Social and Behavioral Science

Advance Your Career in Behavioral Science

The social and behavioral sciences draw from an interdisciplinary combination of subjects like sociology, psychology, and anthropology to provide a well-rounded understanding of the human experience.

The professionals who work in this field draw on their 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

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.

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.

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: