Behavioral Studies Degree and Certificate Program Options

Degrees and certificates in behavior studies usually relate to the study of human behavior, often called behavioral health. Degrees range from the associate's to master's level and certificate options are available for both undergraduate and graduate students.

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Essential Information

There are multiple options for certifications and degrees in the field of behavioral studies. An undergraduate certificate program will allow you to focus your studies on practical training; this will qualify you for positions as a caseworker or parent aide. Meanwhile, a bachelor's degree program is a good choice if you want to be a counselor. This program will teach you the basics of human behavior. A bachelor's degree may also prepare you for a number of certifications.

Master's degree programs tend to be very specialized and allow you to focus your studies much more than lower-level degree programs. Holding a bachelor's degree is typically required to apply. These programs prepare you to become a licensed counselor who specializes in a certain area of counseling.

Undergraduate Certificate in Behavioral Health Studies

Undergraduate certificates in behavioral studies or behavioral health studies are designed to prepare students to work in basic behavioral health services. The programs generally focus on practical training and offer field experiences. Some programs meet specific certification requirements. No special education prerequisites beyond those required for most basic college degrees are specified for these programs; some have no prerequisites. Course requirements for different programs range from 15-30 semester credits. Courses common to a number of programs include:

  • Case management and reporting
  • Counseling in different cultures
  • Human relations
  • Interventions
  • Interviewing and paraprofessional counseling

Bachelor's Degree in Behavioral Health Studies

Many bachelor's programs in behavioral health studies are two-year degree completion programs for individuals with associate's degrees. Programs prepare students to work in service-related jobs, such as mental health, human resources or social work. They teach students to look at behavior from individual, political and social aspects as well as to predict and analyze behaviors and help individuals make needed behavioral changes. Program prerequisites are generally a high school diploma or GED. Some programs require students to choose a specialization minor, such as chemical dependency, child welfare or mental health. However, most programs have a great deal of commonality in their core requirements. These classes may include:

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Assessing and treating addictions
  • Behavioral science statistics
  • Counseling principles
  • Multicultural diversity
  • Research methods

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Master's Degree in Behavioral Studies

With a few exceptions, master's degree programs in behavior studies are not designed to prepare professional counselors, although they may cover much of the same material as counseling programs do. Rather, these degrees are for individuals who work in related human behavior positions in business, government, education or mental health. Programs may be interdisciplinary combining behavioral and social or community studies. In addition to holding a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, programs may require GRE scores or an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. Because some programs focus more on counseling than others, and some programs are almost completely determined by the student, commonality of coursework is almost non-existent. However, coursework may include topics in:

  • Behavioral studies project
  • Deviant behaviors
  • Individual and group assessments
  • Lifespan changes
  • Multi-cultural counseling
  • Strategies for intervention

Continuing Education

A state may require certification(s) for jobs like mental health rehabilitation technician. Colleges in those states generally offer continuing education classes for maintenance of the certification.

Certifications available for those with a bachelor's degree in behavioral studies are generally in the area of addictions. Most are available through the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC). These include the National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I) and Nicotine Dependence Specialist (TAS).

A number of states have their own certifications, such as Certified Behavioral Health Technician (CBHT) in Florida, Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) in Illinois and Florida and Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) in Idaho. Individuals desiring to become a mental health counselor or a Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) will need to earn a master's degree, usually in counseling.

Those with a master's degree in behavioral studies may choose to become a licensed counselor of some sort, whether they work in a facility for mental health, corrections or addiction rehabilitation. Graduates may be eligible to test for higher levels of certification than those available to certificate holders. These would include certifications administrated by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), such as Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) or National Certified Counselor (NCC).

Whether or not graduates test for certification, they need to keep up with the field through continuing education. Professional associations, such as the American Counseling Association (ACA), offer a variety of professional development options. Additional college courses may be taken. Many employers offer continuing education opportunities.

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a certificate program have the fundamental skills needed to work in behavioral services. They may counsel clients concerning career, educational or family issues. Careers that may be open to graduates of certificate programs in behavioral studies include:

  • Parent aide
  • Paraprofessional counselor
  • Mental health rehabilitation technician
  • Family advocate
  • Case manager

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has indicated that the primary job for behavioral studies graduates is a counselor ( The BLS anticipates that employment for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists will grow at approximately 19% (a much quicker rate than the average) from 2014-2024. BLS data reveals behavioral disorder and substance abuse counseling jobs are expected to increase 22% during that same time. A master's degree was the most common educational requirement for this counseling specialty, according to O*Net ( BLS reported behavioral studies professionals had an average annual wage of $42,920 as of May 2015.

The field of behavioral studies offers programs at the certificate, bachelor's and master's levels. While a certificate or bachelor's degree is sufficient for employment in mental health and social work, a master's degree is the most common requirement.

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