Behavioral Science Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out how majoring in behavioral science may help you gain an understanding of people's behaviors and prepare you for a career in human service occupations. Read on to learn about the behavioral science major as well as potential careers and earnings in the field. Schools offering Applied Behavioral Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Career Options for Behavioral Science Graduates?

Behavioral science majors work in careers that are focused on human service and mental health care. Behavioral science can help you gain an understanding of people's behaviors through courses in social sciences such as sociology, psychology and political science. It is an interdisciplinary program that can prepare you for several career options like being a police officer, a social science research assistant or a survey researcher.

The following chart gives examples and expectations of some of these career opportunities.

Police Officer or Detective Social Science Research Assistants Survey Researcher
Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent, advanced education preferred Associate's, advanced education preferred Bachelor's, master's preferred
Education Field of Study Behavioral science fields Behavioral science fields Behavioral science fields
Training Required Police academy training, on-the-job training Field experience Previous experience in performing research, using statistics, and analyzing data
Job Growth (2014-24) 4%* 5%-8%** 12%*
Average Salary (2015) $61,270* $45,760* $59,340*

Source: *The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **O*NET, via the BLS.

What is the Behavioral Science Major?

The behavioral science major is an interdisciplinary program that combines courses in social sciences like sociology, psychology and political science. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, you may be required to complete a minor in one of several areas, including criminal justice, psychology, anthropology, sociology, social work, economics or political science. As a behavioral science major, you will complete courses in research methods, social psychology, mathematics and anthropology. The behavioral science major may serve as a background for further study in law and medicine.

Some schools may group criminal justice, psychology and anthropology together under the umbrella of a behavioral sciences department. In these programs, you will be required to choose a specific subject to study, like education or criminal justice. These majors can prepare you for careers in specific fields, and each subject likely requires a different course of study.

What Jobs Can I Apply For?

Because behavioral science is interdisciplinary and may cover different areas depending on the student's desired focus, career options in this field are many and varied. For example, with a degree in behavioral science and course specialization in criminal justice, you could find work as a police officer. A police officer is charged with protecting public safety and order. You could be responsible for traffic enforcement, or you could specialize in a certain area, like training and firearms instruction, handwriting analysis or fingerprint identification. You would work closely with other police officers in other jurisdictions or in your own station to investigate crimes.

If your behavioral science coursework focuses more on anthropology or another social science discipline, you may want to look into earning a graduate degree. The BLS states that careers in anthropology are rarely open to individuals with bachelor's degrees. A few exceptions may be available to behavioral science majors who focused on a variety of social science areas, including sociology and psychology. This could include work as a research assistant or a public opinion researcher.

As a social science research assistant, you could help a researcher collect and analyze social data like crime statistics or marriage rates among certain populations. You may also be responsible for helping to prepare manuscripts for publication. According to the BLS, public opinion research is the area most commonly available to those with bachelor's degrees. As a public opinion survey researcher, you could be responsible for creating surveys to obtain specific information, or you could collect survey results by telephone, mail marketing campaigns or in public venues like shopping malls.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) police officers and detectives reported an average salary of $61,270 in 2015. Job growth is predicted over the decade to only increase by 4%, much lower than the national average, meaning that jobs may be competitive, depending on location.

Up-to-date BLS data also indicates that social science research assistants, excluding graduate teaching assistants, are yielding a national average of $45,760 per year. Data from O*Net, provided by the BLS as supplementary data, indicates that employment of social research assistants is expected to increase by 5% to 8%.

The BLS states that the average salary for a survey researcher as of 2015 is $59,340 per year with a predicted job growth rate of 12% over the course of the decade.

How Do I Qualify for More Advanced Jobs?

As stated by the BLS, careers in behavioral science fields may be hard to come by unless you have a graduate degree. These fields include anthropology, sociology and psychology. You may also be able to hold careers in related fields with a behavioral science graduate degree. For example, the BLS says that you can get higher-level social work positions with a master's degree in social work or a related discipline, which might include behavioral science.

If you would like to become a behavioral science professor, you will likely need a doctoral degree. According to the BLS, most college professors are required to have this advanced degree. Even some jobs that bachelor's degree holders may qualify for, like survey researcher, often require more advanced education. According to the BLS, a master's or doctoral degree in a social science discipline can help you advance beyond the more basic survey research available to bachelor's degree holders.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a behavioral science major, you may also become a psychologist, market research analyst or a probation officer. Psychologists evaluate and study people's behavior and social and mental processes. Market research analysts conduct studies and analyze market conditions to find out whether a certain product or service is marketable. Probation officers observe and monitor offenders on probation period to stop them from perpetrating new crimes. All of these career options require a bachelor's degree. While psychologists require a licensure to practice in a clinical setting, market research analysts may choose to pursue certifications to further show their expertise.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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