Get Matched With Behavioral Sciences Programs

Behavioral sciences is a field that seeks to understand the motivations people have for the decisions they make. The field is primarily considered to cover psychology and perhaps sociology, but other fields such as economics and political science fall under the umbrella, as well. This makes behavioral sciences a terrific field to study as an undergraduate student.

Those with an undergraduate degree can continue into either the working world or graduate school. Those who pursue a career after completing their bachelor's degree program might look for work in any number of fields including social services, marketing, public relations, or management, to name a few. Once they enter graduate school in a behavioral science field, they can begin to specialize. Most who complete a graduate degree are seeking licensure as a counselor or a doctoral degree and the life of an academic.

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How to Earn a Degree in Behavioral Sciences Online

Why Get a Behavioral Sciences Degree?

health_informatics_earn A behavioral science degree is a terrific way to launch a career in a variety of fields. Students are schooled in scholarship covering human behavior and treatment modalities when that behavior becomes problematic. Behavioral science students also study how social and economic factors influence behavior, how humans are motivated on a fundamental level, and perhaps how to use communication strategies to modify behaviors.

A behavioral science degree online can be valuable for anyone who is interested in working with people. One popular option for a behavioral science student may be to work in mental health or for a social services agency. However, there are many more options available. An undergraduate behavioral science degree can be a terrific background for someone seeking a career in sales, mental health, social work, politics, marketing, or even law, to name a few options.

While many focus on business degrees or a pure STEM field, such as computer science or mathematics, a behavioral science degree can be just as useful. In fact, behavioral science can blend many aspects of a humanities degree with the analytical tools that drive fields such as economics, marketing, and sociology. Thus, a student who is not keen on a pure science or technology focus can effectively take what they need from those fields and create a brilliant career.

Online Associate’s Degree in Behavioral Sciences

An associate degree is a fantastic way for a student to get started with their college career. Community colleges tend to charge far less per credit hour than four-year institutions, plus an associate degree takes only two years to complete. An online associate degree is perhaps even better in that students are not tethered by geography when it comes time to find a college or university to earn a degree.

To enter an associate behavioral sciences program, students will need to meet certain criteria. Most two-year degree programs have relatively easy admissions standards and will take most anyone who has a high school diploma or a general equivalency degree (GED). While most four-year degree programs require satisfactory scores on tests such as the SAT and ACT, those are often not required by a community college or other two-year degree program. Students will probably need to provide other materials for their admissions counselor, however. They will certainly need to submit a completed application form and may need to pay an admission fee, which is often nominal. Admissions offices may also want an admission essay, letters of reference, and perhaps an interview.

Upon admission, students will go through an orientation period in which they are introduced to the school environment. For online associate degree students, this may be a video that explains how to access various parts of the educational interface including the library materials, chat functions, uploading files, and more. Many students will also want to take tests to verify their competence in various core academic areas. Students will need to take a writing test, mathematics test, and perhaps tests that measure knowledge of foreign languages. Students who score high enough may be able to exempt certain courses and then start at a point beyond the introductory level.

Students whose scores aren't quite as high are certain to find assistance. After all, many students these days haven't been in a classroom for years and thus need a refresher to get back to speed. Many schools offer remedial courses that will get students up to the knowledge and skill level needed to perform at the college level.

Upon graduation, most students start their work lives with an entry-level position. This is common even for those with a bachelor's degree. Those with a behavioral science degree can jump into their work and gain experience while students in bachelor behavioral sciences degree programs are still cramming for exams.

Common Coursework:

Career Options:

  • Social Worker:
    Social workers assist their clients in finding resources that will help them overcome various difficulties.
  • Sales and Marketing:
    Professionals work with customers and sell them the products they need.
  • Addictions Counselor:
    These professionals work with individuals who suffer with substance abuse disorder and help them overcome those problems.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Sciences

A bachelor's degree in behavioral sciences is perhaps the best way to launch a career. Employers tend to prefer candidates who hold a four-year degree and typically will pay them handsomely and will offer them rapid advancement opportunities. This is because a bachelor's degree curriculum often covers more focused and in-depth topics than an associate degree. These degrees may even offer students the opportunity to concentrate on specific areas of human behavior such as addiction, economic or financial behaviors, or even specific human demographics defined by age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

To gain admission to a bachelor's degree program, students need to satisfy their school's list of requirements. Most all schools will first need a completed application that covers the basics of the student's background including courses completed, extra-curricular activities, references, and more. Most schools will also require an application fee, which is often nominal, though highly competitive schools may charge hundreds of dollars. Along with the application, schools typically require other documents.

