The Best Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology

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Online master's in behavioral psychology programs give students the skills needed to help clients address disorders and illnesses through the use of behavior therapies.

Behavioral psychologists need a doctorate in behavioral psychology, but several roles also exist for graduates with a master's degree, such as mental health counselor. These professionals enjoy strong job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects roles for mental health counselors to grow 22% between 2018 and 2028.

Earning a master's in behavioral psychology online gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with professional and personal obligations. Online learning also allows students to attend the top programs in the country without relocating.

This guide covers the top online behavioral psychology master's degrees. We also cover important information for prospective students, such as common courses and potential career careers and salaries for graduates.

Top 10 Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Programs 2020

#1 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
#2 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
#3 The Sage Colleges Troy, NY
#4 Ball State University Muncie, IN
#5 Simmons University Boston, MA
#6 Arcadia University Glenside, PA
#7 Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, MO
#8 Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL
#9 Bay Path University Longmeadow, MA
#10 St. Cloud State University Saint Cloud, MN

The Best Schools for an Online Master’s in Behavioral Psychology

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Ball State University 

Muncie, IN

About this school

Ball State University opened in 1918 as a teacher training school. Although Ball State has grown into a comprehensive public university, its Teachers College keeps the original mission alive by training education leaders. The Teachers College offers many online programs, including the master's in applied behavior analysis (ABA) with an emphasis in autism.

To earn this behavioral psychology degree, students must complete 10 courses. Required courses include professional issues in applied behavior analysis, verbal behavior, supervising human service staff in ABA, and interventions and treatments for persons with autism. Learners must also complete fieldwork in their own communities before graduating. The program delivers all online coursework asynchronously.

The 30-credit curriculum prepares graduates to sit for the board-certified behavior analyst exam. With this certification and the degree's emphasis on autism, graduates are positioned to find jobs working with people living with autism spectrum disorders.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university with a GPA of at least 2.75. Ball State does not require standardized test scores for admission.

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Simmons University 

Boston, MA

About this school

Simmons University was founded in 1899 as a business school specifically for women. This revolutionary spirit has helped the university champion diversity in education, and today, Simmons maintains its focus on community and career preparation with its online programs, including a master of science in behavioral science.

This behavioral psychology program's curriculum reflects the Association for Behavior Analysis International's new fieldwork requirements. Students earn credits through five supervised fieldwork classes, which include hours at an approved clinical site and corresponding online coursework. Learners take eight other required courses, including methodologies for behavior change, behavioral assessment, and verbal behavior. Simmons also provides an optional course in autism spectrum disorders.

Students can earn the required 42 credits within 23 months. Full-time students take six terms per year with 2-3 courses per term. Learners must complete 30 hours of fieldwork per week during five of those terms, which adds up to 2,000 total supervised hours. This requirement allows graduates to sit for the board-certified behavior analyst examination. Eighty-five percent of Simmons graduates pass this examination on the first try — a rate 20% higher than the national average.

Applicants must submit a resume, an essay, official transcripts, and two letters of recommendation.

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Arcadia University 

Glenside, PA

About this school

Arcadia University opened as an intellectual outpost for liberal arts education in 1853. Today, the private university maintains a global presence through its offices and online students around the world. Arcadia's distance learning programs include an online master of education in applied behavior analysis (ABA).

Major courses in the program's 36-credit curriculum cover cultural foundations of education, functional behavior assessment and behavior change, and ethics and professionalism. The program's elective credits allow students to explore special topics within ABA studies. The curriculum culminates in a master's project.

Arcadia's program also offers optional practicum experiences. Students who do not have professional experience in ABA may need to complete these experiences to qualify for the board-certified behavior analyst examination.

Aside from the practicum, the program does not include any in-person requirements. Arcadia accepts up to six transfer credits, and applicants must have a GPA of at least 3.0. Prospective students must submit official transcripts and two letters of recommendation.

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Southeast Missouri State University 

Cape Girardeau, MO

About this school

Southeast Missouri State University is a comprehensive university that serves about 12,000 learners annually. Students choose from 145 undergraduate majors and 75 graduate programs, many of which offer online courses, including the master's program in applied behavior analysis (ABA).

This 42-credit behavioral psychology degree includes required courses in methods for studying the behavior of individuals, ABA skills acquisition and assessment, ABA functional assessment and behavior reduction, and conceptual topics in behavior analysis. Learners also complete 750 hours of supervised practicum experiences. The program culminates in a comprehensive examination.

