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BCBA vs. RBT: Differences In Duties, Skills & Salaries

Find the main differences between behavior analysts (BCBA) vs. behavior technicians (RBT).

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 19, 2023
min read

Main Differences Between a BCBA vs. RBT

The main differences between a BCBA and RBT are the requirements needed to attain the positions and the responsibilities of each.

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst is a person employed in the education or medical field to assist clients and patients by learning their behavior.

They give treatment to those diagnosed with different behavioral disorders, such as autism.

BCBAs improve the lives of clients with severe social behavioral problems.


For one to earn their BCBA, a four-year undergraduate degree is needed. This degree must be from a college or university that is accredited by the BCBA.

Other classes related to the BCBA can also be done to pass the BCBA test. Most behavior analysts now take online courses for this purpose, which minimizes interference with their work schedule. It's common for people that work in clinics and schools to do this.

To earn a BCBA, related work must be completed in the presence of a supervisor. A behavior analyst with a BCBA leads the supervisory role. They make sure that BCBA hopefuls gain proficiency in the correct practices required for the license.

Finally, the BCBA exam must be passed. It measures understanding and the level of experience of the taker. Once passed, the certification is immediately granted.


Registered behavior technicians work with BCBAs as their subordinates, helping them implement treatments made by the BCBA.

RBTs often work with ABA therapists. Unlike BCBAs, RBTs are entry-level, with many getting on-the-job training and later earning their BCBA.

The requirements for gaining an RBT position are less stringent.

For one to become an RBT, a high school diploma is needed. This shows that the applicant possesses fundamental skills required for carrying out their duties, such as math and reading comprehension.

A background check must be passed as well. It allows companies to verify that applicants don't have a prior criminal history.

Whether or not a hard inquiry into one's credit history is done can depend on the state and employer. A 40-hour training course is also needed. This is to certify that all necessary procedures to fulfill one's duties are understood.

During this course, additional guidance about common developmental disorders is studied. An RBT exam must also be completed. After the exam is passed, it verifies that the applicant has the knowledge to work with BCBAs.

Differences in Duties

The differences in duties between an RBT and BCBA involve hands-on interactions with patients, while BCBAs typically supervise and assess the behavior of clients.

BCBAs take part in the following duties:

  • Talking with different families, doctors, and teachers to help them understand how treatment plans are going
  • Suggest various ways to mitigate problems in patient behavior
  • Create plans to fix and better specific behaviors in all patients and clients
  • Gauge and record progress made in the treatment plans assigned to different clients
  • Use conditioning and reinforcement to fix or lower behaviors deemed antisocial, aggressive, and harmful to clients while promoting good behaviors

Although there might be fewer responsibilities for RBTs than there are for BCBAs, the following duties are crucial to patient success:

  • Dispensing medications that doctors and pediatricians prescribe to patients and clients
  • Taking part in therapy sessions, group meetings, and making written observations
  • Providing the answers to questions asked by patients, parents, family members, and teachers
  • Assisting clients with their day-to-day occupations

Differences in Skills

The differences in skills between an RBT and BCBA involve adaptability and patient understanding for the former, and data collection, and supervision for the latter.

However, there are many more differences. BCBAs must effectively communicate with clients and patients. They must have great skills in communication to help patients pass all the hurdles that come their way during therapy.

BCBAs learn about the physical health and cognitive abilities of clients.

At the same time, BCBAs are expected to know which treatments are working and whether any adjustments must be made to a client's programs.

BCBAs also work closely with parents. It's very easy for parents to become overwhelmed during their child's treatment. Talking with them helps to prevent misunderstandings and allows them to become educated on their child's expectations during therapy.

On the other hand, RBTs must be empathetic to parents and patients. It helps them gain insight through such experiences. They must have skills in helping to regulate the emotions of clients, showing compassion and understanding to make the treatment easier for everyone involved.

RBTs must have excellent skill in adaptability. As no two clients are the same, unpredictable instances can and will occur during therapy. Close interaction is essential, as is the ability to work under pressure and make on-the-spot changes.

Differences in Salaries

The differences in salaries between BCBAs and RBTs are significant, with BCBAs earning $80,000 to $120,000 a year. RBTs can make between $30,000 and $80,000 annually.

Still, the salaries of both professions are heavily dependent on where they practice and their level of experience. BCBAs start with better salaries, while RBTs begin work on the low end due to it being entry-level.

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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