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FAQ: How Much Do ABA Therapists Make?

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How much do ABA therapists make? This is often a large concern if you’re considering a career in applied behavior analysis. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a form of therapy. It focuses on improving certain behaviors. Therapists do this by determining what causes the behaviors. Then they replace them with other behaviors. An applied behavior analyst’s wages vary based on many things.
How much do ABA therapists make? Here is an overview of the the wage potentials for certified behavior analyst BCBA. It also includes an overview of wages for other education and certification levels.

An image of a boy playing for our article on how much behavior analysts makeWhat Factors Determine Wages for an ABA Therapist?

Those researching ABA wages may get general average ABA therapist salary information. Some might be accurate. Other wage information might be inaccurate because it’s factor-related. In other words, various factors can affect the applied behavior analyst’s wages. Here are some of the common factors that influence ABA therapist salaries.

Education Level

ABA professionals are only required to have a bachelor’s degree. Still, many have master’s or doctoral degrees. The higher the education level, the better the wage and career opportunities. ABA therapists with bachelor’s degrees earned a yearly average salary of $47,581. A master’s degree in ABA average salary is likely to be around $55,862. This is an increase of more than 17 percent. Those with doctoral degrees may find even higher-paying work opportunities.


 As is the case with most work, the more experience the analyst has, the better the wages. ABAs with entry-level positions earned wages ranging from $32,000 to $43,000. Those with five to 10 years of experience earned $45,000 to $55,000. ABAs working for more than 10 years earned from $50,000 to $65,000 or more. An analyst may be able to earn a higher starting salary than the median salary. This is if they already have experience working as an assistant behavior analyst. It is also possible with experience as a registered behavior technician.


The BCBA’s work location plays a large role in potential wages and average salary. This is because some areas are more competitive or may have higher costs of living. This leads to a difference in average salary for those areas. The top-paying cities for ABA therapists are:
  • New York, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • San Antonio, TX.
The lowest-paying cities for ABA therapists are Greenville, NC, Houston, TX, Indianapolis, IN, Philadelphia, PA and San Diego, CA. Living and working in a lower-paying area is often still worth looking into. Many of these areas have a fairly low cost of living. This means it may be feasible for BCBAs to live on a lower salary.
Nearby competition may be a significant factor in earning potential. It’s somewhat rare to have a high concentration of BCBAs in a given area. However, if you work in an area like this, it can be difficult to price your services. You’ll want to make sure you earn something close to your fair market value. However, you also will need to make sure pricing is competitive enough to draw in business if you are a BCBA.

 ABA professionals who are BCBAs earn much higher wages than the average salary. Many BCBAs earned wages that ranged from $75,000 to $145,000 or more. Families looking for an analyst usually look for someone who is as qualified as possible. Board certification will increase a family’s confidence in a given analyst. 


Remember, self-employed people need to cover their portion of FICA tax (Federal Insurance Contribution tax). They also need to cover the portion that an employer would typically pay. It’s wise to set aside the approximate amount you will owe in taxes and pay estimated quarterly tax. However, if you intend to work as a self-employed professional, you may want to consult with a tax professional. They can help you develop a tax strategy and take advantage of any available deductions.

Average Salary for ABA Therapists

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Applied behavior analysis is mostly known as a treatment for autism. It is now also recognized as a treatment for several other disorders. This recognition has increased the wage potential for applied behavior analysts. The wages for BCBAs can vary by who is reporting the information as well. The annual average behavior analyst salary was $33,898 as of a June 2018 wage report by PayScale. Behavior analyst salaries ranged from $24,820 to $49,098. The average behavior analyst salary hourly rate was $15.77. These statistics include ABA therapists with different degree levels. An average salary for those with a master’s degree in ABA tends to be on the higher end. This is especially true in the case of a board certified behavior analyst. 

Board Certification

 Board certification usually leads to much higher wages, and higher behavior analyst salaries. Payscale reports that the average BCBA earns $62,439 per year. The lowest 10% of earners earned about $47,000, while the highest 10% earned about $78,000. Board certification takes a good bit of time and effort, but over time, it’s likely to pay off. 

Doctorate in Psychology

If you want to earn more, getting a doctorate in psychology may lead to a salary increase. According to Payscale, the base average behavior analyst salary for someone with a Ph.D.in psychology is $78,242. Of course, this takes into account all jobs someone can do with a doctorate in psychology. Some of these jobs may pay more than working as an applied behavior analyst.

Options for Someone with a Degree in ABA

Similarly, with a degree in ABA, you can work in a few other positions. Once you have some experience in the field, you may be able to work as a Clinical Director. This position has a median wage of $71,000. In this role, practitioners work to manage a team of healthcare professionals. Usually, it’s a team of behavior analysts, assistant behavior analysts, and registered behavior technicians. For this job, you need a deep understanding of best practices for ABA. A good clinical director will be able to see the big picture and manage people well.

