ABA Clinical Directors Saw 13% Turnover Rate Increase in Three Year Period, Higher Wages

Turnover among applied behavior analysis (ABA) staffers steadily climbed over the last few years with the highest levels of turnover growth coming in at the highest levels of the workforce.

The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence, a Los Angeles-based applied behavior analysis accrediting body, released a report Tuesday that shows that clinical directors saw the highest rate of turnover growth, 13%, from 2018 to 2020 of the three groups examined — direct care staff, supervisory staff and clinical directors.

The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) report found that supervisory staff had the lowest rate of turnover growth at 2.5% within the ABA workforce. Direct care staff saw a turnover rate growth of 8.5%.


Wages for staffers in the space also increased much faster than inflation, the report found.

Average hourly wages for direct care staff increased by 7.25% to $18.99 from 2018 to 2020. For the same period, the average annual salary for supervisory staff increased by 8.75% to $83,470.

Meanwhile, inflation rates remained steady at about 3%, according to a news release from BHCOE.


“A qualified and stable workforce is the bedrock of quality ABA care,” Sara Gershfeld Litvak, CEO of BHCOE, said in the release. “But as this report shows, compensation continues to rise for direct care staff and supervisors and there is work to be done in understanding how reimbursement rates should adjust with this increase, and how reducing turnover can increase continuity of care.”

ABA is best known as a treatment for children with an autism spectrum disorder. It also may be used to help people with other cognitive challenges.

The report also examined the reasons for ABA staffers turnover.

At the direct care and supervisory staff levels, voluntary departures were the biggest source of turnover. The reasons are many including retirement, relocations, military deployment, work dissatisfaction, death or seeking graduate-level education.

Clinical directors were impacted the most by COVID-related terminations.

Editors Note: This story has been updated based on clarification given by BHCOE about the changes in turnover rates after this article was published.

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