What is the Difference Between an ABA and a BCBA?

Image of child playing for our FAQ What is the Difference Between an ABA and a BCBA?

Despite both having to do with applied behavior analysis and treating autism, social, developmental and behavioral disorders, there are several differences between an ABA and a BCBA. These differences go beyond just the name and the degree required for each. The Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist works with patients in need of applied behavior analysis therapy but typically works under the supervision of the Board-Certified Behavior Analyst. They’re two separate professionals but usually working for the same goal.

What is an ABA?

An ABA therapist is an individual who treats patients and clients through the use of applied behavior analysis. Applied behavior analysis is the practice of studying behavior patterns to determine the type of treatment the client needs and what type of appropriate behavior can be accomplished. Although ABA therapy is often used and is highly effective for autism, it is not exclusive to autism. It’s also used for those with social, physical, developmental and emotional disorders.

They also generally work with one child or client at a time so they can provide the patient with one-on-one treatment. The ABA therapist works with and assists the BCBA but works under the supervision of the BCBA. Although many ABA therapists have a master’s degree, some are hired with a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. ABA therapists may work in a medical setting but also may travel to the client’s home or work place to provide therapy.

What is a BCBA?

The Board Certified Behavior Analyst is an Applied Behavior Analyst who has obtained a graduate degree and obtained certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Certification and licensure requirements vary from state to state. Like the ABA therapists, Board Certified Behavior Analysts work a lot with autistic patients but are not exclusive to autism.

To work as a BCBA, the candidate must have at least a master’s degree or higher and must pass state certification exams and must maintain the certification by completing continuing education courses or workshops. They must also meet the code of ethics requirements set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Board Certified Behavior Analysts who want to take their education to the highest level often earn a doctoral degree. Some earn a post-doctoral certification in behavioral psychology through the American Psychological Association.

Career Outlook

The one thing that Applied Behavior Analysis therapists and Board Certified Behavior Analysts have in common is that they are both very much in demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that occupational therapists should see a job growth of 24 percent between 2016 and 2026. Although they both can expect positive career growth, the demand is highest for those that are board-certified.

The demand for BCBAs has increased about 800 percent from 2010 to 2017. The states where the demand is the highest are California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois and Washington. PayScale reports that Applied Behavior Analysis Therapists earned an average annual wage of $33,782 as of November 2018 while Board Certified Behavior Analysts earned about $60,000.

Working as a behavior analyst can be as rewarding as it is challenging. Once individuals interested in this career learn the differences between an ABA and a BCBA, they can research the licensure requirements in their state and be on the way toward a fulfilling career.

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