2021 Best Online PhD in Behavioral Psychology Programs

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If you’re interested in human thought, cognitive processing, and how those thoughts can lead to human behavior, then earning an online PhD in Behavioral Psychology may be a good fit for you.

PhD in Behavioral Psychology Programs

This growing field may provide you with an excellent opportunity to engage with other people on a personal level. You may analyze their thoughts and actions based on various principles related to behavior analysis, cognitive theory, and behavioral theory.

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With higher than average annual salaries and flexible career options, now may be a strategic time to pursue a terminal degree in behavioral psychology.

Online PhD in Behavioral Psychology Programs

Psychologist listening to her patient

Commonly offered as an ABA PhD, a doctorate in behavioral psychology may allow you to develop advanced knowledge and skills in relation to research practices, ethics, behaviorism, behavioral analysis, human behavior, and behavioral pharmacology.

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a forensic psychologist? With your doctorate, there are several different professional areas that you may work in since behavioral psychology is an area of study with a number of subdisciplines. Other examples of these subdisciplines include applied behavior analysis (ABA), cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Applied behavior analysis is useful in teaching life skills. This area of behavioral psychology helps people learn to interact with others, including verbal communication skill development. It has been beneficial in understanding and working with individuals with autism in particular.

Cognitive therapy focuses on helping people manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to address harmful patterns and develop more productive thought processes. Behavioral therapy addresses harmful or unhelpful learned behaviors and uses psychological methods to establish new, healthy, and helpful behaviors.

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As the name suggests, cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, combines both cognitive and behavioral therapy approaches to address thoughts and related actions or behaviors.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is commonly used to treat mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and bipolar disorders. Careers in the field of behavioral psychology may allow you to work with some or all of these subdisciplines.

Applied behavior analysis, or ABA, is a common course of study for those interested in a terminal degree in behavioral psychology. As a result, PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis programs are frequently offered by various schools.

Behavioral Psychology Careers & Salaries

Behavioral Psychology Careers & Salaries

Earning your Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology may prepare you for a number of different career options, including that of a behavioral psychologist. As a behavioral psychologist, you may be able to perform research related to behavior analysis, cognition, and behavior therapy.

You may also work in a clinical setting to provide treatment to a range of individuals, including children, teens, and adults. You may also work with those experiencing substance abuse, mental health, or behavioral issues.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, obtaining your PhD in Behavioral Psychology or a PhD in ABA may lead to many rewarding career paths.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Chief Executive in Healthcare and Social Assistance $160,950
Public Health Director $113,270
Industrial-Organizational Psychologist $96,270
Behavioral Scientist $87,260
Sociologist $86,110
Psychologist $82,180
Psychology Professor $78,180
Social Service Director $69,600
Survey Researcher $59,870
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor $47,660

As a behavioral psychologist, there may also be opportunities for you to work within government, correctional centers, nonprofits, academia, or private businesses.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a number of positions available to you with a doctorate in behavioral psychology are expected to experience growth over the coming decade.

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These positions include psychologist (3%), sociologist (4%), top executive (4%), and postsecondary school teacher (9%). Notably, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor positions are predicted to increase significantly by 25% over the next decade.

Doctorate in Behavioral Psychology Curriculum

Clinical Psychologist with his patient

While earning your PhD in Behavioral Psychology, you may be required to take a number of courses that cover key principles of the specialty. Coursework is generally followed by the mandatory completion of a research-based dissertation or thesis.

  • Organizational Behavior Management: This course reviews major principles of organizational behavior from a behavioral psychology perspective, including a look at performance management, productivity, and safety.
  • Radical Behaviorism: This course is an analysis of radical behaviorism articles developed by B.F. Skinner, including a look at verbal behavior, society, and determinism.
  • Behavioral and Functional Assessment: You’ll review common behavioral and functional assessment tools and methodologies used in the field of behavioral psychology.
  • Principles of Behavioral Psychology: You’ll examine key principles of behavioral psychology, including a review of applied behavioral analysis and various types of therapies.
  • Verbal Behavior: This course consists of an in-depth analysis of verbal behavior concepts from a psychological perspective.
  • Complex Human Behavior: You’ll review various human behaviors, including thinking, dreaming, and imagining, through the lens of applied behavioral analysis.
  • Behavioral Pharmacology: You’ll examine the interconnected relationship between biology and behavior and the impact substance can have on the relationship.
  • Ethical Considerations in Behavioral Psychology: This course consists of an in-depth analysis of ethical principles and considerations in the execution of research and treatment in relation to behavioral psychology.
  • Behavior Change Procedures: You’ll take a look at behavior change procedures and behavior generality in the context of psychology and analysis.
  • Ethical Standards in Applied Behavior Analysis: This course is a review of the ethical issues that may impact applied behavior analysis research specifically, and you’ll take a look at guidelines from the professional board of conduct.

