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2021 Behavior Analyst Salaries (by State)

behavior analyst salary data

Applied behavior analysts (ABAs) are lifelong students of the science of learning and behavior. Every day they look at how the environment and outside stimuli affect how people behave, considering the factors and motivations that contribute to problem behaviors. It’s important work, and for all the effort and continued learning, ABAs can expect a respectable salary in return.

As of July 2021, the average behavior analyst salary was around $63,000, according to PayScale. Yet the earning potential is even higher with the more experience you have, especially considering the skyrocketing trajectory of the field. Furthering your work as an ABA can lead to a lucrative career, all while making a tangibly positive difference in people’s lives.


Behavior Analyst Careers

Behavior Analyst Salaries

Behavior Analyst Salary and Education Requirements

Salaries for Applied Behavior Analysts By State

Best States for Behavior Analysts

Behavior Analyst Salary Outlook

Preparing for a Career As an ABA

Behavior Analyst Careers

behavior analysts career profesional

Behavior analysts have never been more in demand, especially given the exponential rise in diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) over the past two generations. Today, over 3 million Americans live with ASD, and applied behavior analysis is universally recognized as the only evidence-based treatment for autism spectrum disorder.

Yet as the reputation of the field builds on the evidence coming out of empirical studies, the list of behavioral issues applied behavior analysis is used to address is constantly expanding. Along with that, ABAs are finding more opportunities than ever before.

Here are just a few of the ABA careers you can embark upon:

  • Substance abuse therapist
  • Pediatric behavioral therapist
  • Sports psychologist
  • Special education teacher
  • School counselor or psychologist
  • Mental health clinical director
  • Social worker
  • Brain injury therapist
  • Criminal profiler

It’s clear from the variety of ABA careers, that you can take your passion for understanding human behavior and use it in several ways. Of course, not all of these professions pay the same behavior analyst salary. Some jobs require a master’s in applied behavior analysis, whereas others require professional certifications and even additional degrees, like a doctorate. All of these factors influence the ABA or BCBA salary you might earn.

Behavior Analyst Salaries

behavior analysts looking at salary data

So exactly how much do ABA therapists make a year? As mentioned, the average ABA therapist salary depends on several variables, including your location, experience, and professional certifications.

According to PayScale, applied behavior analysts earned an average salary of $63,000 as of July 2021. Early-career BCBAs can expect to earn a salary that closely reflects the 25th percentile, which was $42,000 as of July 2021. Those with extensive experience in the field, and often serving as clinical directors, earn salaries that more closely reflect the 90th percentile, which was $82,000 during this time.

A behavior analyst’s salary also depends on what type of therapist you certify as. A registered behavioral technician (RBT), for example, only requires a high school diploma along with national certification and will therefore make less per year than a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), who has attained a master’s degree (or higher) along with the highest certification in the field. Assistant board-certified behavior analysts (BCaBAs) fall in between, having earned a bachelor’s degree and national certification.

Here’s a general breakdown according to Payscale’s 2021 reported earnings to help you understand how much BCBA therapists make compared to BCaBAs and RBTs:

Behavior Analyst Salary and Education Requirements

behavior analysts interacting with child patient, meeting education requirements

Qualifications for behavior analysts tend to be fairly consistent across the board, with most states requiring an ABA master’s program and BCBA or BCBA-D certification as a basis for state licensure. Even among states without licensing requirements specific to ABAs, you can expect state insurance laws to include language requiring a master’s level education and the BCBA/BCBA-D designation.

Because of these standardized practice requirements, behavior analyst salary expectations generally aren’t based on educational qualifications and professional certification alone. Instead, you’ll find salary differences based on the number of years you have in the field, your employment setting, and where you live and practice.

For example, behavior analysts working for regional medical centers and hospitals, or for big names in autism treatment and research like the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, can usually expect to earn higher salaries and enjoy more opportunities for advancement than those working for small, private practices—unless you open your own private practice yourself.

Private Practice BCBA Salary

If your goal is to start your own ABA practice, you’ll be well-positioned to bring in an income that far exceeds what any employer would pay. Not only does independent practice offer the chance to earn far more than you would working for someone else, but it also offers the flexibility and freedom that come with making your own schedule.

While there’s not yet reliable reporting on the average ABA therapist salary for independent practitioners and business owners, you can get a sense of it based on what people are paying for ABA services and what health insurers are reimbursing. Rates approaching $100/hour are quite common, with certain boutique practices charging even more for in-home services. The need for ABA services outstrips what the current number of practitioners in most markets can keep up with, a situation that has naturally increased the BCBA average salary.

ABA Salaries by State

As with any profession, a BCBA average salary is highly contingent upon not just how much experience you have, but where you live. Factors like cost of living, population demographics, and more all go into determining what you can expect to make if you become a behavior analyst.

