Human behavior is a complex and multilayered subject, to say the least. Behavioral scientists can spend their entire careers delving into the innumerable factors that shape human behavior. They may also help individuals overcome mental and emotional challenges, or connect individuals with community resources, or promote strategies to help strengthen family bonds. For those interested in this subtle, psychological field, earning an online degree in behavioral science can help build an understanding of the process of human development as well as how social structures can affect behavior.
Best Online Colleges for Behavioral Science in 2018-19
If you intend to pursue an online behavioral science degree program, you are likely looking for the college that can best suit your needs. To assist with this search, we've compiled a list of the top five online colleges for behavioral science degree programs using data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). We put together this list by comparing data points relevant to online and nontraditional students, such as graduation rate and tuition costs, with our unique methodology (more details at the bottom of this page).
Granite State College
Texas Tech University
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
Clovis Community College
Degree Overview: Behavioral Science
Behavioral science is an interdisciplinary field that can lead to many different career paths. That is because the subject incorporates courses from various areas, including counseling, psychology and sociology. People with an education in this field could pursue a career in mental health care, social services or even sociology. In this section, courses that could be taken in a degree program and helpful skills they can impart are discussed.
Online Behavioral Science Courses
Online programs for behavioral science have different coursework components depending upon the degree level being pursued and the college at which it is being pursued. Certificate programs are the shortest in length; as they move up in degree level, students can build knowledge and advance toward research. Example topics and courses, divided by degree level, are covered below.
- Certificates in behavioral science can introduce students to relevant topics in the field, such as sociology of aging, psychology of health, brain and behavior and lifespan development. Students may be able to transfer some of this coursework toward an associate degree program.
- In an associate degree program, students typically study basic behavioral science topics such as sociology, general psychology, child growth and development and lifespan growth and development. Associate degree students are also expected to complete core curriculum in subjects such as math, language arts or science to satisfy their school's general education requirements.
- Online bachelor's degree programs in behavioral science will usually introduce coursework in human services, counseling theories, social deviance, and diversity in human services. Such coursework is intended to delve into behavioral science in greater depth; it may be finished off with the assignation of a capstone project to finish out the program.
- Online master's degrees in behavioral science exist to give students even more opportunity to advance their understanding. Coursework may delve into fields as diverse as alcohol use and misuse, obesity in the 21st century, qualitative methods in research, applied research methods and more. Master's programs that are particularly heavy in research may require students to conclude their program by completing a thesis.
- At the doctoral level, students can find PhD programs that are focused specifically on the social and behavioral sciences, or related programs that put a different spin on the field, such as a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree in behavioral health leadership. Students may be able to choose a specific focus for their doctoral degree, such as "health education and communication" or "social and psychological influences on health." They may additionally need to produce a dissertation or pass a final oral examination as part of their degree program.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
A variety of skills are necessary to succeed in the behavioral science field. Some of these skills might be developed through an online education for behavioral science, while others can be strengthened when working in the field. A sample of some particularly important skills to focus on is provided below.
- Listening: This skill is important to anyone who intends to pursue a career in behavioral science, especially a career such as social work, the social services or counseling. Being able to hear and understand a client's challenges is the first step to being able to help them overcome those challenges. Even a more research-oriented behavioral scientist will likely be gathering some portion of their data from interviews or social experiments; carefully listening to this data is the only way to draw accurate conclusions about it.
- Verbal communication: In addition to listening, speaking can be an important part of a behavioral science career. Whether behavioral scientists are working one-on-one with a client or presenting their research results at a conference, they need to be able to communicate their points clearly and convincingly, with consideration for their audience. Verbal presentations in behavioral science courses can be good preparation for these responsibilities.
- Sensitivity: The more you learn about why people act the way they do, the easier it becomes to understand their actions, sharing in their struggles and sympathizing with their situation. As such, behavioral science courses can be a great way to develop sensitivity to others. This sensitivity can enable behavioral science students to better be respectful of a client's feelings and frustrations, as well as help them to pick up on subtle behavioral clues that indicate possible solutions to a problem.
- Organization: This can be a nearly essential skill for anyone working with a range of clients or conducting ample amounts of research, regardless of field of study. Notes need to be organized and easy to locate; relevant documents should be nearby for discussion or completion. Keeping track of your assignments in school is only the beginning!
Behavioral Science Career Outlook
Professionals in the behavioral science field use their knowledge of mental health theory to help people with their real-world problems. Continue reading to get information about these types of careers, including the skills that are needed to be successful and the daily duties of workers.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following four criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject, either in an online or hybrid format
- Have at least 1% of students attending some form of distance education
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2016-17
- Have reported data for all 11 ranking variables listed below
We ranked 1,813 colleges and universities in the United States on 11 criteria, using 2016-17 data from IPEDS:
- Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered via distance education at any level
- Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
- Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
- Graduation rate
- Retention rate
- The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Prepaid, Guaranteed, Other)
- Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
- Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
- Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.
NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/