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.
What are the best behavioral psychology programs of 2020? Here are our top 5:
|1||University of Wisconsin Green Bay||Green Bay, WI|
|2||Saint Francis University||Loretto, PA|
|3||Bellevue University||Bellevue, NE|
|4||Ball State University||Muncie, IN|
|5||Central Methodist University||Fayette, MO|
'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 in psychology 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
University of Wisconsin Green Bay
|Green Bay, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
The University of Wisconsin Green Bay enrolls more than 8,000 students in hundreds of academic programs. The catalog includes a partially online bachelor of science in psychology track with a brain, behavior, and health emphasis. Distance learners in this hybrid program must complete some on-campus courses at UWGB.
Required courses include human biology and introduction to lifespan development. Students also cultivate applied research and counseling skills. They take four courses in their emphasis area, with options like drugs and behavior, health psychology, and cognitive affective neuroscience.
Like other bachelor's in behavioral psychology programs, UW-Green Bay's program provides learners with hands-on experience opportunities, like internships and/or research assistantships. Applicants need to submit ACT or SAT scores. The university offers scholarships specifically for psychology students.
Saint Francis University
|Loretto, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Based in Loretto, Pennsylvania, Saint Francis University delivers online coursework asynchronously through Canvas. Students can enroll in an online bachelor of science in behavioral science program at Saint Francis. Learners may complete the program entirely online or choose to take certain classes on campus.
The 128-credit curriculum includes classes like elementary statistics; the family in theory and practice; and social welfare policies, programs, and issues. Mirroring other bachelor's in behavioral psychology programs, the curriculum also covers developmental and abnormal psychology. Learners personalize their degree plans through 32 elective credits.
Saint Francis accepts applications on a rolling basis and maintains two start dates each year. Prospective students should complete an online form and submit transcripts. By enrolling in a Francis Worldwide program, candidates benefit from a low tuition rate that ignores residency status.
|Bellevue, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 0%||
Established in 1966, Bellevue University is an open-access higher education institution that serves about 9,000 students each year. The school offers a comprehensive catalog of online programs, including a bachelor's in behavioral science. Totaling 127 credits, this flexible program prepares students for careers in counseling and human services.
Coursework covers topics like research and data analysis, social deviance and psychopathological perspectives, and applied human development. Students delve into treatment strategies for anxiety, depression, phobias, and pain management. Participants can use 51 elective credits to pursue advanced topics in the field or complete a complementary minor.
To enroll in this degree completion program, applicants need an associate degree or at least 60 transferable credits. BU offers a variety of institutional scholarships based on criteria like academic merit.
Ball State University
|Muncie, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 63%||
Ball State University delivers asynchronous distance learning through Canvas. Ball State students can earn a fully online BA or BS in applied behavior analysis. This program emphasizes theories and practices that support individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The 120-credit curriculum includes coursework in lifespan development, exceptional children and adults, and single-subject research design and development. Candidates learn to implement effective ASD treatments and interventions. They also examine the complex ethical concerns that influence professional conduct in the field.
First-time students under the age of 23 must submit ACT or SAT scores. This applied behavior analysis program is accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International, and graduates can sit for the board certified assistant behavior analyst exam.
Central Methodist University
|Fayette, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 0%||
Central Methodist University maintains its flagship campus in Fayette, Missouri. The school provides more than 25 fully online academic programs, including a bachelor of science in applied behavior analysis. Throughout the 120-credit curriculum, students develop the skills needed to support children with developmental delays, behavioral challenges, autism, and other similar conditions.
Learners take required classes like child development and leadership/management principles. They learn to implement behavior assessments and verbal analyses with regards to approved methodologies and modes of professional conduct. This bachelor's program culminates in an intensive practicum that prepares graduates to take the board certified assistant behavior analyst exam.
Incoming first-year students must have a minimum 2.5 GPA. They also need to score at least 21 on the ACT or 1050 on the SAT. CMU funds several scholarship programs, including awards for first-time students and transfer candidates.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Behavioral Psychology Program?
|Timeline||4 to 5 years|
|Program Costs (when available)||$10,000 to $25,000 in annual tuition|
|Concentrations||General Psychology, Behavioral Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Child Psychology, Educational/School Psychology, Counseling, Social Work|
|Accreditation||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.|
|Additional Considerations||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.