Behavioral Psychology Salary for Masters & PhD Students

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As a behavioral psychologist, you will work directly with patients in a variety of settings, including laboratories and clinics. Your goal is to help identify and treat any behavioral and mental disorders they may have. Very often, someone with a masters in behavioral psychology will have a private practice, although they can also work in businesses, schools and various consulting facilities.

Salary Feature

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that behavioral psychologists and other so-called “clinical” psychologists earn a median annual salary of $72,220. This is in stark contrast to behavioral disorder counselors, who earn a median annual salary of $40,920. This demonstrates the added value a master’s degree can offer.

About Behavioral Psychology

The focus of someone who has a masters in behavioral psychology is the observation and interpretation of the behavior of a person. This then allows them to create theories about the problems they are facing, and to come up with solutions and treatment plans to improve their overall mental health. As a behavioral psychologist, you will work directly with patients, providing them with the necessary therapy to help them control and even fully resolve any issues they are dealing with. Common disorders that you will encounter include addiction, anxiety and phobia. In order to treat them, you will use interview techniques and close observation, which will allow you to collect the information you need about them. You may also be involved in laboratory testing, hypnosis, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and biofeedback. Your goal will be to greater understand the way humans behave by creating cause and effect theories.

Although you will develop your own theories and practices, you will also use existing ones to focus on human behavior. Furthermore, you will assist your patients by evaluating their belief systems, identifying their emotional responses and understanding their actions in certain situations. This will help to change and prevent a number of behavioral difficulties.

During your master’s degree, you will learn about the different methods and techniques that allow you to do your job. This includes hypnosis, direct observation, personality testing and surveys and psychotherapy. You will also take part in clinical research as part of your degree, and this is something that is likely to continue after you have completed your master’s as well, although this does depend on your specialization.

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The idea behind behavioral psychology is that behavior is learned through conditioning. In the nature versus nurture debate, behavioral psychologists side firmly with nurture, in other words. Hence, you will discuss and observe the interactions with and conditions of a patient’s environment in an analytical manner. This will allow you to understand how certain actions affect the way humans make decisions.

What Jobs Does This Lead To?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are a number of options available to you if you want to work in behavioral psychology. One option is to start your own private practice, or you could work as a consultant in a specific industry. Alternatively, you could seek employment in counseling or medical clinics, rehabilitation centers, drug treatment facilities, medical schools, hospitals, universities and non-profit organizations. One other option is to work as a juvenile advocate in the court system, or you could work in juvenile centers that focus specifically on ADHD and other behaviorally disruptive disorders. Finally, you could decide to take on a doctorate degree or even a post-doctoral fellowship in one of the trauma centers across the country.

As a behavioral psychologist, you options for work include:

  •         Doing research through stimuli and conditioning in order to assess human behavior.
  •         Teaching at universities and colleges.
  •         Working with young people who have been affected by trauma.
  •         Working in counseling or social work, to help change negative behavior. This is particularly common in substance abuse centers, but also in mental health hospitals.
  •         Working in the private sector to help foster greater knowledge on human behavior in the workplace.
  •         Working for the government, prison system or law enforcement.

Salary Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that the median salary for a behavioral psychologist is $32.12 per hour, which equates to $66,810 per year. However, the type of employment will have a great influence on your salary, as will your geographical location. The highest income is found in those who have studied beyond their master’s and achieved a Ph.D., as they can expect a salary of $87,015 per year. College and university faculty employees generally earn $76,090 per year. Those who work in research have average earnings of $80,500 per year.

Job Outlook

Most behavioral psychologists will gain employment in schools, clinics, businesses or clinician’s offices. Around 34% of all behavioral psychologists are self-employed and most of these have their own private practice. It is believed that demand for behavioral psychologists will grow by 22% by 2020, which is well above the national average. School, counseling and clinical psychologists can expect to see significant growth, but the highest growth (27%) is expected in behavioral disorders and substance abuse psychologists. This is mainly because there is now greater awareness of behavioral disorders and the stigma on mental health is lifting. The best prospects exist for those who hold a doctoral degree, mainly because there is a greater variety of opportunities out there for them.

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There is certainly competition on the market for those with a master’s in behavioral psychology, but it is rare for someone with that degree to not work in the field of psychology. The more experience someone has, the more opportunities are out there for them as well. School psychology is in the highest demand at present, mainly because we are starting to understand that there is a strong link between mental health, learning and educational attainment. As a behavioral psychologist, there is a world of opportunities out there for you.



About the Author: Ann Steele

This website is co-authored by Ann Steele, a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with extensive experience with children and adolescents. Ann Steele attended American School Of Psychology & Argosy University Online. She especially enjoys using music therapy for mental and emotional well-being.

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We are an open forum for articles, manuscripts, unpublished thesis, and letters as well as a guide for job, career and program advice from like-minded Graduates. We are seeking submissions that will be of interest to the community.