Best Master’s in Behavioral Science Programs

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Behavioral science is an interdisciplinary field of study that explores why people do the things that they do.

A master's in behavioral science allows students to dig deep into questions about human behavior, understand research methodology, and discuss human behavior theories. Depending on the program, learners may explore human behavior as it relates to economics, politics, healthcare, and public policy.

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Because behavioral science touches almost every part of life, graduates enjoy many career options. They can work in human resources, public health, education, healthcare, and public policy centers.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average cost of graduate-level tuition in 2019-2020 was $19,792 per year, and it typically takes about two years to earn a master's degree. However, students sometimes pay less for public schools or online programs.

Prospective students should also calculate living expenses, fees, and the cost of books. It's also important to understand how a master's degree impacts earning potential before going into debt for school.

Check out our list of the best master's in behavioral science programs to find the best option for your goals.

Our Top Pick

University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Why It's #1: Penn earns the top spot on our list of the best master's in behavioral science programs. This private, nonprofit institution is highly selective and only admits 8% of applicants. Students enjoy a 6-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, and 96% of learners graduate. While private schools can be more expensive than their public counterparts, 59% of Penn students receive financial aid.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Master's in Behavioral Science Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1 Best Master’s in Behavioral Science Programs

University of Pennsylvania

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition per Year
In State | $6,522
Out of State | $6,522

Units to Graduate
9

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Penn offers an interdisciplinary master's in behavioral and decision sciences with seven concentrations, such as public health, computational systems, and psychology/neuroscience. Other concentrations include sociology/networks, education policy, economics/neuroeconomics, and social and public policy. The curriculum ends with a capstone experience.

Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree and have at least a 3.0 GPA. Candidates with only undergraduate experience and fewer than five years of work experience must also submit GRE scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$51,156
Out-of-state
$51,156
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
26,675
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#2 Best Master’s in Behavioral Science Programs

Emory University

  • Atlanta, GA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Semester
In State | $18,900
Out of State | $18,900

Credits to Graduate
42

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Emory offers a master of public health in behavioral, social, and health education sciences. This degree offers a solid foundation in public health with in-depth courses in behavioral sciences. Degree candidates must complete either a thesis or a capstone project, as well as an applied practice experience. 

Applicants should submit college transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Resumes and GRE scores are optional. While not a requirement, the average admitted student has a minimum 3.44 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$53,070
Out-of-state
$53,070
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
14,415
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 Best Master’s in Behavioral Science Programs

Teachers College at Columbia University

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,839
Out of State | $1,839

Points to Graduate
47

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Association for Behavior Analysis International Accreditation Board

Teacher College's master of arts in applied behavioral analysis (ABA) prepares graduates to educate students with diverse backgrounds, including learners with behavioral difficulties. Students earn dual certification in New York as educators in general and special education classrooms for students from birth to sixth grade. Graduates also become certified ABA practitioners.

Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees. They should submit college transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and GRE scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
4,489
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 Best Master’s in Behavioral Science Programs

University of Houston-Clear Lake

  • Houston, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $4,899
Out of State | $9,539

Credits to Graduate
45

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Association for Behavior Analysis International

Earning UHCL's master of art in behavior analysis prepares learners to work as applied behavioral analysis professionals in schools, hospitals, and clinics. In addition to the 45 credit hours of coursework, students complete a practicum that allows them to sit for the Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) exam. 

Learners gain hands-on experience in clinics such as the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. Each applicant should submit their resume, statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,740
Out-of-state
$19,176
Retention Rate
80%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
9,082
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
42% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Master’s in Behavioral Science Programs

University of Kansas

  • Lawrence, KS
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Online and On-Campus Options | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $416
Out of State | $998

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Association For Behavior Analysis International

KU offers both online and on-campus options for students seeking a master's degree in behavior analysis. Students in both programs earn 30 credits, including credits toward successfully researching and defending a master's thesis. Graduates qualify to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam. 

An applicant should submit a personal statement, resume, three letters of recommendation, and official transcripts. The school recommends but does not require applicants to submit GRE scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,092
Out-of-state
$26,960
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
27,552
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

BestColleges.com 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.

#6 Best Master’s in Behavioral Science Programs

Rowan University

  • Glassboro, NJ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $761
Out of State | $761

Credits to Graduate
33

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Rowan offers a master's in applied behavior analysis that accommodates working students with late afternoon and early evening classes. The curriculum includes 11 classes, and full-time students can complete the program in two years. 

Rowan considers applicants who hold a bachelor's degree or the equivalent in a related area, such as education or psychology. A candidate must also submit a statement of purpose, a professional resume with relevant experience, and official transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,076
Out-of-state
$18,908
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
19,618
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Popular Online Master's in Behavioral Science Programs

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

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Master's in Behavioral Science ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 21 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must offer a master's degree program in the given subject.
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Frequently Asked Questions About Behavioral Science Programs

Is a master's in behavioral science worth it?

Earning a master's in behavioral science is a significant investment of time and money, so it's important for prospective students to ensure the degree aligns with their career goals. A master's in applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is worth the effort for anyone who wants to work as an ABA professional in a school, hospital, or clinical setting.

Most employers require that people in ABA positions hold a certification in the field. However, there's more to behavioral science. Some master's in behavioral science programs focus more on public health, public policy, or other interest areas. These degrees are worth the investment as many jobs in these sectors require graduate-level education.

What can I do with a master's in behavioral science?

Career options vary depending on the type of master's in behavioral science you earn. Many of these degrees focus on ABA therapy. These graduates often earn board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) credentials and work with people who live with developmental delays and disabilities.

Some programs focus on public health and behavior. These graduates may work in public health departments within local, state, and federal agencies. Other behavioral science programs focus on consumer behavior, psychology, business, economics, or public policy. Because behavioral science touches so many aspects of daily life, there are many career opportunities for these graduates.

Are behavioral science graduates in demand?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 44 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by the age of eight, and the diagnosis rate is rising. Since many people with higher education in ABA work with autistic children and adults, the demand for these professionals is likely to rise.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also projects much-faster-than-average growth for medical and health service managers — 32% between 2020-2030. This projection far exceeds the average growth rate of 8% for all U.S. occupations. This is a common role for people with master's degrees related to public health, including behavioral science.

How much money can I make with a master's in behavioral science?

The earning potential for someone with a master's in behavioral science is as varied as the specializations within the field. Graduates who specialize in ABA often work as behavior analysts. According to July 2022 Payscale data, behavior analysts made an average of $66,710 annually.

Some graduate-level behavior science programs focus on business or economics, which prepares graduates to work as business analysts. Senior business analysts earned an average of $86,800 per year, as per June 2022 Payscale data. In addition, the BLS reports that medical and health service managers earned a median annual wage of $101,340 in May 2021.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in behavioral science?

Payscale reports that senior project managers in IT earned an average of $116,800 per year as of June 2022. Other jobs for master's in behavioral science graduates that pay well include director of human resources (average annual salary of $97,530 as of June 2022) and chief operating officer (average annual salary of $144,660 as of July 2022).

Feature Image: MICROGEN IMAGES / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

BestColleges.com 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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