In addition, PayScale notes that holding a master's degree in applied behavior analysis translates to earning 8% more than individuals who hold undergraduate degrees. Earning an online master's degree in behavioral psychology also positions graduates for board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) certifications.

What to Expect in an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program

The curriculum of an online master's degree in behavioral psychology varies by school and program. However, all such programs should cover the foundational knowledge and advanced training that students need to understand analytical behavioral health and the latest techniques used by professionals in the field.

Sample Courses for an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology

A master's in behavioral psychology online program enhances the student's understanding of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and how to best use ABA techniques. This accredited degree expands upon the knowledge learned from undergraduate studies while taking a deeper dive into advanced topics like motivational influences on behavior, conditioned reinforcement, and ABA design.

An online master's degree in behavioral psychology also requires extensive supervised clinical training. Through these practicums, students can build critical competencies and acquire the experience hours needed to sit for the BCBA exam upon graduation. Many degrees also require a capstone experience, such as a portfolio that encapsulates a student's work throughout the program.

Behavior Assessment

In this course, students can explore the methods and techniques used to identify and assess human behaviors. They learn to match interventions to need, along with how to analyze and evaluate data from prevention/intervention models. Example topics include data-based decision-making, accountability, instructional support, diversity in development, and preventive and responsive services.

Applied Behavior Analysis Concepts and Principles

This core course focuses on the basics of ABA, including identification, factors that influence behavior, and the procedures used to minimize behavioral problems. Students should gain insight into teaching new behaviors and the links between behavior and circumstance.

Research and Design Methods in ABA

Students can study the various types of measurement protocols used in ABA research, including for single-subject research design. The course also delves into the areas of ethics, data collection, and visual display as they relate to basic research models.

Behavior Change Procedures

This master's-level course examines the procedures and protocols used in ABA to either accelerate or decelerate behavioral change. Topics include reinforcements, shaping, generalization, and rule-governed behavior which explores how contingencies, like a reward, can influence behavior. In courses with two parts, the second will cover more innovative protocols, such as precision teaching and stimulus equivalence.

Programmed Learning

In this course, students can review the theoretical and experimental foundations of programmed instruction, which presents new material to students in a graded sequence, and errorless learning. Learners can explore stimulus control, how to measure it, and the ways to produce it.

Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Completion Time

Typically, a full-time student can complete an accredited online master's degree in behavioral psychology in two years and an accelerated program in one. Most programs require 30-38 credits, which reserves at least six credits for fieldwork. Students can complete supervised clinical training at a site near their home.

Course load and learning format represent the two main factors which can affect a master's program length. Students who enroll part time can expect to take twice as long as those who take full-time course loads of nine or more credits per term.

Whether or not a student can progress through the course material at their own pace is also a consideration. Cohort learning brings students together in groups where they start a program together and take courses according to one- or two-year sequence. An individually paced program, meanwhile, puts no restrictions on how quickly or how slowly a student completes the curriculum.

Skills Gained in an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program

In an advanced program in behavioral psychology, students enhance their skills in observation, assessment, analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making. By program's end, they know how to identify behavior patterns, select and define target behaviors, and choose strategies to promote positive change in individuals.

Applied behavior analysts use research from experimental behavior analysis to determine proper behavior change techniques. In a master's in behavioral psychology online program, students must take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in real-world supervised clinical settings.

  • Interpersonal

    Psychologists and behavior analysts work directly with people and build relationships. They must possess empathy and a desire to help, listen, observe, and guide individuals with patience.

  • Data Analysis

    ABA requires analysts to know how to collect data and analyze it to make decisions on target behaviors, intervention, and treatment. Students can learn how to work with data by following professional and ethical compliance codes.

  • Observation

    The ability to observe objectively while also retaining human compassion is key to an analyst's work and ultimate success with clients. Through observation and listening, the psychologist or analyst can observe nuance and gain greater insight.

Online vs. On-Campus Programs: What's the Difference?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 30% of postsecondary students enroll in distance learning, with close to 35% of postbaccalaureate learners doing so. These rising numbers reflect the expanded efforts of U.S. colleges and universities to develop online and hybrid programs that present a flexible, more affordable way for students to earn accredited degrees.

Enrollees in online programs, like accredited online master's degrees in behavioral psychology, can complete the same curriculum as their on-campus counterparts. For practical experiences and clinical training, online students can typically complete their internships and practicums at local, approved sites.

Career and Salary Outlook for Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Graduates

A graduate of a master's in behavioral psychology online program can apply their degree to various career paths and fields, including mental health, business, social work, academia, and the legal arena. In all such jobs, the common goal remains to help individuals work through their problems and effect positive change.

With an advanced accredited degree in psychology, students should gain broadly applicable skills that many employers desire for their teams. This steady demand makes it possible for behavioral psychology graduates to pursue careers that reflect their particular interests, like counseling or working with data.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

A BCBA creates plans for children, teens, and adults struggling with behavioral issues or impairments such as autism, brain injury, or developmental disability. Graduating from a master's in behavioral psychology online program prepares students to sit for the behavior analyst certification board exam. A BCBA needs at least a master's degree in behavioral psychology or a related field, like cognitive science.

Median Annual Salary: $58,597

Researcher

Behavioral psychology researchers carry out ethical experiments and investigations to gain data and insight into the functional relations between antecedents and target behaviors. Most researchers work in academia and possess a Ph.D., rather than a Psy.D. Admission to a doctoral program requires a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $64,417

Counselor

Counselors of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health clients provide treatment and support in a person's recovery from addiction, injury, or disability. In the case of behavioral disorder counselors, they help clients modify problematic behaviors. Private practice counselors must hold state licensure, and requirements vary by state.

Median Annual Salary: $44,630

Social Worker

Social workers find employment in mental health clinics, schools, hospitals, community development corporations, and private practice. To work as a clinical social worker qualified to diagnose and treat clients with mental, behavioral, and emotional issues, a person must obtain a master's degree plus at least two years of post-graduate training and experience.

Median Annual Salary: $49,470

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

I-O psychologists apply their knowledge of psychological principles and research methods to solve problems in the workplace related to morale, productivity, management, and working style. They often work with executives and human resources in recruitment, screening, and employee retention. Companies typically look to hire I-O psychologists who hold a master's degrees with backgrounds in statistics and research design.

Median Annual Salary: $97,260

Education and Training Beyond a Master's in Behavioral Psychology

Depending on the type of work that behavioral psychology graduates wish to pursue, they may need to obtain education beyond a master's degree. For example, to teach at the university or college level, an educator will need to earn a psychology doctorate. The same goes for a clinical psychologist or researcher in the behavioral psychology or applied behavior analysis fields.

Traditionally, an individual aiming to work in research or academia will pursue a Ph.D., while a psychologist who aspires to go into clinical practice obtains a Psy.D. Enrollment in either program requires a master's degree in a relevant field, plus undertaking the experience hours and training needed to sit for licensure or state certification exams.

To maintain licensure or certification, professionals in psychology must commit to continuing their studies and staying up to date on new research.

Students can earn a doctorate in 4-6 years. Much depends on the program's requirements and a candidate's time commitment. In addition to coursework and clinical training, a behavioral psychology doctoral candidate must also complete a dissertation and prepare for an oral exam and dissertation defense.

To maintain licensure or certification, professionals in psychology must commit to continuing their studies and staying up to date on new research and all emerging trends. Continuing education enables professionals to keep pace with the latest developments in research and practice, in addition to the legal, statutory, or regulatory issues impacting the field.