One big hurdle for aspiring students is the admissions essay. Most schools will provide a few questions or prompts to help inspire the writing. These essays are often no more than three pages but may be longer. Sometimes, students have the option to submit some other sort of media project such as a creative video, interactive web page, or even songs. Each submission should help admissions counselors understand the student's talents and desire to attend the school, including their passions and reasons for earning an education at this level.

Letters of reference are also a big part of a college application. Schools typically look for references from a student's former teachers, school administrators, or employers. Other important people can include clergy, civic leaders, and more. Letters from high status individuals will be very valuable in this process.

While standardized admissions exams are required less and less, students should strongly consider taking the SAT or ACT. Strong scores on these tests could make the difference when it comes to applying to highly competitive schools. Students should investigate their target schools' admission requirements to see whether these are required or optional.

Students who are eager to gain admission to the best schools should look for ways to set themselves apart from the pack. One way to do this is by volunteering in areas that complement their long-term academic and career goals. Some may even take paid positions that demonstrate their career goals. Students should also look for ways to develop leadership skills. Young students might achieve this by working for a youth day camp or an after-school program for elementary-age kids.

Common Coursework:

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Affective Neuroscience
  • Psychology in Business and Economics
  • The Psychology and Philosophy of Happiness
  • Principles of Economics
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Statistical Methods
  • Research Methods
  • Data Science
  • Decision Making
  • Conflict Resolution

Career Options:

  • Addictions Counselor:
    This career requires state licensure. However, at the bachelor's level, workers will not yet be able to practice individual psychotherapy.
  • Sales Professional:
    Knowledge of human motivations and behavior will be very helpful when it comes to selling various products and services.
  • Social Worker:
    Behavioral sciences is a great background for a career in social work. Social workers help clients find the resources they need to address various issues related to their family or even mental health.

Online Master’s Degree in Behavioral Sciences

Entering a master’s behavioral sciences degree program is a process that requires that students have a strong desire to pursue the field for their career. Further, they must be ready to find a focus area, or specialty, that will direct their studies. For those in the behavioral sciences, this first means deciding between clinical work and a career as a researcher or academic. Then, it is vital to determine which specific area of the field is the most important to them. For instance, they might choose human development, family psychology, or forensic psychology. Once these things are determined, students can find the best master’s degree program for them and begin the application process.

Most graduate behavioral sciences degree programs will require satisfactory scores on the GRE, or graduate record exam. The test is in two parts. The first part measures general knowledge, much as the SAT or ACT tests for undergraduate candidates. Then, students take a focused content test that measures their knowledge of behavioral science. Master’s programs will be sure to post their required scores for these tests.

Aspiring graduate students will also need to provide transcripts for every undergraduate course they've taken. This includes single courses they may have taken from a community college. Graduate admissions counselors will need to receive official transcripts from each school, but they may take copies in lieu of the required documents as an interim placeholder. These documents are then scrutinized to ensure that students have met the minimum GPA requirements for the program and that they include the courses required for admission.

Graduate application packets must also include letters of recommendation. These should focus on previous professors and instructors, especially if the student has done relevant research under their supervision. Employers are also a great choice, primarily if the work in question was directly relevant to the student's academic goals. In fact, students whose undergraduate work was not in behavioral sciences but who have gone on to work in the field may find that admissions counselors consider their work experience when making an admissions decision.

Students should also be prepared to write a focused admissions essay. These often discuss the student's strong desire to study specific aspects of behavioral science. They may also mention what their long-term goals while both a student and afterwards as a professional.

Common Coursework:

  • Behavioral Concepts and Principles
  • Behavior Assessments
  • Service Administration
  • Programmed Learning
  • Addiction Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Special Education
  • Political Psychology
  • Integrated Behavioral Health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Counseling Theories

Career Options:

  • Addictions Counselor
  • Marriage and Family Counselor
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Online PhD Degree in Behavioral Sciences

A PhD is the pinnacle of academic achievement. Doctoral students have already completed their graduate and undergraduate work and now are focused on specific research areas of their field. While PhD students must complete a set of courses as part of the degree, their main focus is usually their doctoral dissertation.

In fact, students should have an idea of what their dissertation might be about prior to beginning a doctoral degree program in the behavioral sciences. This is because they will need to ensure that there will be faculty members in the department who can work with them through the dissertation process. They will need to work with established experts who can properly evaluate their research and writing.

