Master’s in Behavioral Psychology Program Guide

Discover what to expect when pursuing a master's degree in behavioral psychology, including career opportunities and key courses.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Updated on May 17, 2024
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Lorraine Mumby is an editor for BestColleges who focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is passionate about equipping students with the tools to succeed and have meaningful, equitable educational experiences. Lorraine has a bachelor's degre...
Learn more about our editorial process 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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With a career in behavioral psychology, you study human behavior and learn solutions to change unwanted behaviors. The nature of the profession means you’ll need at least a master’s in behavioral psychology to pursue careers in the field. Learn more about why to pursue this degree, typical program requirements, and potential careers after graduation.

Featured Online Psychology Programs

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

Reasons to Pursue a Master's Degree in Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychologists impact society in ways we may not even realize.

The field has influenced how we teach children in school, how executives manage employees, and the development of many products. If you’ve ever looked up how to break an unwanted habit, you’ve likely relied on the wisdom of a behavioral psychologist to reach your goal.

Still, there are factors to consider when deciding whether a behavioral psychology master’s degree is right for you.

Pros and Cons of Getting a Master's in Behavioral Psychology


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    Pathway to earning a doctoral degree
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    Opportunity to pursue a psychology specialization
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    Career advancement
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    Increased earning potential


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    High costs associated with graduate school
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    Another two years or more of school
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    Limited financial aid opportunities for graduate students
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    Potentially strenuous research requirements

How to Choose the Right Behavioral Psychology Program

No two master’s in behavioral psychology programs are the same, so it’s important to do your due diligence and find the right program.


Graduating from an accredited psychology program ensures employers and industry organizations recognize your master’s degree.

Accreditors oversee specific degree programs at colleges and universities in the U.S. A degree from an accredited program tells potential employers you’ve gone through the necessary education to practice in the field at an advanced level.

Program Type

You likely prefer an online or on-campus program, depending on your life circumstances. That’s something to take into account when choosing a program.

Even within an online program, there are differences. Online courses are synchronous or asynchronous, which describes whether you’ll need to attend virtual classes at a specific time or when convenient during the week.

Admission Requirements

Generally, you’ll need at least a 3.0 GPA in your bachelor's program to get into most graduate schools. More elite institutions may set GPA standards at 3.5 or above. Some institutions may allow you to take an entrance exam if you have a low GPA.

Many graduate programs require you to pass the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) to be accepted, but this varies.

Behavioral Psychology Program Cost

Master’s programs typically cost $50,000-$85,000 over two years.

However, the average cost for an online degree program is roughly $24,300 per year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Median prices for online-only programs are typically more than 30% cheaper than in-person and hybrid programs.

Master’s degrees often come with high debt loads, with an average of $64,400 in graduate student loan debt. Financial aid for graduate students may help lighten this load.


Behavioral psychology is a subset of psychology, but there are concentrations you can choose within the field.

Some of those concentrations include:

  • School/education psychology
  • Social, emotional, and behavioral wellness
  • Industrial psychology
  • Adolescent and child development
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Addiction psychology

This is not an exhaustive list of concentrations; the concentrations offered vary by university. Most master’s programs require a research component, so enrolling in a psychology program with a concentration that interests you allows you to conduct research on that topic.

Key Courses in a Behavioral Psychology Master's Program

Master’s programs generally have a heavy up-front courseload before students get into the research phase of their studies.

Behavioral psychology programs are no different in this sense. You’ll take many courses during your first year as a master’s student in topics designed for students pursuing a psychology master’s degree. The specific courses you choose will likely depend on your concentration, but there is room for elective courses to help you explore other topics in behavioral psychology.

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    Behavioral Analysis

    A feature of any behavioral psychology program, this course teaches you how to conduct behavioral analysis. That includes experimental design, performance monitoring, and data analysis. It may also include an introduction to radical behaviorism, which refers to the philosophy behind behavior analysis.
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    Ethics in Psychology

    Ethics is required coursework for many master’s programs, and due to the work you’ll be doing with people in distress as a behavioral psychologist, it’s important in this field, too. The course covers informed consent, privacy and confidentiality, and avoiding exploitation.
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    Addiction Psychology

    An addiction psychology course would show you research methods used to produce effective treatment plans for individuals struggling with substance misuse. Standard coursework covers topics in psychopharmacology, adolescent addiction, and addictive disorders.
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    Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Wellness

    This elective course focuses on the non-academic hurdles to learning, focusing on social-emotional disorders and wellness. The course prepares degree-seekers to develop evidence-based strategies to support K-12 learning and implement those strategies in classrooms.
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    Autism Spectrum Disorders

    Delve into the study of autism while learning about language skills, communication, and research-based methodologies in this course. Typical coursework includes teaching students with autism spectrum disorder, communication and language interventions, and behavior and sensory support.

