As the number of autism and developmental diagnoses rise each year, so does the demand for applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists. ABA providers may be board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs), board certified assistant behavior analysts (BCaBAs), or registered behavior technicians (RBTs).

Salaries for each type of ABA position vary depending on level of education and years of experience, as well as geographic location. In general, ABA therapy salaries are higher in large cities. Salaries are also higher for people with graduate degrees, additional certifications, and more years of experience.

ABA Therapists

ABA is a type of therapy focused on applying the science of learning and behavior to real-life situations. The primary goal of ABA is to reduce negative or harmful behaviors and replace them with positive and helpful ones. The therapy is typically focused on children and adults with autism, though it is also used to treat other developmental disorders.

Through ABA therapy, a client can:

  • Develop language and communication skills.
  • Improve attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics.
  • Reduce problematic behaviors.

An ABA therapist is responsible for developing and overseeing individualized programs for each client, to help them achieve the above goals. ABA therapists are primarily board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) who have completed specific training and licensure exams to qualify themselves to deliver ABA therapy services.

There are different types of professionals under the BCBA umbrella. These include BCBAs, BCBA-Ds, and BCaBAs.

  • BCaBA: This is a board-certified assistant behavior analyst. This designation requires only a bachelor’s degree, whereas BCBA and BCBA-D certifications require graduate degrees. In addition, BCaBAs must complete specific coursework and supervised experience hours.

    BCaBAs must practice under the supervision of a BCBA or BCBA-D. They cannot practice independently, though they can supervise RBTs.

  • BCBA: This certification requires a master’s degree in behavior analysis, psychology, or education in addition to specific coursework and supervised experience hours.

    BCBAs can practice independently. They often supervise a team of RBTs who implement their therapy plans for clients.

  • BCBA-D: This doctoral designation for a BCBA, meaning the professional holds a doctorate in addition to a master’s degree. BCBA-Ds offer the same level of services as BCBAs. They simply have a more advanced degree.

Registered behavior technicians (RBTs) are an additional part of an ABA treatment team. RBTs are technicians who are trained and certified in ABA.

RBTs work directly with ABA clients to achieve the goals outlined by the BCBA. RBTs must be supervised by a BCBA, BCBA-D, or BCaBA.

Average ABA Therapy Salaries

The salary of an ABA therapist varies depending on the specifics of the position and geographic location.

According to Indeed, the average base salary for an ABA therapist is just over $23 per hour. Therapists with three to five years of experience average $29 per hour. Indeed doesn’t specify which specific ABA jobs are used for their estimate. It’s likely RBTs are factored into this average. 

PayScale puts the average BCBA salary higher, at $69,000 per year.

According to Cambridge College, the average national BCBA salary is $56,730, but about a third of BCBAs make more than $75,000 per year. In some areas, where demand for ABA therapists is higher, these professionals make more than $145,000 per year.

Cities Where ABA Therapists Make the Most

As of June 2022, these are the highest paying cities in the U.S. for ABA therapists:

  • New York, New York: $26.92/hour
  • Chicago, Illinois: $25.20/hour
  • Brooklyn, New York: $24.23/hour
  • Worcester, Massachusetts: $23.24/hour
  • Bronx, New York: $23.16/hour
  • Indianapolis, Indiana: $22.90/hour
  • Dearborn, Michigan: $22.46/hour
  • Lakewood, New Jersey: $21.74/hour

Ways to Raise Your Base Salary

Obtaining additional certifications is one way for ABA therapists to enhance their base salaries. For example, therapists who are also certified school psychologists or licensed social workers report earning up to twice as much as the average ABA therapist salary.
ABA therapists who hold a doctorate degree, designating them as BCBA-D, garner higher salaries than standard BCBA therapists.
Since board certified assistant behavior analysts (BCaBA) must practice under the supervision of a qualified supervisor, even though BCaBAs can themselves supervise a team of RBTs, they make less money than BCBAs.
Among ABA providers, RBTs make the least, averaging $56,785 per year nationwide. There are opportunities for RBTs to make more with additional certifications, years of experience, and specialties.

The Best States for ABA Providers

  • According to a recent study released by Burning Glass Technologies, a company that analyzes U.S. labor market data, there is a strong demand for ABA providers throughout the country. BCBAs, assistant therapists, and behavior technicians are needed now more than ever.

    These states had the greatest demand for BCBAs in 2019, ranked from greatest to least demand:

    • California 

    • Massachusetts
    • Texas 

    • Illinois

    • Florida 

    California alone accounted for 31% of the demand for BCBAs in 2019. In total, these five states accounted for 48% of the demand for behavior analysts in the country.
    The demand for assistant behavior analysts (those holding a BCaBA) is also high throughout the country. In 2019, these five states had the greatest demand for BCaBAs:

    • California 
    • Florida
    • Virginia
    • Texas
    • Arizona

    Employer Organization Options

    ABA therapists are employed in a variety of settings. Opportunities for these professionals exist in schools, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and private practice settings.
    Self-employed ABA therapists report the highest earnings, followed by private companies, school districts, government positions, and nonprofits.

    ABA Job Trends: Growth & Projections

    As the number of autism diagnoses in the U.S. continues to grow each year, so do the job opportunities for ABA providers. Widely accepted as one of the most effective treatment options for people with autism, as well as other developmental and mental health conditions, ABA is a well-respected and growing field.
    Many health insurance providers have added coverage for ABA therapy under most of their plans. This coverage allows more families to seek ABA treatment, knowing that insurance will pay the majority of the cost.
    The Burning Glass Technologies report further shows that the demand for BCBAs and BCaBAs is growing. From 2010 to 2019, the demand for ABA providers has increased each year. The demand for BCBAs and BCBA-Ds increased 80% from 2018 to 2019 alone.
    For BCaBAs, the demand increase has been even steeper. Demand has also increased each year since 2010, with an increase of 157% from 2018 to 2019.

    Increasing Your Salary as an ABA Therapist

    If you are interested in working as an ABA therapist, there are many factors to consider that can boost your overall salary. While specific salaries vary by employer, three primary factors can influence your ABA therapy salary. They are:

    • Level of education. An ABA provider with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn an average of about $47,000 annually, while the average ABA therapy salary for someone with a master’s degree is $55,000.

    • Experience. While there is no shortcut to gaining more experience, you can expect to earn more the longer you work as an ABA therapist. With 10 years of experience, therapists report earning over $80,000/year.

    • Location. In general, ABA jobs in big cities pay the most. While the cost of living is usually higher in these locations, the higher starting salary often offsets this.

    Working as an ABA therapist can be both a challenging and rewarding career. Fortunately, the demand for ABA therapist in the United States is on the rise.

    There are many job opportunities available throughout the country, and you can receive a good salary as an ABA therapist in 2022.