People who enjoy helping others and are looking for the ideal profession that will satisfy that passion might want to consider careers as therapists, psychologists, or counselors. All of these lines of work require earning a degree in behavioral psychology.
According to projections by the Bureau of Labor, careers in psychology will experience a higher growth rate than many other fields in the coming years. Indeed, some psychology professions require applicants to possess a master’s degree or other graduate degrees, but enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program provides a good foundation to pursue a higher graduate program.
People who want to build the necessary skills for possible careers in behavioral psychology won’t have any difficulty finding a good school because many colleges offer degree programs in the field for both young and older students.
Read on to find out exactly how you can earn a degree in behavioral psychology, career paths, and the possible earnings for the various occupations in the field.
How to Earn a Degree in Behavioral Psychology
Our behaviors are connected to our minds, and the study of this connection is what behavioral psychology is all about. The field of study (also known as behaviorism) seeks to draw links between identified patterns of behavior and human actions. The goal is to be able to use psychology to predict how people will behave under specific conditions. Ultimately, this will lead to some impressive results, including:
- Helping individuals to mold better habits in the workplace
- Helping companies and manufacturers to understand consumer behaviors so that they can create better products and services
- Improving mental health problems in individuals with mental illness or those with some form of emotional issues
Overall, earning a degree in behavioral psychology is an excellent foundation for creating better communities for everyone. But what are the educational requirements if you are looking for a degree in that field?
Educational Requirements for a Degree in Behavioral Psychology
A bachelor’s program is an excellent starting point for learners who want to become psychologists or behaviorists. The degree program includes developmental courses that prepare graduates for future careers in the fields.
However, students need to understand how to choose between a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology. While both programs may target the same field of study, the career outcomes are quite different.
A BS in psychology concentrates more on science and math courses and is most suitable for learners who intend to earn advanced degrees in psychology. The coursework usually includes extensive research methodology.
On the other hand, a BA in psychology focuses more on liberal arts courses and allows the student to select a wider range of subjects that meets the learner’s specific goals. In other words, the coursework for a BA degree in psychology prepares the undergraduate for jobs or careers that may not be directly related to psychology.
For example, people who want to take on teaching jobs in K – 12 classes need to complete some of the courses for a Bachelor of Arts program. Also, healthcare service managers and registered nurses might need to study similar courses.
The general requirements for admission into a bachelor’s in psychology program include:
- A high school diploma or GED as a minimum education level
- High school transcript
- Two to five letters of recommendation
- Personal statement of intent
- Standardized tests (ACT/SAT)
Courses in the Program
Courses in psychology programs vary depending on the degree level and concentration. It can also vary from one institution to another. In most cases, undergraduate programs include introductory courses such as experiment analysis and research methods.
These, among others, are essential skills that behaviorists need to become well versed in for the success of their bachelor’s program as well as for their future endeavors.
After the initial introductory courses, undergrads are expected to cover more advanced courses in other areas of psychology to help them decide their career path. These courses include social psychology, developmental psychology, and cognitive psychology.
Undergrads can expect to cover the following courses:
All fields of psychology require statistics, which explains why this course is introduced at the early stages of an undergraduate program. The course covers areas such as data ordering and measuring dispersion and tendencies. It also includes hypothesis testing, estimation, and probability.
This course is designed to integrate emotional and mental topics into the real world by letting students delve more into thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This course is the cornerstone for clinical psychology and other related fields. Learners will cover the main premises and concepts of social psychology and learn how to thoroughly study papers and research relating to psychology.
The core of this course is mental disorders. The course covers what abnormality is and the different categorizations. Students will learn the various causes and possible treatments for the condition. Common mental disorders covered in this topic include anxiety, depression, drug addiction, alcoholism, and eating disorders.
This course teaches students how to analyze psychological factors within a specific demographic. For example, behavior patterns to expect from adults, teenagers, and children. More specifically, the course concentrates on the human body and brain development right from birth to old age, focusing on key benchmarks throughout the growth process. Lifespan development is usually available as a graduate-level course but can be offered as an upper-division course at the bachelor’s degree level.
The capstone course typically comes toward the end of the program. It involves independent research work conducted by students. Research topics are often related to the student’s field of interest. Learners are expected to demonstrate their expertise by writing a paper. It is common for some students to capitalize on the capstone to get published in academic journals.
