Is RBT Certification Worth It?

Reviewed by:

May 7, 2022

Becoming an RBT may take some initial time and investment, but many Autism care providers offer to pay for RBT training. Once certified, RBTs will provide direct services to children with autism, commonly teaching replacement behaviors, adaptive living skills, self-help skills, and communication skills. It is a worthwhile and rewarding career option, especially for those who enjoy helping others of all ages learn new skills using evidence-based strategies.

A Registered Behavior Technician must earn a high school diploma, complete training, and pass a certification exam. An RBT position is an excellent place for someone to start their career if they envision working in applied behavior analysis (ABA).

RBTs who desire to improve their salaries have room for growth through supplemental education, certifications, and experience. The projected job growth rate for behavior technicians over the next 10 years is 12% to 22%, much higher than the average job growth rate of 5%.

In 2022, the intermediate Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) salary in the United States is predicted to be around $43,000 per year. Entry-level earnings start at about $30,000 per year, while experienced RBTs report over $50,000 per year salaries. The field of ABA therapy is also rapidly expanding, so it is a fantastic time to initiate a career as an RBT.

How does the certification process work?

A Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certification is a certification in Applied Behavior Analysis. An RBT generally functions under a Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and may work 1:1 with children in multiple settings, including at home or within a group, community, or school.

When working directly with children and providing services under the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), a certification is necessary. To become certified, the applicant must be at least 18 years of age and should have a high school diploma or equivalent. 

Once the candidate has passed a background check (typically through their employment agency) and obtained 40 supervised hours of training, they may register for the competency exam. After passing the RBT exam at a qualifying testing center, the candidate becomes certified as a registered behavior technician.

What is the average salary of an RBT?

According to PayScale, the average Registered Behavior Technician annual salary is just under $34,000, or $16.85 per hour. The bottom 10% of RBT wages report hourly earnings of $13.48, while the top 10% of workers report wages of over $22 per hour. At Songbird, we offer competitive pay that ranks in the top 10%-25% compared to industry averages. 

The following are moderate hourly salary rates for RBTs by experience and knowledge level:

  • Less than 1 year: $15.50/hour
  • 1 to 4 years: $16.34/hour
  • 5 to 9 years: $17.60/hour
  • 10 to 19 years: $18.57/hour
  • Over 20 years: $20/hour

The actual salary of an RBT varies depending on several considerations – advanced education, certifications, and skills can increase hourly compensation.

A significant benefit of starting out as an RBT is the potential for job growth. If an RBT decides to pursue further credentials in ABA, this will pay off as it will encourage salary growth based upon these additional certifications.

With a bachelor's degree and supplemental certification, an RBT can even transition to a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA). With a master's or doctoral degree, they can further advance to BCBA or BCBA-D status. These certifications can also be initially earned with proper levels of education and without prior experience as an RBT or assistant BCBA, although it can take considerably more time.

What are the salary trends and future scope for various RBTs?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), behavior technicians will see substantial job growth between 2018 and 2028. The BLS places RBTs in the areas of psychiatric technicians and aides, which is expected to enjoy a 12% job growth. Meanwhile, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will see a 22% jump.

There is great demand for behavior therapists (RBT) throughout the entire country. Still, certain states and cities have more lucrative opportunities than others. If considering a career as an RBT, consider location as an important factor.

These are the ten states for RBTs that deliver the highest average salaries:

  • New Hampshire: $46,800
  • Hawaii: $45,825
  • Pennsylvania: $45,825
  • Connecticut: $44,850
  • Washington: $44,850
  • Maryland: $44,850
  • Nebraska: $42,900
  • California: $42,900
  • Virginia: $41,925
  • Minnesota: $41,925

The average initial RBT salary is slightly over $35,000 per year, while experienced workers earn $45,000 per year.

Are there different types of jobs available to an RBT?

No matter what degree a candidate works toward as an RBT, there are many career options available. Schools, youth and adult group homes, nonprofit and community organizations, health care clinics, and hospitals all employ and depend on support from RBTs.

Varieties of jobs that RBTs may have include:

  • General or special education teachers
  • Childcare administrators
  • Reading specialists
  • Group home special needs staff

Furthermore, many professionals enhance their resume by counting an RBT certification into their skillset, such as:

  • Clinical social workers
  • Mental health counselors
  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
  • Psychiatric aides 
  • Pediatric nurses

How does an average day look for an RBT?

Being an ABA therapist can be in-home or at a clinic. For many sessions, the child and the RBT may work one-on-one for two hours with up to three sessions a day. Afterward, RBTs may have brief interactions with parents and caretakers. 

To provide an example on a typical day, the first session begins at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 11:30 a.m. (or later to make sure every child gets the ultimate benefit from the morning session). Then, there is a lunch period before the second session, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.. There is a break after that session ends and before the final 4:30 p.m. session begins. Once finished at 6:30 p.m., the RBT will go home to enter data from the day's session. 

On a day like that, RBTs interact with parents three times and spend the other six hours with the children. The RBTs are supervised, usually over a secure video chat. They receive feedback on the work during break periods.

Conclusion

Children with autism can face stigma. They need psychosocial assistance and a nurturing environment from parents, teachers, and therapists to lead a happy and independent life. Fortunately, RBTs are available to make a significant impact on their well-being and promote growth to sustain a more enjoyable quality of life. While the job may be demanding, it is more than worth it because RBTs are difference makers in the world and the lives of these children and adults. 

Songbird Therapy is a technology-enabled provider setting a higher standard for children’s autism care. With a deeply passionate team and innovative technology, we’re building a world where every child can access world-class care at home, uniquely tailored to them. 

If you are an RBT looking to help provide children’s autism care, contact us to learn how you can join the team.

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