A degree in behavioral psychology provides you with an opportunity to learn about human behaviors. This degree focuses on the relationship between the mind and human behaviors. A behavioral psychology degree program teaches you how to provide therapeutic services for mentally ill and autistic people. With this degree you are able to teach people new ways of thinking, coping and behaving.
You may use a degree in behavioral psychology to enter a variety of fields such as: research, education, human resources, marketing and social work. This article will teach you everything you need to know about entering the behavioral psychology field.
What is a Behavioral Psychology Degree Program?
A behavioral psychology degree program is designed to help you obtain credentials and enter the field of behavioral therapy. A master’s degree and/or doctorate is required to practice as a behavioral therapist, teach at the college-level and/or conduct research studies. It typically takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, 2.5 to three years to earn a master’s degree and up to seven years to earn a doctorate in behavioral psychology.
While in your graduate program, you may learn how to determine the origin of behavioral problems and how to develop treatment plans. Once you graduate from either a master’s program or a post-graduate doctoral program and obtain licensure, you may be classified as a licensed professional counselor (LPC). It is important to reiterate that you must have a master’s degree and/or doctorate (depending on your state’s requirements) and a license to provide mental health services to clients.
To acquire a license you must complete a two-year supervised, clinical internship at an approved mental health facility. In addition, you may also have to obtain certification as a behavioral therapist before seeking employment. You can attain these credentials through the American Board of Professional Psychology.
Careers in Behavioral Psychology
With a behavioral psychology degree, you will be able to help people understand the root of their behaviors. You will also be able to develop treatment plans that change negative behaviors to more positive ones. You may work with children, individuals, families, groups, students, employees and couples and you may work at schools, research laboratories, social work agencies or companies. Your main function, as a behavioral therapist, will be to improve the way people think and behave.
With a degree in behavioral psychology, you may be able to enter the field of research. Many colleges, universities, businesses, government agencies and treatment facilities need researchers to provide insight into the learning processes, cognitive abilities, genetic influences, thought processes and behaviors of clients, customers, students and employees. An advanced degree (master’s degree and doctorate) in this area will allow you to become a lab manager, lab assistant, behavioral consultant, research coordinator or research director.
With a bachelor’s degree, you may teach elementary, middle and/or high school and with a master’s degree and/or doctorate you may teach at the college level. In addition, if you have a doctorate in behavioral psychology, may can also conduct research studies for the college or university. Although a teaching career may not pay as much as counseling, it offers a variety of advantages like the ability to pursue other career interests (writing, research, etc.).
Another career path you can pursue with an advanced degree (master’s and/or doctorate) in behavioral psychology is counseling. Counselors use a variety of psychological techniques, methods and strategies to help people work through their issues and improve their lives. A behavioral psychology degree program teaches you how to alter behaviors and provide assistance to people who are experiencing emotional distress, severe stress, adjustment issues and/or mental illness. Your degree in behavioral psychology may also help you provide services to students at the primary/secondary (elementary, middle and high school) and post-secondary (college) levels.
Your primary task will be to improve your client’s ability to learn, comprehend and retain information. You will also be responsible for reducing or eliminating unhealthy behavioral patterns and treating behavior-related psychological disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). With this degree you may work at school, clinic, inpatient or outpatient mental health facility, hospital, social services agency, skilled nursing facility and/or research facility.
With a bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology, you may be able to seek employment as a marketing executive. The main goal of a marketing executive is to gain insight into the mind and behaviors of customers and clients. In other words, with this degree you may be able to help companies determine the “wants” and “needs” of customers and clients. You may also study consumer purchasing preferences and then report your results to your employer in an effort to improve products or create new products.
To be successful in this career, you will need to have a strong background in computer science, analysis, marketing trends and statistics. Your background in behavioral psychology will help you collect and analyze important consumer-related data and make recommendations on how to improve products and/or services. If you decide to pursue this career path, you may work at an advertising agency, computer technology company, graphic design agency, research laboratory, market research firm, retail store, etc.
Human Resources Executive
A bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology may allow you to become an entry-level human resources executive. With this degree, you may acquire skills needed to perform data entry functions, train new employees, mediate between employees and upper management, resolve co-worker conflicts, assemble employee handbooks, interview potential candidates, distribute benefits and post available jobs. Most companies have a human resources department so these jobs are readily available. Employers will hire you to help them understand employee thought processes and behaviors, improve quality and increase employee productivity.
Child & Family Social Worker
Child and family social workers provide services (food stamps, housing assistance, counseling, etc.) to children and families. Your background in behavioral psychology will help you accurately evaluate the needs of your client(s) and develop treatment plans that help them resolve their issues and improve their lives.
Your main responsibilities will be to develop a safety plan for children, arrange foster care placements or adoptions, take foster care children to school or doctor’s appointments, help families find housing arrangements, make sure the educational needs of children (healthy, disable and delayed) are being met, etc. You may work at a social services agency, clinic, hospital, mental health facility, private practice and/or school.
- Child Social Work Careers
- How to Become a Behavioral Psychologist
- How to Become a Behavioral Counselor
- Behavioral Disorder Counselor: Career Profile & Education Requirements
- Adolescent Psychologist: Job Duties, Education Requirements & Degrees
References and Further Reading
- Baum, W. M. (2005). Understanding behaviorism: Behavior, culture and evolution. New York: NY: Blackwell.
- Skinner, B. F. (1984). The operational analysis of psychological terms. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 7(4): 547–81.
- Rachlin, H. (1991). Introduction to modern behaviorism. New York, NY: Freeman
- Career Overview. (2013). Careers in psychology.
- Psychologist World. (2013). Behavioral approach.