A behavioral psychology degree can open the door to a career as a psychologist, counselor, or therapist, which are ideal professions for those who enjoy helping others. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that psychology careers will experience an average growth of 14% in the coming years, an average much higher than other fields. Although some jobs in the psychology field require graduate degrees, earning a behavioral psychology degree provides the foundation you need to enter a graduate program. The degree also allows individuals to start a career in many areas that require only an undergraduate degree.
Use this guide as you research, apply, and enroll in a behavioral psychology bachelor's degree program. The guide also provides career information and resources you can use as you earn your degree.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology?
Behavioral psychology majors typically desire to help others. This degree emphasizes the study of human behavior, as well as how people interact, and other social and socio-emotional aspects of behavior. Earning a behavioral psychology degree provides the education you'll need to pursue a graduate degree in psychology or a related field, as well as the skills and credentials to enter the workforce.
You can earn this degree on campus or online. Online bachelor's in behavioral psychology programs generally attract working professionals who need more flexibility, while on-campus programs appeal to students entering from high school seeking a more traditional undergraduate experience. Both options provide the same education and the same degree.
While earning your degree in behavioral psychology, take advantage of your college's networking opportunities, job placement assistance, and internship guidance. Once you graduate with a behavioral psychology degree, you'll have higher credentials in the field, and the opportunity to potentially earn a higher salary than someone without an undergraduate degree. You'll also have the background to apply to graduate programs in psychology.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology?
Those with behavioral psychology degrees can work in all kinds of fields centered around helping others. These majors tend to be interested in understanding how other people function socially and emotionally, and the jobs they ultimately enter often encompass these interests. Professionals might have a strong sense of interpersonal and communication skills. The jobs below provide a few examples of the careers a behavioral psychology degree prepares for.
- Social and Community Service Managers
Generally, you need a bachelor's degree to work in this role. These professionals coordinate and administer various social services and community programs to the community. They may work for nonprofits, private corporations, or government agencies.
Median Annual Salary: $64,100*
- Health Educators and Community Health Workers
These professionals provide their communities with valuable health education. They aim to improve the overall physical and emotional health and wellness of people in their communities. A bachelor's degree, as well as an additional certificate in health education, provides what you need to thrive in this career.
Median Annual Salary: $45,360*
- Social and Human Service Assistants
These individuals work alongside other professionals such as social workers and psychologists to provide a range of services to clients, including connecting them with important community programs. A bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field may provide a higher salary.
Median Annual Salary: $33,120*
- Social Workers
Those interested in psychology may also find an interest in social work. These professionals work one-on-one with clients to offer emotional support and connect them with important community resources and programs. A bachelor's degree meets the career's entry-level requirements.
Median Annual Salary: $47,980*
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
These individuals work with clients who might suffer from mental illness, addiction, and other behavioral disorders. They help clients find new, healthier coping mechanisms and reestablish their mental health. A bachelor's degree along with on-the-job training qualifies you for this career.
Median Annual Salary: $43,300*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology Program
When researching behavioral psychology programs, you might wonder what factors to consider. It is important to note program length and cost as well as individual program characteristics such as curriculum, classes, and graduation requirements.
Enrolling in a full-time program will likely speed up the time it takes to earn your degree, while enrolling part time might lengthen that time. Some behavioral psychology degrees may require field work or experience. The availability of these internship positions might also impact how long it takes to earn your degree.
Study each program's individual curriculum, and consider how the required courses fit into your specific interests. Also consider how the skills each program emphasizes will prepare you for your desired career. Consider whether the program offers any kind of concentration or specialization options, such as in rehabilitation or counseling, and how they might contribute to your long-term learning goals.
Also consider what accrediting bodies and organizations accredit each school, and whether the program provides programmatic accreditation, which you'll learn more about below.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology Programs
When a school has accreditation, that means a regional or national accrediting agency has vetted the school's academic programs to ensure they meet specific standards. If you attend a school that lacks accreditation, you'll face some difficult challenges. You can't transfer earned credits from that institution to an accredited one, and you will also lose eligibility for most forms of federal and private financial aid. Also, a degree from a non-accredited institution may not look as good to potential future employers. Earning your behavioral psychology degree from an accredited school should be a top priority.
