Behavioral psychology is a field that combines empathy, observation, and scientific study to help patients with behavioral issues. A behavioral psychologist studies the actions of patients within the context of their homes, workplaces, and communities. If you pursue this field, you learn how anthropology, biology, psychology, and sociology combine to influence the lives of your patients. Your work can help someone who needs treatment to improve their quality of life or help someone achieve higher levels of performance. This work takes place in environments ranging from private practices to county family service offices. Behavioral psychologists are often required to complete graduate and doctoral programs in order to gain entry into the field with licensing requirements varying from state to state.
A behavioral psychologist's typical patient depends on where they ply their trade. Social service agencies and school districts employ behavioral psychologists to help children with developmental disabilities. Behavioral psychologists employed by drug and alcohol treatment facilities focus on remedying addictions through various therapeutic methods like hypnosis and cognitive therapy. Businesses and professional sports teams also employ behavioral psychologists to help employees get into the "zone" so they can improve results. There are also hospitals and university medical centers that hire behavioral psychologists as generalists to deal with a broad range of patients. The concentrations available to a behavioral psychology student allow for customization based on personal interests, career goals, and job availability.
As you dig deeper into the field, it is good to know that behavioral psychologists are paid above-average salaries for their work. PayScale.com places the average salary of a behavioral psychologist at $71,359. This average takes into account a range of salaries from $47,000 to $109,000 in 2019. PayScale also found that the average behavioral psychologist can reach the salary average after about five years in the field. The U.S. Census Bureau placed the median household income at $57,652 in 2017, making behavioral psychology a lucrative field for graduates. A bachelor's degree in behavioral psychology is an important first step toward achieving your goal of working in this field.
Why Become a Behavioral Psychologist?
Behavioral psychology is a growing field with a lot of potential for students who want to use their people skills and interest in science to help others. The demand for behavioral psychologists is high due in part to the small number of experts in the field. There were 5,177 bachelor's degrees in behavioral psychology conferred during the 2014-2015 school year according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14 percent growth in jobs for psychologists from 2016 to 2026. This growth includes 14 percent for clinical and school psychologists and 11 percent for social psychologists. Your studies can help meet the demand for behavioral psychologists across the country.
A growth area for behavioral psychology over the next decade is the tech sector. Familiar names like Facebook and Google have consulted with behavioral psychologists to develop interfaces that anticipate user behaviors. The continuing growth of the tech sector provides opportunities to help companies develop responsible methods for serving its customers. Behavioral psychologists can help shape the future of social media and web design that follows ethical standards and prevents adverse effects on users. Behavioral psychology also continues to evolve as our understanding of biology and psychology continue to develop. Our understanding of developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders grows every year, creating ongoing challenges to keep psychologists engaged in meaningful work.
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology
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#5. University of Kansas – Lawrence, KS
Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science
Tuition: $9,062 / $24,308
The University of Kansas offers a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science as well as a Bachelor of General Studies in the same field. The BA and BGS tracks each require 33 credit hours to complete the major with the BA track requiring additional foreign language courses and the BGS requiring an additional major or minor. Prospective students have to complete Intro to Applied Behavioral Science and Principles and Procedures of Behavior Modification and Therapy with at least a 2.3 GPA in both courses to enter the program. Prior to graduation, an Applied Behavioral Science major selects one of six concentrations to focus their studies. These concentrations include adults with disabilities, basic research, community health and development, early childhood education, organizational behavioral management, and youth development and juvenile justice.
The university placed 129th in the U.S. News & World Report's 2019 ranking of national universities, while Forbes ranked the university 234th. The school's graduate programs are nationally renowned with 48 graduate programs placing in the top 50 programs in their fields by U.S. News & World Report in 2019. Lawrence is a city of fewer than 100,000 residents dominated by the university community. Students and community members alike root for the University of Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball team, which most recently won the national championship in 2008.