In fact, some students are already following certain academic experts in their field before they even enter a graduate degree program. They might even target those departments for their graduate work and stay in the same department through their doctoral work. There may be programs that are targeted at doctoral degrees with the master’s degree considered something of an aside along the way to the true goal.

To gain admission to a PhD program, admissions experts want to see a student's transcripts from their master’s degree programs. They not only look to ensure that all a student's courses were completed successfully, but to see what sort of work the student was engaged with. They need to see that the student's specific background will support their work in a doctoral degree program.

Students may also need to supply letters of reference. These letters not only attest to a student's scholarship and general character but may have other applications. Many PhD students work through their degrees with adjunct teaching positions. Letters of recommendation may address the student's work as graduate teaching assistant.

Common Coursework:

  • Theories of Counseling
  • Society and Health
  • Econometric Methods
  • Statistical Methods
  • Cognition, Brain, and Behavior
  • Neural Computation
  • Visual Neuroscience
  • Advanced Psychoanalysis
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Gender and Behavior

Career Options:

  • University Professor:
    These academic professionals teach graduate and undergraduate students while also conducting research into their area of specialty.
  • Behavioral Research Faculty:
    Research faculty members continue to research their specialty area while landing grants for the university.
  • Forensic Psychologist:
    These behavioral specialists focus on the criminal mind. They may consult with defense attorneys or parole boards to determine whether defendants or prisoners are competent.
  • Clinical Psychologist:
    These mental health professionals conduct one-on-one psychotherapy with clients, often in a private practice. Some psychologists may also work with larger health systems on a full or part-time basis.

Typical Tuition Costs for a Behavioral Sciences Education

Educational costs are a matter of great concern for most students. Those who start their path to a career in behavioral sciences with an associate degree do so at the most affordable level. A community college tends to charge far less for credit hours than their four-year peers. When students start their academic road with an associate behavioral sciences degree from a community college, their first two years come at a significant discount.

Credits for a bachelor's degree can be a bit more expensive. However, students who finish their undergraduate degrees are often able to start work with a better pay rate and position. While the upfront costs of a bachelor's degree are more than twice that of an associate degree, the long-term returns on investment can be far better.

Graduate work, on the other hand, doesn't have to cost much at all. Many master’s degree students pay the full amount for their first term or two and then are able land teaching assistantships that fund the remainder of their courses. They may even receive a bit of a stipend that helps to pay for living costs.

Finally, some PhD programs are fully funded, meaning that students pay for their courses with their teaching work and are able to live off the (nominal) pay. Each program is a bit different and some even offer housing for their PhD candidates. However, funding is not available in this way for every program and you should certainly pay close attention to the costs when you consider any educational program.

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Certificates/Licensures in Behavioral Sciences

There are many different career paths available to students of behavioral science. Many of these paths require state licensure, which students should be aware of before they embark on this road. In fact, most of their academic degree programs will discuss this matter, especially those at the master’s degree level.

However, even students in an undergraduate degree program may be facing licensure issues. Those who are aiming to work as a special education teacher must consider how to attain a teaching credential in their state. Other students who are in an addictions counseling degree program will need to earn licensure for their degree level.

Students at the graduate level(s) who are considering work as a mental health counselor or in clinical mental health counseling will need licensure to practice individual psychotherapy in their state. The licensing requirements for them are often identical for their peers who seek to become licensed clinical social workers. Note that most any license or other sort of credential often comes with a long-term commitment to lifelong learning. To maintain most non-academic credentials, it's necessary to continue taking continuing education courses. Proof of completion for each course must be submitted to the appropriate regulating body.

Online vs. Traditional Options

These days, there are a few options for how a student will pursue their degree. For most, the traditional campus modality will suffice. However, many will also pursue their degrees via online media. Then there are students who enroll in hybrid online behavioral science degrees where a certain portion of their courses are online. For graduate students, these programs may also be known as low-residency degree programs. Low-residency programs often require a limited amount of time on campus that is followed up with the bulk of the work being completed online. Some programs have only one residency during the whole program, while others require that students spend up to ten days on campus at the start of every term.

Both the online and traditional modes have their positive and negative attributes. Online courses are very flexible in terms of scheduling and the times and places where a student can access their course materials. It's even possible for a student to work on their class materials while commuting on a train or while waiting in line at the DMV. However, online courses require a great deal of time management skill, on top of the discipline to get their work done in a timely fashion.