Students complete the program in six semesters as part of a cohort. The first 24 credits take place entirely online, and learners complete the three-semester practicum at approved sites in their communities. SEMO delivers all online coursework asynchronously. Graduates qualify to sit for the board-certified behavior analyst examination.

Applicants should hold an undergraduate degree with a GPA of at least 3.25. Alternatively, candidates can earn admission by completing at least two master's-level courses with a 3.0 GPA. Prospective students must submit two letters of recommendation and a 750-word letter of intent that outlines their career objectives. Learners must identify possible sites for their practica before applying.

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Southern Illinois University 

Carbondale, IL

About this school

Southern Illinois University opened as a teachers college in 1869 with a class of just 143 learners. Even as SIU has expanded into a leading research institution, the university has remained true to its roots in education. SIU's Rehabilitation Institute offers a master's degree in behavior analysis and therapy (BAT) in a hybrid format.

The comprehensive curriculum includes seven core courses, three individual courses, and two electives. Core courses cover complex behavior analysis, legal and ethical issues in behavior analysis, and behavioral observation methods. About 75% of the program's coursework takes place online, with up to three required on-campus meetings per term.

Individual requirements include a practicum, an internship, and a research paper or thesis. The internship requires students to complete fieldwork hours under the supervision of SIU's BAT faculty. The program takes 24-30 months to complete.

The Association for Behavioral Analysis International accredits this program, so graduates can sit for the board-certified behavior analyst examination. Applicants must submit unofficial transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, and three recommendations.

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Bay Path University 

Longmeadow, MA

About this school

Since it opened in 1897, Bay Path University has provided career-focused, affordable education. Each of the university's programs, including the online master's degrees in applied behavior analysis (ABA), allow learners to immediately apply their new knowledge to their professional lives.

Graduate students at Bay Path can choose from three ABA degrees: a master of science in ABA, an education specialist in ABA, or a master of science in ABA/autism spectrum disorders. The 48-credit master of science in ABA includes courses in ethical practice in behavior analysis, research methods in ABA, behavioral assessment and ongoing evaluation, and interventions and behavior change procedures.

The curriculum includes 2,000 hours of supervised fieldwork experience. Bay Path faculty oversee these hours and provide 100 hours of direct supervision. This requirement allows graduates to sit for the board-certified behavior analyst and board-certified assistant behavior analyst examinations. In 2019, 88% of program graduates passed these examinations on the first try, which is higher than the national average.

The entire program takes place online, including supervised hours. Students complete the program over five semesters. Applicants must submit official transcripts, an essay, a resume, and two recommendations.

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St. Cloud State University 

Saint Cloud, MN

About this school

St. Cloud State University is a public university that dates back to 1869. The university now serves more than 14,000 learners annually. SCSU offers 200 undergraduate programs, 60 graduate degrees, and two doctoral programs. Distance learners can enroll in hundreds of online courses at SCSU, including a master of science in applied behavior analysis (ABA). This program has served students from 18 countries and all 50 states.

The ABA curriculum requires 45-46 credits and offers two capstone options: a comprehensive exam or a thesis. All learners also complete a 750-hour internship. Students and faculty advisors must agree on internship sites, but distance learners can complete this requirement where they live. Only licensed psychologists and board-certified behavior analysts can provide on-site supervision.

All non-internship coursework takes place online. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75. The program accepts new learners for the fall semester.

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Ranking Methodology
Best Online Programs

Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

What is Behavioral Psychology?

Behavioral psychology focuses on how behaviors connect to brain function, emphasizing how tools like therapy and medication can alter brain functions to produce improved behaviors. Behavioral psychologists may provide therapy and counseling, conduct research, or educate the next generation of behavioral psychologists in the classroom. Through therapy, behavioral psychologists help individuals unlearn harmful behaviors and address emotional and psychological issues that create challenges in their lives.

What Is a Master's in Behavioral Psychology Degree?

A master's in behavioral psychology is an advanced degree designed for learners who already hold a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related subject. Common admission requirements include official transcripts, a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Competitive programs may also require an in-person or virtual interview.

Online master's in behavioral psychology programs appeal to students interested in using evidence-based practices to help individuals address behavioral problems.

Learners in these programs take courses in research methods, foundations of behavioral analysis, and behavior assessments. Students gain the skills and knowledge needed for clinical and research positions with an emphasis on best practices, contemporary trends, and emerging methodologies.

Online master's in behavioral psychology programs appeal to students interested in using evidence-based practices to help individuals address behavioral problems. The degree builds skills in assessment and diagnosis, treatment plan development, research methods, and long-term care. Graduates can work as mental health or substance abuse counselors, mental health counselors, or family therapists. They can also pursue a doctorate in behavioral psychology, which meets the education requirements to work as a psychologist.

