Online Degrees in Behavioral Science
“It is the business of scientists to explain away the magic in the world. The largest coherent body of magic remaining is the behavior of (humans) and animals.”
— William G. Quinn
What Is Behavioral Science?
Behavioral science is the study of this “magic.” It involves the study of human behavior, both in historical contexts and in the present. In order to understand human behavior, it becomes necessary to take a multidisciplinary approach. This is why students of online behavioral science degree programs study topics from anthropology, sociology, psychology, and even history, among others.
Since the study of behavioral science drives new discoveries in human behavior, many professionals who work in this field are the catalyst to new theories regarding human decision-making, interaction, and positive and negative reinforcement. Part psychology and part social science, behavioral science is an intriguing area that leads to a wide range of opportunities for those who want to enter the field. Whether you want to use your knowledge to study criminal behavior and put the bad guys away, help those with mental illness, or discover the newest breakthroughs in this field, a degree in behavioral science can help you get there
Individuals who are planning to earn a behavioral science degree online should preferably be intuitive and naturally curious. A desire to improve the world we live in by gaining a greater understanding of the environmental and psychological factors that shape our actions as a people can be a good trait to have. If this sounds like you, whether you’re fresh out of high school, a working professional looking to upgrade your skills or a back-to-schooler wanting to complete your degree, the flexibility of an online behavioral science degree program can allow you to work, study and fulfill other commitments at the same time.
What Do Mental Health Counselors Do?
Mental health counselors help those with mental health and behavioral problems by diagnosing their issues, counseling them and recommending courses of treatment. They may treat patients with problems like anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, and suicidal impulses. They may do this by developing and recommending treatment plans and goals with their patients and counseling their families to help them cope with their problems. If necessary, mental health counselors may also refer their patients to support groups, job placement services and other such resources.
What can you do with a behavioral science degree?
Although a degree in behavioral science can lead to plenty of careers in the field itself, many other industries also benefit from employees who have a greater understanding of human behavior. No matter how you choose to put your behavioral science degree to work, rest assured there are plenty of career options and even industries to choose from. In fact, the BLS predicts there to be an employment growth of seven percent in the decade leading up to 2028 for occupations in the life, physical and social sciences sector. This is higher than the average of four percent for all occupations. Here are some of the most popular careers people with this degree enter upon graduation, along with relevant wage and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
Projected Job Growth
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||678,500||$71,570||20.4%|
|Social and Community Service Managers||156,460||$72,900||13%|
|Social and Human Service Assistants||404,450||$37,050||12.6%|
|Training and Development Specialists||312,450||$65,640||9.4%|
|Training and Development Managers||38,510||$123,470||8.1%|
|Human Resources Managers||154,800||$129,570||7.1%|
|Human Resources Specialists||633,040||$67,760||5.3%|
|Social Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary, All Other||16,830||$85,390||1.4%|
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.
How To Become A Mental Health Counselor?
The following steps outline one way to become a mental health counselor:
- Take psychology in high school and sign up to be a peer counselor.
- Research behavioral science degree programs online.
- Enroll in a behavioral science program of your choice.
- Choose a specialization in counseling if possible.
- Opt for an internship if you can to get some real-world experience.
- Complete your online bachelor’s degree in behavioral science.
- Earn your master’s degree in behavioral science or a related field.
- Research your state’s requirements for licensure and pass the necessary examinations.
- Complete your post-degree supervised clinical work as required.
- Interview for and obtain a job as a mental health counselor.
What Are The Best Online Behavioral Science Programs?
The type of behavioral science degree you choose to earn can depend on your career goals, finances, personal life, and the timeline for graduation. Behavioral science degrees range from two-year associate degrees to doctoral degrees that may take five to seven years to complete. If you want to work as a social assistant or psychiatric aide, for example, you can typically start work after earning a two-year behavioral science degree. Bachelor’s degree programs may open up avenues to more diverse opportunities. However, research and teaching positions require a broader scope of behavioral science study, as well as a thesis or dissertation in most cases. Students of behavioral science degrees may be able to choose specializations right from the associate degree level.
