Behavioral psychology is a specialized branch of psychology that studies the motives behind the way we think, feel, act and interact with one another. Also known as behaviorism, this field is grounded in the theory that external stimuli and conditioning are at the root of human behavior. As a result, behavioral psychologists focus on the environmental factors that play a role in how we acquire, learn and hone different behaviors ― as well as conditioning techniques that can be used to address and correct harmful behavior.
‘Psychology’ and its subfields (such as behavioral psychology) are among the most popular majors for bachelor’s degree-seekers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 114,000 psychology bachelor’s degrees were awarded during the 2012-13 academic year. However, most careers in psychology require an advanced education; job candidates typically enter the workforce with a master’s or doctoral degree. Additionally, psychologists in public practice must be licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A bachelor’s in behavioral psychology will provide foundational knowledge for students who are planning to pursue a graduate degree, obtain licensure and compete for jobs in their field. In addition to standard coursework, these bachelor’s programs usually include internships and/or clinical residencies; these onsite courses allow students to receive supervised, hands-on training from experienced professionals. A comprehensive capstone project may also be required. Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology online, rather than in a classroom. Online students follow the same rigorous curricula as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of post-degree employment opportunities. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format of most online programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other commitments that may interfere with campus-based learning.
Learn more about what you can do with an online bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE BEHAVIORAL PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
A bachelor’s degree is a critical first step for students who wish to pursue a career in behavioral psychology. Typically, the curriculum for an online bachelor’s in behavioral psychology degree will introduce fundamental areas of psychology, such as cognitive, developmental, social and organizational psychology. Upper-level undergraduates will also review case studies and learn about the effective research methods. The best online bachelor’s in behavioral psychology degree programs will prepare students to advance into any master’s programs.
WILL AN ONLINE BEHAVIORAL PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online psychology degree programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional brick-and- mortar education. Students are usually able to access course readings and lectures, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors on their own schedule. The latest in e-learning technology also enables them to study away from home using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For added convenience, online psychology students can normally coordinate internships and practicum courses at sites near their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY BACHELOR’S IN BEHAVIORAL PSYCHOLOGY?
The bachelor’s in behavioral psychology degree will not be sufficient for pursuing a career as a practicing behavioral psychologist; these job titles require an advanced degree and licensure. However, a bachelor’s program will prepare most students for the challenges and demands of a graduate-level program and post-degree work. Bachelor’s degree-holders may also qualify for entry-level jobs, such as research assistance and supportive clinical staff. Alternatively, bachelor’s in behavioral psychology recipients may be eligible for careers in other fields, such as business, education, social work and criminal justice.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN BEHAVIORAL PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online bachelor’s in behavioral psychology, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific bachelor’s degree requirements and offerings.
Accredited Online Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology Programs
|Rank||School Name||Ranking Score||Relative Cost||Graduation Rate||Location||Description|
|1||Wilmington University||RANKING SCORE 65||COST||GRADUATION RATE 33%||LOCATION New Castle, DE||
A school of more than 20,000 students located in New Castle, Delaware, Wilmington University offers career-focused graduate and undergraduate programs, including an online bachelor of science in behavioral science. This 127-credit degree allows students to transfer in up to 90 credits earned at another regionally accredited school.
Wilmington's online behavioral psychology degree is interdisciplinary and integrates coursework from the fields of psychology, sociology, and cultural anthropology. The school divides its program into 40 credits of general education courses, 45 credits of a behavioral science core, six upper-division sociology credits, 18 credits of behavioral science electives, and 18 credits of free electives. Full-time students typically take four years to complete all coursework.
Applicants to the program need to submit high school transcripts, GED scores, or proof of high school equivalency in a homeschool program. Wilmington also requires an assessment of prospective students' math and English skills.
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|2||Central Methodist University-College of Graduate and Extended Studies||RANKING SCORE 62.86||COST||GRADUATION RATE 45%||LOCATION Fayette, MO||
Located in Fayette, Missouri, CMU can trace its history back to 1823. Today, it is a school of more than 5,000 students affiliated with the United Methodist Church. CMU offers an online bachelor of science in applied behavior analysis, a program that requires 120 credits to complete.
