Behavior Scientist Career Information

Learn about the type of work a behavior scientist performs. Find out educational fields of study, skills necessary, employment outlook and salary data to determine of this is the right career choice.

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 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 $39,980 in 2015* (for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors) $42,003 in 2016** $73,760 in 2015*
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 22% (for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors) 12% -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, 22% growth, for behavior scientists who work as behavioral and substance abuse counselors during the 2014-2024 decade ( According to BLS figures, these counselors made a median salary of $39,980 in 2015. BLS projected that social workers will experience job growth of 12% during the same period, and reported their annual median salaries as $42,003. Sociologists will not see any significant job growth or decline during the 2014-2024 decade, according to BLS; their median salaries were around $73,760 in 2015.

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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 20% increase in job opportunities during the 2014-2024 decade. The BLS also reported that mental health counselors earned a median salary of $41,880 in 2015.


For those who want to provide more complex treatment to people suffering with mental health issues, becoming a psychologist should be considered. Psychologists utilize scientific studies and tests to diagnosis 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 degree. 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 2015, counseling, clinical and school psychologists received median annual wages equaling $70,580. These types of psychologists should see employment growth of 19% between 2014 and 2024, based on BLS predictions.

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