Courses for higher degrees (master’s or Ph.D.) go into more advanced topics with curriculums that are streamlined to focus majorly on the learner’s specialization. Graduate-level psychology involves writing some thesis and conducting research works.
Becoming a Behaviorist
Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology is only the first step in pursuing a fulfilling career as a behaviorist. Some of the other steps include:
1. Earn a Graduate Degree
Many careers in the field of psychology, including therapy, counseling, and social work, require a minimum of a master’s degree that typically lasts for two years. Other positions require a Ph.D. In any case, a student who intends to become a psychologist in the future needs to think ahead regarding their desired field of study, even before the completion of the bachelor’s degree program. For example, an internship in their desired psychology field is the right step in the right direction.
2. Earn Licensure
Different states or regions may have different requirements, but at the end of a graduate degree program, candidates are expected to have anywhere from one to three years of work experience, pass professional exams, and apply to a state board for licensing at a fee.
3. Gain Experience Working Under a Licensed Psychologist
Some states require candidates to gather experience under a licensed behaviorist even before applying for licensure. Entry-level psychology positions will generally suffice for this purpose.
4. Earn and Maintain Board Certification
Board certification shows your expertise in your specific field, especially for people with a Ph.D. You will need to pay periodic renewal fees and continuing education to maintain the certification.
Best Schools to Earn a Behavioral Psychology Degree
Whether you are looking to apply for an undergraduate program or earn a master’s degree in psychology, it is important to look for the best institutions with accredited curriculums. Choosing an institution may not be an easy task, considering the many options available.
The first step in choosing a school is to make up your mind about the type of program that is right for you. What level are you applying for: a bachelor’s program, master’s, or Ph.D.? Are you interested in an applied career or primarily focused on research? What type of research do you prefer if your major concentration is on research?
Once you’ve figured out your area of interest, you want to give some thoughts on the program length offered by the school. Decide whether to enroll in a full-time or part-time program, depending on what works best for you. Graduation requirements, curriculum, and classes are also important considerations.
Spend some time researching how the skills available for different programs can help you attain your long-term career goals. While researching, find out what type of accreditations the school has, especially a programmatic accreditation. Programmatic accreditation means that a field-specific accrediting body has vetted the institution’s psychology program.
Before you choose a school, factor in how your program will affect your personal needs. Becoming a certified psychologist takes several years of study in graduate school, which is not the easiest thing to do. It comes with many challenges that can disrupt your other responsibilities and lifestyle. Therefore, it is important to consider factors such as the location of the school and your family’s needs.
You also need to consider work and research factors while choosing a school. These include things like advisor fit, research resources, working conditions, and department culture.
Reputable Schools that Offer Behavioral Psychology Degrees
While there are a plethora of schools that offer behavioral psychology degrees, here are some of the most reputable institutions where you can pursue the degree.
1. Bellevue University, Bellevue, NE
2. University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
3. Mercy College, New York, NY
4. Wilmington University, New Castle, DE
5. Central Methodist University, Fayette, MO
Completing a bachelor’s degree is only the first step in getting set for various careers in psychology. You will need to continue your education to at least a master’s degree level to enjoy a very attractive average salary.
Jobs Available for People with a Behavioral Psychology Degree
Not everyone who studies behavioral psychology goes on to become a clinical psychologist. Anyone can earn an undergraduate degree in a psychology program and work a job in one of the many careers in the psychology fields.
However, the jobs are usually limited to supportive roles. This is because experts in the field need to understand behavioral psychology on a broader level, typically at a master’s or doctorate level.
If you are looking to enter the workplace with a bachelor’s in psychology, your best bet would be to find an entry-level job in your desired field. The bachelor’s program equips you with versatile skills that make you a good fit for a wide range of careers.
Some employment opportunities you can pursue without earning a master’s degree or Ph.D. in psychology include writing, customer service, human resource advising, and employment counseling.
A four-year degree in psychology program also provides a good foundation for extra two to seven years of advanced study in the psychology field, depending on the type of graduate degree. Students can also consider flexible online psychology programs, especially if they are already working or need to take care of family responsibilities.