Like other online behavioral psychology degree programs, CMU's major includes general education courses, such as introduction to psychology and elementary statistics. It also requires 42 credits in applied behavioral analysis, including behavioral assessment, behavioral pharmacology, and verbal behavioral analysis. Students also take a three-course sequence of practicums that grant 13 total credits and include a capstone. CMU urges behavioral analysis students to take electives in relevant fields, such as sociology, criminal justice, or special education. Each course lasts either eight or 16 weeks. The practicum courses and Applied Behavior Analysis Verified Course Sequence (VCS) are approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
Applicants must submit a high school diploma with a minimum 2.5 GPA and transcripts listing an array of required credits. Homeschooled applicants and transfer applicants must meet different requirements.
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|3||Bellevue University||RANKING SCORE 56.79||COST||GRADUATION RATE 13%||LOCATION Bellevue, NE||
Located in Bellevue, Nebraska, Bellevue University offers more than 70 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Its programs include an online bachelor of science in behavioral science. This 127-credit degree requires 36 general education credits, 51 elective credits, and 40 credits in the major.
The program's major courses include foundations of professional success in behavioral science, social deviance and psychopathological perspectives, and counseling microskills for human services professionals. Besides the major requirements, students at Bellevue complete a nine-credit course sequence called the Kirkpatrick Signature Series. This series requires three courses: American vision and values, tradition and change, and freedom and responsibility.
To receive admission to Bellevue's behavioral psychology degree online program, applicants must submit high school transcripts, GED scores, or a letter certifying homeschool completion. Graduates can seek jobs as counselors in mental health, rehabilitation or substance abuse, or they can pursue graduate degrees in human services or clinical counseling.
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|4||Mercy College||RANKING SCORE 56.43||COST||GRADUATION RATE 39%||LOCATION Dobbs Ferry, NY||
Founded in 1950, Mercy College is a nonsectarian, coeducational institution in the greater New York City area. It boasts five schools, four campuses, and 40 online degrees, including both a bachelor of arts in behavioral science and a bachelor of science in behavioral science. These behavioral science degrees both require 120 credits to complete.
Each of these programs is similar to an online bachelor's in behavioral psychology in that they are multidisciplinary and draw from both sociology and psychology for their coursework. Mercy's programs require 60 credits of general education courses, 36 credits in behavioral sciences, and 24 open electives.
The school recommends that future graduate students enroll in statistics for the social and behavioral sciences, and any student can take advantage of a three-credit internship. Applicants may transfer in up to 75 credits earned at a two-year institution and up to 90 credits completed at a four-year one.
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|5||Saint Francis University||RANKING SCORE 54.64||COST||GRADUATION RATE 67%||LOCATION Loretto, PA||
St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1847 and is one of the oldest Catholic institutions in the United States. It offers a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science as an online degree completion program. Delivered in an accelerated format, this online behavioral psychology degree program allows students to use prior college coursework, associate degrees, and military experience for transfer credit.
Coursework consists of liberal studies, free electives, and a behavioral science core, with classes including developmental psychology, introduction to social welfare, and social research. There are 128 credit hours required, which cost $476 per credit hour. The university uses the Blackboard online learning platform, and courses feature videos, lectures, and discussion forums. Professors are available to students via email, chat rooms, video conferencing, and discussion boards. While the university is a SARA participant (National Council for the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements), prospective students should check the State Authorization Status List for details on program availability in their state.
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What Else Can I Expect from an Online Behavioral Psychology Program?
|4 to 5 years|
Program Costs (when available)
|$10,000 to $25,000 in annual tuition|
|General Psychology, Behavioral Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Child Psychology, Educational/School Psychology, Counseling, Social Work|
|There is no programmatic accreditation for this major field of study at the undergraduate level. Students should defer to the regional/national accreditation of their four-year college or university.|
|All U.S. states and the District of Columbia require public-practice behavioral psychologists to be licensed in the state where they work; in most states, candidates for licensure must first earn a doctoral degree, complete an internship and fulfill at least one to two years of supervised work experience.|
Learn More About Other Psychology Degree Programs
Psychology is a complicated field that lends itself to concentrated areas of study. If you want to consider your options beyond a general online psychology degree, click through the following list for information about schools that offer specializations within their psychology degree programs.
Employment Outlook for Behavioral Psychology Graduates
The job outlook for graduates with a behavioral psychology degree is somewhat mixed. On one hand, bachelor’s recipients overall enjoy a lower unemployment rate than their counterparts with an associate degree or lower. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median unemployment rate for a bachelor’s degree-holder in the U.S. is 2.8% ― a full percentage point lower than the unemployment rate for those with an associate degree.
