Considering getting a degree in behavioral psychology? Good choice!

When you begin pursuing a degree in psychology, especially behavioral psychology, you are stepping into the realm where science meets the intricacies of human behavior. It’s an exploration of the mind, delving into why we think, feel, and behave the way we do. As a student of behavioral psychology, you stand to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of human nature, unveiling the hidden drivers behind our actions and reactions.

Studying behavioral psychology is beyond textbook knowledge – it’s about acquiring a set of invaluable skills like empathy, critical thinking, and communication, that come in handy in a plethora of fields. From choosing to become a counselor, a researcher, or a consultant, this degree equips you to understand, analyze, and influence behavior, making a profound impact on individuals and society as a whole.

But first, let’s start with the basics.

Behavioral psychology, as the name suggests, is a branch of psychology that focuses on how individual behavior is learned and conditioned through interactions with the environment. The primary emphasis of this study is observable behaviors and the influence of stimuli in shaping behavior.
As a student of this field, you could expect to study some key concepts like:

  • classical conditioning, where an association is made between a neutral stimulus and a reflexive response, and 
  • operant conditioning, where behavior is strengthened or weakened through reinforcement or punishment. 

Behavioral psychologists, typically, use these principles to understand and modify behavior, often in clinical settings to treat disorders like phobias, addictions, and anxiety. This approach can also be applied in education, parenting, and organizational settings to promote positive behavior change and improve outcomes.

Let’s take a quick look at who would be a good fit to study this subject:

  1. Psychology Enthusiasts: Individuals passionate about understanding human behavior, its causes, and how to modify it will find behavioral psychology fascinating. Studying this field can offer insights into why people behave the way they do, leading to a deeper understanding of oneself and others.
  2. Aspiring Therapists and Counselors: Those interested in pursuing a career in therapy or counseling can benefit greatly from studying behavioral psychology. This field provides valuable tools and techniques for assessing and treating various behavioral issues and mental health disorders.
  3. Trainers and Educators: Teachers, instructors, and corporate trainers can benefit from studying behavioral psychology to enhance their teaching methods. Understanding how behavior is influenced and changed can help them create more effective learning environments and strategies.
  4. Healthcare Professionals: Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can benefit from studying behavioral psychology to better understand patient behavior. This knowledge can improve patient communication, adherence to treatment plans, and overall health outcomes.
  5. Business Leaders and Managers: Professionals in leadership roles can gain valuable insights from studying behavioral psychology. Understanding how to motivate employees, manage change, and improve team dynamics can lead to more effective leadership and organizational success.
Degree Levels in Behavioral Psychology

In this section, we’ll look at the various degree levels you can pursue in behavioral psychology. From undergraduate options like an associate and bachelor’s degree to graduate degrees like a master’s and a doctorate, behavioral psychology can be studied at multiple levels.

Undergraduate Degrees:

  1. Associate Degree in Behavioral Psychology: An associate degree in behavioral psychology offers a foundational understanding of psychology and behavior. This degree program can introduce you to key concepts like learning theories, human development, and social psychology. It is often considered a stepping stone, if you’re planning to pursue further education in psychology or related fields, or wish to land entry-level jobs in human services or mental health support roles. While this is a two-year program if pursued full-time, part-time or online options may take longer to finish.  Additionally, transfer credits from previous coursework could also shorten the duration of the program.
  2. Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Psychology: A bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology is a comprehensive study program in psychology and behavior. Typically, a four-year full-time study program, this degree delves deeper into topics such as cognitive psychology, abnormal psychology, and research methods. In this program, you get the opportunity to specialize in areas like applied behavior analysis or developmental psychology. A bachelor’s degree in behavioral psychology may prepare you for careers in counseling, social work, research, and human resources. It’s wise to note that some students may choose to accelerate their studies by taking additional courses each semester or by enrolling in summer sessions.

Graduate Degrees:

  1. Master’s Degree in Behavioral Psychology: A master’s degree in behavioral psychology is a two-year graduate degree program that offers advanced knowledge and skills in the field. While course material may differ with each college, you would typically be studying advanced topics such as behavioral assessment, intervention strategies, and behavior modification techniques. This degree is often sought by students who wish to become licensed behavior analysts or pursue careers in clinical or counseling psychology. Upon graduation, you may get the opportunity to work in schools, mental health clinics, or private practice settings, where you’ll assess and treat behavioral issues.

Related: Should I Get a Master’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology?

  1. Doctoral Degree (PhD or PsyD) in Behavioral Psychology: An advanced degree option, a PhD or PsyD in behavioral psychology, prepares you for advanced research, teaching, and clinical practice. While PhD programs focus more on research and academia, a PsyD program typically emphasizes clinical practice. Graduates with a doctoral degree in behavioral psychology get the opportunity to work as professors, researchers, or licensed psychologists specializing in behavior analysis or therapy.

Related: Psychology Major: Choosing the Right College, Concentration, and Courses

In the next section, we’ll take a quick glance at the advantages of pursuing a behavioral psychology degree.

