Online Master's Programs in Behavioral Psychology

Updated on: 12/13/2018

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the field of psychology, including jobs in education, rehabilitation, and school and career counseling, will grow by more than 10% between 2016 and 2026 — faster than the national average for all other positions. Behavioral psychology relies on clinical behavioral analyses combined with careful patient observation and intimate discussions to help identify toxic behaviors and disorders. After isolating these issues, behavioral psychologists recommend coping mechanisms and habitual changes to ease problems and provide peace of mind.

Behavioral psychologists work in multiple contexts, including at individual practices, hospitals, clinics, inpatient mental health facilities, schools, and community organizations. This page details some of the best online master's in behavioral psychology programs, including common coursework, career options, and opportunities for financial support.

What to Know About Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Coursework

Behavioral psychologists need to be adept at quantitative and qualitative analysis and hold strong communication skills. This profession also requires a good sense of ethics, large amounts of patience, and an aptitude for problem solving. Coursework in a master's in behavioral psychology online program promotes these skills. Student can take classes in patient assessment to familiarize themselves with behavioral trends and variants and enroll in substance abuse courses to better comprehend the effects of legal and illegal drugs on the human body and cognitive faculties.

Typically, full-time students completing a master's in behavioral psychology online take two years to graduate. Whether on campus or online, all students must also complete a supervised clinical practice internship to demonstrate their graduate-level knowledge and earn practical experience before pursuing state licensure. While some schools provide advisers to help match students with regional clinics and hospitals, online learners may need to take the initiative and find local institutions suitable for supervised internships.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program?

While courses vary between schools and programs, the following list details common core and elective courses available in master's programs in behavioral psychology. This sample curriculum demonstrates the variety of subject matter relevant to contemporary behavioral psychology.

Introduction to Patient Assessment

Students learn the fundamentals of patient testing and assessment in this foundational course. Coursework familiarizes learners with individual and group testing formats, teaches them how to distinguish quality evidence from corrupt data, and introduces the concept of statistical analysis. The mathematical foundation of this course prepares participants to recognize trends and variant scales of patient behavior.

Patient Lifespan Development

This class explores the cultural, social, and gender-sensitive benchmarks in the lives of patients. Many of these defining moments, such as puberty, divorce, or menopause, can contribute to phases of anxiety and distress. Understanding and cultivating an empathy for these situations improves psychological analysis.

Substance Abuse Treatment

This course covers the various uses and abuses of legal and illegal drugs. Students examine the effects of drugs on the body, learn to identify hallmarks of abusive behaviors, and gain training related to the various therapeutic and pharmacological treatments used to combat substance addiction. Coursework also familiarizes students with current research carried out at substance abuse rehabilitation centers.

Infant, Child, and Adolescent Development

In this overview course, students learn the history of theory regarding adolescent development as well as the current interpretations dominating modern psychology. Coursework takes an interdisciplinary perspective on the stages of youth evolution, including phases in cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical development.

Human Sexuality

This course addresses many facets of human sexuality, including sexual orientations, medical treatments, and sexually transmitted diseases affecting modern society. Learners discuss medical and psychological studies regarding gender fluidity, transgender individuals, hormonal therapies, and sex-change surgeries. Students may also learn about the trauma of sexually transmitted diseases and the prospect of genetic therapies.

Internship or Clinical Component

As mentioned above, master's students in behavioral psychology must complete a supervised internship to meet the clinical component of their degree. Such fieldwork provides a venue for students to translate theoretical knowledge into hands-on experiences, learning the practical skills needed to find employment upon graduation. Students may work in a mental health facility, hospital, clinic, or private practice under the supervision of a licensed professional. Depending on the program, students need to fulfill between one school term and one full year of supervised clinical work, in addition to required coursework. Participants often rely on their current employers or local hospitals and clinics to fulfill these requirements.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program?

When considering graduate school, it is important to select a quality institution; thus, you should only consider accredited schools. School accreditation serves as a seal of approval, guaranteeing the quality of your education to licensing bodies, future employers, and colleagues. You should look for an institution that holds either regional or national accreditation. To see if your prospective school holds accreditation, you can search the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's website or the U.S. Department of Education's database. Attending an accredited program ensures that your education meets certain standards, which can help you qualify for professional certifications, pursue additional education, and qualify for financial aid opportunities.

Beyond accreditation, other school details worth examining include graduation and employment rates of recent graduates. Also consider the education level and professional backgrounds of the faculty affiliated with the program.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in Behavioral Psychology Degree

After earning a master's in behavioral psychology online, you can provide relief for communities and individuals across a variety of professional arenas. You can work in a mental healthcare facility to conduct individual and group therapy programs and engage in individual research. At a drug abuse clinic, your skills in behavioral analysis can help patients cope with addictive tendencies. You can also contribute to the wellbeing of students and instructors as a school therapist. The following list details popular career options for graduates with a master's in behavioral psychology. Consider your strengths and personal interests as you weigh your professional options.

Social Science Researcher

As a researcher, you can put your skills in quantitative and qualitative patient analysis and data interpretation to work as a researcher at a clinic or healthcare facility. These professionals design case studies to gather valuable data. With this information, they can create statistical algorithms to track trends in behavioral issues, benefitting behavioral psychologists and counselors across the country.

