Behavioral Psychology Careers

An MS in behavioral psychology can prepare you for doctoral study or a job. Learn more about behavioral psychology careers.
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Behavioral psychology examines the intersection of thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Behavioral psychologists examine how our brains influence our behaviors. Positive and negative reinforcement are classic examples of behavioral theory.

Find out more about careers you can pursue with a behavioral psychology degree, possible salaries, and useful resources.

Role and Responsibilities of a Behavioral Psychologist

Behavioral psychologists analyze clients' psychological states by observing their behavior. Doing so can lead to new treatments for addiction and other negative or unwanted behaviors.

Behavioral psychology jobs' responsibilities differ by employer and job title. Day-to-day tasks may include:

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    Meeting with Patients

    Like other psychology professionals, behavioral psychologists meet with patients one-on-one or in small groups. These meetings help psychologists identify the negative behaviors patients hope to change.
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    Creating Treatments

    Observation and discussion let behavioral psychologists choose the right treatment plan. A plan may include specific actions patients perform to improve their behavior and mental state.
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    Evaluating Treatments

    Therapy sessions over many weeks or months let behavioral psychologists determine whether patients benefit from a treatment plan. This evaluation may convince professionals to adjust a treatment plan or refer patients to another mental healthcare provider.

Some behavioral psychologists focus on research. They may perform this research for a company, university, or other institution. Their findings offer new insights and best practices for other counseling professionals.

Featured Online Psychology Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How to Start a Career in Behavioral Psychology

You can qualify for many behavioral counseling jobs with an MS in behavioral psychology. A typical program takes about two years and requires field experience. Your program may also have a thesis option, a good choice if you want to pursue a Ph.D.

You may need more than an MS in behavioral psychology to apply to entry-level positions. Many states regulate the counseling and psychology field through licensure or certification. A typical requirement includes passing an examination.

Behavioral psychologists need a Ph.D. to open an independent practice. This behavioral psychology degree lets you build on what you learned in a master's program. Advanced coursework and practica prepare you for the dissertation.

You may need more than five years to complete a Ph.D., even if you already hold an MS in behavioral psychology. Licensure requirements vary by state but may include 3,000 hours of supervised experience and examination. You maintain your license through continuing education classes.

Behavioral Psychology Career Paths

An MS in behavioral psychology degree lets you explore careers in and outside the mental health field. You can use this degree to work as an educator or manager at a major corporation.

Some behavioral psychology careers may require education beyond a master's or significant work experience.

Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers oversee a department or company's recruitment and retention plans. Typical responsibilities include crafting benefits packages, collaborating with senior management, and resolving employee disputes. They also mentor less-experienced human resources professionals.

Human resources managers earned a median salary of $130,000 in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also projects 5% growth in this field from 2022-2032. You can prepare for this job during your MS in behavioral psychology program through electives or an internship.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists treat couples and their children. They use talk therapy and other methods to develop custom-tailored treatment plans. Other typical job duties include collaborating with psychiatrists and psychologists.

You need a master's degree and a state-issued license to become a marriage and family therapist or counselor. These professionals earn a median salary of $56,570 and jobs are projected to grow 15% — much faster than average, reports the BLS.

Postsecondary Teacher

Some graduates with an MS in behavioral psychology work as a junior or community college postsecondary teacher. Open positions may require relevant work experience. Responsibilities include developing curricula, teaching classes, and mentoring students.

Postsecondary teachers specializing in psychology earn a median salary of $78,810, according to the BLS. Professionals in New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts make significantly more than the national median. Jobs are projected to grow by 5% from 2022-2032, according to federal projections.


Psychologists with a Ph.D. and licensure can open a private practice. Other psychologists work in the legal system, interviewing criminal suspects and victims. Their testimony provides juries with valuable insights.

Psychologists earn an average of $85,330, according to the BLS. The highest-paying states include Nevada, California, and Oregon. The latest employment outlook projects 6% growth from 2022-2032, slightly higher than the average projected growth for all U.S. jobs.

Substance Use Counselor

If you want to help people live healthier lives and repair interpersonal relationships, consider a career in addiction and recovery. Like other behavioral psychology jobs, substance use counselors work with clients to identify the causes of negative behaviors and recommend treatment options. Some positions within this field may require a master's degree.

Substance use counselors earn a median salary of $49,710, according to the BLS. Federal projections indicate 18% job growth between 2022-2032.

Where to Find Behavioral Psychology Jobs

Begin your job hunt shortly after starting your MS in behavioral psychology. Your school's career center may provide exclusive job boards, peer mentoring, and guides for inexperienced job seekers. Career center advisors can also help you determine whether you need a doctorate to reach your career goals.

Joining a professional organization as a graduate student can help you navigate the job-hunting process. Some organizations to consider include:

These organizations may offer free or heavily reduced student membership fees.

Frequently Asked Questions About Behavioral Psychology Careers

Is behavioral psychology a major?

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You may find that many colleges offer a master's in behavioral psychology, while only a few offer a bachelor's in this subfield. General psychology bachelor's programs provide an overview of the field and may offer a concentration in behavioral psychology.

What are the highest-paying jobs in psychology?

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Clinical and counseling psychologists earn one of the highest salaries in the field. These professionals make an average salary exceeding $100,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How much do behavioral psychology majors make?

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The answer depends on your career path. Human resource managers earn over $100,000 in median annual salary, while marriage and family therapists earn slightly less than $60,000.

Consider factors besides salary potential when choosing a degree. Career satisfaction and quality of life should also guide your decision.

Is a degree in behavioral psychology worth it?

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Yes, a behavioral psychology degree is often worth it if you want to provide counseling services, work in human services, or earn an advanced degree. A bachelor's or MS in psychology can help you advance to the Ph.D. You can also use a degree to work in human resources or education.

Flexibility makes a behavioral psychology degree attractive to many students. Speak with admissions advisors to learn whether this degree can help you reach your goals.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed March 18, 2024. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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