The behavioral psychology field examines and, in some instances, strives to alter human behavior in relation to certain stimuli. Behavioral psychologists work as college professors or dedicated researchers. They may also apply their expertise in clinical settings, helping patients understand and overcome addictions, eating disorders, and learning difficulties.
This guide helps students find the best online behavioural psychology degrees with in-depth information on program structure, course offerings, and accreditation. Distance learners gain insight on the admissions process and application materials. Students will also discover job options and career development opportunities, including professional organizations that provide psychologists with the resources they need to build successful careers.
Overview of Behavioral Psychology Degrees
Behavioral psychology, also referred to as behaviorism, works from a standpoint of individual conditioning, arguing that people learn all behaviors through interactions with their environment and, therefore, may alter or unlearn them. Colleges and universities sometimes offer standalone online behavioral psychology degrees. However, it is more common for undergraduate students to pursue this field of study as a concentration under general psychology programs. Furthermore, some schools operate a multidisciplinary curriculum, synthesizing psychology, sociology, anthropology, and ethics to create behavioral science or applied behavior analysis degrees.
Online bachelor's in behavioral psychology programs introduce students to fundamental concepts in lifespan development, clinical therapy, and abnormal psychology. Degree candidates learn to properly apply analytical thinking, communication, and academic writing skills. As a social science field, behavioral psychology requires learners to engage in laboratory and research training. Working professionals who hold relevant work experience may be able to apply their training to fulfill these in-person requirements.
Online behavioral psychology degrees prepare students for entry-level jobs in fields like community education, patient services, and counseling. Graduates may also apply their understanding of human behavior in business settings, especially marketing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects substantial growth for the aforementioned careers, including a 23% expansion for market research analysts.
For first-time students, colleges and universities operate a standard admissions process that includes a minimum GPA between 2.0 and 3.0. Some institutions may require candidates to graduate within a top percentage of their high school class. While postsecondary schools increasingly eschew standardized testing as an inaccurate reflection of academic potential, many online programs still require undergraduate students to submit ACT or SAT scores. Minimum scores vary by school. College Board reports that the freshman class of 2018 earned a mean SAT score of 1068, breaking down into 531 for the math section and 536 for evidence-based reading and writing sections.
Conventional admissions documents include personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and official academic transcripts. International applicants take additional steps for the immigration process, which includes multiple interviews and obtaining the F1 Student Visa. They must also demonstrate English language proficiency by submitting adequate IELTS or TOEFL scores.
Postsecondary institutions commonly deliver online behavioral psychology degrees as accelerated or degree-completion paths that allow students to earn their credentials in under two years. For these programs, admissions requirements include relevant career experience displayed in a resume/CV. Applicants should also possess the designated transferable credits in general education and prerequisite classes. Finally, candidates who possess a GED may need to earn an associate degree before transferring into a four-year program.
What Will I Learn?
To earn an online bachelor's in behavioral psychology, students need to complete at least 120 credits in general education requirements, prerequisite coursework, major classes, and electives. Degree structure varies by program, but candidates can expect around 40 credits in general education topics like computer applications, English composition, public speaking, and liberal arts topics. These classes train students in the fundamental skills they need to succeed in college.
Online behavioral psychology degree plans include a minimum of 30 credits in major coursework. Required topics include introduction to psychology, applied statistics, and personality development. Students also learn to assess patient behavior and conduct research that meets professional standards. The remaining credits funnel into specialized classes and electives, which students use to earn a minor or complete a second major. Students round out their undergraduate education with a capstone experience that requires a thesis research and defense, project implementation, and/or comprehensive examination.
Introduction to Psychology
This perfunctory class provides a survey of core psychological concepts related to consciousness, thinking, learning, memory, intelligence, and personality. Students develop critical thinking skills and apply them in problem-solving and ethical decision-making exercises. This course also introduces developmental theories relevant to human identity and behavior, including gender roles and social conditioning.
Drawing from multiple psychological fields, this course offers an overview of human growth development in children, adolescents, and adults. Students learn major personality theories and apply them to cases of normal and abnormal development. They also examine how genetic and environmental factors affect personality, defined as a consistent pattern of thinking and behaving.
Applied Behavior Analysis
Using case studies, students learn to apply psychological theories and procedures to modify existing behavior and acquire new behaviors. Major techniques include reinforcement, extinction, punishment, classical conditioning, discrimination training, conditioned reinforcement, and scheduled procedures. This course also delves into behavior-environment interactions and how they affect the development of behavior deficits and excesses.
This advanced course provides a multidimensional examination of psychological disorders like anxiety and depression. Students learn to classify and define these abnormal behaviors in accordance with the current classification system. They also explore the limitations and hazards of classification regarding diversity and patient rights. Additional topics include the economic, sociocultural, and legal factors that affect mental health.
Screening and Assessment
Students learn to use appropriate tools and strategies to screen and assess individuals of different age groups. They delve into interviewing techniques, theories of quantitative human trait measurement, and psychometric tools, including standardized intelligence, personality, and neuropsychological tests. The class also offers a historical overview of assessment and its intended purposes.
Regardless of their individual career choices, all behavioral psychology students should possess a firm understanding of the scientific method. This class covers basic psychological research methods and their applications, strengths, and weaknesses. Students learn to how to pick the appropriate method based on evidence-based criteria. They also learn to evaluate the accuracy of research conclusions.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Psychology?
