How to Choose Schools with Behavior Therapy Programs

Dec 11, 2019

Behavior therapy requires a minimum of a master's degree to work with patients, though a bachelor's or doctoral degree may fulfill the academic requirements for some occupations in the field. Aspiring behavioral therapists have a variety of degree programs to choose from, including communication sciences and disorders, psychology and cognitive studies.

A number of universities offer bachelor's, masters and doctoral degrees for aspiring behavioral therapists. Masters-level studies are a common state regulation for entry into a counseling field, and some schools provide specialized training at this level in several areas of focus, such as pediatric, industrial and community therapy.

Top Schools with Behavior Therapy Programs

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2018-2019)*
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Doctoral Undergraduate: $50,420; Graduate: $46,384
University of California--San Diego, CA San Diego, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate: $14,167; In-state Graduate: $11,442
University of California--Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate:$13,226; In-state Graduate: $11,442
University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate: $15,094; In-state Graduate: $15,068
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Doctoral Undergraduate: $55,465; Graduate: $43,815
Yale University New Haven, CT 4-year, Private not-for-profit Doctoral $42,100 (graduate)
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO 4-year, Private not-for-profit Master's; Doctoral Graduate: $52,400
Duke University Durham, NC 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Doctoral Undergraduate: $55,695; Graduate: $53,540

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

  • There are multiple fields of study at different degree levels, so consider how the curriculum(s) coincide with your career goals before choosing an education path.
  • Look for programs that offer both practical hands-on experience and research opportunities. Schools may offer internships and/or residencies.
  • In order to practice as a doctor, individuals must be licensed, so look at programs that will best prepare you for state licensure exams.

Bachelor's Degree in Behavior Therapy

Earning a bachelor's degree in behavior therapy may prepare graduates for entry-level research, therapeutic practice in private institutions or continuation into graduate studies. Bachelor's programs may include a concentration in a number of areas, such as behavioral healthcare, psychology or neuroscience. Course and lab work often offers hands-on training in various specialties.

Master's Degree in Behavior Therapy

In order to work with patients, the minimum educational requirement is generally a master's degree. Several schools include clinical, industrial and public health programs with an emphasis on behavior therapy research and counseling instruction. Students may further focus their studies in workplace, community, adult and adolescent studies. Many master's degree programs in behavior therapy require students to complete an internship with an approved business or organization.

Doctoral Degree in Behavior Therapy

Advanced research and academic positions in the field of behavior therapy generally require a doctoral degree in biological, developmental or clinical psychology, neuroscience or behavioral health. Many doctoral programs are highly competitive and have limited admission policies. Some programs offer students the chance to choose individual study paths to meet specific career goals, such as social work, education or women's studies.

There are many degree options for individuals interested in studying behavioral therapy. While jobs are available for people who have bachelor's degrees, most career opportunities and advancement are offered to those with a master's degree, who have completed licensure.

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