20 Pros and Cons of Being a BCBA – Board Certified Behavior Analysts

The pros of being a BCBA include the ability to profoundly impact the quality of life for individuals with behavioral challenges, promising job prospects with potential for high earnings particularly in private practice, and opportunities for continual professional growth and development in a rewarding field.

The cons of being a BCBA involve facing high emotional stress due to the nature of the work, the risk of burnout from the difficulty of disconnecting from job demands, the necessity of ongoing education to maintain certification which can be both time-consuming and costly, and the challenge posed by a high failure rate of the BCBA certification exam.


  • Being a BCBA offers a satisfying career through witnessing clients’ progress and achieving personal goals through crafted intervention strategies.
  • The role provides autonomy, allowing for flexible scheduling, caseload management, and a balanced work-life dynamic.
  • BCBAs enjoy a creative and innovative professional environment, adjusting interventions based on client needs and progress.
  • The BCBA field is growing, promising diverse career opportunities, although it demands advanced education, extensive supervised experience, and ongoing professional development.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA): Quick Facts & Insights

  1. Role: A BCBA is a healthcare practitioner specializing in improving problematic behaviors in children and adults.
  2. Specialization: Many BCBAs focus on autism, developmental disabilities, or mental health issues.
  3. Responsibilities: These include observing and assessing patient behavior, developing behavior modification plans, and conducting research.
  4. Education Requirement: A master’s degree in psychology, behavior analysis, education, special education, or early childhood education and development is needed for board certification.
  5. Certification: Board certification requires meeting Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) standards, including coursework, 1,500 hours of supervised fieldwork, and a competency exam.
  6. Experience: Typically, about six years of education and experience are required before working independently.
  7. Salary: The average salary for a BCBA in the U.S. is $80,639 per year, varying by state and experience.
  8. Job Growth: Expected to increase by more than 20% in the next eight years, with consistent demand growth since 2010.
  9. Demand: High demand in states like California, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, and New Jersey.
  10. Impact: BCBAs significantly positively impact individuals with behavioral challenges, aiding their personal growth and well-being.


Pros of Being a BCBACons of Being a BCBA
Rewarding Career PathEmotional Stress
Opportunities for Professional GrowthRisk of Burnout
High Earning PotentialOngoing Education Requirements
Independence in Private PracticeDifficulty of the BCBA Exam
Diverse Work EnvironmentsWork-Life Balance Challenges
Positive Social ImpactHigh Responsibility and Accountability
Continuous Learning and DevelopmentVariable Salaries Based on Location
High Demand for ServicesNeed for Strong Interpersonal Skills
Collaboration with Multidisciplinary TeamsNavigating Insurance and Billing Issues
Ability to Make Long-Term Client RelationshipsExposure to Difficult Situations

Pros of Being a Board Certified Behavior Analyst

  1. Rewarding Career Path: Working as a BCBA offers a deeply rewarding experience as they directly improve the lives of individuals with disabilities and behavioral challenges. BCBAs witness firsthand the positive impact of their interventions, which can bring immense job satisfaction. The joy of seeing a client make progress because of their tailored behavioral strategies is incomparable and provides a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Opportunities for Professional Growth: The field of behavior analysis is expanding, offering BCBAs numerous opportunities for professional development and advancement. They can explore diverse areas such as autism spectrum disorders, organizational behavior management, or special education. This variety not only enhances their expertise but also opens doors to different career paths within the field.
  3. High Earning Potential: BCBAs have the potential to earn substantial salaries, especially in high-demand areas. For example, BCBAs in Miami, FL, can earn around $99,408 per year, indicating strong financial incentives in the profession. Additionally, those who establish their private practice have the opportunity to earn over $100,000 annually, demonstrating the lucrative nature of this career.
  4. Independence in Private Practice: BCBAs who run their own private practices experience a high degree of independence and flexibility. They can set their schedules, choose their clients, and create personalized treatment plans. This autonomy allows them to balance work and personal life effectively while tailoring their practice to their professional interests and strengths.
  5. Diverse Work Environments: BCBAs are not limited to one specific setting; they can work in various environments such as schools, clinics, community centers, and private practices. This diversity allows them to find work environments that best suit their personal preferences and professional aspirations, ensuring a dynamic and engaging career.
  6. Positive Social Impact: BCBAs contribute significantly to society by helping individuals with behavioral challenges lead more independent and fulfilling lives. Their work not only benefits the clients but also their families and communities, creating a ripple effect of positive social impact.
  7. Continuous Learning and Development: The requirement for ongoing education to maintain BCBA certification ensures that practitioners stay current with the latest research and techniques in behavior analysis. This continuous learning enriches their knowledge base, making them more effective and versatile professionals.
  8. High Demand for Services: The demand for behavior analysis services is growing, particularly in areas like autism intervention. This high demand translates to job security and numerous employment opportunities for BCBAs across various regions and specializations.
  9. Collaboration with Multidisciplinary Teams: BCBAs often collaborate with other professionals such as educators, psychologists, and therapists. This interdisciplinary approach enhances the quality of care provided to clients and offers BCBAs a chance to learn from and contribute to other fields.
  10. Ability to Make Long-Term Client Relationships: BCBAs often work with clients over extended periods, allowing them to develop meaningful and impactful relationships. These long-term connections can be deeply fulfilling, as BCBAs witness and contribute to significant milestones in their clients’ lives.