#4. Central Methodist University – Fayette, MO
Bachelor of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis
The Bachelor of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program at Central Methodist University prepares students to work with children who display developmental issues. This BS program is completely online and enrolls undergraduate and graduate students around the country. Admission to the university requires a 2.5 GPA on high school coursework and at least a 21 on the ACT. Once admitted, a student is required to complete 42 hours in the major in addition to general education requirements to complete their degree. Every Applied Behavioral Analysis student starts with prerequisite courses in child development, autism spectrum disorders, and applied behavioral analysis for educators. Additional courses in behavioral assessment, data analysis, and leadership round out a student's education. The program also requires completion of three practicum courses that send students to businesses, homes, and schools to learn from experienced psychologists.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Central Methodist University 24th among Midwestern universities and the 37th for Best Value in 2019. Students at the university enjoy small class sizes and the quiet environs of Fayette. This private university also appeals to students who want to observe their Methodist faith. Central Methodist University educates students throughout the state of Missouri with online courses and 19 satellite campuses.
#3. Bellevue University – Bellevue, NE
Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science
Bellevue University's Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science trains students for roles in health and human services offices. This undergraduate program requires completion of 60 undergraduate credits or an associate degree with a GPA of at least 2.0 prior to admission. Every student at the university is required to complete three civic education courses as part of the Kirkpatrick Signature Series. The BS in Behavioral Science is a 40-credit program with 10 prescribed courses. These courses cover topics like diversity in human services, psychopathological perspectives, and counseling theories. The program's capstone course asks a student to complete an online portfolio synthesizing lessons learned from prior courses. Graduates of this program are ready to undertake graduate degrees in human services or clinical counseling offered by the university.
Bellevue University offers an online version of this program and others to cater to working students. U.S. News & World Report ranked the university 230th on its 2019 list of Best Online Bachelor's Programs. The university has received awards for serving corporate, military, and community school transfer students. Bellevue University received the 2018 Leading Organization in Workplace Learning Award from the Association for Talent Development for its partnerships with major employers. The school received the Military Award for the 10th year in a row in 2019 for its efforts to educate veterans, while Phi Theta Kappa recognized its community school transfer program in 2018.
#2. Wilmington University – New Castle, DE
Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science
The Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science program at Wilmington University focuses on the social science aspects of the field. This BS degree trains graduates to work with government agencies, courts, and social service organizations to help patients of all ages deal with behavioral issues. Students interested in studying behavioral science have to complete 40 credits of general education requirements with a minimum GPA of 2.0 to qualify for the program. The program requires completion of 45 credits starting with core courses like cultural anthropology, inferential statistics, and social deviance. Upper-level courses in research methods, applied behavioral science, and lifespan development are combined with policy electives to round out a student's knowledge. Behavioral science students also choose between an internship in the field or an additional upper-level course to complete their degrees.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Wilmington University 230th on its 2019 rankings of national universities in the United States. Wilmington University encourages students outside of New Castle to complete this degree by offering online courses and satellite courses at locations in Delaware and New Jersey. The university features an accelerated degree option that allows students to connect the BS in Behavioral Science with a Master of Science in Applied Family Science. Students who opt for the university's New Castle enjoy a small-town environment along the Delaware River.
#1. Mercy College – Dobbs Ferry, NY
Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science
Mercy College took the top stop in our rankings in part because of its flexibility, available concentrations, and access to internship opportunities. Every student admitted to the school has to complete 60 credits of general education courses before entering a major. The Mercy College Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science starts with prerequisite courses in social psychology, methodology, classics, and computers in behavioral sciences before advancing to electives. Students select eight electives from upper-level psychology and sociology courses to complete their work in the major. Every student can develop a concentration in community health, gerontology, or health services management through these electives. Mercy College suggests completion of an internship and a course in social sciences statistics to improve employment chances after graduation.
The BS degree is designed to accommodate traditional students and working professionals. Mercy College offers the program at campuses in the Bronx Dobbs Ferry, and Manhattan. Students can also opt for online versions of the coursework or combine online and in-person courses to fit their schedules. This behavioral psychology program is also valuable because faculty focus not only on students on the path to graduate degrees. Mercy College promotes its behavioral science program as invaluable to educators, public policy students, human services professionals, and others who need to understand the intricacies of human behavior.