Earning a Master’s in Behavioral Psychology Online

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November 18, 2020

Should I Pursue a Master's in Behavioral Psychology Online?

While general psychologists study a variety of social, emotional, and cognitive actions, behavioral psychologists focus on a person's observed actions. They look for patterns in behavior and explore ways to help patients change their behavior or habits. Behavioral psychologists work in a variety of settings, such as in a private practice or government agency. Many schools also lean on the expertise of psychologists with specialized training in behavioral psychology to work with students with cognitive disabilities, such as autism. The Centers for Disease Control found 1 in 59 children are identified with an autism spectrum disorder in 2014, up from 1 in 50 children in 2000. Psychologists help these children and their families develop communication skills, improve their social skills, and decrease behavioral problems. Behavioral psychologists may also work with corporations to study consumer behaviors and why people buy certain products.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates 14% growth in clinical, counseling, and school psychology employment through 2026, and behavioral psychology offers strong job growth potential in this industry. Below, learn how an online master's degree in behavioral psychology prepares you to enter an exciting, rewarding field.

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Employment Outlook for Master's in Behavioral Psychology Graduates

Master's in Behavioral Psychology Salary

Psychologists can make a comfortable living; however, location, work setting, and experience can all affect yearly earnings. Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earn a mean wage of $78,690; though salaries can be as low as $42,460, or as high as $124,000. Elementary and secondary schools offer the most employment opportunities for clinical psychologists, with more than 43,570 employed at a mean wage of $77,430. Conversely, home health services are the most lucrative, with an annual mean salary of $93,910. The chart below offers information on employment in the top-paying states for individuals with an online master's degree in behavioral psychology.

Top Paying States for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
New Jersey 3,600 $94,650
South Dakota 250 $93,760
California 18,990 $90,210
New York 11,230 $89,430
Oregon 1.130 $87,170
United States 107,980 $78,690

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Behavioral Psychologists

Source: PayScale

Master's in Behavioral Psychology Careers

A specialization in behavioral psychology provides graduates with the expertise to help individuals build healthy habits and modify troublesome actions. This knowledge opens the door to numerous opportunities in the counseling, social work, or scientific fields -- depending on your interests and abilities. Individuals considering clinical practice, for example, need to be understanding and empathetic to diverse populations in need of assistance. Scientific and research-focused jobs require analytical skills and an advanced comprehension of statistics. Regardless of the career path, psychologists must demonstrate an attention to detail and keen observational abilities.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Annual Median Salary: $43,300
Projected Growth Rate: 23%

Counselors in this specialization work with individuals trying to rebuild their lives as they recover from drug or alcohol addictions. These counselors often incorporate principles of 12-step recovery programs as part of their treatment plans, along with individual or group counseling sessions. Clients may have voluntarily sought the counselor's services, or they may be fulfilling court requirements. Most substance abuse counselors work in outpatient substance abuse centers or residential facilities.

Social Workers

Annual Median Salary: $47,980
Projected Growth Rate: 16%

Social workers assess a client's overall needs beyond behavioral or emotional counseling. They often research and refer clients to other agencies or services that can assist with meeting basic needs like childcare or housing. They also provide treatment for behavioral disorders -- provided they have been licensed in their state to do so. Some work with children and families, while others may work through schools or hospitals.


Annual Median Salary: $77,030
Projected Growth Rate: 14%

Psychologists study behavioral and thought processes, and can diagnose and treat behavioral disorders. They use a combination of observation and interviews to assess patient needs and develop treatment plans. They also research how people make decisions, what factors may impact behavior, and provide a scientific basis for future treatment plans. While an online master's degree in behavioral psychology may qualify applicants for entry-level employment, most positions require a master's degree or higher.

Rehabilitation Counselors

Annual Median Salary: $34,860
Projected Growth Rate: 13%

These counselors work with individuals who suffer from physical, developmental, cognitive, or emotional disabilities. They help clients overcome the psychological impacts of their disability, and gain a better understanding of their strengths and abilities. Some counselors are also specialized in helping clients with new employment opportunities. Licensing varies by state, but most jobs require a master's degree in psychology or a closely related field.


Annual Median Salary: $79,650
Projected Growth Rate: 1%

While many psychologists work one-on-one with patients -- or in small groups -- sociologists take a broader view. They collect data and study human behavior on a large scale, and translate this information into insight for policy and lawmakers in areas such as education, health, crime, and poverty. Sociologists need analytical and critical-thinking skills, as well as strong communication skills.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program?

To pursue an online master's degree in behavioral psychology, students must hold an undergraduate degree in a related field and complete the Graduate Record Exam. Exact requirements vary by school, but most degrees require three years of full-time study. The courses below offer a sampling of required courses.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Behavioral Psychology

  1. Lifespan Development: The course examines the physical, cognitive, and emotional development of a human from birth to death. Students learn developmental milestones across eight stages of development, including early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The curriculum often includes a research-based paper and discussion of psychologically-oriented case studies.
  2. Testing Measurement and Assessment: Depending on your course of study, this course may be an in-depth review of assessment and evaluation methods, or the first in a series of classes reviewing measurement tools and statistical concepts. Students evaluate the reliability and validity of methods, and learn the principles of client assessment and diagnosis.
  3. Principles of Behavior: This course explores the scientific theories that ground behavioral psychology. Students learn about behavior, positive and negative reinforcement, punishment, and contingencies to distinguish mental or environmental explanations for client behavior. Students evaluate research in the area of behavioral psychology, and then relate those concepts to real-world situations.
  4. Applied Behavioral Analysis: This course takes the principles and theories that underpin behavioral psychology and develops actionable plans for behavioral interventions. Students learn to observe and measure behavior in an individual, and chart commensurate changes. The course also offers a review of stimulus control, positive punishment, and differential reinforcement. Coursework may include role-playing exercises, directed readings, discussion of case studies and scientific journals, and research participation.
  5. Ethics and Legal Issues in Psychology: In addition to meeting educational and testing requirements for clinical practice, mental health licensing boards also require applicants to adhere to a set of professional standards of conduct and ethics. This course introduces those standards, as well as the legal obligations of psychologists and other mental health practitioners. Discussions and case studies help students recognize ethical dilemmas and take action ethically and professionally.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Behavioral Psychology Prepares For

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