What Are the Top Behavioral Psychology Schools?

Find out what you might study in a behavioral psychology program and the degree levels offered in this field. Learn about top schools offering these programs, and get tips that could help you select a school. Schools offering Applied Behavioral Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Should I Look for in a Top Behavioral Psychology Program?

A good behavioral psychology program may blend behavioral and cognitive therapy. You'll probably enter a graduate program, potentially specializing in areas such as behavior analysis and therapy, cognitive behavior therapy or cognitive therapy. You might earn a clinical psychology degree or prepare for a research-focused academic career.

Some schools, including those below, might address cognitive therapy in highly-ranked cognitive graduate psychology programs with clinical psychology Ph.Ds. that are accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). You could also look for training approved for therapist certification by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, such as that at each of these schools.

Three of the Best Behavioral Psychology Schools

Harvard University in Cambridge, MA

Harvard was ranked second in U.S. News & World Report's evaluation of cognitive psychology schools in 2013. Noted behaviorist B.F. Skinner was a faculty member. Harvard psychology majors can choose a general track or a cognitive science track administered through the Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative.

Cognition, brain and behavior is one of four available graduate research tracks offered by the Department of Psychology. Faculty members run multiple research labs related to behavioral psychology. For example, students might join labs studying interventions for behavioral dysfunction, judgment and decision making or moral cognition.

Although a master's degree is not required to apply to the Ph.D. program, applicants may be able to earn a master's degree as part of the doctoral program. You could choose a clinical or non-clinical Ph.D. option. The department also offers organizational development training in conjunction with the Department of Sociology. A dual degree program is available with the Harvard Medical School. The Graduate School of Education also offers various psychology and human development programs. These degrees are available:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology - Mind, Brain and Behavior Track
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Mind, Brain and Behavior Track
  • Ph.D. in Psychology in Cognition, Brain and Behavior

University of California in Berkeley

UC Berkeley tied for twelfth in the 2013 ranking of graduate cognitive psychology programs by U.S. News & World Report. Berkeley offers an interdisciplinary undergraduate major in cognitive science through its Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences (ICBS).

Graduate students may pursue an optional master's during the course of Ph.D. studies. Berkeley's Department of Psychology offers six graduate training units. Students can focus on cognitive neuroscience or cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology students learn about behavioral analysis related to thinking, problem-solving and perception. Facilities include the Institute of Personality and Social Research; the Field Station for the Study of Behavior, Ecology and Reproduction and the Institute of Human Development. These degrees are granted:

  • B.A. in Psychology
  • B.S. in Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Psychology in Clinical Science
  • Ph.D. in Psychology in Cognition
  • Ph.D. in Psychology in Cognitive Neuroscience

Washington University in St. Louis, MO

WUSTL's cognitive psychology graduate program was ranked eighth in U.S. News & World Report's 2013 ranking. Behavior, brain and cognition is one of four graduate specializations, and courses in this area are also required of undergraduate majors. The bachelor's degree requires a 1-semester internship. Students can pursue one of six supplemental concentrations, including cognition in children, or qualify for the honors program. Study abroad arrangements are offered with universities in Australia, Israel and England. These involve research assistantships with faculty mentors. Majors are also encouraged to petition for research opportunities.

Master's degrees are earned only en route to a Ph.D. Graduate students typically create a teaching portfolio during their research-focused studies. Faculty lead over 20 labs, in topics such as learning and behavior, attitude and decision making and personality assessment. Undergraduates are encouraged to participate in labs as well. The Behavioral Economics Lab addresses topics including self control, choice and decision making. This lab offers a practicum in applied behavior analysis involving work with a child diagnosed with autism and pervasive developmental disorder. It is available to both majors and graduate students. These degrees are awarded:

  • B.A. in Psychological and Brain Sciences
  • Ph.D. in Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Psychology in Behavior, Brain, and Cognition

More Top Schools for Behavioral Psychology

College/UniversityInstitution TypeLocation
Stanford University4-year, PrivateStanford, CA
University of California--San Diego4-year, PublicLa Jolla, CA
University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign4-year, PublicChampaign, IL
Carnegie Mellon University4-year, PrivatePittsburgh, PA
University of Michigan--Ann Arbor4-year, PublicAnn Arbor, MI
Yale University4-year, PrivateNew Haven, CT
University of California--Los Angeles4-year, PublicLos Angeles, CA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology4-year, PrivateCambridge, MA
Indiana University--Bloomington4-year, PublicBloomington, IN
Princeton University4-year, PrivatePrinceton, NJ

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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