Masters Degree in Behavioral Psychology: Program Information
Master's degrees programs in behavioral psychology can be difficult to find; however, closely related applied behavior analysis programs are available at this degree level. These programs prepare graduates to work as psychologists specializing in behavioral, learning and developmental disorders. After working in the field for a time, graduates can then go on to pursue a doctorate degree.
Master's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis
A master's degree in applied behavioral analysis, such as the Master of Art (M.A.) in Clinical Psychology with an applied behavior analysis (ABA) specialization or Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Behavior Analysis, trains students in behavioral psychology. These master's degree programs prepare students to work in rehabilitation or treatment centers, helping patients who have ailments like autism, learning disorders, behavior disorders or developmental disabilities.
Students also learn how to help patients with parent-child interactions, neglect and abuse, parent and staff training, behavioral safety and performance management. Master's degrees in this field are characterized by research based on experimentation and study often culminates in a thesis which publishes scientific findings on a particular behavioral disorder. Most programs allow students to specialize in a particular field and customize their curriculum accordingly.
Applicants to master's degree programs that offer behavioral psychology training must have at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in a related field, to be considered for admission. Most admissions committees also ask for college transcripts, standardized test scores and letters of recommendation. The strongest applicants usually have participated in psychological research.
The majority of coursework in this field is based on research, although some programs require students to complete clinical hours to graduate. Here are some classes that are typically part of the curriculum in these programs:
- Common behavioral disorders
- Child development
- Family dynamics
- Child abuse and neglect
- Parenting techniques and training
- Developmental disorders and treatment
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment rate for all psychologists will increase 22% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than average (www.bls.gov). The BLS also notes that the median annual salary for clinical, school and counseling psychologists was $67,650 in May 2012.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Master's degree graduates of a clinical psychology or ABA program with substantial work experience may consider a doctorate degree in the field, such as the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology and Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology. Ph.D. degree programs in these fields usually focus on intensive, original research and dissertation publication, which can be based on a large-scale psychological experiment. Graduates of this degree typically pursue careers in psychology.
Students may also consider behavior analyst certification, which is offered through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and offered through programs across the country (www.bacd.com). This certification is not required; however, it can help with career opportunities.
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