Best Online Master’s in Behavioral Psychology 2021

by TBS Staff
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Earning a master's in behavioral psychology builds an understanding of the connection between the human mind and behavior.

With behavioral science degrees online, graduates can pursue rewarding, in-demand careers helping others achieve their mental health goals.

Behavioral psychologists observe human behavior and identify environmental stimuli that cause negative and positive responses. These psychologists focus on behavior to understand thoughts, values, and ideas — rather than the other way around.

Most schools don't offer master's in behavioral psychology degrees. Instead, "behavioral psychology" is more commonly understood as a theory or approach to psychology. The name of the degree is typically "applied behavior analysis" or "behavioral neuroscience."

A master's in behavior analysis teaches students about theories of psychology, ways to observe human behaviors, and therapeutic techniques to address harmful or dysfunctional behaviors.

A behavioral science degree online program can offer a flexible and affordable option for aspiring counselors. A master's degree is a stepping stone to completing a doctoral program in the discipline. Psychologists must have a doctorate in psychology and a state-issues license.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, psychologists have increasingly offered online sessions with patients. Psychological services remain increasingly important and useful for individuals as the impacts of COVID-19 continue to emerge.

Now is an ideal time to earn a discipline because the demand for mental health providers remains high. This guide provides information about the best online master's degrees in behavior analysis.

The Best Master's in Behavioral Psychology Programs Available Online

  1. Southeast Missouri State University

    Cape Girardeau, MO



    Founded in 1873, SEMO now offers more than 145 undergraduate and 75 graduate programs to 12,000 students each year.

    SEMO's online master of arts in applied behavioral psychology prepares students to become board-certified behavior analysts. Coursework covers topics such as behavioral consultation and management, psychopharmacology, and ethics and professionalism.

    To graduate, students must complete 42 credits, split between flexible online classes and a 1,500-hour fieldwork experience.

    Applicants must demonstrate an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.25 or two graduate-level classes with a grade of B or higher. They also need to identify a potential location for their fieldwork experience.

  2. University of Cincinnati

    Cincinnati, OH



    A public research university, UC offers 414 degree programs to over 46,000 students each year.

    UC's master of education in applied behavioral analysis consists of just 10 courses and can be completed in as little as five semesters. Graduates can take the board-certified behavior analyst exam, which qualifies them to work in educational, medical, and research settings.

    Coursework covers child development, behavioral assessment, and disabilities and disorders in childhood.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit official transcripts showing a 3.0 GPA for undergraduate coursework. Applicants also need a resume, two letters of reference, and a goal statement.

  3. Daemen College

    Amherst, NY

    Founded in 1947, Daemen College teaches just over 2,500 students each year.

    Daemen College's master of science in applied behavioral analysis prepares students for the board-certified behavioral analyst exam as well as licensure in New York State. Coursework covers topics like behaviorism, autism spectrum disorder, and ethics and professional conduct.

    To graduate, students must complete 35 credits, including a practicum and a research-based capstone.

    Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree in a related field with a GPA of at least 3.0 for all undergraduate coursework. The application also requires letters of reference and a personal statement detailing interest in the program.

  4. Saint Cloud State University

    Saint Cloud, MN



    Founded in 1869, SCSU offers over 260 degree programs to more than 14,000 students.

    SCSU's master of science in applied behavioral analysis prepares students to assess developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, and more. The 45-credit, research-intensive program includes an internship and a practicum. Students may choose a thesis track or comprehensive exam track to satisfy the program requirements.

    Applicants must obtain an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75. The program prefers applicants with demonstrated work experience in behavioral analysis and recommendations from board certified behavior analysts.

  5. Western Connecticut State University

    Danbury, CT



    With a student population of just over 5,000 students, WCSU offers 65 different graduate and undergraduate degree programs.

    WCSU's online master of science in applied behavioral analysis prepares students to become board certified behavioral analysts. The curriculum teaches students to leverage assistive technologies for clients, prepare grant proposals, and evaluate behavioral research.

    To graduate, students must complete 30 credits and a comprehensive exam. The 1,500-hour fieldwork requirement for board certification must be completed independently of WSCU.

    Applicants must submit official transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree and an undergraduate GPA of 2.8.

  6. Arcadia University

    Glenside, PA

    Founded in 1853, Arcadia offers a top-tier private education to 3,700 students each year.

    Arcadia's master of education in applied behavioral analysis takes place in a fully online format. The curriculum covers behavioral analysis, assessment, and consultation in various settings.

    Coursework fulfills the requirements for the board certified behavior analyst exam, and students may optionally complete practicums to work toward the fieldwork requirements for the exam.

    Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 and must submit letters of recommendation.

  7. Simmons University

    Boston, MA

    Founded in 1899, Simmons teaches 4,800 graduate students each year. Of its numerous graduate programs, 13 take place fully online.

    The online master of science in applied behavioral analysis prepares students for board certification as behavior analysts. Courses cover topics in special education, behavioral medicine, animal training, and more. The program also includes a significant mentorship component.

    To graduate, students must complete 42 credits and 2,000 hours of supervised fieldwork.

    Applicants must submit official transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree, an essay, and letters of recommendation.

Best Online Master's

Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Programs

What Is Behavioral Psychology?

At the core of behavior psychology, also called behaviorism, rests the assumption that all behavior results from emotions, thoughts, and beliefs derived from external stimuli. Psychology professionals in this field observe human behavior, identify negative behaviors, and work with clients and patients to replace them with positive alternatives.

Behavior analysis professionals treat negative behaviors through clinical techniques like desensitization, exposure and response therapy, applied behavior analysis, and modeling.

What Is an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology?

An online master's in behavior analysis comprises roughly two years of coursework. Individuals develop assessment and intervention skills to use behavioral concepts and theories with patients during a behavior analysis master's degree,

Designed for students with bachelor's degrees in psychology or related fields, a master's degree in behavior analysis focuses on assessing human behavior as it relates to external stimuli. Online programs blend practicum requirements and didactic coursework. Graduate programs in behavior analysis typically emphasize specific therapeutic techniques and research addressing human behavior.

Practicing counselors who want to advance their knowledge and training in behaviorism might benefit from a graduate degree in behavior analysis. A master's degree also serves as a step along the path to a doctoral degree in the discipline.

What Can I Expect in Pursuing an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology?

Behavior analysis coursework in an online master's program explores principles and theories of human behavior, foundations of social and emotional development, and evidence-based practice in counseling. Students also take classes in qualitative and quantitative analysis to develop their research skills. Practical requirements accompany a thesis or capstone project in most programs.

Behavior analysis programs may offer specialized coursework in areas such as:

  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Applied child and adolescent psychology
  • Applied behavior science
  • Behavioral neuroscience

Common Courses in Master's in Behavioral Psychology Online Programs

Each online master's in behavior analysis program varies in specific coursework, but general classes remain consistent across curricula. Standard courses build foundational knowledge of psychology concepts and develop observational and analytical skills.

  • Research and Experimental Design: This course introduces learners to data collection and measurement methods, single-subject and group research, and research design and methodology. Enrollees often develop research study projects.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis: This course develops the skills needed to conduct functional analyses across the lifespan. Students learn to conduct evaluations, observe interactions, and develop assessment and therapy plans. Learners typically take this foundational class in their first year of the program.
  • Behavior Assessments: A course in behavior assessments trains students to observe, identify, and target behaviors that interfere with human function. Behavior assessment skills are applicable in workplace environments and everyday life. They are often used to assess young learners in classroom settings.
  • Advanced Intervention: Advanced intervention coursework integrates didactic content with practical requirements. Students learn best practices to research, develop, and implement behavior analysis interventions to improve individual and social interactions for clients and patients.
  • Diversity in Clinical Practice: This course expands students' knowledge and understanding of diverse populations in clinical settings. Diversity in clinical practice emphasizes cognitive and social psychological development, experiences, and needs of diverse groups. Learners also develop practical skills to work within diverse communities.

Choosing an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program

Prospective enrollees should consider several factors to identify their ideal online psychology master's program, including program length, flexibility, and overall cost. Learners also need to fully understand all research and practical requirements before applying to a behavior analysis program. Additional considerations include reputability, transfer credit options, and program format.

Accreditation status ensures a program's overall quality. Learners should research if they can transfer in coursework from previous degrees or receive credit for work experience. Prospective enrollees can also contact schools to determine if their program uses asynchronous, synchronous, or hybrid classes.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Degrees

Colleges and universities in the United States generally maintain national or regional accreditation. Accreditation status confirms a school's educational standards and the overall quality of its programs.

Alongside regional and national accreditation, individual programs may hold additional accreditation through a professional body geared toward a specific discipline. The American Psychological Association accredits psychology programs, while Association for Behavior Analysis International accredits behavior analysis programs.

Behavioral Psychology Careers

Careers for individuals with master's degrees in behavior analysis span several industries and sectors. Therapists, school counselors, and mental health professionals rank among the most common jobs, but with a degree in behavior analysis, students can also find opportunities in business, social work, and teaching.