You may also find that some specific programs have programmatic accreditation outside of the overall school's accreditation. Agencies within the field of study award this programmatic accreditation. Psychology and related programs may have programmatic accreditation from agencies such as the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) or the American Psychological Association (APA). These programmatic accreditations offer assurance that your chosen program has been vetted by a field-specific accrediting body. Your degree may also look better to future employers.
Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology Program Admissions
You might feel nervous when applying to your bachelor's in behavioral psychology program, but admissions to bachelor's programs are not as complicated as you might imagine. Many applications look similar and ask the same questions about your personal and academic history. No matter where you apply, you must provide your academic transcripts and information on any schools you've attended before. Online admissions tend to require a bit more information than on-campus programs. You should plan to apply to 3-5 programs, choosing them based on the factors outlined in this guide.
- Minimum GPA: Most schools require a minimum of a 2.0 cumulative GPA for high school or previous schools attended. However, having a strong background in extracurriculars, volunteer work, and athletics might offset this.
- Application: Most applications for bachelor's programs look similar, requiring information about your personal history and previous schools attended. Some schools accept the Common App, a program that allows you to complete one application to send to multiple schools at once.
- Transcripts: All schools require official transcripts from previous schools you attended, including high school. You can order these transcripts from your school's registrar for a small fee.
- Recommendation Letters: You might need recommendation letters from former professors or mentors when applying to behavioral psychology degree programs. Try to give your recommenders several weeks to write and submit these letters.
- Test Scores: Generally, you'll need either SAT or ACT scores when applying to undergraduate programs. If English is not your first language, you may also need to submit TOEFL scores. The range of minimum scores varies by school, so check with your specific admissions office.
- Application Fee: Applying to undergraduate programs generally incurs a fee, which varies by school. Fees typically range between $25-$45. Some schools may offer waivers for students who demonstrate financial hardship.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology Program?
What you can expect from a behavioral psychology degree varies depending on your chosen school. Graduation requirements, courses, and concentrations will likely differ, so examine each program's requirements and curriculum to know what each program entails.
|Abnormal Psychology||This concentration emphasizes courses in psychological abnormalities, including rare mental illnesses and other subjects. Courses may also stress how to diagnose and treat these abnormalities, as well as how they originate and evolve over a patient's lifespan.||Research Assistant, Mental Health Assistant|
|Childhood Development||A concentration in childhood development within behavioral psychology emphasizes the human developmental process, how children develop coping mechanisms, interventions, diagnoses, and treatments for childhood behavioral disorders. This concentration may also explore learning disorders in children.||Teacher, Teaching Assistant. Student Aide|
|Organizational Psychology||Organizational psychologists work within companies and organizations to analyze how employees function together as a group, and to mediate any issues or disputes. This concentration explores this role, emphasizing interpersonal skills, mediation, decision-making, and communication skills.||Human Resources Specialist, Peer Mediator|
|Clinical Psychology||If you desire to enter a clinical psychological practice, a bachelor's concentration in clinical psychology prepares you for the required graduate-level studies you'll need before you can earn licensure. This concentration is ideal for students seeking a graduate degree in psychology.||Human Resources Specialist, Peer Mediator|
|Counseling||Similar to clinical psychology, a concentration in counseling generally prepares students to go on to earn a master's degree and eventually licensure to practice counseling in a clinical capacity. This concentration provides essential foundational skills necessary to enter a graduate program or the workforce.||Human Resources Specialist Rehabilitation Counselor|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology Program
Once you enter your major courses in your behavioral psychology bachelor's degree, you will encounter courses that emphasize skills in basic psychology, interpersonal communications, and the sciences. The courses below serve as a few examples of what you might expect to take, but actual courses and requirements vary by school.
- Interpersonal Communications
Many individuals who enter the psychology field work directly with other people, whether in one-on-one client situations or group settings. This course emphasizes the skills necessary to be a better verbal and non-verbal communicator.