Online Associate Degrees In Behavioral Science
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
Online associate degrees in behavioral science encompass topics from a number of different disciplines, including anthropology, psychology and social science. Students of these programs can get a basic overview of the scientific study of human behavior and underlying reasons behind different behaviors.
Typical duration: Two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: Students typically study topics from different disciplines to understand human behavior right from the global scale down to an individualistic point of view. Some courses that you may take include:
- Human development
- Introduction to criminology
- Introduction to psychology
- Social psychology
- Sociology of women
Possible electives: Victim rights and advocacy; positive behavior guidance; theories of personality
What kind of jobs can I get after earning an associate degree in behavioral science?
Graduates who have earned their associate in behavioral science degree online, may be qualified to work in community-based organizations, social justice programs, and in or in employee assistance programs, to name a few. Some examples of occupations you may be eligible for include:
- Community health worker
- Psychiatric technician or aide
- Social or human service assistant
- Social science research assistant
Online Bachelor’s Degrees In Behavioral Science
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?
Online bachelor’s degree programs in behavioral science can involve the study of more complex social and behavioral issues than those studied during an online associate degree in behavioral science. Students of these programs can learn to apply their theoretical knowledge to resolve problems in real-world situations.
Typical duration: Four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: Topics usually include concepts from psychology, sociology, counseling and psychology among others. Some examples of courses include:
- Counseling theories
- Introduction to applied behavioral science
- Introduction to human services
- Psychological assessment
- Treatment strategies and ethical considerations
Students may have to complete a capstone project as a part of their online behavioral sciences degree.
Possible electives: Communication and conflict; lifespan development; psychology of criminal behavior
What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in behavioral science?
A bachelor’s degree in behavioral science can allow you to choose from a number of different career paths in both public and private sectors. Graduates of behavioral science degrees may find jobs in law enforcement, consumer science, youth services, urban planning, and human services apart from social services. Some examples of careers are:
- Human resources specialist
- Market research analyst
- Social services caseworker
- Social worker assistant
- Youth services counselor
Online Master’s Degrees In Behavioral Science
What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?
Students of online master’s degrees in behavioral science typically study contemporary issues in the field. They can gain an understanding of the influences of diversity on human relationships, the role of behavioral science in both shaping and understanding our culture, and the practical and theoretical knowledge that underpins all behavioral science theories and ideas.
Typical duration: Two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences or a related field
Typical coursework: Curricula typically include advanced behavioral science topics along with research methodologies. Some examples of courses you may take are:
- Behavior analysis in intellectual and developmental disabilities
- Behavioral public policy
- Organizational behavior management
- Principles of behavior
- Social norms and informal institutions
Students may have to complete a master’s thesis based on original research as a part of their behavioral science master’s degree.
Possible electives: Education policy; social and public policy; public health
What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in behavioral science?
The jobs you may be eligible for can depend on the specialization you choose and your thesis topic. Graduates of master’s degree programs may be eligible to work as counselors after obtaining the appropriate licensure or work in research. Some examples of job titles include:
- Applied behavior analyst
- Behavioral gerontologist
- Government and industry data analyst
- Outpatient therapist
- Social psychologist
- Social worker
Online Graduate Certificates in Behavioral Science
Online graduate certificates in behavioral sciences as a whole are rare due to the broad, multi-disciplinary nature of the field. However, graduates of online bachelor degree programs in behavioral science may be able to choose from a certificate programs in specific areas of the field such as psychology, sociology, counseling, criminal justice, and so on. This can enable individuals to gain some graduate education in the field they are working in or wish to work in without having to commit to the time needed for an entire master’s degree program. Some certificate programs may be highly customizable with a couple of required courses and the rest made up of electives. The courses outlined below are from an autism and behavioral science graduate certificate program, to give you an idea of how focused they can be.