Cons of Being a Board Certified Behavior Analyst

  1. Emotional Stress: Working with individuals with mental and behavioral issues can be emotionally taxing for BCBAs. They often deal with challenging behaviors and complex cases, which can lead to emotional strain and stress. This aspect of the job requires a high level of emotional resilience and coping strategies.
  2. Risk of Burnout: The demanding nature of BCBA work, coupled with the difficulty in detaching from work-related issues, can lead to burnout. This burnout can manifest as physical and emotional exhaustion, reduced personal accomplishment, and even cynicism towards the job, affecting their personal and professional life.
  3. Ongoing Education Requirements: Maintaining BCBA certification necessitates continuous education, which can be both time-consuming and expensive. BCBAs must balance their work commitments with the need to stay updated on educational requirements, which can be a challenging and ongoing responsibility.
  4. Difficulty of the BCBA Exam: The BCBA exam is known for its challenging nature, with many candidates struggling to pass. This difficulty highlights the need for thorough preparation and understanding of behavior analysis, potentially adding stress and pressure for those aspiring to enter the field.
  5. Work-Life Balance Challenges: The intense nature of the work, combined with the need for continuous education and professional development, can make it challenging for BCBAs to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This imbalance can affect their personal lives and overall well-being.
  6. High Responsibility and Accountability: BCBAs bear a significant amount of responsibility in developing and implementing behavior plans. Their decisions can greatly impact their clients’ lives, which entails a high level of accountability and ethical consideration, adding to the job’s pressure.
  7. Variable Salaries Based on Location: Although BCBAs can earn high salaries, there is considerable variation based on geographic location. For instance, salaries in Miami, FL are among the highest, but this is not consistent across all states and cities, potentially influencing where BCBAs can choose to live and work.
  8. Need for Strong Interpersonal Skills: The role of a BCBA requires excellent communication and interpersonal skills, especially when dealing with sensitive or challenging situations. Those who struggle with these skills may find certain aspects of the job particularly demanding.
  9. Navigating Insurance and Billing Issues: For those in private practice, dealing with insurance companies and managing billing can be complex and time-consuming. These administrative tasks require a level of expertise beyond behavior analysis, which can be burdensome for some practitioners.
  10. Exposure to Difficult Situations: BCBAs often encounter challenging and potentially distressing situations, such as severe behavioral issues or family dynamics. These experiences can be hard to process and require a strong capacity to manage and cope with difficult emotional and ethical scenarios.

Rewarding Career Impact

One of the most fulfilling aspects of being a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is the opportunity to witness and facilitate significant positive changes in clients’ behavior, directly contributing to their achievement of personal goals and enhanced quality of life. The role of a BCBA is pivotal in shaping the experiences of individuals with disabilities, providing them with the tools and strategies necessary to overcome challenges and thrive. Through personalized behavior intervention plans and consistent support, BCBAs are instrumental in driving the remarkable transformation seen in their clients.

The impact of this work extends beyond the individuals served, touching the lives of families and caregivers. By fostering independence and self-advocacy in clients, BCBAs empower families with a sense of hope and the practical means to support their loved ones in new, more effective ways. The ripple effect of these outcomes contributes to a broader societal appreciation for the capabilities and contributions of individuals with disabilities.

Moreover, the sense of accomplishment that comes from enabling such profound personal growth is a source of professional and personal satisfaction for BCBAs. The pride taken in these achievements is a testament to the meaningful and impactful nature of their work, solidifying their role as agents of positive change in their clients’ lives.

Professional Autonomy

Professional autonomy stands as a significant advantage for Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), empowering them with the authority to make critical decisions regarding client care.

The scope of this autonomy extends to crafting tailored intervention strategies that meet the unique needs of each client, demonstrating the practitioner’s expertise and creativity.