Choosing an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program

When researching prospective online master's in behavioral psychology programs, students should consider several factors, such as cost, length, and on-campus requirements. We cover several important considerations for prospective students below.

  • Program Cost: Public schools typically cost less than private schools, and in-state students often pay lower tuition rates than out-of-state students. However, some programs let all online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency.
  • Transfer Policies: Many schools offer transfer credits for related experience, like prior academic work, military training, and professional experience. Schools with generous transfer policies can help students save time and money on a degree.
  • School Size and Type: A school's size and type affects the learning experience. For example, small schools may offer more individualized attention from faculty than larger schools, while large schools may feature more program and class options.
  • Program Length: Online master's in behavioral psychology programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete, but some programs offer accelerated timelines that allow students to graduate faster.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Some online behavioral psychology master's programs have on-campus requirements. Students should ensure they can meet these requirements before committing to a program.
  • Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: Programs may feature thesis or internship components, which require a significant time investment. Students should choose a program that has requirements aligned with their interests and goals.

What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program?

Online master's in behavioral psychology programs cover general psychology concepts and more specialized topics related to behavioral modification. Many programs offer electives that allow students to tailor the degree to their interests and career goals. The following sections cover common courses found in these programs in addition to potential careers and professional credentials for graduates.

Curriculum for an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology

Applied Behavioral Analysis

This course gives students the skills needed to conduct functional analyses across the lifespan. Students learn how to conduct evaluations, observe interactions, and develop assessment and therapy plans. Learners typically take this foundational class in their first year of the program.

Research and Experimental Design

Designed to build advanced research skills, this course introduces learners to data collection and measurement methods, single-subject and group research, and research design and methodology. The course may require learners to develop a research study.

Autism and Developmental Disabilities

Students in this class learn about autism and developmental disabilities and how they can affect behavior throughout the lifespan. Learners review historical and contemporary research and theories, emphasizing how emerging interventions and early diagnoses can help with the detection of behavioral issues.

Behavior Analysis in Education

This course appeals to learners who want to work as school counselors, social workers, or other professionals who regularly interact with children in an educational setting. Common topics include principles of behavioral analysis, understanding motivation, and behavior reinforcement tools.

Master's in Behavioral Psychology Certifications and Licenses

Social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and behavioral psychologists typically need a license to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state but often include an accredited degree, supervised practicum hours, and an exam.

Mental health professionals who earn a license in one state then move to another state can apply for state reciprocity, depending on the state. They may need to meet additional professional requirements before practicing in their new states.

Some behavioral psychology professionals need certification to practice, such as board-certified behavior analyst or certified autism specialist credentials. Requirements for these credentials vary by specialty but typically include direct clinical hours, continuing education credits, and an examination. Students should research the credentialing options and requirements for their intended career paths.

Behavioral Psychology Careers

Graduates with an online master's in behavioral psychology qualify for a variety of therapeutic and direct-service roles, such as mental health and substance abuse counselor. Graduates who pursue further education through a doctoral program can work as psychologists. The following list highlights several common careers and potential salaries for graduates from online master's in behavioral psychology programs.

Social Workers

Social workers help clients manage a variety of challenges in their daily lives, such as financial, relationship, and behavioral obstacles. They may provide assessments, create treatment plans, and connect clients with community resources. Clinical social workers can also provide therapy and counseling services. Clinical social workers need a master's degree and a license to practice.

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Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat individuals and groups with mental, behavioral, emotional, and psychological issues. Research psychologists develop and oversee studies on brain function. All psychologists need a doctorate and state licensure to practice. Some positions may also require board certification.

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Mental Health Counselors

Mental health counselors work with clients across the lifespan. They evaluate clients' mental health, create treatment plans, and provide counseling services. They also provide referrals to other services. Mental health counselors typically need a bachelor's degree, but some positions require an advanced degree. They must also maintain licensure, which often requires them to participate in continuing education or supervised clinical experiences.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Can You Do With a Master's in Behavioral Psychology?

Graduates with a master's in behavioral psychology can work in roles such as marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor, and substance abuse therapist.

What Is Behavioral Psychology?

Behavioral psychology is a research-based, scientific approach to helping individuals address mental health issues and illnesses through behavior modification.

How Long Is a Master's in Behavioral Psychology?

Most master's in behavioral psychology programs take two years of full-time study to complete, though some programs offer accelerated timelines.

What Is a Master's in Behavioral Psychology?

A master's in behavioral psychology is an advanced degree that builds research and clinical skills while focusing on behavior modification.

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