Online Master’s in Behavioral Psychology 2021

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Behavioral psychology professionals research, identify, and apply behavior-modification best practices that can help individuals with various behavioral issues. Master’s in behavioral psychology programs often include courses on behavioral theory, analysis, assessment, and treatment.

Licensed psychologists need doctoral degrees, but master’s in behavioral psychology graduates may find work as counselors, social workers, or researchers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists earn a median annual salary of $82,180. The BLS projects jobs for psychologists to grow 3% between 2019 and 2029. The BLS projects jobs for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors to grow 25% during this same time period, much faster than the average for all occupations.

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Top 5 Online Master’s in Behavioral Psychology

Rank School Location
1 Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, MO
2 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, OH
3 Saint Cloud State University Saint Cloud, MN
4 Western Connecticut State University Danbury, CT
5 Arcadia University Glenside, PA

Frequently Asked Questions About Behavioral Psychology

  • Q. What can I do with a master's degree in behavioral psychology?

    Behavioral psychology master’s degree graduates often pursue doctoral degrees to qualify for careers as licensed behavioral psychologists. Other possible careers include mental health counselor, substance abuse counselor, marriage and family therapist, and social worker.

  • Q. How many years does it take to earn a master's in behavioral psychology?

    Behavioral psychology master’s programs typically take full-time enrollees two years to complete. Accelerated programs often feature faster pacing, while some part-time programs allow more time.

  • Q. What certification do I need to be a behavioral counselor?

    Behavioral counselors usually need licensure from a state board. Requirements include a behavioral psychology degree, supervised practicum, and licensure examination. Some behavioral counseling jobs require the board certified behavior analyst credential.

Why Get a Degree in Behavioral Psychology?

Graduate-level study of behavioral psychology provides widely applicable insights into human behavior. These insights support self-improvement, better relationships, and enhanced workplace performance. Behavioral psychology master’s programs also facilitate networking opportunities with professors and staff at internship sites. Many affordable online master’s programs offer flexible attendance options that allow enrollees to continue working while pursuing their degrees.

Earning a master’s in behavioral psychology prepares graduates for rewarding careers researching and treating behavioral health issues. Playing an instrumental role in behavioral improvement can offer a deep sense of purpose. Master’s in behavioral health programs usually include practicum and internship experiences that build clinical skills for serving clients directly.

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How Much Does a Behavioral Psychology Degree Cost?

The cost of a behavioral psychology degree depends heavily on institution type and location. Recent trends in college pricing indicate that learners at public, four-year, in-state schools pay an average of $10,560 annually. Out-of-state tuition averages $27,020. Students enrolled at private, nonprofit, four-year colleges pay an annual average tuition of $37,650. The average total tuition for a two-year master’s degree ranges from $21,120 to $75,300, depending on institution type and learners’ residency.

Prospective students can substantially reduce education costs by attending an in-state, public institution. According to College Board findings, four-year public schools in Wyoming and Florida offer particularly low rates. Some schools maintain regional agreements that allow students from neighboring states to pay in-state tuition. Some institutions offer in-state tuition rates to all distance learners.

Online programs often cost less per credit than on-campus programs, and online students do not usually pay on-campus fees. Distance learners also do not incur the residency, relocation, and commuting costs usually associated with on-campus study.

Additional Online Student Fees for Behavioral Psychology

Online learners need adequate internet access and computers to access learning platforms, watch lectures, participate in discussions, and submit assignments. Learners should budget for costs to maintain or update devices and software.

Some online master’s programs require short residencies. Learners usually pay for travel and housing costs for these residencies. Other common expenses include books and supplies, graduation fees, and professional certification exam and application fees.

How Much Do Behavioral Psychology Majors Make?

Average Salary

According to PayScale salary data from March 2021, master’s in psychology graduates average $46,650 annually. Entry-level jobs for this degree often include case manager and clinical coordinator. May 2021 PayScale salary research indicates that these careers average around $41,700 and $59,700 annually, respectively.