The following BLS table lists the median behavior analyst salary for each state as of May 2020, as well as specific percentiles based on a therapist’s overall experience and time in the profession (25th percentile = early career professional, 75th–90th percentile = experienced professional).

Area Name

Annual 25th percentile wage

Annual median wage

Annual 75th percentile wage

Annual 90th percentile wage




































District of Columbia































































































New Hampshire





New Mexico





New York





North Carolina

























Rhode Island





South Dakota






























West Virginia















Detailed ABA Salaries By City & State

Best States for Behavior Analysts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average behavior analyst salary for therapists who earn their BCBA has the strongest potential earning power of this career, especially for those who live in a state where demand is high.

California tops the nation in both the number of behavior analysts working overall, as well as the BCBA average salary, which came in at $124,910. Alaska was second, with an average salary of $118,270, followed by Illinois at $115,340, and Virginia at $109,060.

Every state saw strong growth in demand within the field from 2010 to 2020, with California, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, and Georgia leading the pack. These states accounted for 47% of the demand for behavior analysts in 2020, with California alone accounting for 23% percent of the year’s demand.

The metro areas that came out on top in terms of average pay for behavior analysts as of May 2020 were:

  • Los Angeles (also includes Long Beach and Anaheim), CA: $138,810
  • Sacramento (also includes Roseville and Arden-Arcade), CA: $126,040
  • Jacksonville, FL: $125,230
  • Salinas, CA: $122,360
  • Chicago (also includes Naperville and Elgin), IL: $118,550
  • Anchorage, AK: $116,710
  • Fresno, CA: $116,490
  • Dayton, OH: $115,120

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data is clear: earn your BCBA, credentials, and land a job in one of these major metro areas, and you could be among the top earners in the field.

Behavior Analyst Salary Outlook

Clearly, the job market and ABA therapist salary potential is more than promising. According to a 2021 market analysis report commissioned by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)—long considered the standard-bearer for ABA certification and practice—the demand for behavior analysts continues to rise at a meteoric rate, having grown by a mind-boggling 4,209% in the ten-year period leading up to 2020.

To put this number into perspective, consider that in 2010, there were just 789 job postings for applied behavior analysts. By 2019, that number had jumped to 28,967, and by 2020, it reached a record 33,996 job postings.

As you might expect, the demand for behavior analysts has largely tracked with the increase in autism diagnosis rates. As of 2020, about one in 54 children receive an autism diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—a considerable increase over the rate of one in every 150 children in 2000.

These numbers tell the story of a profession that is on fire with intense demand and lightning-fast growth, and all because the therapy works to effectively mitigate and eliminate problem behaviors while promoting positive ones in their stead.

And not surprisingly, with all this demand comes a situation where the schools, independent clinics and public health agencies that provide ABA services are looking for talented ABAs to join their teams. It’s never been a better time to make the jump into a career as a behavioral analyst.

Preparing for a Career As an ABA

Thinking of a career in applied behavioral analysis? Start researching graduate programs in your area that offer the qualifying coursework you need to pass your exam, preferably in a format that works for you, whether that is on campus or online.

Ready to get started? Check out some available Graduate Programs.

May 2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for psychologists, all other represent state and national data, not school specific information.

Job market data from the 2021 BACB/Burning Glass Technologies joint report on US Demand for Behavior Analysts represents state and national data, not school specific information.

Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed July 2021.

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Diandra Stevens LSW BCBA’s Email & Phone

Blanchester, Ohio

Board Certified Behavior Analyst @ Self Employed

Program Supervisor @ Applied Behavioral Services

Bachelor of Science (BS), Social Work @ The Union Institute and University

Board Certified Behavior Analyst @ independent contractor providing behavior intervention and consultation From February 2015 to Present (11 months) Program Supervisor @ From September 2013 to February 2015 (1 year 6 months)

Master of Science (M.S.), Counseling with a concentration in Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis @ Nova Southeastern University From 2011 to 2014 Bachelor of Science (BS), 

Board Certified Behavior Analyst @ independent contractor providing behavior intervention and consultation From February 2015 to Present (11 months) Program Supervisor @ From September 2013 to February 2015 (1 year 6 months)

Master of Science (M.S.), Counseling with a concentration in Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis @ Nova Southeastern University From 2011 to 2014 Bachelor of Science (BS), Social Work @ The Union Institute and University Diandra Stevens LSW BCBA is skilled in: Social Services, Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Applied Behavior Analysis, Behavioral Counseling, Behavior Modification, Adolescents, Crisis Intervention, Mental Health, Psychology

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What Psychologists Do About this section


Industrial-organizational psychologists apply psychological research and methods to workplace issues.

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and to their environments. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.


