2023 Best Online Doctor of Behavioral Health Programs [DBH Degrees]

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Get your Doctor of Behavioral Health online. Advance your career with the best online DBH programs. Find your program, and become a leader in primary care.

If you are a licensed clinical or medical practitioner looking to advance your education and career, you might consider a Doctor of Behavioral Health (DBH).

Best Online Doctor of Behavioral Health Programs

D.B.H. programs are doctoral programs for licensed professionals who have already received master’s degrees and are looking to add more depth to their education and practice. This clinical or practice-based doctoral degree can help provide you with the training necessary to work in the integrated primary care field.

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Individuals who want to take a hands-on approach to mental health, working directly with patients or clients, may benefit from an online Doctor of Behavioral Health program.

Online Doctor of Behavioral Health Programs

Man taking Online Doctor of Behavioral Health

A doctorate degree in behavioral health is an advanced graduate degree meant for already practicing healthcare professionals looking to advance their careers in primary care.

Earning a Doctor of Behavioral Health may qualify you to work in many critical healthcare positions. You may play a part in helping patients address their psychological and emotional needs as well as helping them build healthier physical and emotional well-being.

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The coursework in behavioral health doctoral programs is varied and is meant to train students in various areas of behavioral health. Topics covered generally include:

  • Primary care intervention
  • Medical pathophysiology
  • Neuropathophysiology
  • Various intervention modes
  • Psychopharmacology

Doctor of Behavioral Health programs may allow you to concentrate on certain areas of study. Some programs are more tailored toward the clinical practice of behavioral health, while other programs emphasize the administrative or managerial aspect.

Employment opportunities for graduates of behavioral health doctoral programs are varied. Many graduates choose to pursue careers working directly with patients as counselors, consultants, coaches, and educators. Some DBH graduates choose to pursue occupations in clinical and healthcare management and administration.

Employers for these healthcare industry positions include private hospitals and healthcare organizations as well as government entities and nonprofit organizations.

Behavioral Health Careers & Salaries

Behavioral Health Careers & Salaries

Healthcare is a fast-growing field, and DBH students are typically already health professionals. The positions you can qualify for after earning a DBH may depend on your prior education and experience.

DBH graduates may also pursue positions as behavioral health providers, managers, consultants, and educators. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median salaries for some of the potential career paths for behavioral health professionals.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Training and Development Managers $120,130
Medical and Health Services Managers $101,340
Top Executives $98,980
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000
Health Education Specialists $60,600
School and Career Counselors and Advisors $60,510
Marriage and Family Therapists $49,880
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $49,130
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $48,520
Rehabilitation Counselors $38,560

A number of these career paths are expected to have much faster than average job growth over the next ten years.

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For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 22% job growth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. In addition, 11% job growth is projected for mental health and substance abuse social workers.

Doctor of Behavioral Health Curriculum & Courses

People taking Doctor of Behavioral Health

The coursework for doctoral degrees in behavioral health centers on the intersection of behavioral health therapies and primary care treatment.

Though each university differs in its requirements, some of the courses you take may be similar to the following:

  • Health Management: This is an overview course of the epidemiology of health care for behavioral health approaches in distinct populations.
  • Healthcare Systems: This course describes the US healthcare system and teaches students how economics coincides with healthcare.
  • Primary Care Models: This course teaches you what the primary care environment is and how behavioral healthcare is implemented in it.
  • Primary Care Interventions: This course reviews the evidence-based literature on behavioral health primary care interventions.
  • Clinical Pathophysiology: This course describes the human body systems and the most prominent diseases within those systems.
  • Neuropathophysiology: This course is an overview of neuroanatomy and the neurophysiological problems that can manifest throughout someone’s lifetime.
  • Psychopharmacology: This course is designed to show how psychopharmacology can intersect with behavioral health.
  • Healthcare Ethics: This course is an overview of current ethical issues in behavioral health.
  • Healthcare Financial Management: This course can help you develop skills for managing the finances of healthcare organizations.
  • Behavioral Health and Wellness: This course overviews the intersection between healthcare and wellness.

In addition to your coursework, you may also be required to complete a capstone experience or an internship in order to graduate.

Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing requirements for Doctor of Behavioral Health

The requirements for admission to behavioral health doctoral programs differ from school to school, though there are certain similarities between them. As part of your application requirements, you may be required to submit or complete some of the following items:

  • Graduate and undergraduate transcripts
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Current licensure as a clinical practitioner
  • Interview

It is beneficial to ensure all your application materials are complete and submitted by the specified deadline.