Certification or Licensure

Many behavioral psychology master’s degree graduates pursue licensure to qualify for counseling or social work positions. According to the BLS, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earn a median annual salary of $47,660 and social workers earn $51,760. Earning professional certification can boost salary potential. Board-certified behavior analysts average $63,610 annually, according to May 2021 PayScale data.

Management Positions

Talented and experienced professionals with graduate degrees eventually may qualify for promotion to management positions. Some possible managerial jobs include social and community services manager, health services manager, or behavioral health director. These upper-level positions often pay above-average salaries.

Doctoral Degrees

Many psychology master’s graduates pursue doctoral degrees and become licensed psychologists, social science researchers, or postsecondary teachers. These professionals earn median annual salaries in the $80,000-$90,000 range, according to the BLS.

Courses in Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology programs often feature interdisciplinary core courses in psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Behavioral psychology master’s programs cultivate advanced data gathering, analysis, and communication skills. Most enrollees must complete a thesis that demonstrates mastery of psychology research and writing.

Most master’s in behavioral psychology students also develop clinical assessment and treatment skills through practicums and internships. These experiences prepare graduates to serve behavioral health clients in various settings. Some programs feature curriculum concentrations and electives in counseling psychology, social psychology, or school psychology. Some programs offer specializations in neuroscience or addictions.

See below for some common courses in master’s in behavioral psychology curricula.

This foundational course appears in most social science programs. Enrollees survey human physical, psychological, and social development stages from conception through old age. The course explores linguistic, intellectual, and personality development. Participants study human learning processes from infancy through adulthood. Human development courses often serve as prerequisites for other courses.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) differentiates between beliefs and thoughts, teaching students to understand automatic thought development and tracking. Course participants learn about various cognitive distortions, negative thinking traps, and treatment strategies. A foundational course for aspiring behavioral therapists, CBT often plays a key role in behavioral psychology treatment.

This core course explores how to apply behavioral principles and techniques to situations such as parenting, teaching, and interpersonal relationship-building. Enrollees build key skills in observation, evaluation, assessment, and treatment planning. These skills prove essential to careers such as behavior analyst, social worker, and psychologist.

How to Become a Behavioral Psychologist

Aspiring behavioral psychologists usually start by earning a psychology-related bachelor’s degree. Licensed behavioral psychologists need graduate degrees in behavioral psychology, so many bachelor’s graduates pursue master’s degrees.

According to the BLS, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors usually need 2,000-4,000 supervised experience hours to obtain state licensure. Both bachelor’s and master’s programs usually require practicum and internship experiences that help students accumulate these hours. Master’s graduates usually complete supervised clinical internships before applying for licensure. Counseling licensure candidates must pass a state exam from the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Many behavioral psychologists earn doctoral degrees, and some graduates pursue American Psychological Association speciality certification.

Certifications and Licensure for Behavioral Psychology

A master’s in behavioral psychology can meet minimum degree requirements for careers such as behavior analyst, social worker, and mental health counselor. Many of these careers require state licensure from a related board. Professional licensure in these fields usually requires a relevant graduate degree, several thousand hours of supervised clinical experience, and passing results on a licensure examination.

See below for three credentials common among behavioral psychology master’s graduates.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

This graduate-level certification serves aspiring independent behavioral analysis practitioners. Candidates can qualify for the BCBA credential through various combinations of experience and education. All candidates need a graduate degree and relevant coursework, supervised fieldwork, and success on the BCBA examination.

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Licensed Professional Counselor

This versatile counseling license can support various behavioral health counseling careers. LPCs often provide direct therapeutic services to clients. The American Counseling Association oversees LPC licensure, although requirements vary by state board. Most states require a counseling-related graduate degree, supervised counseling experience, and a passing score on the licensure examination.

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Licensed Behavioral Health Practitioner

The title and requirements for this license differ by state. LBHPs complete counseling experience and coursework in behavioral health. These professionals usually need a master’s degree from an accredited university.

