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How To Become A Behavioral Psychologist: Career & Salary Information

Have you ever wondered what it means for someone to be behaving badly? What is considered bad behavior and who decides what is and isn't bad behavior? How do we know that a child is being badly behaved, and how can this behavior be altered to encourage good behavior?

Well, if this is something you have wondered about then you are not alone. Many behavioral psychologists have pondered the same questions and have dedicated their careers to pursuing the answers to these questions. At its most basic form, it is believed that behaviors have been learned. And undesirable behaviors can therefore be unlearnt.

To pursue a career in behavioral psychology, you would need to earn a bachelor's degree, then pursue your master's and doctoral degrees, you would then need to obtain your license and certification, and then you will be able to practice as a behavioral psychologist.

Let us take a deeper look at this career, the steps you would need to take to pursue this role, and the salary information related to this role.

What Is A Behavioral Psychologist?

In its most basic form, behavioral psychologists aim to replace negative behaviors with positive ones by understanding the mental processes of an individual. They will look at the mental state of a patient and they will assess what is motivating and prompting them to exhibit certain types of behavior and they then work with the patient to overcome the negative behavior.

For example, a patient may be smoking excessively. This is the negative behavior that they exhibit. They will work with a behavioral psychologist in pinpointing and identifying why they are prone to exhibiting such behavior and they will work towards replacing the negative behavior with positive behavior.

It may be found that the patient smokes as a result of extreme stress. The behavioral psychologist will work with the patient in overcoming their stress, treating the root cause, and working with the patient through a step-by-step program towards overcoming the negative behavior entirely.

What Does A Behavioral Psychologist Do?

Behavioral psychologists look at the behaviors of patients and what motivates them to behave in such a way. Having a keen understanding of the societal norms that people should follow, behavioral psychologists will be able to determine if the behavior is detrimental to the patient's well-being and what can be done to stop the negative behavior.

They also look at how a patient's behavior is actively affecting and impacting their lives. They will work towards finding ways of enhancing a patient's current life and devising ways of ensuring that they overcome the challenges and difficulties they are faced with which are either motivating their negative behavior or is caused by the negative behavior.

To understand behavior, it is extremely important to also understand the cognitive processes of an individual and know what they are facing and why. The end game and the objective of every behavioral psychologist is to find a way of bettering their patient's life.

Steps To Become A Behavioral Psychologist

Step One: Obtain Your Bachelor's Degree

As with most career paths in the field of psychology, you would need to pursue the academic journey that begins with earning your bachelor's degree. During this degree, you will form the foundation and the basis for the role you will later pursue.

You may find it beneficial to complete coursework such as completing abnormal psychology, behavioral psychology, social psychology, and cognitive psychology when you are working towards your bachelor's degree.

Step Two: Obtain A Graduate Degree

While some states may accept a master's degree in psychology for you to assume the role of a behavioral psychologist, to obtain your license and certifications, you will be required to complete your doctoral degree.

Some states may accept your master's degree, while others may prompt you to complete your Ph.D. It is therefore extremely important to know your state requirements before you begin working in the role of a behavioral psychologist.

Step Three: Gain Post-Doctoral Experience

You will need to gain supervised experience, whether in the form of residency training or as a volunteer. This will allow you to be trained by experienced seniors in the field and you will be exposed to skills that took them many years to achieve themselves.

You will also learn the correct patient etiquette, and what you can and can't ask a patient to do, and you will learn how to best help your patient by applying your theoretical knowledge to practical and real-life cases.

Step Four: Obtain Your License And Certification

You would first need to pass your Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology and then obtain a certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology. This will show that you are qualified, skilled, and knowledgeable in your chosen field of psychology and that you are ready to pursue a career in psychology.

With this license and certification in hand, you are ready to take on the world and step into your role as a behavioral psychologist.

What Degree Do You Need To Be A Behavioral Psychologist?

You would need to build upon the foundations of a bachelor's and a master's degree, but to become a fully practicing behavioral psychologist, you would need to complete a master's degree and a doctoral degree.

What Is The Average Salary For A Behavioral Psychologist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of labor statistics, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earn a median annual salary of $48,520, and psychologists earn a median annual salary of $81,040.

What Makes A Good Behavioral Psychologist?

Aside from having empathy and a deep-seated need to help others with unmatched compassion, you will need to have a keen sense of observational skills in order to quickly and effectively identify if there are any irregular behaviors in a patient and to find the best way forward for them to overcome these negative behaviors.


What Do Behavioral Psychologists Believe?

They believe that all behavior is a result of learned experiences.

What Does A Behavioral Psychologist Do?

They assess how actions and behaviors affect decision-making processes within the mind.

Where Can You Work As A Behavioral Psychologist?

You can work within a hospital, correctional facility, school, and clinic.


The way the mind exhibits behavior is truly fascinating. We don't realize it, but our actions say a lot about what is going on in our minds and what emotional and mental turmoil we may be facing. If the human psyche and behavior is a source of fascination to you, behavioral psychology may be the career path you are destined to pursue.

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