Work Experience

Before you get a master’s degree, you may want to work in a job an assistant applied behavioral analyst. This will get you some hands-on experience in the field. Working as board-certified assistant behavior analyst pays fairly well, especially given the fact that this job does not require a master’s degree. On average, board-certified assistant behavior analysts make $24.75 an hour. The bottom 10% earn an average of $16.94 an hour. The top 10% earn $48.48 an hour.

Working as a registered behavior technician is a good way to get an introduction to the field. You can work as one with just a high school diploma. The median wage for these professionals is $16.50 per hour. The bottom 10% of earners make $13.05. The top 10% earn $21.96.

Of course, as mentioned above, keep in mind that wages can vary substantially. This is especially the case when it comes to cost of living in the area where you practice as a certified behavior analyst BCBA.

How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst

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Where to Start

Becoming an applied behavior analyst usually starts with a bachelor’s degree. Colleges and universities don’t often offer degrees that focus on this particular branch of psychology. This means a candidate’s bachelor’s degree must be in a related field. Commonly, candidates choose a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or education. These fields will introduce students to psychological concepts. It will also give them the interpersonal skills they will need to succeed as an ABA.

Registered Behavior Technician

It may be worthwhile to become certified as a registered behavior technician (RBT). These professionals work under the supervision and guidance of an applied behavior analyst. They often do a lot of the hands-on work with clients. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to be an RBT. You just need a high school diploma. You’ll also need to complete a 40-hour training and pass an initial competency assessment. To become certified, you need to pass an RBT exam. From there, you can begin working in the field.

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst

Those with a bachelor’s degree may want to become certified as a board certified assistant behavior analyst. These are known as BCaBAs. These people work alongside BCBAs. They can’t perform services without the supervision of an applied behavior analyst. The certification requires some more coursework and supervised training. But it can be an excellent way to gain experience in the field.

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Becoming an applied behavior analyst usually requires earning at least a master’s degree in:
  • behavior analysis
  • education
  • psychology
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) requires candidates to have a master’s or doctorate in ABA or a related field to become a BCBA. Candidates should also have work experience. This can be obtained through fieldwork or a supervised practicum or internship. Obtaining national certification is also a requirement in many areas.
You can become an ABA therapist with a master’s degree. However, some candidates choose to continue their study by pursuing a doctorate. Board certified behavior analysts with doctorates may find both more work opportunities. They may also find higher-paying jobs. In some cases, they may choose to work in the field for a while with a master’s degree and then pursue a doctorate.
States differ in their licensing requirements. Candidates pursuing careers as ABAs should check with their state’s licensing board for requirements. Applied behavior analysis is still relatively new in many states. These states have included specific wording into their medical insurance laws. These require that ABAs have a master’s degree and certification or equivalent education.

A Day in the Life of an Applied Behavior Analyst

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It’s important to understand the general salary outlook for applied behavior analysts. But before you choose a career path, it’s a good idea to know what an applied behavior analyst does each day.
The exact responsibilities you’ll have will differ depending on the individual job description. But generally, a BCBA performs initial evaluations of autistic children or adults. Often, they will visit the client’s home and observe them doing a variety of activities. They can assess the client’s level of functioning and identify behavioral trouble spots. They’ll also need to get a sense of the client’s personality. This will help them create an effective treatment plan.
Some behavior analysts may be responsible for doing the hands-on work with clients. These are usually RBTs or BCBAs. This work usually involves teaching the client useful life skills and coping skills. This helps them manage stress in a healthy way. It also usually involves working with the client to minimize negative behaviors. For example, an autistic child may often have meltdowns if there’s a change in their life. This might be a new babysitter or schedule disruption. These meltdowns get in the way of the child’s life. The applied behavior analyst will help them manage their emotions. ABAs help autistic individuals develop social skills, too. Applied behavior analysis often involves very intensive work — up to 40 hours a week.
In other cases, behavior therapists do not do hands-on work. BCBAs create treatment plans and then supervise BCaBAs or RBTs as they carry that plan out. In order to supervise these people, ABA therapists need to be excellent communicators. Once they make a plan, they will need to explain it well enough that a BCaBA or RBT can carry it out.
This job requires excellent organizational skills. Analysts will need to be familiar with the details of each case they manage, which can be a bit of a challenge.
Applied behavior analysts will also need to educate family members. They can help them understand the best ways to help manage their loved one’s condition. The family will likely be able to observe the BCBA at work. But they may not know exactly how to work with the autistic child after therapy is over. BCBAs will usually tell family members what steps to take. This can help de-escalate situations and keep their loved ones on track.

In Conclusion: How much do ABA Therapists make? 

Applied behavior analysts are in a position to help adults and children with various disorders. This can be rewarding and satisfying. They work in homes, schools, clinics, and various other settings. ABA therapists do incredibly important work. They help autistic people identify ways they struggle in life. Then they help them develop skills that will improve their lives. Since these services are so essential, ABA therapists are generally compensated well.

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This concludes our article on the average ABA therapist salary.