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Online Master’s in Behavioral Psychology 2021

See Our Rankings Methodology
  1. Southeast Missouri State University

    Cape Girardeau, MO



    A public university with over 75 graduate programs, SEMO offers a master's in applied behavior analysis. The fully online program trains learners to work with adults and children with psychological neurodevelopmental disabilities.

    At SEMO, master's in behavioral psychology degree-seekers study behavior analytic research methods, professionalism in applied behavior analysis, and behavior assessment. The program includes 24 credits of coursework followed by a practicum. Second-year students work with clients to develop clinical skills and regularly meet with a board certified behavior analyst faculty supervisor.

    SEMO uses a cohort model, and online learners can complete the program in six semesters. Applicants need a minimum 3.25 undergraduate GPA or two "B" or higher grades in previous graduate-level courses. The program requires two recommendation letters and a letter of intent. SEMO is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

    Cincinnati, OH



    The University of Cincinnati Online offers an M.Ed. in applied behavior analysis that trains students in learning and behavior principles. The program strengthens skills necessary for assisting individuals with behavioral or learning issues. Learners prepare for careers in various settings, including schools, clinics, and in-home care.

    At UC, the applied behavior analysis program emphasizes research methodology, clinical decision-making, and functional behavioral assessment. The degree meets the educational requirement for the board certified behavior analyst exam.

    The fully online program features a 10-course curriculum students can complete in five semesters. UC uses an asynchronous schedule to prioritize flexibility. Prospective students need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree, preferably in a related field, with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants choose from fall, spring, or summer start dates. The program reports a 95% graduation rate. UC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  3. Saint Cloud State University

    Saint Cloud, MN



    A public university in Minnesota, SCSU offers 60 graduate programs, including many online master's degrees. At SCSU, graduate students can earn a master's in applied behavior analysis online. The program combines academic and professional training with a curriculum emphasizing autism spectrum disorders, community integration strategies, and program evaluation.

    Master's students complete coursework plus a 750-hour clinical internship to earn their degree. The curriculum includes core courses, electives, and research courses. Online learners select between a thesis or comprehensive exam option.

    The master's degree prepares graduates for board certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. SCSU offers the only online program with Association for Behavior Analysis International accreditation.

    SCSU encourages prospective students to submit recommendations from board certified behavior analysts, faculty, or supervisors in behavior analysis settings. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.75 GPA. SCSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  4. Western Connecticut State University

    Danbury, CT



    A public university in Danbury, WCSU offers on-campus and online degrees, including an online master's degree in applied behavior analysis. The 30-credit program in the education and educational psychology department prepares graduates for careers as board certified behavior analysts.

    A practitioner-focused program, WCSU builds practice-oriented skills through its curriculum. The program emphasizes behavior analysis, experimental design, and behavior assessment skills. Master's students study intervention implementation, personnel management, and behavior-change procedures. After the program, graduates can use assistive technology for behavioral modifications, evaluate behavior analysis research, and manage behavior analysis teams.

    Online behavioral psychology degree-seekers must hold an accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.8 GPA. WCSU also requires a resume and statement of purpose. WCSU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.

  5. Arcadia University

    Glenside, PA



    Founded in 1853 as a private university in Philadelphia, Arcadia offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees. At Arcadia, distance learners can earn a master's in applied behavior analysis. Certified behavior analysts teach courses that strengthen students' professional expertise and consulting skills. Blending psychology and education, the degree prepares graduates for careers working with people with autism, depression, and oppositional defiant disorders.

    The 36-credit behavioral psychology master's degree offers a fully online route to behavior modification careers. During the master's in behavioral psychology program, learners complete coursework and practicum opportunities in applied behavior analysis.

    Coursework includes training in functional behavior assessment, behavior change, and behavioral consultation. Learners focus their degree with electives including positive behavioral approaches, special education law, and teaching methods for students with autism. The curriculum meets the requirements for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Examination. Arcadia is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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