Completing a psychology higher degree program is by no means a small achievement. Therefore, it is not surprising for psychologists to have increased job opportunities at the end of the academic pursuit. Here are some common career paths for behavioral psychologists.
Human Resource Manager
A BA in psychology may get you a human resource manager position, although many employers prefer candidates with higher degrees. Typical duties include identifying ways to improve the organization’s policies and implementing change.
Other functions are overseeing effectiveness, compliance, and productivity. Successful professionals must stay up to date with laws on all levels (local, state, and federal) that affect organizational activities as well as benefits.
Effective communication skills play a huge role in this regard. An advanced degree program explores social psychology and human behavior, and this equips the human resource manager with proper interaction skills in handling executives and incumbents.
Criminologists are social scientists or analysts who perform the duty of identifying the causes of criminal behavior. They do this through data collection and statistical analysis. A criminologist will often find employment in government organizations or law enforcement settings.
Part of their functions may include gathering data from convicts or offenders as well as law enforcement agents through interviews. This will help the professional develop psychological profiles.
A bachelor’s degree may suffice for entry-level positions. However, a graduate degree is required to attain management roles. Earning a Bachelor of Arts in psychology equips the student with the necessary skills and knowledge required by criminologists to succeed in their career.
A social worker works with clients that struggle with everyday issues to develop effective coping methods. They do this by identifying people that need help and coming up with ways for them to adjust to the changes in their lives. Other typical responsibilities are offering psychotherapy assistance, researching lasting solutions to dilemmas, and monitoring clients’ progress.
Entry-level positions are available for bachelor degree holders, but leadership roles will require a Ph.D. or a master’s degree at the very least. Students who want to become social workers should consider furthering their education beyond the bachelor’s level. In addition to an advanced degree, professionals need certifications or state license for non-clinical work.
It might not seem obvious to some people, but journalists also need a sound knowledge of why people think and behave the way they do. This knowledge guides professionals as they conduct research for articles and news items.
Typical roles include asking questions about difficult issues, following leads, and conducting unbiased interviews to gather relevant information. Earning a bachelor’s in psychology will give the student a competitive edge because the coursework covers why humans think and behave the way they do.
Entry-level positions require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree since the program covers social psychology, cognition and perception, and evaluation of psychological research. However, an advanced degree will give the candidate an added advantage.
Political scientists are professionals that carry out unbiased research on issues relating to national and international political systems. To perform this duty effectively, the political scientist needs to conduct surveys to collect and assess data, forecast trends, evaluate policies, and stay updated on current events on the local and international scene.
Students aspiring to become political scientists will need a Ph.D. or a minimum of a master’s degree in public affairs or public administration. A Bachelor of Arts in psychology is an excellent foundation. It provides candidates with valuable skills and covers basic topics, such as the decision-making process, development of belief systems, and cognitive and social explanations relating to human behavior.
Marketing managers are responsible for working together with department heads and other relevant staff to identify budgets and advertising campaign plans. Professionals in this field are saddled with duties such as market research, contract negotiation, identifying target clients, evaluating an organization’s campaigns, and developing pricing strategies.
Apart from educational qualifications, students who want to become marketing managers need to develop an important set of qualities, including interpersonal, effective communication, decision-making, and analytical skills. These can be acquired through a bachelor’s degree in psychology program.
While graduate degrees can give competitive advantages, organizations are open to candidates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from reputable schools.
Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors work with patients struggling with disorders. These professionals are also known as substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. Their duties involve developing treatment plans and finding out possible hindrances to recovery. They also educate the patient’s families and collaborate with other caregivers. Most importantly, the mental health counselor first assesses the client’s willingness to commence treatment.
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university can get applicants into entry-level positions. However, students should plan to further to at least a master’s degree in psychology, as it gives candidates an edge. In many states, an additional 4,000 clinical hours and licensing are required for upper-level roles.
Marriage and Family Therapist
A marriage and family therapist is a highly trained mental health professional who develops solutions to difficult clinical issues. Some of the common crisis the practitioner addresses includes family dilemmas, marital problems, anxiety, and depression.
In addition to managing client files, typical duties include developing coping mechanisms for clients to deal with difficult situations, providing guidance for patients to make clear-headed decisions, and creating feasible plans for troubled individuals to adjust to life’s changes. Professionals also ensure safe and enabling environments where patients can talk about sensitive information.