Since most PhD programs are heavily based on research, other courses may include a review of qualitative and quantitative research methods and best practices.

Admissions Requirements

Doctorate in Behavioral Psychology student studying on his laptop

While admission requirements for a PhD in Behavioral Psychology online program vary from school to school, some requirements may include those listed below.

  • Letters of reference from professors or workplace supervisors
  • A master’s degree from an accredited institution
  • GRE or GMAT scores, if required

In some cases, schools may require that you have a masters degree from a psychology focused program. For example, you may benefit from having earned either a traditional campus-based or an online masters degree in behavioral psychology before applying for admission to a PhD program in this field.

If you are just beginning your educational journey, you may also want to look into one of the online bachelor degrees in psychology offered at some universities.

As for GRE and GMAT scores, a growing number of schools no longer require these scores for admission into a program. So, you may want to check the specific requirements for the schools you’re interested in attending.

Accreditation

PhD in Behavioral Psychology Programs Accreditation

Schools and programs that have been regionally accredited offer curriculum that has undergone an extensive review to ensure overall academic quality.

The accreditation status of the PhD program you choose can impact your financial aid eligibility, your employment opportunities, and your ability to register with various professional colleges and associations.

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You can find out if the program you’re interested in attending is accredited via the US Department of Education‘s website. Notably, some states require you to obtain your PhD from an APA accredited or ABAI accredited institution in order to register as a practicing psychologist.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in Behavioral Psychology Programs Financial Aid

There are several financial aid options, including federal aid, state aid, and scholarships, that can help ease the cost of pursuing a PhD in Behavioral Psychology.

Federal and state aid is available to students who qualify in the form of grants or loans. While loans require repayment after you’ve completed your studies, grants generally do not. You can apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid on the US Department of Education’s website.

Due to the extensive amount of research undertaken within a PhD program, some schools may offer funding packages to students. While these packages can differ from school to school, they may include tuition and cost of living funding supports or reimbursements.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Behavioral Psychology?

Psychologist with a client during consultation

The position of a psychologist—whether in a clinical, government, business, or academic setting—is a common career path for those who pursue the terminal degree of behavioral psychology.

There are some other rewarding career options available, though, when your earn your doctorate in behavioral psychology. You may also qualify for positions such as top-level executive, sociologist, social scientist, postsecondary teacher, and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Behavioral Psychology Online?

While the length of a Ph.D. program varies from school to school, it traditionally takes between 3 to 5 years to complete a doctorate when attending full-time.

Depending on the school you’re interested in attending, you may be able to enroll on a part-time basis. This is not always permitted and will vary by school. In some cases, schools may require you to complete all program components, including coursework and your dissertation, in a timeframe that does not exceed a specific number of years.

What Is the Difference Between a PhD in Behavioral Psychology vs. Behavior Analysis?

Psychologist listening to his client

Behavior analysis is a subdiscipline of behavioral psychology, and the two terms are often used interchangeably.

As a component of behavioral psychology, applied behavioral analysis looks at how experience, substance, and biology influence behavior. Applied behavioral analysis covers an expanse of topics, ranging from human and animal behavior to verbal behavior and autism spectrum disorders.

In some cases, terminal behavioral psychology degrees will be offered as applied behavior analysis PhD programs.

What Is the Difference Between a PhD in Cognitive vs. Behavioral Psychology?

Cognitive psychology PhD programs emphasize intangible thought processes along with the use of language, memory, and attention. It also analyzes problem-solving and critical thinking abilities and behaviors.

