and BCaBAs. BCBAs are responsible for conducting client evaluations, identifying behavior goals, and selecting appropriate interventions for their clients.
  • BCBA-D. Board certified behavior analyst-doctoral is the designation for BCBAs who have doctoral training in behavior analysis. The BCBA-D is not a separate certification to the BCBA, and it does not designate any privileges beyond the BCBA certification. BCBA-Ds perform the same services as BCBAs.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

In order to become a BCBA, you must meet eligibility requirements laid out by the BACB and apply for BCBA certification. Prior to taking the national exam, you must first obtain a graduate degree (master’s or doctoral) in an appropriate field, such as behavior analysis, education, or psychology from a qualifying institution. You must also verify that you successfully completed behavior-analytic coursework.

In addition to completing appropriate coursework, you must complete supervised experience or an internship. You have three options for completing the required experienced hours, including:

  • 1,500 hours of supervised independent fieldwork where the trainee secures an appropriate placement with supervision.
  • 1,000 hours of practicum experience in a verified course sequence (VCS) with additional supervision.
  • 750 hours of intensive practicum in a VCS with the highest level of supervision so the required experience can be completed in fewer hours.

BCBAs can work independently or for a company or organization. Most BCBAs work full-time. BCBAs provide direct and managerial services in many different settings, including these locations:

  • Schools
  • Classrooms
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Companies
  • Private practice

The average BCBA salary in the United States is about $60,000 per year, with top earners reporting salaries of over $100,000 per year. Entry-level BCBA positions average around $54,000 per year. The average salary for someone with 20 years or so of experience is over $70,000.

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst

To become a BCaBA you must obtain a bachelor’s degree that includes behavior-analytic coursework, complete supervised fieldwork, and pass the national BCaBA certification exam. The experience standards for a BCaBA are slightly less than for a BCBA certification.

You must obtain a set amount of experience hours in one of the following certified placements:

  • Supervised independent fieldwork: 1,000 hours
  • Practicum: 670 hours
  • Intensive practicum: 500 hours

Once you have your degree, experience hours completed, and pass the certification exam, you can begin work as a BCaBA.

BCaBAs work under the supervision of a BCBA and provide behavior analysis services directly to clients. As a BCaBA, you also have the potential to supervise registered behavior technicians.

BCaBAs work in many of the same settings as BCBAs. They work in schools, community organizations, hospitals, clinics, and private practices. BCaBAs are an important part of any ABA treatment team.

On average, BCaBAs earn over $43,000 per year, with salaries ranging from $35,000 to $56,000. A BCaBA may:

  • Work with individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • Perform data analysis.
  • Clinically supervise RBTs.
  • Create procedures and track documentation.

Registered Behavior Technician

You must have a high school diploma to apply for RBT certification. RBTs are paraprofessionals who help to implement behavioral interventions for children and adults with special needs as outlined by a BCBA.

To apply for RBT certification, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a high school diploma.
  • Pass a background check.
  • Complete a 40-hour training.
  • Complete an initial competency assessment.

Once you have completed the above eligibility requirements, you can apply for certification and to take the national exam. As soon as you pass the exam, you can begin work as an RBT.

RBTs assist BCBAs and BCaBAs by carrying out the established plan with each client. RBTs do not design or analyze behavior programs. They collect data and provide valuable assistance and feedback about how the programs are working.

RBTs earn an average of $35,000 per year. Though the salary of an RBT is lower than that of other certified behavior analysts, there is the cost benefit of not having to pay for a bachelor’s and graduate degree, along with extensive experience hours and high exam fees in order to become certified.

Behavior Analyst Job Trends

Now is a great time to join the field of behavior analysis. A recent study conducted by Burning Glass Technologies found that the demand for behavior analysts is increasing across the country. From 2010 to 2019, the demand for BCBAs increased every year, with an increased demand of 80% in 2019.

California, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois, and Florida had the highest demands for BCBAs in 2019, comprising nearly half of the countrywide demand. On its own, California accounted for nearly a third of the demand. The demand for BCaBAs has also been steadily increasing. Between 2018 and 2019, there was a 157% increase in demand for assistant behavior analysts. California, Florida, Virginia, Texas, and Arizona had the highest demand for BCaBAs in 2019, though the demand has increased in every state since 2010.

Which Behavior Analyst Jobs Are the Best?

Identifying the best behavior analyst job depends on your current situation and professional goals. Some people enjoy working for large organizations, while others thrive in private practice. As a profession, behavior analysis is a solid field to work in regarding overall job satisfaction and career growth.

If you start working in the field as an RBT or BCaBA, there is room for professional development. With additional education and experience, you can gain more advanced behavior analyst certifications, opening up further job opportunities. Additionally, average salaries increase with each advancement in certification.

As a BCBA or BCBA-D, you have a wide variety of job settings and positions available to you. You are certified to work independently, supervise others, and offer your services in virtually any setting that could benefit from behavior analysis and intervention.