Behavioral psychologists study the connection between the world around us, how our mind processes that world, and the resulting behavior. Careers in this field are on the rise — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), related careers, like mental health counseling and social work, are expected to grow between 3% and 25% in the next decade.
Graduates of Ph.D. behavioral science programs can expect lucrative careers, with salaries averaging upwards of $100,000 per year. Many programs will require previous education in the psychology field and can include licensure upon graduation. For those who wish to balance family obligations or build work expertise while completing their degree, an online program is ideal.
Accredited Online College Programs
Most Affordable Doctorates in Behavioral Psychology Online in 2021
Arizona State University is long known for offering students all over the country access to its virtual school, which is currently one of the highest-rated online undergraduate and graduate virtual programs in the country. This is continued by its online Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology, which is a concentration of the school's research-based Ph.D. in the field. This is a program headed by psychologists on staff and is renown for both its original research opportunities as well as its state-of-the-art online curriculum. It is also possible for students to take on their Juris Doctor along with this Ph.D. in a concurrent program. Students can expect to complete 84 credit hours past the master's level, a comprehensive written and oral exam, a prospectus, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Social Psychology, Cognitive Science, and Behavioral Neuroscience.
Graduation rate: 67%
Program length: 6 years and 5 for non-Clinical students
Credit requirements: 84 credit hours
Admission requirements: GRE, master’s degree in a related field
Students interested in a Ph.D. behavioral psychology online that focuses on technology will want to research Old Dominion University's offering in this area. The Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology is built on the scientist-practitioner model and has a stated focus in behavioral science as well as psychological theory. This is an applied degree that requires students to both teach a graduate class in their field as well publish a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal. It is a comprehensive degree that, while not currently offering a pathway to licensure, is nevertheless an important degree for any academic or researcher. Students can expect to complete at least 48 credit hours of coursework, research, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Advanced Social Psychology, Analysis of Variance and Experimental Design, and Human Cognition.
Fully accredited by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Texas Tech University offers an applied research behavioral psychology doctorate online degree. This is a hybrid program that requires a few residencies a year but is perfectly designed for students who are interested in joining academic and government workplaces after graduation. This program has a stated employment success rate of 100 percent for all of its graduates, often with graduates getting multiple job offers prior to graduation. The program requires a combined total of 74 hours of coursework, research, and dissertation efforts; students must also complete a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Biological Bases of Psychological Functioning, Psychopharmacology of Psychoactive Drugs, and Group Process and Intergroup Relations.
The University of Florida confers an online Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis that is a specialization within counseling psychology. It is a hybrid program designed to help professionals interested in becoming licensed psychologists; this is because assistantships, which are necessary for licensure, are awarded to first-year students who can commit to a full year at the university's campus. Students will have the chance to also co-major in another field, enabling them to combine interests while pursuing a joint degree. This degree requires 90 credit hours of coursework, research projects, practicums, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Advanced Introduction to Behavioral Analysis, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Statistics and Research Methodologies in Behavioral Psychology.
Graduation rate: 87%
Program length: 6 years
Credits: 90 credit hours
Admission requirements: GRE, university transcripts
Students interested in an online Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis need look no further than the University of South Florida. This hybrid degree is buoyed by active researchers and psychologists; the list of faculty on the program's website also indicates their current research areas, which is a great gift to students interested in a certain cognate area for their specialization. The ABA is a research-based degree that requires a cohort model and imbues the followed curriculum with original research projects as well as team projects to ensure that each student learns soft skills while learning the core concepts of the field. The program is also aligned with ABAI accreditation requirements, so students will be eligible for both licensure and certification after graduation. Students can expect to complete a teaching practicum, a research project, 54 credit hours of coursework, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Statistical Applications in Translation Research and Evaluation, and Functional Analysis.
Graduation rate: 69%
Program length: 5-6 years
Credit requirements: 90 credit hours
Admission requirements: GPA of 3.5 or higher, GRE scores
The University of Texas at Austin provides a pathway to earn a behavioral psychology Ph.D. online. The school's Ph.D. in Psychology is a hybrid program that enables students to choose their own graduate area of expertise, which includes a cognate area in behavioral psychology. This is a research-based degree, meaning that students will be required to complete original research as part of the degree requirements. It should be noted that at this time, this degree alone will not satisfy the requirements for licensure. Students can also expect residency requirements, which will be approved by the department and be scheduled for a student's convenience. Other degree requirements include 60 credit hours of coursework, including core and cognate curriculums, as well as a research paper or dissertation. Sample courses include Principles of Sensory and Behavioral Neuroscience, Theory and Explanation in Social Psychology, and Advanced Behavior Pathology.