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Unlike cognitive psychology, behavior psychology focuses on observable behaviors and actions of individuals and how those behaviors relate to the mind and the environment. While cognitive and behavioral psychology have different focuses, it is not uncommon for them to be taught together as cognitive-behavioral psychology.

What Is the Difference Between a PhD in Behavioral Science vs. Psychology?

Behavioral science covers sociology, psychology, and anthropology as well as biology. The study of behavioral science can also expand into areas of law, political science, and geography.

As a career, behavioral scientists explore a broad scope of human actions that span across different fields of knowledge. Psychology is only one part of the behavioral science landscape and focuses specifically on brain function, cognition, decision-making, and mental processing.

What Is the Difference Between a PhD in Behavioral Health vs. Psychology?

Behavioral Psychologist with her patient

A PhD in Behavioral Health focuses on mental health and wellbeing, with an emphasis on emotional security, coping skills, daily functioning, eating habits, and substance abuse.

The study of behavioral health may also extend to the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse. Behavioral psychology is the study of human behavior and the analysis of how the environment influences thought and behavior. This may include observing and measuring the behaviors of various individuals in different situations and contexts.

Behavioral health and psychology may intersect in the study and treatment of mental health, behavioral disorders, and substance abuse.

Is a PhD in Behavioral Psychology Worth It?

happy Psychologist with her client

Yes, a PhD in Behavioral Psychology is worth it for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, life, physical, and social science jobs are set to grow at 5% over the next 10 years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Common behavioral psychology careers in this field include behavioral psychologists, mental health counselors, postsecondary school teachers, researchers, and top-level executives.

Careers in the field of behavioral psychology may allow you to focus on any of the four subdisciplines: applied behavioral analysis, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Behavioral Psychology 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

The online Doctor of Behavioral Health program at Arizona State University is an 84 credit clinical program that’s specifically designed to increase the knowledge and skill sets of masters-level clinicians. Students will take advanced courses in entrepreneurship, medical literacy, and behavioral interventions. There are 13 total courses required for graduation.

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

California Institute of Integral Studies

California Institute of Integral Studies campus

Normally, students enrolled in California Institute of Integral Studies’ PhD in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology program would be able to complete the majority of the degree online, with the exception of required attendance to the biannual Residential Intensive event. Currently, though, that event is also being offered online.

CIIS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

California Southern University

California Southern University campus

California Southern University offers a Doctor of Psychology degree through its School of Behavioral Sciences. The program is designed to help students advance their knowledge of clinical issues in psychology and develop their practical skills to prepare for careers in professional psychology practice. The program can lead to licensure in California.

California Southern University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Capella University

Capella University campus

Capella University’s PhD in Advanced Studies in Human Behavior program puts heavy emphasis on program development and evaluation, patient advocacy, advanced research, and interdisciplinary leadership theory.

The curriculum includes eight core courses, four electives, eight specialization courses, a dissertation with three related research seminars, and the successful completion of a comprehensive exam.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Endicott College

Endicott College campus

The PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program at Endicott College is a 60 credit program that’s largely research-based and prepares students to become scientist-practitioners or university-level professors.

The online program is delivered via synchronous learning, and students interested in enrolling are encouraged to already have their ABA licenses.

Endicott College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Institute of Technology campus

Students hoping to become behavior-analytic practitioners, professors, or researchers can enroll in Florida Institute of Technology’s PhD in Behavior Analysis program.

Students should leave the program being able to further contribute to behavioral research, to effectively manage other behavior analysts, and to incorporate current research into their own practices.

Florida Institute of Technology is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University campus

Students interested in behavioral psychology at Grand Canyon University can enroll in its PhD in General Psychology program and select the cognition and instruction (qualitative research) concentration.

It’s a 60 credit program that explores topics of human learning and cognition, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, factors affecting individual behavior, and appropriate tests and measures.

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Lesley University

Lesley University campus

Lesley University’s PhD in Expressive Therapies program is a low-residency program that requires only 45 credits for completion. It’s a 4 year program, but the entirety of a student’s fourth year is dedicated to completing and defending their dissertation. Each of the first 3 years requires students to complete 15 credits.

Lesley University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Through its School of Behavioral Sciences, Liberty University offers students several behavioral psychology-related doctoral programs.

These include doctoral programs in community care and counseling, counselor education and family studies, and general psychology. The school also offers an executive certificate in psychology as well. Each program blends online learning with hands-on training.