Median Salary: $46,000 per year

Currently Employed: 31,500

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +11%

Rehabilitation Counselor

After an accident, trauma, or bout of substance abuse, patients need individual care to embark on the road to rehabilitation. These professionals meet with clients to assess levels of mobility, skill, education, and emotional stability. They also provide individual or group therapeutic meetings to address limitations and build coping strategies. Individuals in this position must keep meticulous records of a patient's progress — with a particular focus on mental acuity and emotional state — and adjust treatments in accordance with progress or relapse.

Median Salary: $34,860 per year

Currently Employed: 119,300

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +13%

Substance Abuse Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Focusing specifically on drug abuse crises affecting communities across the nation, these counselors use their analytical skills to determine abusive tendencies and self-destructive disorders to identify imbalances underlying drug addiction. Whether legal/illegal psychotropic drugs, opioids, or marijuana and alcohol, substance abuse leaves an indelible mark on its victims — this situation is heightened by the lingering stigma attached to abusive behavior and treatment. These counselors serve as transparent and willing assistants for individuals battling abusive disorders.

Median Salary: $41,070 per year

Currently Employed: 91,040

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +13%

School and Career Counselor

Using aptitude tests, one-on-one meetings, and group observation, these counselors help students cope with behavioral issues caused by cognitive development changes, social pressures, and learning disabilities. Counselors identify issues and counsel children, parents, and instructors on how to communicate effectively and create coping frameworks. These professionals may also increase awareness related to bullying and drug abuse and develop success strategies that students can use as they continue on to higher education. In serious cases, school counselors must report infractions and dangerous behaviors to protect a school's student body and maintain a positive learning environment.

Median Salary: $55,410 per year

Currently Employed: 291,700

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +13%

Psychologist

Psychologists work with patients who require behavioral assistance. Job duties include conducting therapeutic meetings; identifying emotional, behavioral, or organizational issues; and creating records on individuals and groups under their care (e.g., single patients in a private practice or members of a organization in need of emotional support after a loss). These professionals discuss and implement treatment options and monitor results. They keep meticulous notes and may even translate data into publishable articles to increase awareness in the field. This position typically requires additional education at the doctoral level.

Median Salary: $77,030 per year

Currently Employed: 166,600

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +14%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

What's the Expected Job Growth for Behavioral Psychology Careers?

The aforementioned steady job growth numbers indicate that the number of positions related to behavioral psychology should continue to rise. In particular, clinical psychology and research carry increasingly growing importance as behavioral issues become more visible due to a decrease in the stigma attached to mental health disorders. Additionally, schools increasingly prioritize student safety and mental and emotional wellbeing; thus, more behavioral and career counselors will be needed to help students successfully transition into adulthood.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Behavioral Psychology

Joining a professional organization can help psychologists build their careers. These types of associations typically offer networking opportunities, ongoing educational resources, and job boards. They may also provide opportunities to present research and listen to other professionals at annual conferences and keep up-to-date on relevant issues in the field.

  • American Psychological Association

    For doctors of psychology, APA unites psychologists across 54 separate divisions, including psychologists working in private practice, schools, clinics, hospitals, courts, and other professional industries. Students enrolled in a psychology program can also join and access the association's resources.

  • Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies

    ABCT brings together psychologists, researchers, and social workers to expand public knowledge related to social pressures in modern psychological studies. The association provides resources for professionals, helping them keep up-to-date on behavioral therapies. ABCT also hosts new research initiatives to further improve treatment.

  • Association for Psychological Science

    As an interdisciplinary association of psychological sciences, APS broadens awareness of the field. APS members receive copies of multiple periodicals, including Psychological Science, which stands as the leading peer-reviewed journal in the field. Members can also visit the APS annual conference to attend presentations on new research.

  • Association for Contextual Behavioral Science

    Chapters of ACBS exist in various states across the country and internationally. These chapters spread ethical, high-quality standards maintained by the parent organization. Students, professionals, and affiliates of behavioral science can join and collaborate.

  • Society for Personality and Social Psychology

    Personality psychologists analyze a patient's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to identify behavioral patterns. SPSP gives its student and professional members the opportunity to network and provides access to information on topics in social psychology.

How to Pay for a Master's in Behavioral Psychology Degree

Once you decide to continue your education by pursuing a master's in behavioral psychology online, you need to figure out how to finance your degree. The following list details some federal and field-specific opportunities for financial support. As you consider future employment, think critically about the financial assistance you need to fulfill your objectives.

Federal Financial Aid

Your first step towards obtaining financial assistance should be filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This helps determine how much federal financial aid you qualify for. If given a choice between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, always prioritize subsidized loans because interest does not accrue until after you graduate.

Division 53 Student Achievement Award

Targeting undergraduate and graduate students attending accredited psychology programs, this award prioritizes students dedicated to child and adolescent psychology. Applicants must submit a 1-2 page explanation of their personal commitment to child/adolescent psychology, a current CV, and a letter of support from a previous professor or mentor. Awardees receive $1,000.

American Addiction Center Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship

AAC awards three annual scholarships to students currently studying behavioral health. Applicants must be enrolled (part time or full time) in an accredited psychology program, maintain a GPA of at least 3.2, and submit a personal essay explaining the issues in behavioral health they find most pressing. The first-prize winner receives $5,000, while the second- and third-place winners each receive $2,500.

Primary Health Network Charitable Foundation Scholarship

Specifically for residents of the Primary Health Network, which spans northern Pennsylvania and select counties in Ohio, the PHNCF scholarship prioritizes local students pursuing professional careers in medicine. Scholarship recipients receive $2,000-$5,000 and must demonstrate strong educational records, submit personal statements, and complete a committee interview.