University offering Doctor of Behavioral Health

If your college or university has regional accreditation, it means your school follows certain standard practices and teaching pedagogies to ensure consistent educational quality.

Ensuring that the schools you are applying to are accredited is an important part of the application process, as accreditation serves as a form of quality control for universities. Earning a degree from a non-accredited university may negatively impact your chances of future employment or certification.

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To verify whether the schools you are applying to are regionally accredited, you can visit the US Department of Education’s website.

Doctor of Behavioral Health Licensure and Certifications

There are currently no specific licenses for doctors of behavioral health, as the field is relatively new. Many schools, though will ask that prospective students be currently licensed clinical or medical professionals.

Most states also require behavioral health professionals to hold licensure or certification in their respective practice. Some of the following licenses may qualify you to start a doctoral program in behavioral health:

  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)

These are just some of the licenses and certifications available to behavioral health professionals.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Doctor of Behavioral Health Financial Aid

The costs incurred as a result of a doctoral degree are no small matter. For this reason, there are many forms of aid available to students who qualify.

Prime among them is federal aid, which is commonly given out in the forms of grants, student loans, and work-study programs. To learn more about federal aid for college, you can visit the Federal Student Aid website. Your state may offer aid programs as well.

In addition to government aid, many private organizations provide scholarships to help qualifying applicants pay for their college costs. You can also see what financial aid opportunities your school has for doctoral students. In addition, many employers have professional development programs that help their employees pay for further education.

What Is a DBH Degree?

Medical & Health Services Manager and staff walking around hospital

A Doctor of Behavioral Health (DBH) degree is a professional, advanced doctoral degree designed for clinical and medical professionals who want advanced training in behavioral health.

A DBH degree differs from a traditional PhD in that a PhD is a research-focused degree. The purpose of a PhD is to write and defend a dissertation, which is original research in a field. On the other hand, a DBH degree is practical, or practice-based. Your coursework is focused on applying behavioral health therapies to meet patients’ and clients’ needs.

Some DBH students are interested in how to become a counselor, while others are seeking entry into other professions. Often called a clinical degree, DBH degrees may allow students to pursue more varied classes than they could in a traditional PhD program.

Who Is Eligible to Enroll in a DBH Program?

People enrolled to

Typically, the bar is set high to be able to enroll in a Doctor of Behavioral Health program. Students may be required to meet the following qualifications in order to determine enrollment eligibility:

  • Masters-level education. Most schools require applicants to already hold a master’s degree in a clinical or medical field.
  • Work experience. Schools may require applicants to have demonstrable work experience and proper licenses as clinical professionals.

It is necessary to ensure you meet the requirements for each behavioral health doctoral program you are applying to. Health professionals who commonly pursue a DBH include nurses, counselors, therapists, social workers, psychologists, physician assistants, and dietitians.

What Can You Do with a Doctor of Behavioral Health Degree?

Health Education Specialist discussing with the team staff

A behavioral health doctoral degree could help you further your career in healthcare. You could learn techniques and theories to help patients overcome their behavioral health challenges.

Most DBH students already work in the healthcare field as clinicians, such as clinical social workers, mental health counselors, or nurses. So, they may use their doctorate to qualify for more senior or managerial roles in their current sector.

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Many DBH graduates go on to become behavioral health consultants or providers, while others work as clinical managers or behavioral health directors in healthcare settings. Some pursue careers as health coaches or educators.

What Does a Doctor of Behavioral Health Do?

Family Therapists in a session with their clients

A Doctor of Behavioral Health is typically a clinical or medical professional who works directly to combat the mental health issues that arise in today’s population.

Doctors in behavioral health apply evidence-based treatment strategies in primary care and behavioral health settings. In order to choose which treatment program to employ, they analyze a patient’s mental health issues as well as how the patient’s lifestyle and environment could be contributing to their mental health.

Behavioral health doctors strive to ensure that behavioral health services are integrated into primary care to combat and decrease the prevalence of key social problems.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctor of Behavioral Health Online?

Man pursuing his DBH Degree online

The time it takes to complete a behavioral health doctoral program depends on the program itself as well as your life circumstances. A Doctor of Behavioral Health generally takes around 3 years to complete. This timeframe could change, though, depending on your schedule. If you study part-time, your degree program will likely take longer to complete.

A doctorate of behavioral health does not typically require a dissertation, so the time to earn the degree is often shorter than a traditional PhD. The length of your program may extend, though, if it requires any internship or residency components.