However, the specialized nature of psychology and its subfields can lead to high unemployment rates for students who do not pursue a graduate degree in their field. The table below looks at the unemployment rates of college graduates between the age of 25 and 29, based on their undergraduate major. This data comes from a recent survey published by the NCES.
|Bachelor’s Degree Field of Study||Unemployment Rate for 25- to 29-Year-Old Degree Recipients|
|Computer and Information Systems||4.5%|
|English Language and Literature||6.1%|
|Criminal Justice and Fire Protection||6.2%|
|Political Science and Government||8.2%|
As the table indicates, the unemployment rate for psychology degree-holders is significantly higher than most of the other majors. Additionally, the unemployment rate for all occupations is currently set at 4.8%.
Earning a Living
In addition to degree attainment level, salary expectations for employees with a bachelor’s in behavioral psychology will largely depend on their specific job title. Other factors include licensure status and city/state of employment. Using data from PayScale, the next table examines career salary projections for five of the most common professions in behavioral psychology. All of these career paths are generally attainable with a bachelor’s degree or less.
|Occupation||Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)||Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 years)||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
|Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapist||$32,797||$37,493||$42,268||$45,781|
|Human Resources Generalist||$48,879||$53,520||$54,969||$56,232|
|Medical Social Worker||$48,343||$51,525||$56,112||$59,446|
All five careers listed on the table reported a salary growth rate of at least 15% after 20 years in the workforce. Behavior specialists experience the highest rate of growth: a 47% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. Behavior analysts and ABA therapists ranked second in terms of salary growth; both career paths reported a career increase of roughly 40% after two decades on the job.
Career and Further Education Opportunities
Students who earn an online bachelor’s in behavioral psychology and plan to become licensed psychologists will be well-prepared for the demands of successive master’s and Ph.D. programs. However, many bachelor’s in psychology recipients choose to enter the workforce and launch their career without obtaining higher credentials. Four of the most common career pathways for individuals with a bachelor’s in psychology are detailed below.
Human Resources Specialists: HR specialists are primarily responsible for recruiting, interviewing, screening and hiring new employees for their company or organization. In larger workplaces, they may also mediate conflicts, create training programs and assist employees with matters related to their compensation, benefits and professional advancement.
Social Workers: Social workers offer assistance and support to clients in areas like education, employment, independent living and mental health counseling. Social workers often work with niche segments of the population, such as children, families and the elderly. Clinical and non-clinical social workers must be licensed to work in most U.S. states.
Market Research Analysts: Using principles of behavior psychology and sociology, market research analysts develop ways to market and promote products to different consumer demographics. Their work involves thorough analysis of both customer and market trends.
Training and Development Managers: Training and development managers create educational programs for different employee groups in a given company or organization. They also study organizational needs and personnel skill-sets in order to develop programs that are relevant and beneficial for both employees and the company as a whole.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary||Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)|
|Human Resources Specialists||$58,350||5% (+22,000 jobs)|
|Social Workers||$45,900||19% (+92,300 jobs)|
|Market Research Analysts||$62,150||19% (+92,300 jobs)|
|Training and Development Managers||$102,640||7% (+2,300 jobs)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology often go on to pursue a master’s degree in the same field. For more information about opportunities for grad students and more advanced careers in this field, please visit our Guide to Online Master’s in Psychology Programs.
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to behavioral psychology is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for behavioral psychology professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.
- American Psychological Association: The nation’s leading organization for professional psychologists, the APA today boasts more than 117,000 members. The website features a vast online library, a job board, continuing education opportunities, and a Psychology Help Center with links to blogs and articles about various psych-related topics. The APA also serves as the official accreditation agency for collegiate psychology programs.
- American Board of Professional Psychology: Established in 1947, the ABPP oversees the standards and criteria used to certify and license practicing psychologists. The board awards certification to qualifying applicants in 15 different niche areas, including clinical psychology, couple and family psychology, and school psychology.
- National Alliance of Professional Psychology Providers: NAPPP is dedicated to promoting professional psychology through academic research and public advocacy. Members receive discounted electronic health records and reduced malpractice insurance, along with free continuing education courses, training tools, and job leads.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology Program
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.