Social and Behavioral Science Education

A Guide to Advance Your Career in Social and Behavioral Science

The social and behavioral sciences draws from an interdisciplinary combination of subjects such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology to provide a well-rounded understanding of the human experience. While the field of behavioral science is very broad, there are a number of characteristics specific to the field. A behavioral scientist is a person whose training allows the study of behaviors of groups and individuals. This shows scientist how that impacts personal development, relationship with others, as well as helping to predict possible future behaviors and its impact on society as a whole. Behavioral scientists are often found working in government agencies, although there is a growing demand in the private sector. As the field of behavioral science is so vast there are a wide variety of possible job titles and duties.

The professionals who work in this field draw on skills to interact with people in ways that are sensitive to psycho-social and cultural nuances. Some of the most prominent careers in the social and behavioral sciences are in the fields of:

  • Public health
  • Mental health
  • Public safety
  • Social services
  • Public policy

Some of the roles played by behavioral scientists in organizations are expected to hold are:

  • Perform research to understand potential health impacts for certain niche population groups and to develop programs and/or therapies to help overcome these health challenges.
  • Model predictive behaviors, such as the potential to commit violent acts in certain population groups. Once the behavior is understood, you will work to develop therapies and methods that can curtail, or even eliminate criminal behaviors.
  • Creating data sets for observed population groups to better understand and predict behaviors and/or health challenges in communities so policy makers can develop transformative policies for the community.
  • Development and implementation of therapeutic approaches to help people change their behaviors in a way that is lasting and positive.

Behavioral scientists work in everything from the healthcare system as a physiologist, as well as working in law enforcement in an advisory capacity as a criminologist. Some people feel called to work in education advancing research in the world of behavioral science research. Still others will work in social work or counseling professions.

Education opens up career opportunities

As a general rule you can advance to more specialized careers in the social and behavioral sciences with more education and work experience. Some professions with state licensing requirements like social work and clinical psychology require a minimum level of education to be eligible for licensure.

    Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science

    With a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science you will be able to start on a number of different career paths. While many jobs in the field require that you have a Master’s or PHD in a behavioral science discipline, you can find several jobs that only require a bachelor’s degree. Here are a few of the degree concentrations relevant to the field of Behavioral Science. You can earn your Bachelor’s of Physiology which studies the physical functioning of human beings. You could earn a Bachelor’s of Psychology studying the human mind and mental and emotional wellness. You can earn a Bachelor’s of Sociology learning about the study of human behavior and social roles. You could earn your Bachelor’s of Anthropology and study the evolution of humanity as well as cultures that have developed over time.

    Master’s degrees in Behavioral Sciences

    With a master’s degree in a behavioral science related field, you will be able to get higher paying jobs and often protected job titles that are unavailable to those with only their Bachelor’s degree. You can get your master’s in any of a number of behavioral sciences including psychology, counseling, sociology, social work, or special education. Some master’s degrees have accreditation by a related accrediting body such as the Council on Social Work Education. Depending on the job title you wish to pursue, you will want to ensure you take an accredited program to ensure you can attain licensure in a protected job title. With a master’s degree you can get jobs such as outpatient therapists, or as a criminologist researching criminal behavior and how to change it in order to create more positive outcomes for society.

The social and behavioral sciences play a vital role in public health by identifying and addressing real-world social inequalities.

There are career entry points into the social and behavioral sciences for all levels of education and work experience. State and local licensing requirements vary depending on the profession and level of expertise. Employers typically set their own hiring requirements, which can vary.

For example, you can work the front desk at a shelter for women with substance abuse issues if you have a high school diploma and minimal work experience. But to work as a drug addiction social worker, many states require you to be licensed and have a relevant bachelor’s or master’s-level of education.

