Generally, the more advanced your degree in behavioral science, the higher your earning potential will be. This broad field of study, which incorporates studies in psychology, applied behavioral analysis, counseling techniques and many more subject areas, can prepare students for many different jobs. A community college education can provide some groundwork to get started in the fields of social services and social science, but most positions require more education. Even a bachelor’s degree in the field can only take you so far. For any social services role that requires a license, you are likely to need at least a master’s degree. A doctoral degree can open even more opportunities, including those with the highest rates of pay.
Social and Human Service Assistant
If you’re not ready to commit to earning an advanced degree, acquiring thousands of hours of clinical experience and following a path to licensure, then you may prefer to start your career in community and social service in an assistant role. Social and human service assistants work directly with clients, under the supervision of social workers, psychologists and counselors, to access resources that include social services, programs and benefits. A certificate or associate’s degree in behavioral science or a similar field of study is enough to get started in this occupation, but because the entry requirements for this career are low, so is the earning potential. The median pay rate for social and human service assistants is $33,750, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Local government jobs, which account for 12 percent of social and human service assistant roles, offer the best wages. The median salary for social and human service assistant jobs in this employment field is $39,770.
Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist
Parole officers, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists provide services that help rehabilitate individuals who have been accused or convicted of a crime. Probation officers work with offenders who were sentenced to probation instead of jail time, while parole officers supervise formerly incarcerated individuals who have been released from prison. Correctional treatment specialists, whose role may involve more evaluation and counseling, are more likely to work with currently incarcerated offenders. They develop rehabilitation plans to help inmates develop skills and behavior patterns that will assist them in life after prison. The median wage for probation officers, parole officers and correctional treatment specialists is $53,020, the BLS reported.
Alternative degree options that can prepare you for this occupation include social work and criminal justice, according to the BLS.
Behavior Analysts and Specialists
Behavior analysts and specialists provide services to individuals with behavioral and developmental disorders and their families. These roles might include developing programs to help children with autism or assessing the impact of a therapy on an adult with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Average wages differ depending on precise job title and responsibilities but can range from $40,000 for behavior specialists to $54,000 for behavior analysts.
Some behavioral analysts, called behavioral gerontologists, focus on disorders that primarily affect elderly populations, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
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An undergraduate background in behavioral science is a great foundation for graduate studies in counseling. You can leverage your knowledge of human behavior in a role such as marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor or substance abuse counselor. Generally, marriage and family therapists earn somewhat higher wages, with a median salary of $50,090, according to the BLS, while the median wage for mental health and substance abuse counselors is $44,630.
To move into these roles, you need a master’s degree. Graduate programs in marriage and family therapy emphasize relationships and family-centered approaches. Mental health is a broader field of practice, while substance abuse programs focus on addiction recovery.
One of the best-paying occupations you can attain by studying behavioral science is psychologist. The median salary for psychologists is $79,010 per year, according to the BLS. Psychologists’ earnings vary by specialty, with clinical, counseling and school psychologists making a median wage of $76,990 and industrial-organizational psychologists earning a median salary of $97,260. Psychologists in other specialties are the best-paid, with a median pay rate of $100,770.
To be a psychologist, you typically need a doctorate, according to the BLS. A traditional Ph.D. is the most suitable choice if your interests lie in research, while the professional Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree is popular for clinical and counseling roles.