If you enjoy the study of how biological, cognitive, and psychological factors impact behavior, an online bachelor’s in behavioral science degree could be the right choice for you. Career options can include social work, substance abuse counseling, and market research analysis, all fields that are experiencing tremendous growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the demand for community and social services professionals to grow by 14% from 2016 through 2026 and projects that the field for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will expand by 20% during that same period. With this increasing need for behavioral science professionals, now is the perfect time to consider earning a behavioral science degree online.
Online Bachelor’s in Behavioral Science Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.
The Best Online Behavioral Science Degree Programs
1. Central Methodist University
Established in 1853, Central Methodist University is a private university affiliated with the United Methodist Church. CMU enrolls around 5,000 students in a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. These programs include an online bachelor of science in applied behavioral analysis for students interested in studying and pursuing careers in behavioral science.
The 120 credit behavioral science degree program includes 21–24 hours of general education requirements, 42 hours of social and behavioral sciences core courses, electives, and a practicum. Students earning the behavioral science degree online engage with key topics such as:
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Behavior Assessment
- Data Analysis
- Including Child Development
This program combines theoretical and practical approaches to help students gain the necessary knowledge and skills they need to serve children, adults, and communities through a range of behavioral science careers.
Transfer applicants to the behavioral science degree program must hold either (1) a minimum of 60 credit hours, or (2) an associate degree from a regionally accredited institution earned with at least a 2.0 GPA.
Central Methodist University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
2. Saint Francis University
Saint Francis University is a private, Catholic, and liberal arts university established in 1847. Saint Francis University enrolls over 2,500 students in a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs. Its catalog includes a blend of campus and online programs for traditional and non–traditional learners; these programs include an online bachelor of science in behavioral science degree completion program.
Designed to meets the needs of busy, working adults, this behavioral science degree completion program provides a flexible, accelerated path for students who want to finish their undergraduate studies and begin their careers. Students who earn this behavioral science degree online earn a total of 128 credits; 54 of these are in the program core. Students engage with the social and behavioral sciences through an interdisciplinary approach. Course topics include:
- Abnormal Psychology
- Computer Systems
- General Sociology
- Social Research
- Social Welfare
- The Family in Theory and Practice
Graduates emerge prepared for a variety of behavioral science and behavioral psychology professions.
Applicants may start from scratch or enter the program as degree completion students. Saint Francis accepts up to 98 transfer credits from a regionally accredited institution. This program’ students enjoy the flexibility of earning their degree on traditional or accelerated schedules.
Saint Francis University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
3. Bellevue University
Nebraska’s Bellevue University is an open–access institution with online students who reside in all 50 states. Its behavioral science degree can be completed entirely online or on campus. This comprehensive 127–credit bachelor of science degree covers the major concepts and theories of psychology, sociology, the fundamentals of counseling, ethics, treatment strategies, and cultural diversity.
Students earning the behavioral science degree online complete 60–credit hours of general education either through study at the university or as an incoming student with an associate degree. They then embark on an accelerated 72–week cohort program for their major study. This cohort begins with a six–week foundation course in communication, collaboration, and other skills that prepare students to maximize the cohort experience. After the foundation course, students begin their core classes that cover topics in research and data analysis, social deviance and psychopathological perspectives, and counseling theories.
Students register for classes once at the beginning of the cohort program and pair with a student advisor. This advisor regularly checks in with their assigned students to ensure they stay on track to graduate. The behavioral science program culminates with a capstone project where students present an e–portfolio that demonstrates knowledge and understanding of psychological and sociological concepts and skills.
Students who complete this behavioral science degree online and wish to obtain licensure in mental health qualify for enrollment in Bellevue’s master of science in clinical counseling program.
Bellevue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
4. Mercy College
Dobbs Ferry, New York
Almost half of the 13 online degree programs offered by the Sociology Department at Mercy College are behavioral science programs, which makes it an excellent place to earn an online behavioral science degree.