Psychologists typically do the following:

  • Conduct scientific studies of behavior and brain function
  • Observe, interview, and survey individuals
  • Identify psychological, emotional, behavioral, or organizational issues and diagnose disorders
  • Research and identify behavioral or emotional patterns
  • Test for patterns that will help them better understand and predict behavior
  • Discuss the treatment of problems with clients
  • Write articles, research papers, and reports to share findings and educate others
  • Supervise interns, clinicians, and counseling professionals

Psychologists seek to understand and explain thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behavior. They use techniques such as observation, assessment, and experimentation to develop theories about the beliefs and feelings that influence individuals.

Psychologists often gather information and evaluate behavior through controlled laboratory experiments, psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy. They also may administer personality, performance, aptitude, or intelligence tests. They look for patterns of behavior or relationships between events, and they use this information when testing theories in their research or when treating patients.

The following are examples of types of psychologists:

Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Clinical psychologists help people deal with problems ranging from short-term personal issues to severe, chronic conditions.

Clinical psychologists are trained to use a variety of approaches to help individuals. Although strategies generally differ by specialty, clinical psychologists often interview patients, give diagnostic tests, and provide individual, family, or group psychotherapy. They also design behavior modification programs and help patients implement their particular program. Some clinical psychologists focus on specific populations, such as children or the elderly, or on certain specialties, such as neuropsychology.

Clinical psychologists often consult with other health professionals regarding the best treatment for patients, especially treatment that includes medication. Currently, only Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medication to patients.

Counseling psychologists help patients deal with and understand problems, including issues at home, at the workplace, or in their community. Through counseling, these psychologists work with patients to identify their strengths or resources they can use to manage problems. For information on other counseling occupations, see the profiles on marriage and family therapistssubstance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, and social workers.

Developmental psychologists study the psychological progress and development that take place throughout life. Many developmental psychologists focus on children and adolescents, but they also may study aging and problems facing older adults.

Forensic psychologists use psychological principles in the legal and criminal justice system to help judges, attorneys, and other legal specialists understand the psychological aspects of a particular case. They often testify in court as expert witnesses. They typically specialize in family, civil, or criminal casework.

Industrial–organizational psychologists apply psychology to the workplace by using psychological principles and research methods to solve problems and improve the quality of worklife. They study issues such as workplace productivity, management or employee working styles, and employee morale. They also help top executives, training and development managers, and training and development specialists with policy planning, employee screening or training, and organizational development.

Rehabilitation psychologists work with physically or developmentally disabled individuals. They help improve quality of life or help individuals adjust after a major illness or accident. They may work with physical therapists and teachers to improve health and learning outcomes.

School psychologists apply psychological principles and techniques to education disorders and developmental disorders. They may address student learning and behavioral problems; design and implement performance plans, and evaluate performances; and counsel students and families. They also may consult with other school-based professionals to suggest improvements to teaching, learning, and administrative strategies.

Some psychologists become postsecondary teachers or high school teachers.

What People Don't Tell You About Being Self Employed

Supervisor Tips: I Choose You!

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As a BCBA, if you work for a company/agency you may not have much say over which clients you will/will not serve. You get assigned a caseload of very diverse clients, and continue to be assigned cases until the caseload maximum is reached.

However if you choose to offer services independently as a BCBA, then it is very much up to you to decide who to work with. This may not be something most people consider or contemplate as they move closer and closer to certification, but: How will you choose which clients you will serve?

Once someone obtains certification, they are now qualified to work independently (depending on the state). I've briefly talked about working independently on my blog before, but this post is specifically about making the judgment call of when to select, and when to decline, a particular client.

Many ABA professionals don’t have experience working independently. I started out in this field working independently, but that isn’t everyone’s background. Most people start out under a company or agency, and don’t branch out to independent work until post- certification. Thankfully the Board does provide guidelines to help with this:

Accepting clients - The Behavior Analyst accepts as clients only those individuals or entities (agencies, firms, etc.) whose behavior problems or requested service are commensurate with the behavior analyst’s education, training, and experience. In lieu of these conditions, the behavior analyst must function under the supervision of or in consultation with a behavior analyst whose credentials permit working with such behavior problems or services.

Providing consultation - Behavior Analysts arrange for appropriate consultations and referrals based principally on the best interests of their clients, with appropriate consent, and subject to other relevant considerations, including applicable law and contractual obligations.

Who is your client? - The term client as used here is broadly applicable to whomever the Behavior Analyst provides services whether an individual person (service recipient), parent or guardian of a service recipient, an institutional representative, a public or private agency, a firm or corporation.

Termination with clients- Behavior Analysts make reasonable efforts to plan for facilitating care in the event that behavior analytic services are interrupted by factors such as the behavior analyst’s illness, impending death, unavailability, or relocation or by the client’s relocation or financial limitations. Behavior Analysts do not abandon clients. Behavior Analysts terminate a professional relationship when it becomes reasonably clear that the client no longer needs the service, is not benefiting, or is being harmed by continued service.

