Careers in Behavioral Psychology

Learn what a behavioral psychologist does and how to become one.

By Megan Svoboda

Behavioral psychology professionals assume that since all behavior is learned through the conditioning that occurs during interactions with an individual's environment, it can be analytically studied and observed. Behavioral psychologists also analyze how human actions affect decision-making processes.

Behavioral psychologists perform the following duties:

  • Conduct research utilizing conditioning and stimuli to study human behavior
  • Teach at colleges and universities
  • Work with children in private practice, after trauma—or as an elementary, middle or high school teacher
  • Work in social work or counseling to help people understand and change negative behavior, such as drug addiction; or help people suffering from mental health disorders
  • Work in business to help companies understand behavior and find a competitive advantage
  • Work in government agencies, correctional centers or law enforcement

Work Environment

Like many fields of psychology, behavioral psychologists work in different environments; if they maintain a private practice, they'll build their schedule around the needs of their patients. If they work at a university or college, they must be prepared for class, be responsive to students and perform research.

Regardless of specific occupation, behavioral psychologists will work with other fields of psychology professionals, such as clinical psychologists or experimental psychologists to conduct research and formulate data.

Salaries

Behavioral psychologists are part of the larger field of psychologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for psychologists is $69,280. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Training and Education

A doctoral degree is required to become a behavioral psychologist. This advanced behavioral science degree allows you to have a private practice, teach, research, counsel—or work for a government agency. A doctorate in psychology will involve a dissertation, courses in quantitative experimental methods and research design, and will take 4 to 5 years to complete. It will also be necessary for you to finish an internship, which will give you the experience needed to develop your skills as a behavioral psychologist.

Sources: wow.com; psychology.about.com