What’s the Difference Between Doctor of Behavioral Health vs. Mental Health PhD Programs?

Though they share similar features, a doctorate of behavioral health program and a mental health PhD program differ in their approach to the field.

Doctor of Behavioral Health Programs Mental Health PhD Programs
  • Focused on applying behavioral health therapies in a primary care setting
  • Requires previous graduate study
  • Typically open to most clinical professionals
  • Focused on researching topics in mental health and contributing to the scholarship
  • Also requires previous graduate study
  • Often tailored for practicing mental health professionals

Both types of degrees could lead to similar career fields.

What’s the Difference Between a PhD vs. Doctor of Behavioral Health?

Here are some key differences between a PhD in Behavioral Health and a Doctor of Behavioral Health.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Doctor of Behavioral Health (DBH)
  • Research-based
  • Requires a dissertation to graduate
  • May take 5 years to complete
  • Focused on producing original research to contribute to the field
  • Clinical-based
  • Often has a capstone project in lieu of a dissertation
  • May be completed in 3 years
  • Focused on the application of knowledge to real-life behavioral health issues

Both a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Behavioral Health and a Doctor of Behavioral Health are doctoral degrees. The main difference lies in the approach they take to investigate issues in healthcare.

Is a Doctor of Behavioral Health Worth It?

Career Counselor in a meeting with her client

Yes, a Doctor of Behavioral Health is worth it for many students. As a clinical, practical degree, a doctorate in behavioral health online program can help you develop the necessary skills and qualifications to take on a larger role in behavioral health.

For clinical and medical professionals looking to expand their range and career opportunities, the doors opened by a behavioral health doctorate may be enticing. Behavioral health specialists represent a new wave in healthcare, emphasizing lifestyle and mental health in primary care.

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Healthcare is also a stable field to situate yourself in, with 13% job growth projected over the next ten years, which is much faster than average (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Universities Offering Online Doctor of Behavioral Health Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

Arizona State University offers an online program for a Doctor of Behavioral Health—Clinical. The curriculum consists of 18 classes for a total of 84 credit hours. Each class is 7.5 weeks long. The program focuses on evidence-based behavioral interventions and requires the completion of a 400 hour internship. It uses both synchronous and asynchronous elements.

Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Freed-Hardeman University

Freed Hardeman University campus

Freed-Hardeman University offers a Doctor of Behavioral Health that requires the completion of 60 credit hours beyond a master’s degree. All classes are available online, and some have synchronous meetings. The program requires the completion of a capstone research project instead of a dissertation. Prospective students may apply to begin in the fall, spring, or summer.

Freed-Hardeman University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University campus

Grand Canyon University offers a Doctor of Behavioral Health in Organizational Leadership. This 60 credit program is available online, with courses that use a convenient 8 week format. To graduate, students must complete a dissertation. The curriculum consists of courses such as Introduction to Research, Ethical Dilemmas and Stewardship, and Behavioral Health Clinical Supervision.

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University’s PhD in Psychology can be earned with a specialization in Behavioral Health Leadership. The program is research-oriented and 100% online, with courses that use an accelerated, 8 week format. It requires the completion of 60 credit hours, including a dissertation, and takes an average of 3 years to finish.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Walden University

Walden University campus

Walden University offers a Doctor of Psychology in Behavioral Health Leadership. There are two in-person residencies required, but coursework can otherwise be completed online.

Students can choose to follow the general program or choose an optional specialization. Specializations offered are Healthcare Management, Health Psychology, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, International Practice, Public Health, and Teaching.

Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Doctor of Behavioral Health Online

Woman taking Doctor of Behavioral Health Degree Online

Unlike say an on-campus or online masters program in counseling, a Doctor of Behavioral Health program is a relatively recent development. Enrolling in an online behavioral health degree program could make you part of the first wave of trained DBH professionals.

As a behavioral health professional, you could be on the frontlines of healthcare, implementing strategies to combat the mental health issues and lifestyle behaviors that contribute to them. If you work in healthcare and already have a masters-level education, then pursuing doctoral studies in this integrative field may be a strategic next step in your career.

If a doctoral degree in behavioral health is right for you, you can start exploring accredited schools today to discover online DBH programs that align with your professional interests and goals.

Ready to start your journey?
Leon is currently pursuing an M.A. in History from Florida Atlantic University. He holds both a B.A. in History and a B.S. in Communications with a concentration in Journalism from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Leon's research interests include the Cold War in Latin America and US-Latin American relations.