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

Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

Northcentral University’s PhD in Psychology program allows students to select from ten different concentration areas, including one that can lead to licensure in the state of California.

Other concentration options include health psychology, general psychology, addictions, psychology of gender and sexual fluidity, industrial organizational psychology, and trauma and disaster relief.

Northcentral University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Regent University

Regent University campus

Students enrolled in Regent University’s PhD in Counseling and Psychological Studies program can select the human services counseling concentration if they’re interested in pursuing careers in research, psychological science, education, or mental health counseling.

It’s a 51 credit program that allows students to gain field experience and empower their careers.

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

Saybrook University

Saybrook University campus

Saybrook University offers a PhD in Psychology program with an optional concentration in existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology.

In addition to those courses, the curriculum also covers Gestalt psychology, transcendence, self-actualization, and phenomenological psychology. The goal is to teach students everything they need to help others achieve psychological balance and transformation.

Saybrook University is accredited by the Senior Commission of Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Sofia University

Sofia University campus

The PhD in Transpersonal Psychology program from Sofia University requires 75 total units for completion, and most students finish it in about 3 years. The program helps students improve their analytic and research skills and also provides them with in-depth understanding about all aspects of the human experience.

Sofia University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

SUNY – University at Albany

State University of New York Albany campus

The PhD in Social and Personality Psychology program at SUNY – University at Albany provides students with advanced coursework in the field of human cognition and behavior, particularly within social environments.

Heavy emphasis is placed on psychological theory and concepts as well as cultivating research skills. Courses explore group identity, collective action, and individual behavior.

SUNY – University at Albany is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology campus

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers an online PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis program that teaches students about radical behaviorism, applied behavior analysis, and the analysis of behavior. Students aren’t required to have a masters degree before entering the program, and the program can potentially lead to BCBA certification.

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Touro University Worldwide

Touro University Worldwide campus

Touro University Worldwide’s Doctor of Psychology in Human and Organizational Psychology program is a 100% online program that requires 66 credits for completion. It can usually be finished in 3 years. There are no GRE or residency requirements, and students can start quickly thanks to the accelerated admissions process.

Touro University Worldwide is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

University of Nevada – Reno

University of Nevada Reno campus

The behavior analysis PhD program at University of Nevada – Reno provides supervised experience and instruction in multiple aspects of behavioral psychology.

These include courses on basic research into animal behavior, basic and applied research into human behavior, behaviorism philosophies, participatory governance and fiscal management, and the methodology of behavior analysis.

The University of Nevada – Reno is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

University of South Florida

University of South Florida campus

Students in the University of South Florida’s PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis program can choose to focus their studies on child and family studies.

The program combines online coursework and independent and collaborative research experiences with supervised teaching experiences for a comprehensive education. A dissertation is also required for degree completion.

The University of South Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands campus

University of the Cumberlands’s PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision program allows students to choose from one of three specializations in leadership, addiction, or advanced counseling.

Upon program completion, students should have mastery over counselor education, administrative expertise, leadership skills, and the advanced clinical skills necessary for private practice.

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

Walden University

Walden University campus

The online Doctor of Psychology in Behavioral Health Leadership program at Walden University is a comprehensive program that allows students to choose between six concentrations: public health, international practice, industrial and organizational psychology, health psychology, healthcare management, and general behavioral health leadership. Students can transfer up to 40 previously earned credits.

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your PhD in Behavioral Psychology Online

Getting Your PhD in Behavioral Psychology Online

Pursuing your behavioral psychology doctorate online may provide you with a number of opportunities in your career. You may perform interesting work that allows you to support various populations, from children and teens to adults.

You may also support individuals dealing with mental health disorders, behavioral issues, substance abuse, or criminality.

If you’re interested in helping others, having diverse career options, earning a higher than average annual salary, and having a positive job outlook, then you may consider exploring accredited online doctoral programs for behavioral psychology.

Ready to start your journey?
Brenda Pyzik
WRITTEN BY
Brenda Pyzik
Brenda has a bachelor’s in sociology from the University of Waterloo, with a minor in legal studies. She obtained a graduate certificate in human resource management from Georgian College. Brenda focuses on employment, business, and training and development.