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Behavioral Psychologist: Education and Career Information

The career path of a psychologist is an interesting one. Behavioral psychologists use their knowledge and research to assist patients in modifying behaviors and in the treatment of certain disorders. If you have a passion for delving into the minds of others, this may be the right career path for you. Although there is quite a bit of education required, this can be a lucrative choice.

What does a behavioral psychologist do?

A behavior psychologist requires a doctoral degree, as they are working with patients with a number of mental health illnesses and behaviors, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety and others. They work in a number of places, including colleges and universities, law enforcement agencies, clinics, treatment facilities, nursing homes, research labs, hospitals, in-patient mental health institutions and schools. They also work in private practice and can be used as a consultant for outside facilities. A behavioral psychologist studies human behavior and works to assist in changing learned behaviors or phobias. They use behavior therapy to instruct patients on how to control any self-destructive behaviors that may be present, and teaches techniques to handle any distractions. You may find a behavior psychologist working with patients who have been diagnosed with ADHD or autism, as they work with clients and patients to gather information to get an in-depth understanding of the relationships that may be triggering certain episodes. A behavioral psychologist may have careers in sociology, social work and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling.

How much does a behavioral psychologist earn?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that on average, a behavior psychologist makes about $74,000 per year. This is dependent on the location, experience, training and current industry. Jobs in this area are projected to increase by 12% throughout 2022. Additionally, behavioral psychologists who work at substance abuse treatment facilities and in private mental health practice can see a jump of 44% through 2022. This is a high demand area that is becoming more involved with businesses and agencies in formulating their employee policies.

What skills are needed to become a behavioral psychologist?

There are a number of skills needed to become a behavioral psychologist, but specifically, 6 main traits that are consistent across the profession:

Numeracy: This position requires the ability to consume large amounts of data and interpret it. They must be researchers that can summarize the data into tangible results.

Communication: In the study of human behavior, there are high expectations on communication, as it is critical for this career. Being able to communicate with clients and other individuals you work with in doing research and helping others works to your advantage when describing observations and communicating findings.

Research: Research plays a huge role in conducting experiments, assessing patients and seeking new therapies to assist their conditions. Being able to find what you need and doing research based on what you have found is essential to being effective in this position.

Problem-Solving: A behavioral psychologist must be able to pinpoint and recommend resolutions for solving a number of problems and scenarios. There must be alternative strategies in place that can assist, with your role being able to quickly implement them for successful results.

Patience: When dealing with issues of the mind and certain behaviors, a behavioral psychologist must be very patient. Things consistently change and so do the patients that are being diagnosed. Being able to patiently speak with them, recommend solutions and find other strategies and ways to break through is essential.

A behavioral psychologist must also have strong verbal communication skills, analytical, observational skills, and knowledge of data collection.

Internship requirements

A 1-year internship is usually required as a prerequisite for graduation from the doctoral program. Any additional internships can be obtained privately by the student.

Educational requirements

Since this is a highly specialized position, there are a number of educational requirements attached to it. The first step would be enrolling into a bachelor’s degree program majoring in psychology. This includes courses in developmental, general and behavioral psychology. There are also research methods and statistics courses that must be taken.

After obtaining the bachelor’s degree, the individual must enroll in graduate school. There are many students who apply directly to a doctoral degree program, but getting a master’s degree in psychology would be advantageous.

Whether or not the choice is to obtain a master’s degree or go straight into a doctoral program, the individual must complete the Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology, or Doctor of Psychology degree. These programs are centered on patient treatment and research. The coursework can include both cognitive and behavior studies, assessment techniques, developmental psychology and psychopathology. For this program, a thesis and dissertation is usually required.

Behavioral psychologists should have up to two years of supervised experience to become certified or receive their license. There are a few states that provide provisional licenses, but having the proven experience is usually one of the prerequisites for obtaining a license.

After the experience has been obtained, passing of the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) must be done. There are specialty areas that are also available for licensing. Once the license has been obtained, getting certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology to recognize specialized expertise and opportunities for growth is essential. For this certification, individuals must pass an oral exam, have reference letters from colleagues or supervisors, and submit coursework that has been completed.

This career path is a lot of work to get to the end, but once you have started working in the profession, it will seem all worth it. This career path is not for the faint at heart; there will be long days and nights initially, especially when getting established and making a name for yourself. The beauty of working with others to help them become better people is one of the main reasons why someone would want to choose a career as a behavioral psychologist. If you can put in the time to complete your education, you can take this position and make it your own.

Psychology Scholarships

American Psychological Foundation Scholarships Association of Black Psychologists Epilepsy Foundation
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship Future Counselors of America Scholarship Gallagher Koster Health Careers Scholarship
Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award NIH Undergraduate Scholarship NAJA Graduate Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Psi Chi Awards and Grants Wayne F. Placek Grants
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In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
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*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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