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Degrees of Tomorrow: Behavioral Health

Behavioral health is the study of mental health, psychiatry, marriage and family counseling, and addiction. There are many careers that professionals in this field can pursue, including counselors, psychiatrists, physicians, social workers, addiction counselors, and more. Most aspiring behavioral health specialists will need at least a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. However, there are some disciplines within behavioral health that only require a bachelor’s degree.

Careers in behavioral health are growing, and there are not enough providers to meet the demand in many areas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) estimates that between 2020 and 2030, there will be a 23 percent increase in jobs in this field, resulting in over 75,000 new jobs.

This demand is driven by several factors. Seeking mental health care has been losing its stigma, so more people are willing to seek help. Also, the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected many people, and they have sought mental health care services. Lastly, there has been an increase in referring criminal offenders with addiction or mental health care issues to counselors instead of incarcerating them.

On average, professionals working in behavioral health earn $53,490 per year, according to the BLS (May 2021). The competitive salary and a positive job outlook make the field of behavioral health a great choice for those looking for a career that will continue to grow and have ample job opportunities in the coming years.

Keep reading to learn about the degrees of tomorrow that you can earn in this field.

Online Degrees in Children’s Counseling

There is a significant shortage of pediatric behavioral therapists. In fact, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has found that not a single U.S. state has sufficient child or adolescent psychiatrists to care for all the kids and teens who need help. This has left kids across the country without adequate mental health care services. Professionals in this field need at least a master’s degree in counseling or psychology.

Southern New Hampshire University (MS in Psychology, Children and Adolescents)

By completing just 36 credits, students can earn an online master’s of science in psychology with a concentration in child and adolescent psychology from Southern New Hampshire University. Students will study research methods, social psychology, methodology, personalities, and ethical practices. There is a strong emphasis on skill-building, and all students will learn how to assess patients, evaluate needs, and write treatment plans.

  • Cost: $627 per credit

Capella University (MS in Psychology, Child & Adolescent Development)

Students who complete the online master’s of science in psychology with an emphasis on child and adolescent development through Capella University will deeply understand how developing minds work. Through this program, students will learn how to help facilitate positive outcomes for families, children, and adolescents. This program has a high degree of flexibility, and students can choose to complete classes on their own schedule through FlexPath or on a set quarter schedule with GuidedPath.

  • Cost: $16,800 to $26,235 for the entire program

Online Degrees in Biobehavioral Health

Behavioral health is sometimes also called biological psychology. This field analyzes the connection between the physical body and the mind. Most programs start at the very beginning, examining evolution and genetics, and then move on to modern humans. The theory is that behavioral and mental processes can be explained through physiology. Much of the work done in this field is research-based and focuses on how feelings and cognition have a root biological cause.

Pennsylvania State University (BS in Biobehavioral Health)

The online bachelor’s of science in biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University examines how socio-cultural influences, biology, environmental factors, and biology can affect a person throughout their life. This four-year degree prepares graduates to tackle human health and illness problems by understanding how biology and mental health interact. Many students who complete this degree will continue their studies in natural or social sciences.

  • Cost: $590 to $632 per credit

University of Alaska, Fairbanks (BA in Biological Sciences)

At the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, students can complete a four-year online bachelor of arts in biological science. This interdisciplinary program provides an in-depth study of the science of life and how it relates to the human condition. Students can complete their capstone research project in behavioral neuroscience, where they will study biological mental health by observing a mouse colony bred for this specific purpose.

  • Cost: $289 per credit

Online Degrees in Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a specialized therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. It is centered on using conditioning to change behaviors and is most commonly used with patients who have mental disabilities such as autism. Typically this therapy is delivered one-on-one, so experienced ABA therapists are in high demand. Over time, this therapy can help reduce self-harm behaviors and help patients interact better with their peers.

Ball State University (MA in Applied Behavior Analysis)

The online master’s of arts in applied behavioral analysis at Ball State University offers an emphasis on autism to prepare their graduates for work with clients in this special population. This is the largest ABA program in the country with an outstanding faculty that is dedicated to student success.

This program has a verified course sequence, so graduates are eligible to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam. The BCBA first-time exam pass rate for students in this program is among the highest in the nation for high-enrolled programs.

  • Cost: $646 per credit

St. Cloud University (MS in Applied Behavior Analysis)

The College of Health and Wellness Professions at St. Cloud University offers an entirely online master’s of science in applied behavior analysis. The goal of this program is to graduate competent and skilled ABA therapists who can meet clients’ needs in various employment settings. This outstanding program boasts PhD faculty for every course. Over 90 percent of graduates have passed the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam for the past five years.

  • Cost: $653.42 per credit

Online Degrees in Forensic Behavioral Health

Forensic behavioral health centers on the study of criminal behavior. Professionals in this field examine perpetrators and suspects to determine their mental capacity. Other times, forensic behavioral health specialists will help profile a potential criminal based on clues gathered from a crime scene. Some working in this field will research the kinds of mental health disorders criminals may have, and the role that upbringing or substance abuse can have in this field.

Concordia University St. Paul (MA in Human Services, Forensic Behavioral Health)

Students who complete the online master’s of arts in human services (forensic behavioral health) at Concordia University St. Paul will have an in-depth understanding of forensic and criminal justice mental health issues. They study evidence-based practices and therapeutic strategies to help improve the lives of those in the criminal justice system and their families. A key component of this degree is how to implement proven intervention strategies to improve client outcomes.

  • Cost: $475 per credit

Bushnell University (BS in Psychology, Concentration in Forensic Psychology)

At Bushnell University, students can complete a four-year online bachelor’s of science in psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology. Courses start every eight weeks so students can start this program when it is convenient for them.

Upon completing this program, graduates will have a keen understanding of what it means to be human and how people learn, develop, process information, and relate to each other. This is all placed in the context of the American criminal justice system and how those traits can influence criminal behavior, law enforcement, trauma, counseling, and addiction.

  • Cost: $495 per credit hour

Online Programs in Correctional Psychology

Incarcerated citizens often need mental health services for a variety of reasons. These can include previous mental health issues that landed them in prison, helping them process incarceration, or assistance in changing unhelpful mental and emotional patterns. A deep understanding of the correctional system and incarcerated citizens’ mental health issues is necessary to excel at this job. Being bilingual is a highly desired skill in this job.

Alliant International University California School of Forensic Science (Certificate in Fundamentals of Correctional Psychology)

At Alliant International University students can earn an online certificate in fundamentals of correctional psychology. This certificate provides students with foundational education on correctional psychology, supporting mental health in prisons, and working within the correctional system. All students are taught the necessary attitudes and skills for safety and success in this career. This degree can be applied to a master’s of science should students wish to pursue additional education.

  • Cost: $230 per credit

University of Cincinnati (Certificate in Correctional Rehabilitation)

Individuals looking to start a career in correction and those who already work in this field but want to further their skills can complete the online certificate in correctional rehabilitation at the University of Cincinnati.

In addition to preparing students for work in corrections this certificate program also provides the education necessary to work with inmates in a correctional treatment center. This degree only requires 12 credits and most students complete these classes in just one year.

  • Cost: $761 per credit

Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.