What Classes Will I Take for a Degree in Behavioral Science?

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The interdisciplinary field of behavioral science can prepare students for many different roles in fields like psychology, sociology and community and social service. Because the field is so broad, students pursuing an undergraduate degree in behavior science will find themselves taking a variety of classes that address different aspects of the cognitive and physical brain processes that affect behavior. In addition to their general education classes, college students majoring in behavioral science often complete coursework in psychology, sociology, science, math, research and counseling concepts and techniques.

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Psychology and Sociology Coursework

Introductory studies in psychology and sociology are a must for students of behavioral science. While psychology and sociology are related, they differ in key ways. The study of psychology focuses on understanding thought and behavior, while sociology is the study of groups and the dynamics and patterns of social interactions, relationships and structures. Behavioral science degree programs often include numerous courses in the foundations of both fields. Your psychology coursework might include introductory psychology, social psychology, abnormal psychology and cognitive psychology as well as studies in lifespan development. You might take sociology classes that include introductory sociology, social problems, social change and social deviance.

Classes in cultural anthropology, the scientific study of humans and particularly the cultural variations found in human societies, are often part of a behavioral science curriculum, as well.

Classes in Science, Statistics and Research

You might expect a degree program with the word “science” in the name to include more of a focus on scientific principles and practices. As a discipline that blends the natural and social sciences, psychology requires familiarity with the scientific method as well as skills in quantitative analysis. Often, degree programs in behavioral science include coursework in research design and methods used in the sciences, particularly as they pertain to the social sciences. A knowledge of statistics is required for this field, prompting colleges to include courses like probability and statistics, statistics for behavioral and social sciences, research and data analysis and inferential statistics in their degree programs. There may also be a quantitative component to courses in psychometrics, which refers to the psychological assessments used for diagnosis and the statistical concepts underlying these measurements.

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What about courses specific to behavioral science? These classes may blend concepts and practices used in the natural and social sciences and often focus on the application of behavioral science theories to real-world situations.

Counseling and Psychotherapy

Because behavioral science is a popular major for students who aspire to work in counseling, social work and psychology, many programs in this field of study incorporate studies in the fundamental knowledge needed to work as a psychological or behavioral therapist. A bachelor’s degree program is no substitute for a master’s degree in counseling or a doctorate in counseling psychology, but undergraduate courses in counseling and psychotherapy often cover the basics that these advanced degree programs will build on later in a student’s education.

At the undergraduate level, a course in counseling theories for behavioral science majors might begin by introducing commonly used theories of assessing and treating clients, including cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic and humanistic theories. Once students grasp these broader theories, they might study more specialized techniques used in the field of counseling. Classes on treatment strategies might focus on the evidence-based strategies used to address client concerns in a wide variety of behavioral health matters.

Courses focusing on developing counseling skills might allow students to put their studies of counseling skills to work in individual and group counseling scenarios in which they interview and provide direct service to real or “practice” clients.

Why Study Behavioral Science?

For many of the roles that an undergraduate behavioral science degree program prepares students to attain, further study is needed. You must have a master’s degree in counseling to become a licensed professional counselor and an advanced degree – typically, a doctorate – to work as a psychologist. Since you have to go to graduate school anyway, why should students consider earning a degree in behavioral science?

The fact that an undergraduate program in behavioral science is broader than studying only psychology, sociology or counseling is exactly the appeal of this degree path. It is ideal for students who don’t know precisely what they want to do in the field, because it equips them with an understanding of the foundations of each branch of study and allows them to see what aspect of the behavioral sciences most appeals to them personally. This program includes enough coursework in psychology that it should make it easy to get into graduate school for subjects ranging from psychology and behavior analysis to counseling and social work.

Even without a master’s degree, you could get a job in a community and social service assistant role, or as a parole officer, probation officer or correctional treatment specialist, with a background in behavioral science, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

Additional Resources

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