The school offers two degrees: (1) a bachelor of arts in behavioral science degree for students who wish to work with the public in the human services, and (2) a bachelor of science in behavioral science degree for those interested in a research–driven or academic path. Both online degree programs can be paired with concentrations in community health, health services management, or gerontology.
The curriculums for the BA and BS degrees are similar; they each require 120 units, which takes approximately four years of full–time study to complete. Half of the required units consist of general education courses, such as English and math. There are 36 credits needed for major–specific classes, such as social psychology and methodology for social and behavioral science, while 24 units remain for elective courses.
Incoming students can transfer up to 75 credits from a two–year institution and up to 90 credits from another four–year college or university. At least two major courses in psychology and two major courses in sociology must be completed in–residence at the school.
Mercy College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
5. Wilmington University
New Castle, Delaware
Wilmington University’s online bachelor of science in behavioral science includes fundamental courses in psychology and sociology. Unlike many programs, it includes courses in cultural anthropology, economics, and public speaking for a well–rounded education that stresses interpersonal relations and practical applications of specialized knowledge. The school also offers additional certification classes in child advocacy, conflict resolution, criminal justice, and non–profit management. These courses can enhance or tailor a student’s behavioral science degree online program toward their desired career.
For most incoming freshman, the 127–unit BS in behavioral science degree program will take four years to complete. Many general education and elective courses are completed in the first two years of study. Upper division major classes take place the following two years; the program encourages students to complete an internship during their senior year. Internships happen through the school’s Community and Academic Partnerships (CAP)/Co–op Program. The program pairs undergraduates with participating community partners to give students the opportunity to gain practical experience in their field of study in exchange for college credit. A total of six units (or two classes) can be satisfied through the CAP program.
If a student does well in their bachelor’s in behavioral science degree online classes (earning a 3.5 GPA or higher), then they are eligible for the university’s Applied Family Science accelerated program. This service students to gain a head start on earning a master’s degree by taking graduate–level courses before the completion of their bachelor’s degree.
Wilmington University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
What are the Advantages of a Behavioral Science Education?
Employers often consider a bachelor’s degree the minimum qualification for behavioral science careers. This requirement reflects in both the pay and the types of jobs that graduates with bachelor’s degrees earn. PayScale reports that professionals with these credentials earn around $51,000 annually on average. Graduates can find positions in human resources, social work, and counseling. The section below highlights a few job options available to graduates.
Behavioral Science Degree Career and Salary Information
Some graduates of online behavioral science degree programs go on to pursue advanced education, but many opt to forgo further schooling and become counselors, social workers, or human resource specialists. Other graduates may use their knowledge of human behavior to launch successful careers in market research or business. These careers all require excellent communication, analytical skills, and empathy for clients.
- Case Manager
- These social work professionals help connect people with the social services they need, including child protection and affordable housing. Behavioral science graduates make excellent case managers due to their insight into human behavior and empathy for others.
Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $36,000
- Mid-Career: $41,000
- Experienced: $45,000
- Late Career: $62,000
- Operations Manager
- These business managers oversee the daily logistics in companies of all sizes. Some employers appreciate the statistical analysis and communication skills that students acquire with behavioral science degrees.
Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $54,000
- Mid-Career: $62,000
- Experienced: $70,000
- Late Career: $77,000
- Behavior Support Specialist
- These professionals work with clients who struggle with behavioral and developmental disorders. Behavior support specialists work as part of a broader healthcare team to modify behavior and help patients live fulfilled lives. Although employers may hire behavior support specialists with bachelor’s degrees, graduate credentials give candidates the competitive edge.
Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $37,000
- Mid-Career: $41,000
- Experienced: $46,000
- Late Career: $54,000
Choosing a Behavioral Science Degree Online Program
Each school offering an online behavioral science degree provides unique advantages and disadvantages. Prospective students should consider each institution’s on–campus requirements for distance learners, total costs, policies for transfer credits, time until graduation, and type of school. Candidates should also investigate each school’s accreditation status.