Graduation rate: 81%
Program length: 4-5 years
Credit requirements: 60 credit hours
Admission requirements: Bachelor’s degree, B average in upper division courses, and, at least, 12 hours of psychology courses
Currently named one of "America's Best Graduate Schools" by U.S. News and World Report. Utah State University is home to a behavioral psychology online Ph.D. that is currently in demand. The program was developed for professionals interested in research, including projects on parenting in LatinX families, impulsivity, and cognition issues in young children. It is a plan of study that offers seven specializations, including Behavior Analysis, Socio-behavioral, Epidemiology, and Brain and Cognition. It is a hybrid degree, so students will be expected to make annual trips for short residencies, but most coursework can be completed online. This degree requires 72 credit hours of coursework, including a research paper and a dissertation, along with comprehensive written and oral exams. Sample courses include Diversity Issues in Treatment and Assessment, Professional Ethics and Standards, and Supervision and Consultation in Psychological and Educational Settings.
Graduation rate: 59%
Program length: 5 years
Credit requirements: 72 credit hours
Admission requirements: Standard GPA and GRE scores
West Virginia University confers an online Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology that has been around since 1976, making it one of the oldest doctoral programs in the field. The program was built for working professionals with a vested interest in going into academia or research; it has an evidence-based approach to the theories and concepts taught in a seminar. It also requires students to do original research, whether with the faculty or through self-study. Practicums are also necessary, but since this is an online degree, that requirement can be met at a student's area of residence. It's also important to note that this program has been accredited by the Behavioral Analysis Accreditation Board. This degree requires 45 credit hours of coursework, a practicum, research, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Advanced Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Assessment and Intervention for Severe Behavior, and Biological Aspects of Behavior.
Western Kentucky University confers an online Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology that is a pathway towards licensure in the state of Kentucky. This is an applied practice degree, meaning it was created for psychologists who are working towards the goal of becoming licensed psychologists. It is a hybrid program that comes with two specializations: Clinical Psychology and Applied Psychology. Students are reminded that many of the courses at WKU are only available on campus; for this reason, it is best suited for students who already live in the area. The program is not currently accredited by the American Psychological Association, but it is in the application process; this means that the program does adhere to the guidelines set forth by the APA. Students can expect to complete 48 credit hours of coursework, practicum hours, a research project, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Individual Differences and Human Diversity, History and Systems of Applied Psychology, and Clinical Psychopharmacology.
Graduation rate: 44%
Program length: 5-6 years
Credit requirements: 96 credit hours
Admission requirements: GRE scores and, at least, 18 hours of psychology coursework (for BA/BS to PsyD applicants)
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Frequently Asked Questions About Behavioral Psychology Doctorates
What can you do with a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology?
Behavioral psychology is considered transdisciplinary — the field transcends the traditional borders between disciplines. You can become a professor or pursue a career in psychology, sociology, or neuroscience. It is also possible to find focus on research methodologies, communications, and public administration.
Can you get a behavioral psychology Ph.D. without a Masters in Psychology?
It depends on the program you choose. Some Ph.D. programs require a master’s degree. Others will allow you to enter with a bachelor’s degree and complete some prerequisite work to fulfill any gaps a master’s degree would have provided. Some advanced programs allow you to earn both a master’s and a Ph.D. in the same curriculum.
What kind of jobs can I get with a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology?
Behavioral psychology graduates can become psychologists, counselors, researchers, and therapists. You can also pursue a career in social work or substance abuse counseling.
What can you do with a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology?
The median salary for psychologists is $82,180 per year, depending on the city or region they live in and the demand for psychologists in their area. It’s possible to earn more if a professional has a private practice and as they build up tenure in their field.
What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Behavioral Psychology?
There are many job options for graduates who complete a doctoral degree in behavioral psychology, and most can expect a lucrative career. One of the most common careers is a behavioral psychologist. These professionals can work in schools, the government, in private sector positions, or even for themselves in private practice. Psychologists make an average of $82,180 per year, according to the BLS
Many behavioral psychologists also go into professorships, working within universities and colleges in order to teach the next generation of psychologists. You can also work as a researcher at a university, within think tanks, or in the government. Professionals who become college and university professionals make an average of $85,320 a year.
Accreditation is also important for students who are interested in becoming licensed psychologists or counselors. If you graduate from a program without accreditation, you may have to take on a certification or a workshop in order to get back on track for licensure.
Licensure requirements vary by state, and not all online doctoral programs will pave a way towards licensure in their state of residence. Research the licensure process in your state when choosing your graduate program to make sure those align.
Danika Miller is an education reporter at Grad School Hub who covers higher education news and trends, as well as paying for college. Her writing has also appeared in Best Value Schools, Affordable Colleges Online, and Her Campus, and her financial expertise has been featured in The Simple Dollar and CreditCards.com.
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