- Child and Adolescent Psychology
This course explores the developmental processes of children to adolescents, including emotional; social; physical; and cognitive growth and development. The course explores how to apply this information to diagnosis and treatment of psychological and behavioral disorders.
- Behavior Analysis
These courses serve as pillars to any bachelor's in behavioral psychology program. They examine how to analyze existing behaviors as well as how people acquire new behaviors and habits. This course covers subjects such as behavior reinforcement and classical conditioning.
- Clinical Psychology
Students in behavioral psychology programs may wish to practice psychology in a clinical capacity. This course lays the foundation for this career, exploring fundamental aspects of clinical psychology, including ethics in counseling; clinical skills and practice; and current issues in the field.
- Abnormal Psychology
This course explores a range of topics in abnormal psychology, including mental and mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Students learn the history of these disorders; how they are identified and diagnosed; and different treatments.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology?
Not all bachelor's degrees take the same amount of time to complete. The time it takes varies by school and student. Typically, bachelor's degrees require around 120 credit hours for graduation, including general education and major courses. Some programs may require up to 160 credits. Many factors can influence how long it takes to complete these requirements.
Enrolling full-time rather than part-time can generally help you finish faster since you take on more credits each semester. Full-time students generally take 12-15 credits per semester, while part-time students take 6-9. Some programs allow you to test out of certain general education requirements, while others allow you to take more credits at a time, or take courses at an accelerated pace. Shortening the time it takes to complete your degree might also save you money, so consider this when mapping out your degree path.
How Much is a Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology?
Your degree cost varies based on several factors. The type of school you attend, for example, can influence your degree cost. A private school may charge significantly more per credit hour than a public university. Your school's location may also impact costs. The range of factors that can influence the overall cost of individual degrees makes estimating the cost particularly difficult.
According to information from the U.S. Department of Education, the average cost per credit hour at public, four-year universities is $325. If you enter a standard 120-credit program, this could add up to around $39,000. However, this number does not include other expenses such as housing, fees, textbooks, and technology.
Consider costs outside of tuition when selecting the best program for you. Research housing costs, what fees the school charges each semester, and transportation costs if you plan to commute to campus. These external factors can influence your overall degree cost. It is also helpful to keep a budget as you work through your degree.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology Prepares For
- Case Manager
A bachelor's degree in behavioral psychology prepares you to earn a certification in case management. These managers often work in the same capacity as social workers, helping clients get access to the programs and help they need.
- Psychiatric Technician
These professionals often work in mental health facilities and assist doctors and nurses in caring for patients with a range of psychological issues and mood disorders.
- Behavior Counselor
Those with a bachelor's degree can often earn certification or licensure to work in certain roles as counselors with patients and clients who may suffer with substance abuse or behavioral disorders and issues.
- Sexuality Counselor
Some states allow those with a bachelor's degree to obtain a certification in sex therapy, allowing them to work with clients who may need help with overcoming issues with their sexuality and sexual health.
- Social Work License
With a bachelor's degree, some states award individuals licensure to work in certain entry-level social work roles, including case management and other administrative-based positions.
Resources for Behavioral Psychology Students
The official website for APA writing style, this website offers tutorials and detailed information on using the citation style used by all students in behavioral psychology programs.
Another useful research resource from the APA, this website offers access to several trusted, peer-reviewed academic publications and databases.
Psychology Tools: This website provides resources for students and practicing clinicians alike, with access to e-books, worksheets, and other free, online resources.
Free for online use, therapedia offers access to all things mental health, including information on local providers, and an encyclopedia of mental health terminology and diagnoses.
This trusted, online library offers articles, quizzes, and information on mental health issues and mood disorders.
Professional Organizations in Behavioral Psychology
While earning your behavioral psychology degree, you might find that joining a few professional organizations enhances your experience and provides valuable resources and opportunities. The organizations listed below serve students and professionals in all kinds of psychological fields, including behavioral psychology. They offer access to annual conferences; networking opportunities; members-only job boards; and special publications and journals.