Leadership in Applied Behavior Analysis: What Is a Clinical Director?

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Clinical directors pose alongside with nurse practitioners.

(BCBA) Clinical directors are detail-oriented professionals that are responsible for dealing with each aspect of clinical operations that deal with treatment of a client. To become a BCBA® clinical director, a graduate often begins in another health care role, such as a The role varies depending on the company, but it often includes creating and managing schedules based on organizational needs, as well as providing supervision for clinical supervisors.

What a clinical director is responsible for is a question that’s on the minds of many students’ considering a clinical director career path. At its core, the clinical director job is a combination of human resources and administrative management. The clinical director usually forms part of a management team and is skilled at developing systems of care for the institution to which they belong. Generally, clinical directors are most sought after by and in this position, they can help direct patient care as well as serve as the institution’s clinical expert.

The clinical director job also varies by facility size. Smaller facilities usually demand more of their clinical directors, and it’s not uncommon for them to be in charge of multiple aspects of running the organization, including financial ones, such as developing a budget, financial reporting, or supervising billing and collection functions. In larger facilities, clinical directors are likely to be in charge of running smaller teams, planning staff schedules and rotations, attending regional meetings on behalf of their facilities, and training new personnel.

Becoming a Clinical Director

Students pursuing the clinical director career path will need to have a combination of skills and qualifications that an organization deems necessary for a senior BCBA® position. The Houston Chronicle notes that essential skills that a candidate applying for the clinical director position needs to be able to demonstrate include the following:

  • Understanding of clinical policies and procedures
  • Establishment and maintenance of a positive work environment
  • Responsibility for all mental health staff that work under them
  • Development of treatment systems that focus on individual patients
  • Accountability for the effective delivery of behavior analytic services to clients
  • Facilitation of methods for promoting good clinical performance and dealing with poor performance
  • Effective interpersonal and communications skills

In addition to this skill set, the ideal candidate needs to demonstrate an ability to lead a team of health professionals while assuring the best quality ABA practices are implemented under their supervision.

Regis College’s online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis offers students a competitive edge when entering into this career path. Candidates that enter into the program garner training that gives them the ability to pass the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA) examinations. Graduates should be aware of certificate and licensure requirements, which may vary by state.

What Is a Clinical Director’s Expected Salary?

According to PayScale, the average annual salary for clinical directors is $74,952. The top clinical directors earn as much as $119,000. Salaries vary by years of experience, education, and licensing that candidates have achieved. Additionally, candidates who demonstrate strong leadership capabilities and who can manage large-scale operations are highly desirable for these positions.

Medical and health services managers, including clinical directors, who work in government facilities tend to earn more than those who work in private health facilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the federal agency that provides non-crowdsourced wage data.

Future Growth of a Clinical Director

The BLS expects heady growth for medical and health services managers, which includes clinical directors, between 2016 and 2026. Its projected 20% growth—far higher than the national average—is likely due to an aging population that will increase demand for medical services. Private health facilities that expand their services will also need management personnel in several roles, adding to the positive outlook for clinical directors.

As more medical facilities use informatics, clinical directors who can successfully integrate digital systems with paper-based systems will be in high demand.

Learn More

Having a bachelor’s degree is no longer enough to assume a clinical director position. Regis’s online MS in Applied Behavior Analysis is a perfect place to start for those considering this career path. Courses that deal with behavioral analysis and ethical practice help students develop the practical skills that can improve their chances of success in this role.

Recommended Readings

What Is Behavior Therapy, and Why Is It Important?

A Rewarding Career: Opportunities for the Behavioral Therapist

5 Popular Applied Behavior Analysis Careers


Behavior Analyst Certification Board, US Behavior Analyst Workforce: Understanding the National Demand for Behavior Analysts

Houston Chronicle, “Clinical Director’s Job Description & Skills List”

PayScale, Average Clinical Director Salary

Regis College, Online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis Curriculum

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers