RBT vs. BCBA: Distinctions in Skills, Roles, and Salaries

Reviewed by:
Hannah Andreasen

May 7, 2022

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) categorizes behavior analysis as the scientific report of theories of learning and behavior. This behavior analysis is divided into experimental and applied behavior analysis (ABA). Experimental behavior analysis is the framework for in-depth learning of ABA principles, which are then used to improve standards of living.

Those who specialize in behavior analysis are prepared to provide ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) services such as behavioral assessments, data processing, developing behavior-analytic care plans, training employees to execute these plans, and supervising their implementation. Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA), and Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) are the three qualifications in the field of ABA .

Graduates of an ABA program can anticipate contributing to various fields, irrespective of their career path. According to the Association for Behavior Analysis International, applied behavior analysis has generated particularly powerful initiatives in fields such as education, developmental disorders and autism, cognitive science, behavioral medicine, organizational behavior management, and a host of other disciplines and populations.

What does it mean to be a board certified behavior analyst?

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a professional who has trained to analyze child or adult behavior. Persons with a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) certification can provide behavior analysis solutions to families without the supervision of a superior therapist. 

When a BCBA offers ABA therapy to children with autism, they concentrate on the function of behavior and the effects of the environment on this behavior. With scientific proof to back its success, this approach to behavior analysis is extensively used in children with autism. However, BCBAs can work with people of all ages in a range of locations including a school, private practice, or therapeutic preschool program.

How does someone become a board certified behavior analyst?

Budding BCBAs (board-certified behavior analysts) must first complete a graduate degree program (e.g., a Master's degree) in behavior analysis or a similar, related field, such as social work, psychology or education. 

Throughout this program, the candidate must also complete the BACB-required courses and complete supervising hours with a properly qualified BCBA before applying to the BACB. Once these steps are completed and the BACB approves the application, candidates must pass a BCBA exam before legally practicing as a BCBA. To sit for this exam, an applicant must provide proof of college education, coursework, and supervising hours completion.

What is a registered behavior technician?

RBT stands for Registered Behavior Technician. While a BCBA can practice without guidance from another therapist, an RBT must always work under the supervision of a credentialed therapist such as a BCBA or BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst). A BCBA or BCaBA will evaluate children and develop care plans, but an RBT can still provide children with autism direct behavior analysis services (or ABA therapy). Another term for these technicians is “a paraprofessional”, although not all paraprofessionals must be certified as an RBT.

How does an individual become a registered behavior technician?

To obtain the RBT credential, applicants must be an adult (18 years old) and possess a high school equivalent diploma. A 40-hour training program is available for aspiring Registered Behavior Technicians, which can be completed online or in person. 

Upon the conclusion of the RBT training, candidates are required to take the RBT Competency Assessment and pass a background check. The candidate then must apply to the BACB, complete with proof of the pre-requisites: the high school diploma, 40-hour training, RBT Competency Assessment, and reference checks. Once the application is approved by the BACB, the applicant will be qualified to take the RBT exam. The candidate is only considered an RBT once all of these steps are completed and they pass the exam. 

What is the distinction between BCBA and RBT obligations?

The BACB divides BCBA duties into three major sections in the Fourth Edition Task List. The first section, “Basic Behavior-Analytics Skills,” includes basic, commonly used skills and procedures, including behavior measurement, experimental design, behavior-change considerations, fundamental elements of behavior change, specific behavior-change procedures, and behavior-change systems. BCBAs are essential for evaluating behavior responses, assessing the validity and consistency of measurement methods, and changing behavior using various activation procedures and strategies.

The second section of BACB Task List is client-centered responsibilities which includes tasks related to working with all clients, such as identification of the problem, measurement, assessment, intervention, implementation, management, and supervision. 

BCBA child-centric obligations may include:

  • Reviewing a child's behavior and health data and documents
  • Choosing a measurement system
  • Defining behavior in objective and measurable terms
  • Selecting appropriate interventions
  • Documenting behavioral services

The third section of the BACB Task List for BCBAs represents foundational knowledge, which covers basic concepts that the BCBA must have an understanding of in order to perform the tasks in the first two sections.

The BACB classifies Registered Behavior Technician tasks into six categories: measurement, assessment, skill acquisition, behavior reduction, documentation and reporting, and professional conduct and scope of practice. These RBT responsibilities involve implementing continuous evaluation methods, assisting with individualized assessment procedures, engineering generalization and regular maintenance, carrying out initiatives, communicating observational data to the supervisor, and communicating with stakeholders.

The main distinction between the BCBA and the RBT is that the BCBA can practice independently while the RBT is supervised in their practice. A BCBA is in charge of formulating and executing the services that RBTs typically provide.

Salary pre-conceptions and career prospects

According to The University of Cincinnati Online, average wages for BCBAs (Board Certified Behavior Analysts) range from $56,000 to $70,000, with RBTs earning more than $33,000. However, salaries vary depending on experience, placement, and demand. BCBAs and RBTs work in schools, homes, and medical facilities. The healthcare system, educational facilities, and social assistance industries account for 85 percent of job postings for behavior analysts, with 45 percent of demand focused in three states: California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

Moreover, the BACB's U.S. Behavior Analyst Working population report indicates that the number of behavior analyst positions more than tripled between 2012, when there were 1,414 job postings, and 2014, when there were 3,083. Between 2012 and 2014, valuable skills employers sought included autism expertise, cognitive science, treatment planning, and professional experience with individuals with developmental disabilities. 

According to these statistics, graduates seeking a career in Applied Behavior Analysis have excellent job prospects.


Graduate students interested in a career in Applied Behavior Analysis should understand that success in BCBA and RBT positions are inextricably linked to the success and advancement of children with developmental delays. However, working in Applied Behavior Analysis can be mentally and physically exhausting at times. 

As many of these children have long faced a variety of challenges that affect their quality of life, it is essential to prioritize self-care and celebrate small victories to promote child growth. Every step a child takes forward represents a triumph made possible through the hard work of BCBAs and RBTs.

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.