- Introduction to autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
- Treating challenging behaviors
- Behavioral skill building
- Parent and staff training
- Specialized instructional strategies
As graduate certificate programs are highly specialized in nature, they typically take less time to complete than a master’s degree program and students may complete them within one to two years of part-time study. Prospective students typically need a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences or a related field in order to apply.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Behavioral Science
What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?
Students of online doctoral degree programs usually study advanced research methodologies, program development and evaluation, social influences on the field of human behavior, and learn to develop their leadership skills.
Typical duration: Four to seven years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Master’s degree in behavioral sciences or a related field
Typical coursework: Courses taken during the course of a doctoral degree can vary depending on the focus of your studies. However, most students also take courses in research and analysis. Some examples of courses that may be available to you are:
- Advanced Research in Adult Human Development and Behavior
- Interdisciplinary Leadership in Social and Behavioral Sciences
- Advanced Contemporary Issues in Studies in Human Behavior
- Advanced Qualitative Research Methods in Human Services
- Fundamentals of Social Science Research
Dissertation: The dissertation phase of the doctoral degree program is typically the longest. Students explore issues in behavioral science and propose solutions that are backed up by evidence-based research. Dissertations then have to be successfully defending before an expert panel
What kind of jobs can I get after earning a doctorate in behavioral science?
Online doctoral degrees in behavioral sciences are usually terminal degrees. Graduates of these programs may hold high-level posts in public and private organizations. They may also enter the fields of academia and research. Some job titles associated with doctoral degrees in behavioral sciences are:
- Behavioral scientist
- College Professor
- Court services supervisor
- Mental health counselor
- Social services executive director
Accreditation is an important factor for students of online behavioral science degree programs to consider while applying to schools. Accreditation indicates that the school or program has undergone a rigorous vetting process and meets or exceeds the standards of quality outlined by a recognized accrediting body. Attending, and graduating from, an accredited school can be a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid, professional licensures or for the transfer of educational credits. Accreditation may be regional, national or programmatic.
As behavioral science is a broad discipline, programmatic accreditation may come from various accrediting bodies including:
- Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
- Association for Behavior Analysis International
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS)
These are just a few. A complete list of accrediting bodies may be found on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website.
Specializations in Behavioral Science
As it is such a broad field, specializations can help students of behavioral science degrees focus their studies and therefore their future careers in areas of their interest. Students enrolled in online behavioral science degree programs may be able to choose specializations while earning their degrees or through graduate certificates. Some examples of specializations are:
- Addictions Studies
- Counseling Foundations
- Court Advocacy
- Criminal Justice
- Education Advocacy
- Family Studies
- Human Services
- Wellness and Prevention
Certifications in Behavioral Science
Licensure requirements for behavioral science jobs can vary depending on the field you are working in along with state requirements. For example, the BLS reports that all counselors and psychologists need to be licensed. But licensure requirements may vary from state to state. Similarly clinical social workers need to be licensed in every state, but this is not the case with nonclinical social workers where requirements vary greatly.
Professional certifications on the other hand may not be mandatory. However, they can demonstrate your proficiency in a particular aspect of behavioral science. Again, the professional certifications you may qualify for can depend on your specialization and your profession. For example, psychologists can obtain specialty certifications through:
- American Board of Professional Psychology
- American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology
- Behavior Analysts Certification Board
Social and Community Service Managers
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.
Scholarships and Financial Aid Programs for Behavioral Science Students
Behavioral science students may be eligible for a number of different scholarships offered to students of sociology, psychology, criminal justice, and counseling among others. It can be a good idea to check with your college to see if you are eligible for any grants or scholarships they have to offer. Some scholarships to help you get started in your search include:
- American Cancer Society – Doctoral Training Grants in Oncology Social Work
- American Psychological Foundation Scholarships and Grants
- Health Resources & Services Administration Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students
- Awards From the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis (SABA)
Other resources for students of behavioral science:
- Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis
- American Academy of Counseling Psychology
- American Psychological Association
- National Social Science Association (NSSA)
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