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Graduate Degree Programs in Behavioral Psychology Overview

Majors Overview December 28, 2015

This article talks about graduate degree programs in behavioral psychology and their educational requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Information on Graduate Degree Programs in Behavioral Psychology

A psychological perspective called behavioral psychology is used to suggest that every aspect of human behavior, including thoughts, acts, and feelings, is a learned behavior. A graduate degree is pursued by most students wishing to pursue a career in the field. Program graduates are trained to seek licensure as counselors or therapists. Courses in human behavior and the factors that influence it are in master’s programs that students require two years to complete. Extensive clinical experience is also necessary. Individuals with prior experience in clinical practice often pursue doctoral programs with a focus on research in specific areas, such as autism.

Master’s Programs in Behavioral Psychology

Applied behavior analysis is the usual term used to refer to the master’s degree level study of behavioral psychology. Degree candidates study human behavior and the social and individual factors that influence it. Program coursework often includes traditional classroom lectures, in addition to an intensive practicum. Each program may have a different practicum that usually spans 20-25 hours a week that students spend on-site at a psychological facility. The practicum is predominant over 3-4 semesters, the length of the program.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require the submission by incoming students of undergraduate transcripts, in addition to standardized graduate test scores. An undergraduate degree in psychology is a requirement for incoming students to some programs. Applicants may also be required to submit an admissions essay and letters of recommendation.

Coursework

The practicum and program coursework apart, a graduate thesis based on original research is also required to be written and defended by enrollees. Course credit is received by students for some of their thesis research. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Research methodologies
•Biological Psychology
•Developmental disabilities
•Operant behavior
•Ethics and applied behavioral analysis

Career Choices

Program graduates can seek careers as therapists or behavior analysts in various institutional and educational settings, such as non-profit agencies and schools. They may also choose from such possible job options as:

•Language development consultant
•Curriculum Consultant
•Performance management executive

Continuing Education Choices

Licensure is compulsory for practicing behavior analysts. Each state has its licensure norms, but commonly candidates need an accredited graduate degree and must pass a proficiency exam. Licensure is renewable via continuing education credits.

Master’s degree programs in applied behavior analysis are offered as a terminal degree by some schools while other schools allow program graduates to go on to earn doctorate degrees. Those who wish to enroll in a master’s degree program must note that if they are planning to continue their education with a doctoral degree they must avoid enrolling in a terminal master’s degree program.

Doctoral Programs in Behavioral Psychology

Enrollees in these programs gain a thorough foundation in every aspect of behavioral psychology research, including research methodologies, data analysis, and research types, including applied, basic, qualitative, and quantitative research. Given the success in the treatment of developmental disabilities through behavioral psychology, the main focus of many programs is on issues such as autism spectrum disorders. Schools offer this research-focused degree as either a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a master’s degree in psychology or a related field.
A smaller number of schools award both a master’s and a doctoral degree to graduates who complete the program. Admission criteria in these programs require applicants to hold only a bachelor’s degree. Admission to a competitive graduate psychology program requires incoming students to have direct work experience of 1-3 years in the psychology field. Incoming students are also required to submit an admissions essay, letters of recommendation and standardized test scores. Often, applicants are also required to meet a grade point average standard and submit GRE scores.

Coursework

The research focus of the degree candidate would largely determine the program coursework. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Experimental design
•Behavioral modalities
•Statistical methods
•Memory and cognition
•Behavior foundations

Job and Wage Outlook

Most program graduates seek university-level teaching or research careers. A few aim to become board-certified behavioral analysts. In 2014, school, clinical and counseling psychologists brought in an average annual wage of $74,030 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

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