Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapist Jobs & Career Guide 2024

What Is an ABA Therapist?

Applied Behavior Analysis therapists administer treatment designed to improve social, communication, and listening skills in people with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

ABA therapists work under the direction of a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and with the help of a registered behavior technician (RBT), also known as a paraprofessional.

Learn more about other behavioral health jobs.

BCBAs build treatment plans for ABA therapists to administer, and RBTs assist the therapist in providing and monitoring the treatment.

ABA therapists mainly treat children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) but also help teenage and adult patients with conditions such as traumatic brain injury, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and more.

What is an ABA therapist responsible for?

ABA therapist jobs are demanding but rewarding. People within this profession primarily work with young children who have developmental or intellectual disabilities. Their main responsibility is to improve their social skills, help them develop new skills, and increase positive behaviors while decreasing harmful ones.

ABA therapists work under the direction of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and are sometimes called behavior analyst assistants. The BCBA meets and spends time with patients before the therapist does. The BCBA hands their plan off to an ABA therapist who closely adheres to the detailed steps and monitors patient progress along the way, usually through specialized software. The data collected helps the BCBA adjust the behavioral plan as necessary.

Here are some of the key responsibilities of an ABA therapist:

  1. Conducting assessments: An ABA therapist begins their work with a client by conducting an assessment of their current skills, abilities, and behaviors.
  2. Developing treatment plans: Based on the assessment, the ABA therapist develops a treatment plan that outlines the specific goals of therapy, the techniques and interventions to be used, and the frequency and duration of sessions.
  3. Implementing ABA techniques: ABA therapists use a range of evidence-based techniques and interventions, such as positive reinforcement, shaping, and prompting, to help clients learn new skills and behaviors.
  4. Monitoring progress: ABA therapists regularly monitor their clients’ progress in therapy, adjusting their treatment plan as needed to ensure that the client is making progress towards their goals.
  5. Collecting and analyzing data: ABA therapists collect and analyze data on their clients’ behaviors, skills, and progress, to ensure that they are using the most effective techniques and interventions.
  6. Collaborating with other professionals: ABA therapists may collaborate with other professionals, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists, to ensure that their clients receive coordinated and comprehensive care.
  7. Communicating with parents and caregivers: ABA therapists work closely with parents and caregivers to provide support, education, and guidance on how to reinforce the skills and behaviors learned in therapy.
“Being an ABA therapist is a fulfilling and challenging job that requires patience, dedication, and a strong commitment to helping individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities reach their full potential. It can be incredibly rewarding to see the progress that your clients make over time, as they learn new skills and behaviors that improve their independence and quality of life. At the same time, ABA therapy can be emotionally taxing, as you work with clients who may have complex needs and challenging behaviors. However, with the right training and support, being an ABA therapist can be an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding career.”
Dr. Mary Barbera, Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and Autism Mom

Here is what a typical day as an ABA therapist might look like:

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM: Morning Preparation

The ABA therapist arrives at the center, school, or client’s home, and prepares for the day. This may involve reviewing client files, preparing materials for sessions, and setting up equipment.

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM: Direct Therapy Session 1

The therapist begins the first therapy session of the day with a client. They work one-on-one with the client to teach them new skills and behaviors using ABA techniques, such as prompting, shaping, and reinforcement.

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Lunch Break

The therapist takes a break to have lunch and recharge for the afternoon sessions.

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM: Data Collection and Analysis

After lunch, the therapist uses this time to collect and analyze data from the morning session. This helps them to monitor the client’s progress, track their behaviors, and make adjustments to the treatment plan if necessary.

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM: Direct Therapy Session 2

The therapist begins the second therapy session of the day with another client. They work one-on-one with the client to teach them new skills and behaviors using ABA techniques, such as prompting, shaping, and reinforcement.

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Parent Meeting and Collaboration

The therapist may meet with the client’s parents or caregivers to provide updates on their progress, discuss any concerns or issues, and collaborate on ways to reinforce the skills and behaviors learned in therapy.

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Documentation and Planning

The therapist uses this time to document the day’s sessions, update treatment plans, and plan for upcoming sessions. They may also communicate with other team members, such as supervisors or other therapists, to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Where do ABA therapists work?

