Behavioral Science Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in the behavioral sciences. Read on to learn more about career options along with job outlook and salary information.
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Career Information At a Glance

Behavioral science is the study of the behavior of individuals and groups. It comprises many careers including social work, counseling and psychology. See the table below to determine if a career in behavioral science is right for you.

Social Worker Mental Health Counselor Psychologist
Career Overview Social workers meet with clients to improve their quality of life. Mental health counselors help patients overcome emotional issues. Psychologists diagnose and treat emotional, behavioral and mental disorders.
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree is required, but some positions require a master's degree Master's degree Doctoral degree
Program Length About four years for bachelor's degree About four years for bachelor's, two years for master's degree Doctoral programs can take up to seven years to complete
Certification/Licensure State licensure or certification required Licensure required Most states require licensure or certification
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 19% increase* 29% increase* 12% increase*
Median Salary (2014) $59,100* $40,850* $92,100*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Social Worker

Social workers help clients cope with difficulties in their daily lives. The social worker evaluates the client's needs and develops a plan to overcome obstacles and improve the quality of life. For example, social workers may help clients apply for government programs, find daycare for children or locate healthcare resources. Some social workers diagnose and treat emotional, mental and behavioral disorders.

Requirements

Entry-level social worker positions may require a bachelor's degree in social work, but some employers may hire applicants with a degree in another behavioral science field such as psychology or sociology, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). States and employers may require clinical social workers who diagnose and treat clients with emotional, behavioral and mental disorders to have a master's degree in social work. Degree programs in social work include an internship or field experience. State licensing requirements may include experience under the supervision of a licensed clinical social worker after completing a degree program.

Below are some examples of job postings for social worker positions available in November 2012:

  • A Texas employer in the health services industry is looking for a licensed social worker to help patients and their families adjust to admittance to a long-term care facility. The candidate must have a minimum of a four-year degree, two years of experience and a valid social worker's license in the state of Texas.
  • An employer in Michigan in the healthcare industry is looking for a licensed social worker to manage the social work function in an 80-bed nursing facility. The applicant must have a minimum of a four-year degree and an active Michigan license to qualify for the position.
  • A New Hampshire employer in the healthcare industry is searching for a social worker to assist families and help patients cope with emotional and financial issues during the final stages of life. The applicant must have a minimum of a master's degree in social work and a valid New Hampshire social worker's license.

Standing Out

Employers often hire social workers who show compassion and empathy. Volunteer work in a hospital or clinic may demonstrate these qualities to prospective employers. Social workers must have strong organizational skills to manage large caseloads. A resume that provides examples of your organizational skills may help you to stand out as a good fit for a social worker position.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors help individuals and families overcome emotional, behavioral or mental disorders. Counselors allow patients to discuss their feelings and experiences and then provide feedback and guidance to help individuals make decisions in their lives. Mental health counselors may work with social workers and other professionals to help clients overcome their issues.

Requirements

According to the BLS, mental health counselors must have a master's degree and a state license to offer services to clients. In addition to a master's degree, state licensing requirements include clinical experience under the supervision of a trained, licensed mental health counselor. Applicants for a state license must pass an examination. Mental health counselors may work in hospitals, clinics or private practices.

In November 2012 the following positions for mental health counselors were available:

  • A Missouri employer in the healthcare services industry is searching for a licensed mental health counselor to provide counseling services to families, adults, adolescents and children. Applicants for the position must have a master's degree and a license as a psychologist, social worker or counselor in the state of Missouri.
  • An employer in Georgia in the health services industry is searching for a mental health counselor to provide outpatient counseling services to adults, teens and children. The employer requires applicants to have a master's degree in counseling, social work or psychology and be eligible for a Georgia license.
  • A Maryland employer in the healthcare industry is looking for a mental health counselor to provide services to patients in the public mental health system. Applicants must meet the requirements for a licensed clinical professional counselor in the state of Maryland.

Standing Out

The National Board for Certified Counselors administers the process for obtaining a state license to practice as a mental health counselor and offers voluntary certifications that may help you stand out in the field. Certifications are available in addiction, school and clinical mental health counseling. Mental health counselors must be good communicators. Taking courses in communication may help you stand out when searching for a counseling position.

Psychologist

Psychologists study brain function and behavior by conducting scientific tests, interviews and surveys. Some psychologists work with individuals and families to diagnose behavioral, mental and emotional disorders and problems. Psychologists develop treatment plans to help individuals, groups and families with mental health disorders.

Requirements

According to the BLS, most psychologists must have a doctoral degree in psychology. Psychologists who work in private practices must have a license or certification. Licensing requirements may include a doctoral degree, internship, professional experience and a successful score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. School psychologists may qualify for a position with a master's degree.

Below are some examples of positions available for psychologists in November 2012:

  • An employer in Texas in the healthcare industry is looking for a clinical psychologist to perform clinical assessments and treat patients. Applicants must have a doctoral degree in psychology, have completed an internship, and hold a license in any state, territory or commonwealth in the United States.
  • An Illinois employer in the healthcare services industry is seeking a clinical psychologist to provide therapy sessions for individuals and groups. The psychologist will create educational workshops, activities and programs for mentally challenged adults in an adult day program. Applicants must have a doctoral degree, an Illinois license and experience leading groups to qualify for the position.
  • An employer in Florida in the healthcare industry is searching for a licensed psychologist to provide psychological services to patients in an adult physical rehabilitation facility. The employer requires applicants to have a Florida psychologist license and at least one year of experience in health and rehabilitation psychology. Applicants must speak Spanish to work in the position.

Standing Out

Earning a specialty certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology may help you stand out in the field. The organization offers 13 specialty certifications in areas such as couples and family counseling or rehabilitation psychology.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

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    2. Northcentral University

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      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
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    3. Colorado Christian University

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      • Counseling, M.A.
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    4. Saint Leo University

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    5. Argosy University

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    Doctorate
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      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring
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    7. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

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      • HS Diploma
  • Denver, CO

    Metropolitan State College of Denver

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    The University of Texas

  • Denton, TX

    University of North Texas

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • MS in Psychology
  • BS in Psychology in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • BS in Psychology in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Psychology - Health Psychology
  • PhD in Psychology - Gender Studies
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • M.A. in Psychology - Gender Studies

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Colorado Christian University

  • Counseling, M.A.
  • Psychology, B.S.
  • Psychology, A.S.

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Psychology
  • BA: Psychology - Clinical/Counseling
  • BA: Psychology - General

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Argosy University

  • Clinical Psychology (PsyD)
  • Clinical Psychology (MA)
  • Psychology (BA)
  • Clinical Health Psychology (C)

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Leadership Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Psychology

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Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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