Aspiring behavioral psychologists need to first earn either a Psy.D. or a Ph.D. in the field. A doctoral degree demands a huge time commitment and a large financial investment. Fortunately, graduates enter into a healthy job market. The number of psychologists is projected to increase by 14% from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This guide summarizes what prospective behavioral psychology doctoral candidates can expect from the degree. Read below to learn about program requirements and curricula in addition to potential career paths.
Doctoral degrees in psychology come in two forms. A Psy.D., or doctor of psychology, functions as a professional degree and concentrates on clinical practice, preparing graduates to become practicing psychologists. At the end of their degree, Psy.D. students typically must pass comprehensive examinations. Alternatively, a Ph.D., or doctor of philosophy, allows students to dedicate most of their time to dissertation research. While Ph.D. graduates may also work as psychologists, many continue to focus on their research. Some work as faculty members, while others find research opportunities through government agencies or private companies.
a degree that might take more than half a decade to achieve. Specific expectations, like the curriculum plan, dissertation, and work experience requirements, vary depending on the school.
Individuals interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online must first earn a bachelor's and master's degree. Admissions departments generally require applicants to hold their previous degrees in psychology or a related field. They may also look in depth at candidates' transcripts to ensure they have completed coursework in topics like social or behavioral sciences and human biology. Frequently, schools require applicants to hold a minimum 3.0, 3.25, or even 3.5 GPA in previous coursework.
Frequently, schools require applicants to hold a minimum 3.0, 3.25, or even 3.5 GPA in previous coursework.
Some universities list GRE scores as an admission requirement, while others consider transcripts or previous work experience in lieu of test scores. Some admissions departments look for students who have already completed significant research. Typically, applicants must also submit a personal statement, a CV or resume, 2-3 references, and a personal statement outlining their academic and professional goals.
The curriculum for an online Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online includes both taught and research courses. As students generally enter psychology doctoral programs with an academic background in psychology, courses build upon foundational knowledge by focusing on advanced and complex topics. Some doctoral programs pair behavioral psychology degrees with sustainability or public health, taking an interdisciplinary approach to the topics. In this case, students take both psychology and behavioral analysis courses in addition to courses like social and behavioral aspects of public health.
Learners may also receive course credit for internships or supervised work experience. Discover more examples of common courses in the list below.
The time it takes to earn a Ph.D. in psychology differs for every doctoral candidate. Doctoral degrees typically involve 60-66 credits. Most schools allow students to work at an individual pace, especially with their dissertation research. However, sometimes the curriculum includes a cohort learning format for taught classes, meaning students study at a fixed pace with a group of peers. Doctoral programs may allow students to transfer credits, which can help candidates graduate sooner.
Students often finish their degrees in four or five years. Those who transfer credit and study full time may be able to graduate within three years. Conversely, part-time students may extend their degrees for several years.
All Psy.D. programs and most Ph.D. programs include clinical internship or supervised work experience requirements. Distance learners typically fulfill this requirement within their local community, often at hospitals or clinics. Credit requirements for internships vary; some students need just three credits while others spend an entire academic year in a clinical setting. For some doctoral programs, students also must pass a comprehensive exam at the end of their program.
Distance learners typically defend their dissertation through virtual conferencing.
Ph.D. candidates should expect to spend a considerable amount of time on their dissertation research. Learners must choose a dissertation topic that interests them and fits into their career goals. Often, at least half of the entire degree consists of dissertation research. Prior to graduation, doctoral candidates must defend their research in front of a committee of faculty members. Distance learners typically defend their dissertation through virtual conferencing.
Professionals holding a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in behavioral psychology typically pursue careers as psychologists. Graduates of this degree often become behavioral psychologists, but the psychology industry offers a variety of different positions. Graduates can also find jobs as clinical, counseling, developmental, or rehabilitation psychologists. Alternatively, they can continue to conduct research in the field as university faculty members or experimental psychologists. The table below gives more details on how these positions differ and what graduates can expect from each.
Behavioral psychologists can work independently in private practice or at hospitals, counseling clinics, and rehabilitation organizations. These professionals evaluate patient behavior, employing methods like cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy to modify patient behavior patterns and effectively treat patients. Their patients might struggle with things like anxiety disorders, substance abuse, or depression.
Median Annual Salary: $72,519
In many ways, clinical psychologists fulfill similar job responsibilities as behavioral psychologists. However, clinical psychologists typically work with patients dealing with a greater variety of mental illnesses, and they may employ treatment methods other than behavior modification therapies. Clinical psychologists can work with people dealing with short-term personal problems as well as people wrestling with chronic conditions.
Median Annual Salary: $79,010
Counseling psychologists meet with patients over an extended period of time. Their treatment methods tend to include more client-centered and humanistic approaches than clinical psychologists. They may also work with general populations or people without mental disorders who contend with personal, emotional, or behavioral struggles.
Median Annual Salary: $79,010
When behavioral psychologists earn their Ph.D., they become qualified to work as professors at colleges and universities. Some Ph.D. graduates go straight into academia after graduating. Others spend years working in clinical settings before becoming professors. Postsecondary teachers' responsibilities include teaching college courses and conducting and publishing academic research.
Median Annual Salary: $78,470
Similar to postsecondary teachers, experimental psychologists usually work at colleges and universities. Although they sometimes teach, their jobs focus on experimentation and research. They typically work on research teams and in laboratory settings. Sometimes government agencies or private companies hire experimental psychologists as well.
Median Annual Salary: $91,966