ABA therapists may be employed by a variety of organizations that provide services to individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.

  • ABA therapy clinics
  • Schools
  • Hospitals and medical centers
  • Government agencies
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Private practice

Travel is a significant portion of ABA therapist jobs. Therefore, people within this profession should be flexible.

Although ABA therapists travel a lot, they can expect to work in one or a combination of the following settings: patients’ homes, within the community, clinics, schools, and hospitals.

ABA therapists almost always work in patients’ homes as it eases them into treatment. For instance, teaching young children to share their toys with one of their parents or siblings at home is much less stressful than teaching them to share their toys with another child at the park or school. In-home ABA therapy also encourages family participation and understanding to maximize results.

As the patient progresses, their therapist or behavioral analyst may recommend new settings. For example, once the patient masters a skill at home, the therapist can accompany them and a guardian to the park to sharpen the new skill in a social setting.

Additionally, some behavioral plans include a step that calls for transitioning from the home to the clinic. Clinic-based therapy takes place at an autism or related disorder center. The treatment is similar to in-home therapy, but therapists have additional tools and resources to count on.

Schools are also a common place for ABA therapists to work. Some may be there as part of their patient’s behavioral plan set by their clinic’s BCBA, or they may work for the school.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide accommodations to children with disabilities. Therefore, many schools employ ABA therapists or encourage their educators to become registered behavior technicians.

How to become an ABA therapist

Earn a bachelor’s degree

ABA therapy positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in psychology, education, or a related field.

MISSING “SEARCH PROGRAMS” EXTERNAL COMPONENT

Gain experience working with individuals with autism

Many ABA therapy positions prefer candidates who have experience working with individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities. You may be able to gain this experience through volunteer work, internships, or entry-level positions in the field.

Earn a master’s degree

Whilst many ABA therapy positions do not require a master’s degree, it is common for organizations to prefer candidates with one. Typically students opt to study a Master’s in Behavioral Psychology.

Complete training in ABA therapy

ABA therapy is a highly specialized field that requires specific training and certification. You can complete training in ABA therapy through an accredited program, such as those offered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) or the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI).

Here are some key elements of ABA therapy training:

  1. Coursework: ABA therapy training typically involves coursework in behavior analysis, ethics, and practical applications of ABA therapy.
  2. Supervised experience: To become certified as an ABA therapist, individuals must complete a certain number of hours of supervised experience working with clients with autism and other developmental disabilities. The number of hours required varies depending on the level of certification being pursued but spans from 750 hours to 2000 hours of supervised clinical experience.
  3. Ethics and professionalism: ABA therapy training emphasizes the importance of ethical behavior and professionalism in working with clients and their families.
  4. ABA techniques and interventions: ABA therapy training teaches individuals the principles and techniques of ABA therapy, including positive reinforcement, shaping, prompting, and other evidence-based techniques. Trainees learn how to apply these techniques to help clients with autism and other developmental disabilities learn new skills and behaviors.
  5. Assessment and data collection: ABA therapy training includes instruction on how to conduct assessments of clients’ skills and behaviors, and how to collect and analyze data to monitor clients’ progress and adjust treatment plans as needed.
  6. Collaboration and communication: ABA therapy training emphasizes the importance of collaboration and communication with other professionals, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists, to ensure that clients receive coordinated and comprehensive care.

Obtain certification

To become a certified ABA therapist, you must pass the BCBA certification exam and meet the board’s requirements for education and supervised experience.

Here are some key details about the exam:

  1. Exam format: The BCBA certification exam is a computer-based exam that consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. The exam is designed to assess a candidate’s knowledge of ABA theory, principles, and techniques.
  2. Exam content: The exam covers a range of topics related to ABA therapy, including behavior assessment, behavior change techniques, ethical considerations, and professional conduct. The BACB provides a detailed content outline on its website to help candidates prepare for the exam.
  3. Exam length: Candidates are given four hours to complete the exam.
  4. Exam scoring: The exam is scored on a scale of 0-500, with a passing score of 400 or higher. Candidates receive immediate feedback on their score at the end of the exam.
  5. Exam preparation: The BACB recommends that candidates take an exam preparation course or use study materials provided by the BACB. This website has some more information on BCBA exam prep.