Pursuing behavioral psychology comes with its fair share of benefits. Let’s take a quick look at some that make earning this degree worth your while:

  1. Understanding Human Behavior: A degree in this field can offer a deep understanding of why people behave the way they do. This knowledge can be applied in various fields, including therapy, education, business, and healthcare.
  2. Effective Communication Skills: There are high chances that studying behavioral psychology can help you develop strong communication skills, which are essential in professions that involve working closely with individuals or groups. These professions may include, and are not limited to, counseling, teaching, and management.
  3. Problem-Solving Attitude: Behavioral psychology primarily emphasizes analyzing behavior patterns and finding effective solutions to behavioral issues. This skill is considered valuable in many professions, including therapy, education, and human resources.
  4. Diverse Career Opportunities: Once you graduate, you could explore and pursue a career in various fields like including clinical psychology, counseling, research, education, and human resources.
  5. Personal Growth: Getting a degree in this field may lead to personal growth and self-awareness. Understanding psychological principles could help you navigate your own behavior and improve your relationships and overall well-being.
  6. Contribution to Society: If you choose to become a behavioral psychologist, you could be playing a crucial role in understanding and addressing societal issues, such as mental health disorders, addiction, and social behavior. A degree in this field empowers you to make a positive impact on society.
  7. Research Opportunities: Behavioral psychology offers numerous research opportunities to contribute to the field’s body of knowledge. Your research experience could prove valuable to you, if you wish to pursue an advanced degree or a career in  academia.
Careers After Earning a Degree in Behavioral Psychology

As recent data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests, a psychologist can earn a median pay of around $92,740 per year. With a degree in behavioral psychology, you can explore a plethora of well-paying career paths. Some of these career options include:

  1. Behavioral Therapist: As a behavioral therapist, you would get a chance to assess, diagnose, and treat individual behavioral and emotional issues. To do this, you would use techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and applied behavior analysis (ABA) to help clients modify their behavior and work on their mental health.
  2. Behavior Analyst: If you choose to be a behavior analyst, you would mainly focus on understanding and modifying behavior using principles of learning and motivation. You often would work with individuals with developmental disabilities, autism, or behavioral disorders to develop behavior intervention plans and improvement strategies.
  3. Clinical Psychologist: Another interesting career option, clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. As an individual with a background in behavioral psychology, you may specialize in areas such as behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, or family therapy.
  4. School Counselor: If you’re interested in making an impact in the academic space, consider becoming a school counselor. In this profession, you would be helping students navigate academic, social, and emotional challenges. To do so, you may use behavioral psychology principles to develop behavior management plans, offer counseling, and support students’ overall well-being.
  5. Behavioral Health Specialist: Interested in working in a healthcare setting? A behavioral health specialist might just be the right profession for you. As a specialist, you would be assessing, diagnosing, and treating individuals with behavioral and mental health disorders. You may also work alongside other healthcare professionals to develop treatment plans and provide therapy to patients. 
  1. Rehabilitation Specialist: As a rehabilitation specialist, you would get a chance to  work with individuals who have disabilities, injuries, or chronic illnesses to help them regain their confidence, independence and improve their quality of life. Certain behavioral techniques might come in handy to develop rehabilitation plans and support your clients in achieving their goals.
  1. Human Resources Specialist: An interesting way to use the knowledge gained from your degree is to become a human resources specialist. In this profession, you may be required to use your understanding of behavior to manage employee relations, develop training programs, and create workplace policies that promote positive behavior and a healthy work environment.

Pursuing a degree in behavioral psychology is a wonderful choice as it helps you gain an in-depth understanding of the mind and its influence on actions, emotions, and interactions. Through this study, not only would you gain valuable insights into yourself and others, but would also develop practical skills that are highly sought after in a number of professions. Whether you aspire to become a counselor, a researcher, or a consultant, a degree in behavioral psychology can open doors to a world of opportunities to make a meaningful impact on individuals and communities. As a dynamic field, it continues to evolve, thereby offering endless possibilities for exploration, growth, and contribution to society.

Is behavioral psychology a good subject to get a degree in?

Yes, behavioral psychology could be considered a good subject, depending on your interests and career goals. This field offers a deep understanding of human behavior and the factors that influence it, which can be valuable in a variety of professions. A degree in behavioral psychology can lead to rewarding careers in counseling, therapy, education, human resources, and research. Also, it offers valuable skills in communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking that are transferable to many other fields. Additionally, studying behavioral psychology can lead to personal growth and a better understanding of oneself and others, enhancing overall well-being.

Why study behavioral psychology?

Studying behavioral psychology can have a number of benefits. With a deeper understanding of human behavior, it allows you to comprehend the reasons behind your actions and the actions of others. This knowledge is applicable in various fields, including therapy, education, business, and healthcare, making it a versatile and valuable area of study. Behavioral psychology also equips individuals with practical skills, such as effective communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking, which are highly sought after in many professions. Additionally, studying behavioral psychology can lead to personal growth, improved relationships, and a better understanding of how to navigate social interactions and challenges.