A degree in behavior analysis equips learners with knowledge and skills to work as human resource managers, child and family social workers, and marketing professionals. Graduates can also teach or pursue careers in research at educational institutions, government agencies, and corporate entities. Master's degree-holders can also go on to earn doctorates in psychology to find work as psychologists or in academia.


Median Annual Salary (2020): $82,180

Psychologists explore social, emotional, and cognitive processes and behavior by observing individuals and communities. They meet with patients and clients in clinical settings or carry out observational research to gather information. These professionals also develop treatments and plans to address issues and disorders. Psychologists can specialize in developmental psychology, forensic psychology, or rehabilitation psychology.

A psychologist needs a minimum of a doctoral degree. Clinical psychologists need licensure from their state of residence.

School Counselor

Median Annual Salary (2020): $58,120

School counselors work with children and adolescents to help them develop social and academic skills. They visit classrooms to observe behavior, coordinate with teachers and school administrators about issues and behaviors, and collaborate with families to determine student needs and limitations.

School counselors may work at elementary, middle, or high schools. High school counselors typically guide students about career options and other post-graduation strategies. A school counselor typically needs at least a master's degree and a license or certification issued by their state. Some states also require a certificate in education.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Median Annual Salary (2020): $47,660

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors evaluate patients and clients to determine treatments for health, addiction, and mental health disorders.

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors may work with individuals or groups to help them through treatment, modify their behaviors, and manage the stresses and expectations of their personal and professional relationships. Mental health counselors often meet with individuals, families, and couples to focus on specific conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Most counselors have master's degrees at minimum, and substance abuse and mental health counselors working in private practice must be licensed within their state.

Behavioral Psychology Career Certifications and Licensure

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

Mental health professionals who earn licensure in one state before moving to another state can apply for reciprocity, depending on the state. They may need to meet additional professional requirements before practicing in their new location.

Some behavior analysis professionals, such as board-certified behavior analysts or certified autism specialists, need certification to practice. Requirements 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 Professional Organizations

Professional organizations for behavior analysis graduates open doors to individuals at all stages of their educational and professional careers. Students can join a professional organization to gain insight into the field of behavior analysis, receive mentorship, and find career guidance.

Professional organizations also help members stay up-to-date on developments in behavior analysis, encourage collaborations, and provide continuing education and professional development programs.

ACA supports counseling professionals and students by advocating for the profession, providing professional development, and ensuring ethical and inclusive practices through its code of ethics. APA unites researchers, clinicians, educators, and students to promote psychological science. Members receive access to networking opportunities, publications, discounts on continuing education programs, and resources provided by APA partners. As a leader in behavior analysis science and practice, ABAI provides access to its learning center, webinar series, blogs, and continuing education programs. Additional benefits include presentation submission privileges, a job board, and discounts on journal publications. APS promotes and supports scientifically oriented psychology through research programs and advocacy initiatives. Members gain access to the latest research in the field, policy updates, and award and honors programs. Students who join receive career resources, mentorship support, and grant and award opportunities. Established in 1995, NACBT trains and certifies cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) professionals worldwide. Members can access its national conference, downloadable materials, and the CBT job board.

Frequently Asked Questions About Behavioral Psychology

true How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Behavioral Psychologist?

The entire process of becoming a behavioral psychologist can take 6-7 years. It takes about two years to earn a master's degree for full-time students. Students also need practical experience and state licensure. Aspiring behavioral psychologists also need a doctorate, which takes 4-5 years to complete.

true How Long Does It Take to Become a Behavior Therapist?

4-5 years. To become a behavior therapist, an individual needs a master's degree, which takes 2 years of full-time study. Graduates will also need 1-2 years of supervised work to earn licensure.

true Do You Need a Ph.D. to Be a Psychologist?

Yes. Most states require a Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D. in counseling and professional licensure to work as a psychologist.

true What Kind of Job Can You Get With a Behavioral Science Degree?

Jobs for individuals with behavioral science degrees include social worker, psychologist, or research analyst.

Portrait of Melissa Sartore

Melissa Sartore

Melissa Sartore holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her BA and MA in history are from Western Illinois University. A medievalist by training, she has published on outlawry in medieval England with additional publications on outlaws in popular culture and across geographic and historical boundaries.

Portrait of Reviewed by: Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D.

Reviewed by: Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D.

Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who currently practices in the Chicago area. She holds a bachelor's in psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University and a master's and doctorate in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. Her clinical interests include the treatment of eating and body image concerns, college student and student-athlete mental health, mood disorders, health and wellness, mindfulness, sport and performance psychology, and consultation. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Pietrucha has served as the training director for an APA-accredited internship program and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology. She has also worked with high school and college athletes and teams, as well as recreational fitness programs, to provide mental skills training for athletic performance and fitness adherence.

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