So what’s the takeaway summary here?

There are clear ethical guidelines for how a BCBA can initiate services with a client, how you must present yourself/market your services, how to professionally interact with a client, and how to terminate services with a client.

These ethical guidelines should give even the greenest, brand new BCBA, clear cut boundaries of how to maintain a professional business relationship with clients.

I’d like to add some points and tips to the above guidelines, based on what I have experienced and had to learn the hard way:

  • Know thyself- Part of being a professional is being able to truly evaluate your own strengths, weaknesses, and limits. To put it bluntly, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you work a full time job, plus you are in school, and a client contacts you to inquire about consultation, can you really add that to your already full plate? Your decision making should be governed by what you can do well, not by sympathy or finances. If you know that you could squeeze more onto your plate, but they will go to the bottom of your priority list, the quality of your work will be poor, or they will get what’s left over of your time and concentration, then its unethical to add that client. Is this sometimes hard to explain to people??? Yes….. It sure is :-).  I have worked with many great professionals who were very kind and caring people, but unfortunately that can sometimes translate into someone who doesn’t know how to say “No”.
  • Honestly state your expertise – This is very similar to the 1st point, but part of being a professional is being able to honestly and clearly state your clinical expertise. Most of my experience in the world of ABA has been with early intervention. If someone contacted me to consult on a case with a 28 year old man, would I be interested? It’s possible, yes. However, based on my expertise and training am I the ideal BCBA to work with this individual? Probably not. It’s important to work within the realm of your expertise, and when necessary seek out additional training or mentorship so you can perform your job with excellence. If you have never worked with a type of client before, then you need to clearly explain that to the potential client so they can make an informed decision about whether to hire you or not.
  • Boundaries! – I’m going to say that again: Boundaries! It’s that important that I needed to say it twice. When I first started in this field, I was really, really, bad at maintaining boundaries and speaking up for myself. Over the years, I learned how to be assertive, not aggressive, when clients trampled my boundaries. If you are going to work independently, you have to know how to clearly communicate your boundaries to clients, and then actually enforce them. Sometimes a client will unintentionally step on your toes, and sometimes it will be quite intentional :-). You may tell a family during the initial meeting “I don’t work on weekends”, and then 6 months in you suddenly find yourself meeting with them every Saturday. How did that happen?? It happened because at some point you failed to enforce your own boundaries.
  • “Termination” is not a dirty word – Every BCBA and every client will NOT be a good match. Just because a family contacts me to request services and I have availability, that doesn’t mean it’s an automatic green light. I know myself well enough to know I work better with certain kinds of families or clients, and being a certified Behavior Geek, oops, I mean Behavior Analyst, I know a thing or two about reading behavior. If during the initial intake process the parents aren’t completing my forms, they lost the contract, they are a no-show for an assessment appointment (or 2), etc., those are like blinking neon signs that maybe you don’t want to initiate ABA services after all. Of course, there is such a thing as grace and giving people the benefit of the doubt, but only you can decide what you are willing to put up with. I have had to initiate termination of services with private clients before, and it can get a bit…challenging. People may not agree with you that termination is best, or they may feel you just need to be more patient, more understanding, etc. Only you can decide how valuable your time really is. If you are working with a client and having persistent, recurring issues with non-involvement, disrespect, or low commitment to treatment, it may be time to part ways.

Reference: BACB Guidelines for Responsible Conduct 


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BCBA Services - Introduction

Careers with an Online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis

ABA Training Coordinator*
Median wage: $59,259

ABA training coordinators often consult and teach about the principles of applied behavior analysis. They may provide training opportunities in a specific organization, school, or clinic, or for community educational purposes.

Employers often include:

  • Outpatient care centers
  • Local and state government agencies
  • Self-employment/individual contractor

University/College Professor*
Median wage: $69,296

A BCBA university/college professor typically teaches courses on various topics related to applied behavior analysis. A professor may also provide clinical services, hold an administrative position, or conduct research in the field of ABA.

Employers often include:

  • Public and private universities
  • Community and four-year colleges
  • Online educational institutions

Clinical Supervisor*
Median wage: $61,315

The BCBA clinical supervisor oversees the training and supervision of BCBAs and/or trainees delivering services to clients. A clinical supervisor may conduct assessments, review treatment plans and goals, and provide ongoing feedback of treatment program implementation.

Employers often include:

  • Outpatient care centers
  • Local and state governments
  • Self-employment/individual contractor

Clinical Director*
Median wage: $73,698

The BCBA clinical director is responsible for managing all aspects of clinical operations relating to client treatment. A clinical director may also oversee administrative operations, develop policies and procedures, and provide supervision for clinical supervisors.

Employers often include:

  • Outpatient care centers
  • Local and state governments
  • Self-employment/individual contractor

Now discussing:


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