This section covers the core competencies garnered from online bachelor's in behavioral psychology programs through classroom instruction, laboratory training, and practicum experiences. The section then transitions into how psychological theories and skills apply in diverse professional settings. Students explore possible careers in education, social work, counseling, business, and research. Details include projected occupational growth and the requirements needed to pursue the careers. Students should use this information as a starting point for their own job research and planning.
Colleges and universities structure online behavioral psychology degrees in different ways, including pure psychology curricula or multidisciplinary behavioral science/analysis programs. Because of this diversity, defined outcomes drastically differ by school, and students should confirm specifics with an academic adviser before pursuing enrollment. For example, if students know they want to become a board certified assistant behavior analyst, they should seek out bachelor's programs that prepare them for that exam.
Behavioral psychology programs train students to identify, analyze, and address complex human behaviors. Students learn to define and explain behavioral theories, such as individual development, group differences, and social deviance. They also cultivate ethical standards and professional self-awareness to discern challenges that arise from the systematic study of human processes.
Since theory is not impactful without practice, behavioral psychology majors apply concepts using the scientific method. Students learn to assess behavior and, when appropriate, enact counseling and treatment strategies at the intra- and interpersonal levels. They also cultivate communication skills that enable them to present ideas and strategies in a variety of formats for evaluation, assessment, and intervention purposes. As with other fields of scientific study, behavioral psychology students train to use relevant research and technological tools.
Potential Career and Salary
The BLS projects that behavioral psychologist positions will increase 14% through 2026, adding approximately 23,000 jobs. However, to work as a psychologist, professionals need to apply for licensure. This process varies by state, but usually requires a doctoral degree and at least one year of paid work experience under the supervision of a clinical psychologist. Candidates also must pass the examination for professional practice in psychology, a comprehensive multiple-choice test that comprises eight content areas.
Students who want more immediate work opportunities can seek out careers as social and human service assistants. These professionals provide client services in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and rehabilitation centers. With an online behavioral psychology degree, students can also work for private companies, acting as human resources specialists and market research analysts. Lastly, degree candidates may pursue careers in social work and behavioral counseling. Students can occupy nonclinical roles in these fields with just bachelor's credentials.
Annual Median Salary: $70,005
Through direct observation and analytical study, behavioral psychologists interpret and, to an extent, predict human behavior in diverse situations. These professionals may occupy teaching and research roles. They can also work in counseling clinics, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers, helping patients directly. Psychologists usually specialize in a subfield, such as school bullying, posttraumatic stress disorder, mental health, and addiction.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Behavioral Psychology?
Online behavioral psychology degrees enable undergraduate students to pursue entry-level careers in business and healthcare. However, to work as a clinical psychologist, professionals must pursue a doctoral degree. These advanced programs train students to become highly competent researchers who discover, translate, apply, and communicate behavioral science knowledge that improves understanding and solves individual and societal problems. Program timelines usually span 3-5 years, varying with student qualifications, teaching requirements, and research goals. Common course topics include consultation leadership, single-subject research design methods, and experimental behavior analysis. Students must also complete clinical practicums and defend their dissertations.
Optional certification in adjacent fields represents a viable career advancement option for students who do not want to pursue higher education beyond the undergraduate level. For example, students who want to bolster their skills as marketing specialists can sit for exams offered by the American Marketing Association (AMA). The AMA provides certifications in marketing management, digital marketing, and content marketing.
Accreditation for Behavioral Psychology Bachelor’s Programs
To confer valid behavioral psychology degrees, online colleges and universities earn national or regional accreditation. This stamp of approval means that the school abides by academic guidelines and standards established by government and professional organizations. Postsecondary institutions obtain national accreditation from the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. They apply for regional accreditation from one of seven organizations, based on location. For example, California colleges become regionally accredited through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Of the two varieties, regional accreditation represents the more popular option, since it reflects a close relationship with state governments and federal agencies.
In addition to national and regional accreditation, students can pursue online behavioral psychology degrees from schools supported by the American Psychological Association (APA). Note that this support does not result in accredited status, since the APA only bestows that honor to doctoral programs. However, by consulting the APA Office of Precollege and Undergraduate Education, students can find the schools whose goals align with established quality principles.
Behavioral Psychology Professional Organizations
Online behavioral psychology degree programs provide undergraduate students with the core knowledge, research training, and practical skills needed for career entry and graduate academics. Distance learners can gain additional resources by engaging with professional organizations. Membership often comes with annual fees, but opens access to financial support like student scholarships and project grants. Members connect through online forums, campus meetings, and national conferences, where they learn from industry experts and collaborate with peers. Through these organizations, students may access professional development opportunities, like the internships and community service initiatives facilitated by the APA.
American Psychology Association
Founded in 1844, the APA is the leading professional organization for psychologists, boasting over 115,700 members. This association continually improves research methods and their applications. Members benefit from a comprehensive career center that not only publishes job listings but also helps individuals explore their options and plan for their careers.
Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
Established in 1966 by ten behaviorists, the ABCT supports human health advancement through psychological research. The association holds annual conventions and provides continuing education opportunities. Student resources include peer mentorship, award programs, and in-depth guides on subjects like applying for graduate school and obtaining an internship.
Association for Behavior Analysis International
Since its formation in 1974, the ABAI has continuously funded and published psychological research through its four academic journals. Members enjoy substantial career support, including online job listings and in-person career fairs. They can also take advantage of continuing education workshops and webinars.