How to Get Into a Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program

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    Earn a bachelor's degree

    You don’t need a bachelor’s in behavioral psychology to pursue a master’s in the field, but you do need a bachelor’s degree. Still, having a bachelor’s that aligns with your field may help you stand out among other applicants.
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    Pass the GRE

    Not all graduate programs require GRE scores, but most do. With that in mind, you should first verify whether the master’s program you want to attend requires the test. If it does, you must prepare for and pass the exam.
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    Check other requirements

    Master’s in behavioral psychology programs will each have separate requirements. That may include a GPA minimum, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Research experience or extracurriculars may not be required but will help set you apart from other graduate school applicants.
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    Once you have all the necessary materials, you can submit your application. You should also consider submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you can qualify for federal, state, or institutional financial aid.

What Careers Are Available for Behavioral Psychologists?

The field of behavioral psychology encompasses many careers and industries.

Job Titles for Behavioral Psychologists

A degree in behavioral psychology can open many job opportunities, including:

  • Behavioral Therapist
  • Behavioral Specialist
  • School Counselor
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Social Worker
  • Family Therapist
  • Market Researcher
  • Correctional Officer

Career Outlook

The career outlook for psychologists is generally positive.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that overall employment of psychologists will grow 6% from 2022 to 2032. That’s higher than the 3% national average for all occupations.

The median annual wage for psychologists was $85,330 in May 2022, according to the BLS. The lowest 10% of earners made less than $48,010 annually, and the highest 10% earned more than $141,910 annually.

The top-paying industries where psychologists work are:

  • Government: $106,690 median annual salary
  • Hospitals: $101,030 median annual salary
  • Ambulatory healthcare services: $92,170 median annual salary
  • Elementary and high schools: $81,620 median annual salary

Advancing Your Career as a Behavioral Psychologist

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how to advance your career.

However, going back to school to earn an additional degree may be a good starting point, depending on your goals. For example, if after earning a master’s in behavioral psychology you decide to apply your learnings to the field of social work, you may then want to pursue a master’s in social work.

Earning new certifications can also help your career.

Is Behavioral Psychology Right for Me?

In determining whether behavioral psychology is right for you, consider the following questions:

  • Are you interested in understanding human behavior?
  • Do you want to help people overcome individual challenges in their behavior?
  • Are you motivated by the prospect of serving others?

“Yes” answers to these questions mean a career in behavioral psychology may be right for you. While it will take further schooling to reach the peaks of the profession, it can be a rewarding career where the fruits of your labor become vividly apparent.

Frequently Asked Questions About Behavioral Psychology

What is behavioral psychology?

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Behavioral psychology is an approach to psychology that focuses on people's observable behavior and tries to find the root causes of that behavior.

Psychologists in this field may focus on research to help others identify behavioral patterns and how those behaviors come about. Other behavioral psychologists may then use those research findings to help clients change problematic behaviors.

How long does it take to get a master's in behavioral psychology?

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Master's programs typically take two years to complete.

The first year generally consists of coursework, while the second year will focus more on research responsibilities.

Can I work full-time while getting a master's degree in behavioral psychology?

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Earning a master's degree in behavioral psychology while working full-time is possible, but earning a degree will likely take longer.

If working full-time, you'll likely pursue your master's degree as a part-time student. The difference between being a part-time vs. full-time student could add another year or more to your studies.

What is the difference between clinical and behavioral psychology?

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Behavioral and clinical psychology are two subsects of psychology with different focus areas.

Behavioral psychologists are concerned with understanding why people act a certain way and finding solutions to break unwanted behaviors. Clinical psychologists, meanwhile, are more concerned with providing counseling services and treating mental health conditions.

What does a behavioral psychologist do?

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A behavioral psychologist works with clients to analyze and change problematic behaviors.

During their studies, a behavioral psychologist learns how to use research to identify the root causes of a client's behavior. They also learn best practices for how to address and change those actions.

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 28, 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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