Additionally, BCBAs benefit from the flexibility of managing their schedules and caseloads, which can lead to a more balanced professional life.

Decision-Making Freedom

Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are entrusted with significant decision-making freedom, which empowers them to create and execute tailored treatment plans that meet the diverse needs of their clients.

This professional autonomy allows BCBAs to independently select the most appropriate intervention strategies, ensuring a personalized approach to care. They have the latitude to choose and adjust assessment tools and data collection methods, adapting to each client’s unique progress and reactions to interventions.

Furthermore, autonomy facilitates collaboration with a variety of professionals and agencies, enhancing the delivery of comprehensive services. Such freedom also nurtures creativity, enabling BCBAs to innovate and solve problems in ways that are most effective for the individuals they serve.

Creative Intervention Strategies

Building on the substantial decision-making freedom they possess, Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) apply their professional autonomy to develop and implement creative intervention strategies that are specifically tailored to the needs and preferences of their clients. The ability to craft these personalized treatment plans is not only a testament to their expertise but also to the dynamic nature of the field.

The following are key aspects of this creative process:

  • Innovative approaches enhance personalized care.
  • Ownership in problem-solving leads to effective outcomes.
  • Expertise is leveraged to meet client-specific needs.
  • Strategies resonate with client preferences and uniqueness.
  • Flexibility allows for adjustments based on client progress.

Independent Schedule Management

Often, one of the most significant advantages of being a Board Certified Behavior Analyst is the capacity for independent schedule management, which affords practitioners the flexibility to balance their professional responsibilities with personal life. This autonomy empowers BCBAs to structure their days in a way that aligns with their individual preferences, client requirements, and personal commitments.

It also provides the latitude necessary to adapt to various work settings and client demographics, ensuring that services are tailored to meet diverse needs effectively. Furthermore, independent schedule management enables BCBAs to dedicate time to their continued professional development, facilitating ongoing learning and the enhancement of their skill set.

This level of professional autonomy is a considerable asset in the field of behavior analysis.

Growing Employment Demand

The demand for qualified Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) is experiencing a significant upward trend, with an anticipated job growth rate of 8% between 2018 and 2028. This growth is indicative of the increasing recognition of the effectiveness of applied behavior analysis (ABA) in various settings, including educational systems, healthcare environments, and private practice. As the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders and other developmental conditions rise, the need for BCBAs who can provide evidence-based interventions continues to surge.

The burgeoning employment opportunities for BCBAs are supported by several key factors:

  • A growing body of research supports the efficacy of ABA therapy, leading to wider adoption in treatment plans.
  • Educational institutions are increasingly integrating BCBAs into special education programs.
  • Insurance companies are more frequently covering ABA services, leading to greater service accessibility.
  • There is an increasing awareness and acceptance of behavioral health interventions.
  • Career paths for BCBAs are diverse, offering positions in consulting, program development, and organizational behavior management.

This growing demand offers BCBAs not only a robust job market but also opportunities for professional growth and specialization, solidifying the role of BCBAs as an essential component in the field of behavioral health.

Stringent Educational Path

rigorous academic requirements await

The journey to becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is characterized by a demanding educational and certification pathway.

Aspiring BCBAs must not only secure an advanced degree in an applicable field but also complete extensive supervised practical experience, culminating in a rigorous examination process.

Once certified, professionals must engage in ongoing education to ensure their practice adheres to current standards and maintains the integrity of the certification.

Advanced Degree Requirements

Pursuing a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) necessitates a stringent educational pathway, including the attainment of a master’s degree in a related field and comprehensive coursework in applied behavior analysis. This advanced degree requirement underscores the dedication needed to excel in the profession.

Key elements of the educational journey include:

  • A master’s degree in psychology, education, or behavior analysis
  • Specific behavior analysis coursework accredited by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)
  • Completion of a defined period of supervised practical experience
  • Passing a rigorous, standardized certification examination
  • Ongoing continuing education to maintain certification status

Collectively, these requirements ensure that BCBAs have a robust foundation in the principles and ethical practices of behavior analysis, contributing to their expertise and professional competence.

Rigorous Certification Process

Embarking on the path to becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) involves a meticulous certification process that includes advanced academic qualifications, extensive supervised experience, and a comprehensive examination. This stringent educational path ensures that BCBAs are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to practice behavior analysis effectively.

Advanced DegreeMaster’s degree in related field
Specific CourseworkDesignated behavior analysis classes
Supervised Experience1,500 to 2,000 hours, based on education
Certification ExamPassing the BCBA examination
Ongoing RequirementsProfessional development, adherence to ethics

Candidates must diligently meet these criteria to maintain the high standards set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), which governs the certification and practice of behavior analysts.