Traditional classrooms, meanwhile, are very familiar. These courses are more rigid in their delivery and, if a student is caught in traffic on the way to campus, they may well miss out on an entire session. On the other hand, they have direct access to their instructors and professors. Traditional students also have an easier time building a professional network, especially at the graduate level.

Professional Organizations for Behavioral Sciences

Professional organizations are a great boon in any profession. Professionals who join these organizations can meet colleagues, stay abreast of new developments in their field, and even discover new opportunities. For many professions, membership in a professional organization can mean special credentials that may even be required to get certain jobs.

It's worth noting that membership is often not limited to working professionals. Many professional organizations offer membership to students. Student members may even enjoy certain benefits, such as low membership fees and special opportunities to apply for scholarships. Students may also find that they can find internships or mentoring opportunities, which can be a real boon to later success. Here are some organizations for those planning to work in behavioral sciences.

  • ABSA
  • BSPA
  • APA


Applied Behavioral Science Association (ABSA)

Members can join in conversation with over 1,000 institutions and individuals presently engaged in behavioral science.



Behavioral Science & Policy Association

Members receive a subscription to the journal Behavioral Science & Policy, discounts on conferences, and related resources such as podcasts, webcasts, and webinars.



American Psychological Association

Members of this esteemed organization are privy to a variety of educational and professional resources, including conferences and continuing education.

What Should You Consider When Looking for a Behavioral Sciences Program?

  • Majors Available

    Behavioral science students need to evaluate each program to confirm that it focuses on the specific topic areas they are interested in. Students should also research what sort of resources are available to students. Options such as internship programs, on-campus research opportunities, and an associated master’s degree programs can be very helpful. Students who want to combine their behavioral science work with other fields, such as computer science or management, should also investigate those departments. Nowadays, some schools allow students to create their own major, which can combine their interests into a single degree.

  • Accreditation – Regional and Programmatic

    Accreditation is one of the most important aspects of a degree program. Students should confirm that any program they consider has CHEA-approved regional accreditation, to start; this will ensure that their degree will be fully acknowledged anywhere in their general region. The degree will also be acknowledged elsewhere, but those who wish to travel across the country for a job or master’s degree may consider a programmatic accreditation.

    For instance, a degree from a CACREP-approved degree program may help a student go farther than one with only regional credential. This accreditation is only available for MA in Counseling degree programs. Doctoral psychology students should also look for accreditation from the APA.

    The Association for Behavioral Analysis (ABA) also accredits bachelor's, master’s, and doctoral level programs. Students from such an accredited degree program are sure to enjoy great success.

  • Program Length

    When a student seeks a career in behavioral sciences, they are often looking at six years of school. That's four years of undergraduate and then two more years in graduate school, not counting the time required for counseling credentials. However, there are now programs that can accelerate the process and enable students to complete a master’s degree in a mere five years.

    These programs are intense, but they allow students the rare opportunity to fully immerse in their studies in a way that few programs offer. Considering that many undergraduates take up to six years to finish their bachelor's degree, students in an accelerated master’s program can emerge with a higher degree and perhaps even more knowledge and opportunities.

What Does a Behavioral Sciences Professional Do?

Behavioral sciences professionals are found in a variety of careers. Since human behavior is directly relevant to so much of what we do, behavioral sciences graduates are often in high demand. Even the tech sector is interested in behavioral sciences; when they develop software and websites, a behavioral sciences expert can help them evaluate how users interact with the digital products and then help make improvements so that their software remains at the top of its sector.

Many behavioral sciences degree students will pursue work in the mental healthcare field. They will need at least a master’s degree and the state credentials to work, but this field is very rewarding both personally and financially.

Here are some roles in this field:

  • Marriage and Family Counselor
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Child Psychologist
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Public Health Educator
  • Gerontologist
  • Psychiatric Nurse
  • Organizational Psychologist
  • Research Faculty
  • University Professor

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a difference between an Arts or Sciences behavioral science degree?

Essentially, these degrees are the same. In fact, some departments offer all students the option to select one or the other. However, the key distinction is the focus of the degree. An Arts degree is one that relies more on developing critical thinking skills and holistic learning. A science degree includes more work on analytical matters and may require more math or laboratory work.

What research opportunities are available for behavioral sciences students?

Students who want to pursue research as much as possible should seek a degree in a larger university. Then, they may need to pursue these opportunities with their favorite professors who may be conducting studies at that time. The opportunities to conduct research will expand as a student advances in their degree program, and especially once they start graduate school.

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