Earning a PhD in Behavioral Psychology Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology Online?

For individuals fascinated by human behavior — and who are interested in a life of research and teaching — earning a doctorate in behavioral psychology online may be a terrific way to enter a meaningful and impactful career. Graduates can enter academia as a professor, practice as a psychologist, or spend their time solely on field research. In short, earning an online behavioral psychology doctorate provides several exciting career paths to degree-seekers.

While students can earn their doctorate in behavioral psychology online or on campus, online learning provides the benefit of flexible formats to accommodate busy working professionals. For instance, most online coursework can be completed asynchronously, allowing students to maintain a full-time job and earn an income while pursuing their degree. Furthermore, students in online programs save substantially on housing and relocation costs.

This guide outlines what you can expect from an online behavioral psychology doctorate, including potential career paths, typical coursework, and common licenses and certifications in the field.

Employment Outlook for Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology Graduates

Graduates who hold a doctorate in behavioral psychology online can pursue numerous career paths, but they often land in two major areas: private practice or academia. If you want to perform cutting-edge psychological research, enjoy working with students, and want to train the next generation of psychologists, then you may find a career is a researcher or professor a perfect fit. Conversely, if you enjoy working with individual clients and practicing the concepts you developed in school, you may prefer working in a private practice.

Below, we spotlight five career paths for graduates of online behavioral psychology doctorate degree programs.

Professor

Average Annual Salary: $78,470

Behavioral psychology professors perform two main duties: teaching courses to undergraduate and graduate students and performing and publishing original research. They may also employ students as lab assistants for experiments and research. All professors need a Ph.D. in the field to qualify for these positions.

Behavioral Psychologist

Average Annual Salary: $79,010

Behavioral psychologists design and perform original experiments and research in their field, then publish their findings in academic journals. All behavioral psychologists need a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. degree in the field before they can practice.

Academic Researcher

Average Annual Salary: $64,960

Academic researchers perform some of the same duties as professors, but they do not teach courses. They focus exclusively on designing original experiments and publishing their research findings in behavioral psychology-related academic journals. They often work in government laboratories or on college campuses. Most have some sort of advanced degree in the field.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapist

Average Annual Salary: $43,547

Cognitive behavioral therapists treat individual patients and provide therapy services grounded in behavioral psychology best practices. In most cases, cognitive behavioral therapists hold at least a master's degree in psychology and have an additional state license to practice as a counselor.

Behavioral Health Director

Average Annual Salary: $83,282

Behavioral health directors blend psychology with management and business, as their duties include overseeing a mental health facility. They manage operations, oversee finances, and make sure that the behavioral health treatment at the facility remains top notch.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology Program?

The following section outlines typical coursework and postgraduate licensure/certification for students pursuing a doctorate in behavioral psychology online. While individual course requirements vary from program to program, most students can expect to take some version of the following classes.

Curriculum for an Online Doctorate Degree in Behavioral Psychology

Experimental Analysis of Behavior

This survey course covers a wide range of topics related to experimental analysis of behavior (EAB). Students read classic, standard literature in EAB — in addition to research covering the latest trends — and discuss it with their peers and professors. This course also helps students understand what research already exists in the field.

Analysis of Research in Verbal Behavior

Verbal behavior is a major and developing field within behavioral analysis, and most programs include a survey course dedicated to surveying the literature and research in the field. Much like in the EAB course, students typically read articles and discuss them with their peers and their professor.

Supervision and Consulting in Applied Behavioral Analysis

This course prepares students to supervise other practitioners of behavioral analysis. By learning supervision skills, students can prepare themselves to work in consulting roles after they graduate. In most cases, Ph.D. students supervise other graduate students as they practice at practicum locations.

Practicum/Hands-on Experience

Hands-on experiences differ from program to program, with some taking the form of a practicum. Other schools require students to prove that they can effectively treat a client from start to finish, while also following ethical procedures. No matter what form the experience takes, most programs require students to demonstrate competency in the field before they can graduate.

Dissertation

Students pursuing behavioral psychology doctorate programs online usually must complete some sort of thesis or dissertation. Students spend the majority of their final year in the program designing an experiment, conducting original research, and presenting that research to a dissertation committee. Usually, students benefit from a thesis advisor who guides them throughout the process.

Certifications and Licenses a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology Prepares For

  • Diplomate in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
    Awarded by the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (NACBT), the Diplomate in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy credential requires a master's or doctoral degree in psychology or a related field, 10 years of professional experience using cognitive-behavioral therapy, and three professional letters of recommendation. Certification lasts for five years, provided that holders publish an academic article once a year.
  • Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist
    Another NACBT certification, the Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist credential requires a master's or doctoral degree in psychology or a related field, six years of professional cognitive-behavioral theory experience, and three letters of recommendation. Applicants must also complete an NACBT-recognized certification program.
  • Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapist
    Yet another NACBT-awarded license, the Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapist credential differs from the previous two certifications in two main ways: it requires less professional experience and involves groups, not individuals. Applicants complete a certification course through the NACBT website, and need only a master's in psychology to enroll in the course.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Behavioral psychology is a people-focused field, as professional success rests on your ability to understand human behavior. Professional development can help psychologists in the field advance their careers through networking, continuing education, and staying up-to-date on the latest research. Below, we spotlight five professional organizations and five resources that can help both students and professional psychologists in the field.

Professional Organizations


American Psychological Association

APA is the largest and best known professional organization in psychology in the nation. APA offers access to publications, a jobs board, and networking opportunities.


Association for Psychological Science

APS advances psychological study both nationally and internationally. The association offers members a convention, journals, and a jobs board.


American Board of Professional Psychology

ABPP advances the profession of psychology by providing standardized tests and programs that lead to professional credentials.


National Alliance of Professional Psychology Providers

NAPPP focuses primarily on promoting and advancing clinical practice in the field. The alliance offers position papers and online continuing education courses.


National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists

ACBT provides certification programs to professionals who hold advanced degrees and have significant professional experience in the field.

Resources


Science Daily

The psychology page of Science Daily provides practicing behavioral psychologists and behavioral psychology students with up-to-date articles on the latest research and best practices.


Medical News Today

The psychology page of Medical News Today can help behavioral psychology professional stay current on the latest research and trends in the field.


Addictive Behaviors Journal

A peer-reviewed journal published since 1975, Addictive Behaviors provides research on addictive behavior and human disorders. Topics include alcohol and drug abuse.


Behavior Therapy Journal

Published by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Behavior Therapy provides empirical research about behavioral and cognitive therapy in journal format six times a year.


Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences

Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences brings together interdisciplinary academics to advance the academic conversation surrounding the behavioral sciences through research and individual projects.