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Master’s Degree Programs in Behavioral Health Overview

Majors Overview January 20, 2016

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

Master’s Programs in Behavioral Health

Examination of the behavior-mind-body relationship comes under the definition of behavioral health. The broad character of behavioral health science ensures that the coursework is interdisciplinary in master’s programs in the field. The curriculum involves the examination of the ways in which behavior is affected by human biology, the environment, psychology, and the diversity of cultures and societies. Enrollees in most programs have to specialize in an area of focus, such as healthcare policies or children’s health. Students are required to complete a thesis. Students take 1-2 years to finish most programs.

After they complete the program, students may seek career positions such as public health administrator, case manager, or researcher. Licensure as a mental health counselor may also be sought by them.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited school, regardless of the major. However, enrollees in some master’s degree programs may be required to hold an undergraduate degree in behavioral or health sciences.

Coursework

The focus of core coursework is on the practices, principles, and theories of behavioral health whereby a foundation in the field is available to students. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Communications and health
•Biostatistics
•Health behaviors of communities and diasporas
•Intervention implementation and design
•Biobehavioral systems
•Perspectives in behavioral health
•Health campaigns and promotion
•Health education and community development
•Epidemiology

After completion of the core courses, students learn about a variety of research methods, in addition to the different specialties of behavioral health. These specialties include mental health, children’s health, the health of at-risk communities, health care policies, and the creation and delivery of group and behavioral health systems. A thesis must be completed before students can graduate from the program.

Career Choices

Behavioral health scientists can bring benefits to numerous fields, such as counseling, education, social work, psychology, public health and medicine. Consequently, behavioral health program graduates have numerous career options including:

•Behavioral health specialist
•Healthcare analyst or evaluator
•Consultant to healthcare agencies, governments, or universities
•Health policy maker
•Researcher, Professor, or Ph.D. candidate

Job and Wage Outlook

While Ph.D. degrees are common among teachers at 4-year universities and colleges, teaching opportunities are available to master’s program graduates at community colleges. As of 2012, postsecondary teachers teaching health specialties at junior colleges take home average wages of $62,650 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). During the years of 2012 – 2022, college-level instructors can expect an average job growth of 13% (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates may choose continuing education through a Ph.D. program that prepares them for careers as professors, behavioral health specialists, and leaders in the healthcare field. While admission criteria typically require incoming students to a doctoral program to hold a master’s degree, some programs allow applicants with only an undergraduate degree.

Research design and application are the focus of Ph.D. programs, and students are allowed more time to learn about their chosen specialty. Completion of a thesis is mandatory before students can graduate out of the program. The student has to design the thesis and use it to showcase his or her grasp of a behavioral health topic area.

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