- Program Cost
- When learners consider the prices of programs, they should account for the number of credits needed to graduate, the price of tuition per credit, mandatory fees, and the cost of books. Some institutions charge learners from other states more than local residents, while others offer discounts for online students.
- Transfer Policies
- Learners with any previous college credit save time and money when they transfer those hours. However, some institutions accept only credits from schools with specific credentials, such as regionally accredited colleges. Candidates with associate degrees make the most of their credits when they transfer to schools that maintain agreements with their previous institutions.
- School Size and Type
- Students who prefer religiously affiliated schools should search for private schools. However, candidates who worry about the cost of school may prefer public institutions instead. In addition, some students may thrive in large classes, while others do better in more intimate discussion groups.
- Program Length
- Schools often publish the average length of time it takes for new students to complete programs. However, this varies by student, depending on how many credits they take per semester and how many hours they transfer into the program. Candidates should consider all these factors and determine how long it would take them to complete each program.
- On–Campus Requirements
- While many online programs in behavioral psychology do not require students to leave their homes, other schools compel learners to attend evening classes once per week. Learners in some programs must attend one-week orientations on campus or complete in-person internships. Candidates should make sure any on-campus requirements fit into their schedules.
How Online Behavioral Science Degrees Accredited?
As students compare online behavioral science degree programs, accreditation should remain the most critical consideration. Degree candidates should consider two types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. The United States Department of Education (ED) ensures that all accredited colleges and universities provide a high–quality education. ED gives this authority to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and accrediting organizations that CHEA deputizes. Some of these organizations cover specific regions of the country, others look into schools across the nation, and several accredit programs within schools.
Regional and national accreditation both count as institutional. These credentials apply to all programs and courses within a school, but institutions earn one or the other. Students tend to prefer regional accreditation because the credits transfer to more schools. Learners who want to pursue graduate degrees should pay close attention to this distinction.
Schools with either regional or national accreditation can apply for programmatic credentials for specific degrees. The American Psychological Association (APA) remains the only CHEA–approved accrediting body in the field. However, the APA does not accredit undergraduate degrees. Programs that lead to behavioral support specialist careers earn accreditation from the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board.
Behavioral Science Concentrations
Students may opt to specialize their degrees in behavioral science based on their career interests. Some of these available concentrations include addiction, human resources, criminal justice, and child development. The skills acquired through specialized degrees can provide graduates with a competitive advantage when seeking employment.
- Applied Behavioral Analysis
- Students who choose this concentration learn about the symptoms and causes of common behavioral disorders. Degree candidates discover practical methods for getting patients to alter destructive behaviors. This concentration also helps graduates work with autism spectrum disorder and delayed development.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: behavior support specialist, behavior support technician
- Patients may experience addiction to illegal substances, alcohol, cigarettes, and destructive behaviors like gambling. Degree candidates who specialize in addiction treatment learn the physical and psychological origins of addiction. Educators then go over diagnostic criteria and treatment options for people with addictions. Graduates work with such patients in private and public settings.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: counselor, case worker, social worker, nonprofit program coordinator
- Childhood Development
- Children mentally, physically, and emotionally develop at rapid rates. Students who take on this specialization learn about the many stages of childhood, what typical development looks like, and the many disorders that affect childhood growth. Graduates work with children in government and healthcare settings.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: case worker, child life specialist, pediatric behavior support specialist
- Criminal Justice
- The courses in this concentration explore the psychological and social reasons that people commit crimes. Students learn about the criminal justice system, abnormal psychology, and how to help people with convictions reintegrate into society. This specialization opens many career options in the criminal justice system.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: case worker, police officer, detective
- Organizational Psychology
- Students in this specialization explore why people behave as they do at work and how to best manage employees. Learners uncover theories about organizational behaviors and practical ways to apply those theories in companies. This concentration prepares graduates for work in human resources.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: human resources specialist, human resources manager
How Long Does It Take to Get a Behavioral Science Degree?
