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Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Behavioral Psychology

Majors Overview January 21, 2016

This article talks about master’s degree programs in behavioral psychology and their educational requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education and certification choices.

Master’s Programs in Behavioral Psychology

Schools may offer a master’s degree in applied behavioral analysis in a couple of forms. These include a Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) or Master of Arts (M.A.) in Clinical Psychology with an ABA specialization. Enrollees in these master’s degree programs are prepared to seek careers at treatment or rehabilitation centers, providing help to patients with learning disorders, autism, developmental disabilities or behavior disorders.

Students enrolled in the majority of these programs are allowed to choose a specialization in a particular area and tailor their coursework accordingly. Research based on experimentation characterizes master’s degrees in this field and a thesis often marks their culmination. Students enrolled in these programs have to complete 5-6 semesters of study. In most states, licensure requirements for psychologists include a doctoral degree.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field. Additionally, applicants may have to submit standardized test scores, college transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Prior participation in psychological research would be preferred.


Most program coursework has its basis in research, although students enrolled in some programs are required to complete clinical hours before they obtain the degree. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Child abuse and neglect
•Child development
•Common behavioral disorders
•Developmental disorders and treatment
•Family dynamics
•Parenting techniques and training

Job and Wage Outlook

All psychologists are expected to experience a faster-than-average 19% job growth, over the 2012 – 2022 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2014, clinical, counseling and school psychologists brought in an average annual wage of $74,030 (BLS).

Continuing Education and Certification Choices

Program graduates who seek continuing education may enroll in a doctorate in the field, such as the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Behavioral Psychology or Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. The focus of Ph.D. degree programs in these fields is usually on the publication of intensive, original research and dissertation, often based on a psychological experiment on a large scale. Program graduates usually seek careers in psychology.

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board offers professional certification through programs across the United States. While the certification is not compulsory, professionals with the credential can enhance their career opportunities.

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