The rising incidences of autism in the U.S. have thrust applied behavior analysis (ABA) into the spotlight as a respected therapy for autism spectrum disorders, resulting in a growing demand for applied behavior analysts and rising salaries in the profession. A 2014 professional employment report by the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) revealed that the largest number of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA®) respondents (nearly 31 percent) earned more than $75,000 a year—some considerably more ($145,000+).
Respect, Recognition of ABA Therapy Translates into Increased Demand and Salary Potential
According to Autism Speaks, the number of Americans with autism spectrum disorders has increased tenfold in 40 years. Today, there are more than 3 million Americans living with autism. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) has received endorsements from many national organizations, including the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Neurology, and the U.S. Surgeon General, as one of the most effective therapies for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
As a result, ABA has garnered considerable attention and is now recognized as a respected therapy not just for autism spectrum disorders, but also for other pervasive developmental disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and mental health conditions, to name just a few.
ABA Salaries By State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
The rise of autism rates in the U.S. has also spurred most states to adopt autism health insurance mandates, most of which identify ABA as a covered autism therapy. In 2014, the APBA reported that private health insurance paid for 42 percent of all ABA services, followed by TRICARE, at 21 percent, and public health plans (Medicaid and Medicare), at 22.5 percent.
These changes have resulted not only in an increased demand for applied behavior analysts, but also an increase in their earning power. A 2015 Burning Glass Technologies (on behalf of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board) report, The U.S. Behavior Analyst Workforce, found that the demand for behavior analyst positions more than doubled between 2012 and 2014. The report revealed an increased demand during this time in almost every state.
Between 2008 and 2014, the percentage of respondents (including both BCBA®s and BCBA®-Ds) in the APBA employment survey reported earning more than $100,000 doubled.
Salaries for Applied Behavior Analysts: Where Behavior Analysts Are in the Highest Demand and Earning the Most
The Burning Glass Technologies report revealed that there were more than 3,000 job postings for behavior analysts in 2015. During this time, 45 percent of the demand was concentrated in three states: California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
More than 60 percent of all job postings in 2014 were in autism spectrum disorders, followed distantly by intellectual and developmental disabilities and education, each of which garnered about 12 percent of total listings.
About 43 percent of job listings in 2014 involved the direct provision of ABA services, followed by administrative positions directly related ABA services, at about 25 percent, and consultation with agencies, at a distance 5 percent.
December 2016 statistics from Payscale revealed a national average salary for BCBA®s of $55,839, with top earners bringing home an average salary of $95,521.
Salaries by Experience
Pay ranges for these practitioner-scientists varied considerably depending on experience, particularly among those at the top end of the pay scale:
- Entry-level BCBA®s: $37,349-$83,881
- Mid-Career BCBA®s: $45,603-$105,480
- Experienced: $46,734-$121,193
- Late Career: $64,564-$203,573
Salaries by Geographic Location
Payscale data also showed that geographic location also plays a role in the average salaries of BCBA®s. For example, BCBA®s in Miami earn 31 percent than the national average, or $76,465, while BCBA®s in New York City earn 16 percent more than the national average, or $67,682.
Other cities to post BCBA® salaries higher than the national average include:
- Los Angeles: +10 percent, $64,465
- Chicago: +6 percent, $62,031
- Seattle: +5 percent, $61,445
- San Diego: +2 percent, $59,495
- Dallas: +2 percent, $59,625
Salaries by Specialization
BCBA® salaries tend to vary based upon their area of specialization. The top earning BCBA®s had childhood education skills, earning a median salary of $66,819. On average, BCBA®s earned 14 percent more than the national average if they had childhood education skills.
One of the largest areas of specialization continues to be autism. BCBA®s with expertise in autism spectrum disorders earned a median salary of $48,211, although top earners $140,491.
Other salary ranges by area of specialization include:
- Data Analysis: $40,936-$94,639
- Functional analysis: $41,392-$96,831
- Clinical Supervision; $43,666-$96,105
- Training: $41,237-$89,117
- Program Development: $39,594-$85,005
Salaries by Company Size
The largest number of BCBA® job postings in December 2015, according to Payscale, were for companies with 50-199 employees. The highest average salary, however, was among larger companies with 600-1,999 employees: $63,294.
Other average BCBA® salaries, by company size, were:
- 200-599: $60,240
- 50-199: $59,787
- 5,000-19,999: $56,930
- 2,000-4,999: $56,506
- 10-49: $55,899
- 1-9: $55,699
Salaries by Employer Type
The highest average salaries reported for BCBA®s in December 2016, according to Payscale, were among the self-employed, at $158,000, followed by foundations/trusts at $62,500, private companies at $60,387, and private practices/firms at $59,136.
Other noteworthy salary averages included:
- Schools/school districts: $57,016
- Non-profit organizations: $55,992
- State and local governments: $56,542
- Federal government: $55,000
- Hospitals: $52,846
According to December 2016 Payscale data, bonuses are commonplace for BCBA®s, with the largest bonuses reported among clinical supervisors/managers ($4,913), clinical directors ($4,500), and behavior specialists ($2,400).
The largest bonuses, by industry, were reported in:
- Pediatric therapy offices: $7,000
- Autism therapy: $2,000
- Human services agency: $1,965
- Healthcare services: $1,200
- Behavior intervention services: $1,008
Recent Examples of Salary Offers for BCBAs®
Recent job postings are always a reliable indicator of salaries for BCBA®s. A sampling of December 2016 BCBA® job postings revealed the following salaries:
- Intense Behavioral Services, Jersey City, NJ: $70/hr.
- El Pueblo (adolescent treatment community), Pueblo, CO: $80,000
- Applied Behavior Health, Spokane, WA: $75/hr.
- Professional Pediatric Home Care, Colorado Springs, CO: $70,000-$110,000
- Autism Intervention Professionals, Merced, CA: $60/hr.
- Byers Special Education Services, Brooklyn, NY: $100/hr.
- Positive Behavior Services, Inc., Miami, FL: $60-$70/hr.
- Applied Behavior Health, Portland, OR: $70/hr.
- Victorious Learning, Fernandina Beach, FL: $60/hr.
- Applied Behavior Health, Boston, MA: $80/hr.
- Continuum Behavioral Health, McLean, VA: $120,000
- Positive Behavior Supports Corporation, West Bloomfield Township, MI: $75/hr.
- Speech, Language, and Educational Associates, Los Angeles, CA: $80,000
- DirectEd Educational Services, Los Angeles, CA: $85,000
- Institute for Behavioral Health, Redlands, CA: $80,000
- TILL, Inc., Boston, MA: $50/hr.
- Children’s Therapy Services of Colorado, Denver, CO: $75,000-$85,000
- Rock Island Special Education & Behavior Services, Pembroke, MA: $75/hr.
- Whole Child Behavioral Interventions, Inc., Holly Springs, NC: $60/hr.