An undergraduate degree in psychology provides the basics required to proceed for a master’s program, the minimum entry requirement. Additionally, candidates need to put in a certain number of clinical hours and obtain a state license to practice.
A Bachelor of Arts in Psychology might not qualify you as a school counselor, but it can get you into support roles in some cases. Generally, the minimum requirement for the position is a master’s degree, and in most cases, a license is required to practice.
School counselors serve as career counselors in adult settings addressing academic and social issues that students may have. They can also work in K – 12 settings. If you choose this career path, your duties will include assessing students’ interests and abilities and helping them discover possible hindrances holding them back from academic success.
You will also help students to create workable plans that will lead to practical solutions. Student counselors are also responsible for working hand-in-hand with teachers and families of students, making sure to report abuse or neglect.
Psychologists are experts with a very broad job description, working with clients in different settings. Their duties include examining social, emotional, and cognitive processes from the experiences of clients. Besides conducting surveys, interviews, and carrying out studies on human behavior, professionals identify behavioral disorders and develop tests that can predict human behavior accurately.
Psychologists also help in educating clients and their families on ways to manage issues. By researching behavior patterns, professionals can develop valuable research articles to help other psychologists in the field.
A Psy.D. or Ph.D. is required for research, counseling, and clinical roles. In addition, practitioners are required to have a state license. Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology is a stepping stone for students aspiring to become psychologists.
Salaries for Behavioral Psychology Jobs
Besides the fulfillment of bringing help to others in need, jobs in the behaviorism field come with attractive salaries, even for entry-level positions with a bachelor’s degree. The average annual salary for a behavioral psychologist is $75,100, which is approximately $1,444 in weekly earnings.
Actual salaries depend on specific skills. For example, counseling jobs may attract an average of $64,311, applied behavioral analysis can go up to an average of $68,621, and leadership roles can be as high as $82,000 per year.
The following are typical average salaries per annum for behavioral psychology careers, depending on working experience.
- Social Worker
Entry-level (less than 1 year) – $40,940
Early career (1 to 4 years) – $44,390
Mid-career (5 to 9 years) – $49,670
Experienced (10 to 19 years) – $54,160
- Behavioral Analyst
Entry-level (less than 1 year) – $50,730
Early career (1 to 4 years) – $57,970
Mid-career (5 to 9 years) – $61,940
Experienced (10 to 19 years) – $65,030
- Mental Health Counselor
Entry-level (less than 1 year) – $39,190
Early career (1 to 4 years) – $40,790
Mid-career (5 to 9 years) – $45,530
Experienced (10 to 19 years) – $49,180
- Behavioral Therapist
Entry-level (less than 1 year) – $38,640
Early career (1 to 4 years) – $39,350
Mid-career (5 to 9 years) – $49,070
Experienced (10 to 19 years) – $49,670
Highest-Paying Jobs in the Behavioral Psychology Field
High-paying jobs in behavioral psychology are usually in the mid to experienced positions and typically require advanced degrees, including Ph.D., Ed. D., and Psy. D. The annual average salary for some of the highest-paying jobs include:
1. Sports Psychologist ($55,000)
2. School Psychologist ($58,360)
3. Forensic Psychologist ($59,440)
4. Counseling Psychologist ($72,540)
5. Engineering Psychologist ($79,818)
6. Clinical Psychologist ($81,330)
7. Neurologist ($90,460)
8. Industrial-Organizational Psychologist (102,530)
9. Psychiatrist ($216,090)
Factors That Can Affect the Salary of a Behavioral Psychologist
Actual income for any position can be affected by a number of factors, including years of experience and educational qualifications. Getting into the workplace with a bachelor’s degree will not attract the salary of someone with a Ph.D. in the same area of specialization. Besides the higher degree, the doctorate degree holder has lots of experience, which qualifies him/her for higher pay.
Other factors include the sector of employment and the geographic location. Salaries are not likely to be the same in all parts of the world and also depend on the industry where the professional finds employment.
For example, a sports psychologist working with professional athletes in the United States may earn a different salary than another expert in the same area of specialization who works with local athletes in a developing country.
However, there is no scarcity of jobs for the psychologist because of the wide variety of settings where professionals can work. Of course, the first step is finding and getting into the best psychology programs.