Continuous Education Necessity

Maintaining certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst requires continuous education, ensuring professionals remain at the forefront of behavioral analysis through ongoing learning and skill refinement. This necessity for perpetual education brings with it several key aspects:

  • BCBAs must stay updated on the latest research and advancements in the field.
  • Ongoing education involves completing CEUs, which requires dedication and time management.
  • There is an associated cost with acquiring CEUs, adding a financial consideration to the commitment.
  • Lifelong learning is an integral part of the BCBA role, fostering continuous professional growth.
  • Adherence to continuous education guarantees that BCBAs deliver high-quality, evidence-based services to their clients.

The commitment to lifelong learning, while demanding, ultimately serves to enhance the quality and effectiveness of behavior analytic services.

Emotional Workload Challenges

managing emotional labor struggles

Navigating the complex emotional terrain inherent in working with individuals who have behavioral and mental health issues, Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) often face significant emotional stress that can lead to burnout. The continual emotional investment required in managing clients’ behaviors demands not only professional expertise but also a high capacity for empathy and patience. Despite the rewarding nature of seeing client progress, the difficulty in detaching from clients’ challenges can be emotionally taxing for BCBAs.

The emotional demands of the job are multifaceted. BCBAs must remain composed and objective, even when clients exhibit challenging or aggressive behavior. The inherent emotional workload can escalate, leading to potential burnout if not managed properly. It is crucial for BCBAs to have support systems and strategies in place to handle this aspect of their work.

To better understand the emotional workload challenges faced by BCBAs, consider the following table:

Emotional ChallengeImpact on BCBAManagement Strategies
Continual emotional investmentHigh risk of compassion fatigueRegular self-care routines
Difficulty detaching from workIncreased stress and burnoutSetting clear professional boundaries
Managing complex client behaviorsEmotional exhaustionPeer support and supervision

This table outlines the critical areas of emotional workload that BCBAs need to navigate, underscoring the importance of personal and professional strategies to mitigate the emotional challenges of the role.

Ethical and Regulatory Complexity

In the realm of behavioral analysis, Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are frequently confronted with the intricate web of ethical and regulatory mandates that guide their professional conduct and decision-making. The standards set by certifying bodies and regulatory agencies are designed to ensure that BCBAs provide the highest quality of care in a manner that respects the rights and dignity of clients.

Navigating these ethical and regulatory frameworks, however, poses several challenges:

  • Ethical and regulatory complexity can lead to demanding decision-making processes, where BCBAs must weigh multiple factors to ensure compliance.
  • The comprehensive nature of ethical guidelines necessitates that BCBAs are thorough in their understanding and application, which can be time-consuming.
  • Adhering to these standards often requires diligent documentation and justification for treatment approaches, impacting workload.
  • Continuous professional development is imperative to stay current with evolving ethical mandates and best practices.
  • BCBAs must often reconcile the tension between maintaining ethical integrity and delivering effective, individualized treatment.

These factors highlight the importance of ethical and regulatory knowledge in the practice of behavioral analysis and underscore the responsibilities BCBAs have in upholding these professional standards.

Compensation and Benefits

While the ethical and regulatory complexities of being a BCBA demand a high level of commitment, the profession offers competitive compensation, with an average salary of $75,787 per year and access to comprehensive benefits. Board Certified Behavior Analysts can expect a level of financial stability that is bolstered by their specialized skills and the growing demand for their services in a variety of settings, including schools, clinics, and private practice.

The potential to earn more than the average salary also exists, particularly with experience, additional certifications, and management responsibilities. Moreover, the benefits package accompanying the role is typically robust, often including health insurance, retirement programs, and other perks that contribute to a higher quality of life.

Here is an overview of the compensation and benefits for BCBAs:

AspectDetailImpact on BCBA
Average Salary$75,787 per yearFinancial Stability
Earning PotentialAbove average with experienceIncreased Financial Upside
Health InsuranceComprehensive coverageHealth & Well-being
Retirement ProgramsOften includedLong-term Financial Security
Additional BenefitsVaries by employerEnhanced Quality of Life

This compensation structure not only reflects the value of BCBAs in the job market but also underscores the profession’s commitment to taking care of its members.


In conclusion, the role of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst is a tapestry woven with both challenges and triumphs. While the path may be arduous, laden with emotional toil and ethical labyrinths, it is equally marked by the profound fulfillment that stems from fostering transformative change.

As the demand for these professionals burgeons, so too does the potential for career growth and the realization of a meaningful vocation, making the pursuit of this career a commendable endeavor.