Traditional bachelor’s programs take about four years to complete, but online technology and alternate scheduling can allow some learners to earn their degrees faster. For example, many online schools use eight–week terms, as opposed to the longer traditional semesters. Degree candidates enroll in one or two courses at a time. Those who take just one course at a time earn bachelor’s degrees in four years. Learners who need part–time schedules may find these accelerated schedules best suit their needs.
The work, college, and military experiences that candidates bring to their programs also affect how long it takes for them to earn degrees. Most colleges accept outside credit from regionally accredited schools, allowing learners to apply previous coursework to their degrees. Many schools cap the number of credits students can transfer in, however. Some institutions allow degree candidates to earn credits for relevant work and military experience through tests.
Courses in an Online Bachelor’s in Behavioral Science Program
Behavioral science requires rigorous course studies in order to understand the scientific reasons behind human behavior. The best online behavioral science degree programs provide students with multidisciplinary knowledge through the analysis of cognitive and developmental psychology, biology, physiology, and sociology.
Coursework covers behavioral psychology, social and behavioral sciences, and development, with required classes in research, data analysis, and statistics.
The coursework required for some online behavioral science degree programs prepares students for the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst exam. This certification benefits those seeking to work with children on the autism spectrum using applied behavior analysis techniques.
- Abnormal Psychology
- Degree candidates in these courses learn the many ways in which people experience abnormal development and display adverse behaviors. They uncover the physical, emotional, and social causes of psychological disorders and learn about common treatment methods. This essential information benefits any professional working with patients who experience emotional, psychological, or developmental disorders.
- Childhood Development
- Educators who lead these classes cover human development from infancy through young adulthood. Learners discover the essential factors that allow children to develop healthily and what might disrupt this growth. Degree candidates also learn about common childhood development disorders, which enables them to work with such children in their careers.
- Statistical Analysis in Social Sciences
- As researchers learn more about human behavior, they use statistics to share their findings with the broader psychological community. Students in these courses learn to effectively interpret this data and apply findings to their practices. This vital skill helps professionals remain on the cutting edge of their fields and enables them to better serve their clients.
- Social Psychology
- These courses help learners discover the vital ways in which social interactions affect each person’s emotions and behaviors. Students learn about the prevailing theories of social behavior and how to apply these ideas to help patients. Detectives, human resource managers, social workers, and people who work with children all rely on this knowledge.
- While some programs take place entirely online, others require learners to complete in-person internships. These experiences give students practical experience in their chosen fields. Interns can network with professionals, bolster their resumes, and learn the ropes of their potential career. Internships remain especially important for behavioral support specialists.
Behavioral Psychology Membership Associations
Professional organizations provide opportunities for graduates and students alike to network, learn, and advance within their careers. Members pay annual fees and enjoy chances for certification, access to professional journals, and discounts on yearly conferences. Many associations also provide resources like job boards and continuing education opportunities.
- Case Management Society of America
- Graduates who work as case managers join the CMSA to gain access to continuing education courses and networking conferences. Members also enjoy resources that help them thrive in their roles, such as webinars, newsletters, and journal subscriptions.
- American Psychological Association
- APA serves behavioral science professionals and students at all levels. This large organization publishes one of the leading psychology magazines and hosts conferences for professionals in different niches. Candidates choose the membership level that works best for their professional goals.
- Society for Human Resource Management
- SHRM awards some of the most respected certifications in human resources for professionals at all levels. Members also enjoy access to professional journals, continuing education, and networking events. The SHRM publishes resources and tools to help human resource professionals at work as well.
- Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
- ABCT advocates for behavioral and cognitive therapies and the professionals who facilitate these practices. Members receive chances to earn awards, journal subscriptions, and tools that help them in their practices. Members may also join the listserv to connect with fellow professionals and advocates.