Behavioral Science Professions: Educational Overview

May 04, 2021

The behavioral science field focuses on the relationship between a person's behavior and how that impacts their choices and their life. Occupations in behavioral science include behavioral science counselor, mental health social worker and anthropologist. Counselors and social workers help people deal with mental health and addiction issues, while anthropologists study human behavior in history and the present.

Essential Information

A number of occupations that deal with elements of psychology, sociology and anthropology fall under the umbrella of behavioral science professions. Behavioral science degrees, which are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels, can help graduates enter many different careers, including options in business, management, marketing, criminology, anthropology, social work, mediation, pastoral ministry and helping professions.

Career Behavioral Disorder Counselor Mental Health Social Worker Anthropologist
Required Education Varies from high school diploma to master's degree Bachelor's degree Master's degree
Other Requirements State licensure State licensure or certification n/a
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 25% 17% 5%
Average Salary (2020)* $51,550 $54,540 $69,960

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Overview

A behavioral science professional uses his or her background in human behavior to investigate how human actions affect decisions and relationships. Often the goal is to find solutions to issues stemming from how people behave collectively or individually. Some behavioral science professionals specialize in animal behavior.

Regardless of specialty, a college education is required for this field. Behavioral science programs can be structured as Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degrees. Once an undergraduate degree in behavioral science is completed, professionals can also go on to earn a master's or doctorate degree in this field. An advanced degree generally offers better employment and advancement prospects.

Behavioral Sciences Coursework

Majoring in behavioral sciences involves a multidisciplinary approach to the study of human behavior or, in some instances, animal behavior. A heavy emphasis is placed on sociology and psychology. Classes in these two areas of study cover everything from introductory concepts to more specialized topics, such as social psychology, criminology, counseling and sociology of children. Some programs also include anthropology as one of the behavioral science disciplines.

Students majoring in behavioral sciences also take computer-related courses to help them with practical, hands-on applications in their future careers. Most people in behavioral science professions need to be strong communicators, so students typically take courses in English, literacy, humanities and communication, and possibly a foreign language as well. By the time a student has completed the requirements of his or her behavioral sciences major, he or she will have acquired skills in collecting and analyzing data, communicating findings clearly, and finding solutions to human behavior-related problems.

Graduate Study Options

At the master's degree level, students complete core courses in subjects such as ethics, methodology, research and statistics. From that foundation, students can pursue specializations. Possible focus areas include psychology, gerontology, criminal justice, public health. Doctoral degrees are also offered in behavioral science.

Career Options

Behavioral science programs can lead to several career choices in a number of different fields. Behavioral science graduates can find work in positions that combine human or animal behavior with an understanding of society, communication or decision making.

Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Behavioral disorder counselors help people who suffer from addictions modify problem behaviors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (, job growth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to be 25% between 2019 and 2029. The average annual salary for these professionals was $51,550 in May 2020, the BLS reported.

Mental Health Social Worker

Mental health social workers work with people with mental illness to help them find treatment and live as normally as possible. Between 2019 and 2029, the BLS predicts that job opportunities for mental health and substance abuse social workers will increase by 17%. The average salary for these professionals, as of May 2020, was $54,540.


Anthropologists study human behavior and development around the world and throughout history and prehistory. Job prospects for anthropologists and archeologists are expected to increase by 5% between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS. The average yearly salary, as of May 2020, was $69,960, also according to the BLS.

Behavioral science professions can focus on helping people understand human development or helping individuals with mental illness or addiction issues alter their behavior to live as normal a life as possible. Behavioral science professionals typically have a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field and may require licensing.

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