How much does an ABA therapist earn?

The average salary for an ABA therapist in the USA is around $42,000 per year

Here is a breakdown of average salaries for ABA therapists by certification level, according to the BACB:

  • Registered Behavior Technician (RBT): $33,000 per year.
  • Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA): $45,000 per year.
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA): $70,000 per year.
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D): $85,000 per year.

Get more insights with our guide to ABA Therapist Salaries.

ABA Therapist Career Path

ABA therapists have an abundance of growth opportunities. After gaining work as an ABA therapist, they can progress into multiple positions.

Becoming a board-certified behavior analyst is the next step most ABA therapists take. They earn a graduate degree in behavior analysis, as well as a certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. They can open their clinic and oversee a team of ABA therapists and RBTs. They are responsible for building specialized treatment plans and ensuring therapists carry them out.

Some BCBAs go on to earn a doctorate, earning them the title of BCBA-D. BCBA-Ds do not have any additional privileges. Most BCBAs earn their Ph.D. because they desire to teach at the college level.

If ABA therapists do not wish to practice, they can become training coordinators or program directors.

ABA training coordinators typically work within ASD or related disorder clinics. They seek out new training and educational opportunities for the BCBAs, ABA therapists, and RBTs on staff. They also ensure they are up to date on any necessary certifications or licenses.

Program directors are BCBA’s right hand. Most of them once worked as a BCBA and have a master’s degree. Their primary responsibility is to oversee the clinic’s operations and set goals relating to treatment and growth.

Latest ABA Therapist Job Listings

PositionCompanyLocationPosted
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)Cultivate Behavioral Health and Education Colorado Springs, Colorado  US05/21/2024
The Cultivate Difference: Potential to earn an additional $19k yearly in Bonuses (paid out monthly). Our vision is to cultivate every individuals highest potential! This is true for our clients and our staff. Cultivates Core Values: Dedicated Team Members:We recognize team members do their best work when they feel valued, … More
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)Cultivate Behavioral Health and Education Boca Raton, Florida  US05/21/2024
The Cultivate Difference: Potential to earn an additional $19k yearly in Bonuses (paid out monthly). Our vision is to cultivate every individuals highest potential! This is true for our clients and our staff. Cultivates Core Values: Dedicated Team Members:We recognize team members do their best work when they feel valued, … More
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)Cultivate Behavioral Health and Education Naperville, Illinois  US05/21/2024
**Now offering a $3k sign-on bonus!** The Cultivate Difference: Potential to earn an additional $19k yearly in Bonuses (paid out monthly). Our vision is to cultivate every individuals … More
Chief Anesthesiologist and OR Clinical Director UPMC WilliamsportUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center Williamsport, Pennsylvania US05/21/2024
We are actively recruiting two senior-level, experienced physicians to serve as Chief Anesthesiologist and Operating Room Clinical Director at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Williamsport. Why Choose University of Pittsburgh/UPMC? UPMC is world-renowned and … More
Developmental-Behavioral PediatricianAtlantic Health System Morristown, New Jersey US05/18/2024
Atlantic Health System is Seeking a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician for the Child Development and Autism Center in Northern New Jersey Atlantic Health System, one of New Jersey’s largest non-profit healthcare networks, is seeking a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician to join Atlantic Health System’s Child Development and Autism Center. The successful candidate will be an energetic clinician who is highly collegial, innovative, and patient-centered. … More
Assistant Professor Lecturer – Applied Behavior AnalysisRider University Lawrenceville, New Jersey US05/16/2024
HIRINGNOW!The Department of Psychology at Rider University seeks applicants for an Assistant Professor Lecturer-Continuing Status track position to begin September 2024. The successful candidate will be a core member of our Department faculty, will serve as the Program Coordinator for our Masters in Applied Psychology program, and will be the main point of contact for the Association … More
Behavior Therapist For Autism (ABA)Accel Therapies Long Beach, California US05/15/2024
Who We AreAt Accel Therapies we specialize in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and other therapies. We provide best-in-class, evidence-based treatment programs for children with autism and other developmental needs within a comfortable, positive, and family-oriented environment. What sets us apart is our focus on an individual connection with our clients and our commitment to life-changing outcomes for families.We love what we do and are grateful for the opportunity … More
Assistant or Associate Professor of Practice/Practicum Director, Department of Behavior AnalysisSimmons University Boston, Massachusetts  US05/15/2024
The Department of Behavior Analysis in the College of Natural, Behavioral, and Health Science (CNBHS) invites applications for a non-tenure track, Assistant or Associate Professor of Practice/Practicum Director (Director) within our campus-based Masters degree program in Boston, MA. The position will be filled for a 7/1/24 start (negotiable). We seek innovative educators and scholars with a demonstrated excellence in teaching and curriculum development, … More
Position
The Cultivate Difference: Potential to earn an additional $19k yearly in Bonuses (paid out monthly). Our vision is to cultivate every individuals highest potential! This is true for our clients and our staff. Cultivates Core Values: Dedicated Team Members:We recognize team members do their best work when they feel valued, … More
Company
Cultivate Behavioral Health and Education
Location
Colorado Springs, Colorado  US
Posted
05/21/2024
Position
The Cultivate Difference: Potential to earn an additional $19k yearly in Bonuses (paid out monthly). Our vision is to cultivate every individuals highest potential! This is true for our clients and our staff. Cultivates Core Values: Dedicated Team Members:We recognize team members do their best work when they feel valued, … More
Company
Cultivate Behavioral Health and Education
Location
Boca Raton, Florida  US
Posted
05/21/2024
Position
**Now offering a $3k sign-on bonus!** The Cultivate Difference: Potential to earn an additional $19k yearly in Bonuses (paid out monthly). Our vision is to cultivate every individuals … More
Company
Cultivate Behavioral Health and Education
Location
Naperville, Illinois  US
Posted
05/21/2024
Position
We are actively recruiting two senior-level, experienced physicians to serve as Chief Anesthesiologist and Operating Room Clinical Director at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Williamsport. Why Choose University of Pittsburgh/UPMC? UPMC is world-renowned and … More
Company
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Location
Williamsport, Pennsylvania US
Posted
05/21/2024
Position
Atlantic Health System is Seeking a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician for the Child Development and Autism Center in Northern New Jersey Atlantic Health System, one of New Jersey’s largest non-profit healthcare networks, is seeking a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician to join Atlantic Health System’s Child Development and Autism Center. The successful candidate will be an energetic clinician who is highly collegial, innovative, and patient-centered. … More
Company
Atlantic Health System
Location
Morristown, New Jersey US
Posted
05/18/2024
Position
HIRINGNOW!The Department of Psychology at Rider University seeks applicants for an Assistant Professor Lecturer-Continuing Status track position to begin September 2024. The successful candidate will be a core member of our Department faculty, will serve as the Program Coordinator for our Masters in Applied Psychology program, and will be the main point of contact for the Association … More
Company
Rider University
Location
Lawrenceville, New Jersey US
Posted
05/16/2024
Position
Who We AreAt Accel Therapies we specialize in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and other therapies. We provide best-in-class, evidence-based treatment programs for children with autism and other developmental needs within a comfortable, positive, and family-oriented environment. What sets us apart is our focus on an individual connection with our clients and our commitment to life-changing outcomes for families.We love what we do and are grateful for the opportunity … More
Company
Accel Therapies
Location
Long Beach, California US
Posted
05/15/2024
Position
The Department of Behavior Analysis in the College of Natural, Behavioral, and Health Science (CNBHS) invites applications for a non-tenure track, Assistant or Associate Professor of Practice/Practicum Director (Director) within our campus-based Masters degree program in Boston, MA. The position will be filled for a 7/1/24 start (negotiable). We seek innovative educators and scholars with a demonstrated excellence in teaching and curriculum development, … More
Company
Simmons University
Location
Boston, Massachusetts  US
Posted
05/15/2024