Best Online Master’s in Behavioral Psychology 2021

| TBS Staff

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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 2021
#1 Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, MO
#2 University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH
#3 Daemen College Amherst, NY
#4 Saint Cloud State University Saint Cloud, MN
#5 Western Connecticut State University Danbury, CT
#6 Arcadia University Glenside, PA
#7 Simmons University Boston, MA

Featured Online Schools

The Best Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Programs

Southeast Missouri State University View School Profile $$ Cape Girardeau, MO 49% 45% 45% Southeast Missouri State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

University of Cincinnati View School Profile $$$$ Cincinnati, OH 68% 46% 45% University of Cincinnati is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

Daemen College View School Profile Amherst, NY 57% 72% 20% Daemen College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

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.

Saint Cloud State University View School Profile $$ Saint Cloud, MN 44% 41% 31% St. Cloud State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

Western Connecticut State University View School Profile $$$ Danbury, CT 49% 57% 28% Western Connecticut State University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

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.

Arcadia University View School Profile Glenside, PA 71% 68% 31% Arcadia University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

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.

Simmons University View School Profile Boston, MA 80% 66% 51% Simmons University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

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 Programs

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.

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.

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
Median Salary (2019): $49,470 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 11%

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.

Median Salary (2019): $79,010 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 14%

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.

Mental Health Counselors
Median Salary (2019): $44,630 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 22%

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

true 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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