Generally speaking, science and mathematics are closely linked. A student majoring in the life, natural and physical sciences should expect their college curriculum to include a greater quantity of mathematics and math-related coursework than a student of the humanities, communication many other fields of study. However, if you are interested in behavioral science, you might wonder if this focus on mathematics and statistics coursework will apply to your field of study. Behavioral science has aspects in common with both natural and social sciences, so your program of study will include a combination of coursework that fits this nuanced field. Students should expect to take math classes that range from introductory and applied mathematics, for general education purposes, to major coursework in statistics and research methods.
Behavioral Science’s Place Among the Natural and Social Sciences
One factor to consider in evaluating the extent of math knowledge you will need as a behavioral science major is whether this field counts as a natural science, like biology and chemistry, or a social science, like sociology. Much like the related study of psychology, behavioral science contains elements of both types of sciences, linking the two fields together. Like social sciences, behavioral science is primarily concerned with what humans do. However, the study also includes a focus on the brain and behavior, including how the environment affects the brain.
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Why does math matter in the social and behavioral sciences? Math means more than complex abstract concepts and complicated equations. Increasingly, both researchers and problem-solvers working in the fields of social and behavioral sciences are looking to mathematical modeling and data analysis as important tools for approaching complicated problems. While you don’t have to be a mathematician, it helps to be able to understand the role of math in social and behavioral sciences.
Because behavioral science is somewhere in between natural and social sciences, students may take fewer math courses than natural sciences majors but more than students of social science. Different academic tracks also affect the amount of math coursework required.
Math Coursework in Behavioral Science Programs
At the start of their college careers, the math courses behavioral science students have to take are those that satisfy their college’s general education requirements. These math courses may be as basic as Introductory Survey of Mathematics or an applied mathematics class.
Within the behavioral science major, coursework in statistics is common. An inferential statistics class may cover material in methods of research sampling and data collection, using tools such as linear regression and probability distributions to analyze data and understanding the statistical principles and practices at work in interpreting data. Whether as part of a statistics course or as a separate course in research methods, students must develop familiarity with the scientific method and research design.
Although studies in research methods and statistics are important, students of behavioral science take many other types of classes, as well. They study psychology, the study of thought and behavior, and sociology, the study of group dynamics and behavior. In addition to normal development, behavioral science programs often include classes in abnormal psychology, social deviance or psychopathology. Students learn about different populations through sociology courses focusing on ethnic groups and minorities and on cultural anthropology. Studies in family and marital relationships, group communication and ethics in behavioral science practice are important. Through dedicated courses such as interpersonal communication skills and writing and literacy in the behavioral sciences, students majoring in this program of study develop the skills they need to work in numerous job roles within the behavioral sciences.
Behavioral science programs are broader than a degree in a single subject such as psychology or sociology. As a result, they allow students a great degree of choice in their coursework, often by offering multiple classes that can be used to meet a single learning outcome or graduation requirement. Students who are interested in the research and brain function side of behavioral science may need to take more math-related coursework than those who are more interested in the social-communication side of the field.
Graduates of undergraduate behavioral science programs may join the workforce in a social service role, go on to earn a master’s degree and work in a role like applied behavior analyst or pursue a Ph.D. or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) and become a psychologist.