Master’s vs PhD Salary for Applied Behavior ABA Therapist

Students with an interest in psychology may want to earn an advanced degree in applied behavior analysis. This degree typically is offered at the master’s and Ph.D. levels. These programs can help the working professional to obtain the rigorous academic requirements  needed to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

Applied behavior analysis or ABA is a mode of therapy that focuses on improving certain behaviors, including social skills, reading, communication and academics. Also covered are adaptive learning skills, including fine motor dexterity, grooming, hygiene, job competence and domestic capabilities. (

Students are able to hone skills that help to bring positive change in the lives of adults and children with behavioral disorders, such as autism. ( It is reported that ABA can help the client to have better social interactions, learn important skills, and keep their behaviors positive. ABA also can help the patient to transfer skills and behavior from one context to another. This can lead to controlling a situation where a  negative behavior happens and minimize it. Having these advanced applied behavior skills can put you in high demand across the country. And, you may be able to command a higher salary and receive multiple job offers.

If you have interest in studying a master’s or Ph.D. in applied behavior analysis, it is good to understand what your possible salary could be in psychology and in this specific field. Below is detailed information about salaries that are possible with these advanced degrees, as well as the coveted BCBA credential.

Salary Outlook for Psychologist Overview

The general salary outlook for psychologists according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is excellent. BLS states the median salary for all in the field is $77,000 in 2017. The bottom 10% earned $42,000 and the top 10% earned more than $124,000. Generally, those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree earn towards the lower end of the scale, and those with a Ph.D. earn the most. ( states the average salary for all psychologists is $74,500, with a range between $46,000 and $112,000. (

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Salary Overview for Applied Behavior Analysis

If you earn a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis, reports a median salary of $56,000. ( With that degree, the website reports these salaries for specific positions:

  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst: $57,300
  • Behavior Analyst: $54,400
  • Clinical Director: $71,000
  • Clinical Supervisor: $64,200
  • Behavior Specialist: $45,600
  • Clinical Coordinator: $57,500

According to, an applied behavior analyst with a master’s degree in the US earns a median salary of $57,100, but the range is between $50,100 and $61,900. According to their data, this position is most commonly occupied by a professional with a master’s degree. ( does not report salaries for Ph.D.s in applied behavior analysis. However, the site does report salary potential for a Ph.D. in general psychology. The average salary is $86,000 per year. ( Specific job salaries are:

  • Psychologist: $89,500
  • Behavior Analyst: $82,800
  • Clinical Psychologist: $76,200
  • Research Analyst: $67,699
  • Professor – University: $79,500
  • Research Scientist: $79,900
  • Director of Operations: $125,800
  • Market Research Manager: $87,500
  • Research Director: $88,300
  • Clinical Educator: $106,700

Salary With BCBA Credential

Once you have your graduate degree in applied behavior analysis, you can take a national examination to earn the BCBA credential. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary with this credential is $86,400. ( That source also finds the salary for this the BCBA and the profession can go up as high as s $154,000. Based upon earlier data, you may see a salary bump with a Ph.D., but it may not be enough to make the years of extra work and expense worth it.

SEE ALSO: Salary Outlook with BCBA

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states the employment of all psychologists, including applied behavior analysis specialists, will rise by 14% from 2016 to 2026. This rate is faster than average for all occupations. Also, employment for clinical, counseling and school psychologists will grow by 14% from 2016 to 2026. It is anticipated more demand for psychological services in hospitals, schools and mental health centers will drive demand, and this applies to applied behavior analysis jobs, as well. (

The occupation of school psychologist could be an important one for professionals earning their master’s or Ph.D. in applied behavior analysis. Employment of school psychologists for people with advanced degrees will continue to grow because of the higher awareness of connections between mental health and learning, as well as the higher need to treat autism and related conditions in schools.

Annual demand for behavior analysts has increased by 4,209% from 2010 to 2020, with rises seen in most states. The demand for professionals with this credential is highest in California, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, and Georgia. (

More Demand for Psychologists Reflects Increasing Healthcare Job Trend

The reason we are seeing more need for applied behavior analysis-trained psychologists is in part because of the greater need for all healthcare services in the United States. It is anticipated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics there will be a major rise in healthcare jobs – 18% through 2026. At least 2 million new jobs will be added, and there should be plenty available for professionals with an advanced degree in applied behavior analysis. (

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Earning a master’s or Ph.D., in applied behavior analysis can be a great positive for your future career and earning power. From our research, the majority who work in applied behavior analysis have a master’s degree. But if you do have a Ph.D., you may be able to command a higher salary, based upon the above salary data.