Online Ph.D. In Behavorial Psychology

A Ph.D. in behavioral psychology can lead to a rewarding career helping people.

Updated October 20, 2023

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Best Doctorate in Behavioral Psychology Programs badge

As a field that studies the interrelationship of thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and perceptions, behavioral psychology encompasses clinical applications and research. Behavioral psychologists identify and investigate problematic behaviors and seek ways to promote healthier and more positive actions through appropriate interventions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists earn a median annual salary of $82,180. Behavioral psychologists often work directly with patients in a clinical counseling environment. Psychologists with a doctorate can also work as college professors and research scientists. 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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Doctoral Behavioral Psychology Questions

Q. What can I do with a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in behavioral psychology?

Professionals with a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology may work as clinical psychologists, professors, research scientists, and behavior analysts.

Q. How long does it take to become a behavioral psychologist?

After earning a master's degree, learners often need an additional 5-7 years to complete a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology.

Q. Is a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology worth it?

A Ph.D. in behavioral psychology can expand professionals' employment options and earning potential.

Q. Do behavioral psychologists make good money?

Psychologists earn an annual median salary of $82,180, almost twice the median income for workers in other sectors ($41,950).


Why Get a Degree in Behavioral Psychology?

States require psychologists to hold licensure if they wish to work directly with clients. Some states also require licensure for psychologists working in academia and the private sector. While specific licensure criteria vary between states, a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology typically meets the educational requirement for a state license.

Several colleges and universities offer online psychology degrees. Online programs often cost less since enrollees do not incur fees for campus housing and parking. Many online programs feature asynchronous classes and accelerated delivery formats, allowing working students to continue their careers.

How Much Does a Behavioral Psychology Degree Cost?

Several factors influence the cost of graduate school, including whether the school is private or public and whether learners enroll in an online or on-campus program. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, students who enrolled in an in-state postgraduate program spent an average of $12,170 in the 2018-19 academic year. Enrollees in private colleges and universities spent an average of $27,780.

Learners can often save money by enrolling in online programs. Some institutions allow out-of-state online enrollees to pay in-state tuition. Since this can lead to substantial savings, students should determine whether their desired college or university offers this benefit.

At the doctoral level, universities often offer teaching or research fellowships for Ph.D. candidates. This helps lower degree costs and also enables enrollees to advance in their career and research.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

Learners can use the calculation tool below to compare attendance costs between schools. Most schools include the required information on their websites. Prospective online enrollees should note that some colleges charge an additional technology fee per credit or per course. Some schools also charge lower tuition per credit for full-time online students.

Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.

How Much Do Behavioral Psychology Majors Make?

Salaries vary on many factors, including behavioral psychologists' industry and state. According to the BLS, the top-paying industries for behavioral psychologists include outpatient care centers ($109,100), childcare services ($105,670), and home healthcare services ($103,520). Health practitioners' offices and junior colleges also pay high annual mean wages of $101,860 and $100,470, respectively.

Location also influences how much behavioral psychologists make. The top-paying locations for these professionals include California ($115,830), Hawaii ($110,780), Louisiana ($109,180), Oregon ($108,000), and the District of Columbia ($106,920). California also hires the most psychologists with 17,210 professionals employed in this role.

Courses in Behavioral Psychology

Although behavioral psychology degree requirements vary between schools, many colleges and universities offer the core courses below. Doctoral candidates can usually develop an individualized plan of study to support their educational and career objectives. Prospective students can discuss their research and professional goals with their academic or dissertation advisor. See below for some common courses for behavioral psychology students.

Advanced Functional Analysis and Assessment

The course familiarizes learners with methodologies used in the experimental analysis of behavior. Students learn how to analyze the behavior of individuals with psychiatric disorders, developmental disabilities, and substance or eating disorders. In determining the controlling behavior factors, enrollees enhance their skill in evaluating and synthesizing appropriate treatment modalities.

Analysis of Verbal Behavior

Enrollees observe and implement Skinner's model of interpreting complex verbal behavior. Students learn how to apply operations of verbal behavior in developing educational programs for children with atypical verbal development. The course focuses on behavioral interpretation which plays a key role in clinical practice.

Behavioral Research in Education

Students examine the different conceptual and methodological issues that arise when they apply the principles of behavior analysis to an educational setting. The course demonstrates how behavior analysis impacts various areas of general and special education, including reading instruction, early intervention, higher education, and professional training and development.

Licensure for Behavioral Psychology PhDs

States require clinical psychologists to be licensed before they can practice. A state licensing board determines specific licensure requirements for their jurisdiction. Although not typically required, certification allows professionals to showcase their knowledge and training in a specific field. The issuing organization determines the requirements for particular certifications.

Graduation Cap

Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist

The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (NACBT) welcomes candidates who meet the following criteria: master's degree or doctorate in psychology or a related field, verifiable six years of postgraduate experience providing cognitive-behavior therapy, and a primary certification from an NACBT-recognized organization. Candidates must also submit three recommendation letters from mental health professionals.

Graduation Cap

National Certified Counselor

The National Board for Certified Counselors administers this credential. Candidates need a master's or doctoral degree from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. They must also demonstrate at least 3,000 hours of postgraduate counseling experience over a two-year period. Candidates must pass the National Counselor Examination or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examinations.

Graduation Cap

American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology Certification

Candidates must meet the educational, internship, and postdoctoral practice experience requirements to take the certification exam. The criteria allows for candidates with varying academic and professional backgrounds, but basically requires candidates to hold a doctoral degree and show completion of at least five years of postdoctoral field experience.

Scholarships for Behavioral Psychology

At the doctoral level, most universities support students through fellowships and grants that typically require recipients to take on teaching or research responsibilities. Many private nonprofits and organizations with ties and professional interests in the field also administer financial aid programs. Read below for three opportunities for behavioral psychology degree students.

F. J. McGuigan Dissertation Award

Who Can Apply: Applicants must show how their research addresses a specific aspect of mental function from a neural and behavioral perspective. Only dissertation-level candidates can apply.

Amount: $2,000

Queen-Nellie Evans Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The American Psychology Foundation reserves this scholarship for minority students pursuing a master's or doctoral program in psychology. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to working with marginalized communities after graduation.

Amount: $4,000

Future Counselors of America Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate students majoring in psychology with a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA may apply. Applicants should intend to pursue a career in relationship counseling or a related field. Candidates must submit official transcripts and an essay containing 500-900 words.

Amount: $1,000

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