Career profiles in social and behavioral science

The following are examples of actual job openings and associated requirements taken from employers across the country:

Public Health

  • Health Educator – These professionals give public health education presentations and conduct community assessments. A general knowledge of public health and strategies for disease prevention is required, and while a college degree isn’t necessarily, having one in public health or a related field could be advantageous.
  • Public Health Coordinator for HIV/AIDS prevention – The duties in this position involve effectively implementing promotional and health education policies and procedures. A bachelor’s degree in public health, health behavior, a related field, or at least three years of relevant work experience is required.

Mental Health

  • Crisis Counselor – This professional provides counseling and grief support to individuals, families, and groups of up to six people. Duties may also include conducting substance abuse or mental health assessments for purposes of referral. At least a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, behavioral science, or a related field is required. Preferred candidates are those who are licensed in social work (LCSW), marriage and family therapy (LMFT), and as professional counselors (LPC).
  • Clinical Behavioral Health Counselor – These professionals are highly trained and educated individuals who make client assessments regarding mental health dysfunctions and treatments. The position requires at least a social work master’s degree from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or Counseling or the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Public Safety

  • Drug Abuse Correctional Treatment Specialist – Working from inside a federal correctional facility, this professional provides individual or group therapy counseling addressing drug addiction and education. Applicants must have a degree that includes at least 24 semester hours of coursework in the behavioral or social sciences or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Entry at a higher pay level can be achieved with a relevant master’s or PhD-level education.

Social Services

  • Social Worker – This professional works to enhance their clients’ well-being and social functioning using a broad range of strategies. Minimum requirements include a bachelor’s degree in the behavioral sciences, while ideal candidates will have majored in social work and be at least a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW).

Public Policy

  • Drug and Public Health Policy Intern – These professionals work with national professional associations to develop and lobby for policies for the well-being of those suffering from drug addictions and abuse. Graduate students in public health or the health sciences are preferred.
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Specialties in Behavioral Science

There are a number of specialties in behavioral science which include but are not limited to

  • Behavioral interventionist
  • Grant writer
  • Mental health case worker
  • Children’s advocate
  • Domestic violence counselor
  • Special education teacher
  • Criminologist
  • Probation officer
  • Grief counselor
  • Public health educator

As you can see there are a tremendous number of very different career options within the behavioral sciences. All of them study human behaviors in order to help improve society by helping one individual at a time from grieving widows, to children, domestic violence victims and even in a prophylactic capacity as a public health educator.

Impact on Individuals

As a behavioral science degree holder you will have myriad options to help people. For example, as a probation officer you can help people to have the resources and direction to get a second chance at life. If you prefer the prevention of crime, you can work with police investigating crimes as a criminologist. Perhaps you are someone who wants to work with children who have disabilities, as a special education teacher you can help children overcome their challenges to gain an education and a higher self-esteem. As a grief counselor you can help grieving families come to terms with their loss so they can return to an enjoyable and productive life.

Impact on Society

The impact of our behavioral scientists on society is very substantial. One way a behavioral scientist can impact society is by working with non-profits as a Grant writer who helps to secure funding. Without grant writing, non-profits who help the homeless and the hungry wouldn’t have the funding to continue the essential services they provide. The impact of a public health educator is very significant and includes reduction of communicable diseases within their community by educating the public on healthier decisions and behaviors. Sometimes courts or schools have positions for children’s advocates. When children have no voice a children’s advocate can change a life forever and bring about huge change to society. There are many positive ways you can help society in the behavioral sciences. It’s just a matter of finding the program that works for you.

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Relevant areas of study in the social and behavioral sciences include:

  • Public health
  • Applied behavioral science-analysis
  • Social and behavioral science
  • Social work
  • Psychology
  • Cognitive science
  • Cultural studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology
  • Political science

There are a broad range of career options in the fields of social and behavioral sciences. Work locations can include:

  • Mental health facilities
  • State and county public health departments
  • Advocacy and lobbyist groups
  • Criminal justice system
  • Counseling and mental health therapy offices
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Academic research centers at colleges and universities
  • State and local government organizations focusing on mental health

You can find additional resources regarding professions in the social and behavioral sciences with the following organizations: