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BCBA® vs. BCaBA®: Understanding the Differences and Opportunities in Behavior Analysis

bcaba bcba Jul 16, 2023


As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) with over 12 years of experience, I've often been asked about the differences between a BCBA® and a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®). In fact, I was certified as a BCaBA® prior to becoming a BCBA® myself, so I have quite literally experienced both roles in the field of behavior analysis. The distinctions between these two roles are significant and can impact one's career path, responsibilities, and opportunities in the field of behavior analysis.

BCBA® vs. BCaBA®: What’s Different Between the Two?

In essence, a BCBA® is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. Professionals who are certified at this level are independent practitioners who provide behavior-analytic services.  On the other hand, a BCaBA® is an undergraduate-level certification in behavior analysis. Professionals certified at this level provide similar services as BCBA®s under their supervision.

What Can You do as a BCBA® vs. a BCaBA®?

So, what can you do as a BCBA® vs. a BCaBA®? As a BCBA®, you have the autonomy to practice independently, providing services such as behavior assessment, analysis, and behavior change programs. You can work in various settings, including schools, homes, and businesses, and you can supervise the work of BCaBA®s, Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT®s), and other professionals implementing behavior-analytic interventions.

As a BCaBA®, you can also provide behavior-analytic services, but you must be supervised by someone certified at the BCBA®/BCBA-D® level. This means that while you can assist in the design and implementation of behavior-analytic interventions, you cannot practice independently. I completed my BCaBA prior to starting my graduate training in behavior analysis, this allowed me to not only have some autonomy and responsibility in my day-to-day work, but also provided me with an increased salary range for putting myself through graduate school. So what are the salaries like?

Salary Differences Between a BCBA® and a BCaBA®

When it comes to salary differences between a BCBA® and a BCaBA®, the level of responsibility and autonomy in the role plays a significant part. 

According to the 2022 BACB® Certificant Data report, BCBA®s tend to earn more than BCaBAs due to their higher level of certification and the ability to practice independently. According to the BACB's 2022 salary survey, BCBA®s earn a median salary of $70,000, while BCaBA®s earn a median salary of $50,000 (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2022). However, the exact salary can vary depending on factors such as geographic location, years of experience, and the specific setting in which one works. 

If you scour posts for positions online, you often see sign-on bonuses or other incentives that look enticing, but typically reflect things like the cost of living differences between the various states, so be cautious in your thinking and adjust for the cost of living when assessing different opportunities you may be considering.

What’s the Demand For a BCBA® vs. a BCaBA®?

Lastly, let's discuss the demand for a BCBA® vs. a BCaBA®. The 2023 US Employment Demand for Behavior Analysts report from the BACB® indicates that the demand for BCBA®s has been increasing annually since 2010, with a 23% increase from 2021 to 2022. The demand was highest in California, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, and New Jersey. Below are two useful graphics that show the explosive growth in BCBA® demand as well as a heat map of the locations BCBA®s are needed. 

Demand for BCBA®s per the BACB® (2023) visually depicted from 2010-2022. 

Demand for BCBA®s per the BACB® (2023) visually depicted as a heat map for the years of 2021 and 2022. 

On the other hand, the demand for BCaBA®s decreased slightly in 2022, although it remains high. The highest demand for BCaBA®s was in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

In conclusion, whether you choose to pursue a career as a BCBA® or a BCaBA® depends on your career goals, educational background, and the level of responsibility you wish to have in your professional practice. Both roles play a crucial part in delivering behavior-analytic services and improving the lives of individuals.

Remember, becoming a BCBA® or a BCaBA® requires a commitment to learning and professional development. If you're wondering how to become a BCBA® or a BCaBA®, I recommend reviewing the resources available on the BACB® website, including the BCBA® and BCaBA® handbooks, which provide detailed information on the requirements for each certification.


Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2022). BCBA® and BCaBA® Role Delineation. Retrieved from BCBA® Handbook and BCaBA® Handbook

Behavior Analyst Certification Board®. (2023). US Employment Demand for Behavior Analysts: 2010–2022. Retrieved from US Employment Demand for Behavior Analysts

About the Author: 

Ryan O’Donnell, MS, BCBA is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with over 12 years of experience in the field. He has dedicated his career to helping individuals improve their lives through behavior analysis and are passionate about sharing their knowledge and expertise with others. He oversees The Behavior Academy and helps top ABA professionals create video-based content in the form of films, online courses, and in-person training events. He is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information about the field of behavior analysis and the various career paths within it.



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