Behavior Scientist Career Information

Mar 14, 2019

Career Definition for a Behavior Scientist

Behavior scientists study how people's actions affect their development and their relationships with others. This includes conducting research by observing the subjects' behavior. Although they can be employed in a number of fields, many behavior scientists work as counselors, social workers, corrections officers, or criminologists or other sociologists.

Behavioral Counselor Social Worker Sociologist
Education Bachelor's Bachelor's Master's or doctoral degree
Job Skills Evaluate and treat clients, teach clients' families Policy crafting, ability to relate to wide variety of people Research abilities, teaching skills
Median Salary $41,070 in 2017* (for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors) $47,980 in 2017* $79,650 in 2017*
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 23% (for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors) 16% 1%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

The education level for a future behavior scientist depends on his or her ultimate career goal, but at least a bachelor's degree is required to enter the field. Majors may include behavioral science or a related field, such as counseling or social work. A bachelor's degree typically takes four to five years to complete, while those choosing to continue their education can expect another two to three years of schooling for a master's degree and an additional three to five years for a doctorate. Courses for prospective behavior scientists may include sociology, social psychology, drugs and behavior, and counseling.

Skills Needed

Behavior scientists must have strong problem-solving and mediation skills, along with the ability to relate to a variety of people and listen to their concerns. Behavior scientists also must be able to coordinate social campaigns and outreach and help craft policies to assist people in need.

Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts significantly increased job opportunities, 23% growth, for behavior scientists who work as behavioral and substance abuse counselors during the 2016-2026 decade ( According to BLS figures, these counselors made a median salary of $41,070 in 2017. The BLS projected that social workers would experience job growth of 16% during the same period. The BLS also reported that social workers earned an annual median salary of $47,980 in 2017. Sociologists will not see any significant job growth or decline during the 2016-2026 decade, according to BLS; their median salaries were around $79,650 in 2017.

Alternative Careers

You might want to consider these other careers in mental health:

Mental Health Counselor

Related to the field of behavioral science, mental health counselors consult with clients and find out what issues they need assistance with. They then plan out a treatment course that encourages the client to share their thoughts and feelings while the counselor provides insight and advice. These counselors also help find community resources that could aid in problem solving. To gain entrance into this field, a master's degree in counseling, therapy, social work or psychology is generally required, in addition to completing clinical training and passing a licensing exam. According to the BLS, mental health counselors should see a 23% increase in job opportunities during the 2016-2026 decade. The BLS also reported that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned a median salary of $43,300 in 2017.


For those who want to provide more complex treatment to people suffering from mental health issues, becoming a psychologist should be considered. Psychologists utilize scientific studies and tests to diagnose mental illnesses and brain disorders. Using tools such as observation and interviews, they identify behavior patterns that may be damaging and counsel their clients to change attitudes and beliefs. Although some psychologists practicing in schools and corporate settings only need a master's degree to enter the field, clinical and counseling psychologists are required to hold a doctorate. Independently practicing psychologists must also be licensed by the state in which they practice, which entails completing clinical hours and passing an exam. As reported by the BLS in May of 2017, counseling, clinical and school psychologists received median annual wages equaling $75,090. These types of psychologists should see employment growth of 14% between 2016 and 2026, based on BLS predictions.

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