How to Become a Behavioral Scientist
Behavioral Scientist Careers & Degrees

Behavioral Scientists are individuals who are trained to research people and the way they act.

They use this information in order to explain human behavior and to help other professionals in a variety of ways.

Researching human behavior can be done by observing certain situations or by having subjects fill out a survey.

An example of a behavioral study was done in Peru regarding people’s hand washing habits.

This community’s children were more prone to getting sick than in other parts of the world.

A study needed to be launched in order to determine why people were less likely to wash their hands in this community.

That way scientists and governments could work together in order to help improve hygiene and the public’s health by educating the community about the importance of hand washing.

Behavioral Scientists collected information in order to understand the community’s perceptions regarding the values, socialization and the meanings people had about using soap to wash their hands.

The information gathered was vital in learning why the community wasn’t using soap to wash their hands and to create a campaign in order to educate people about the importance of hand washing with soap.

Behavioral Scientists played a vital role in this study in order to help protect a community’s health and facilitate positive change.

People who want to become a Behavioral Scientist must have a skill set that includes having strong interpersonal skills, ability to do analytical work, understand ethics codes and understand and adapt to changes.

Education Requirements to Become a Behavioral Scientist

To become a Behavioral Scientist, a candidate must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Psychology, Behavioral Science or a related focus.

Acquiring a Master’s in Human Psychology, Psychiatry or Sociology in order to become a Behavioral Scientist will strengthen a candidate’s background and provide more job opportunities.

In order to be prepared to work as a Behavioral Scientist, a candidate needs to focus on a degree that teaches the theories of human or group behavior.

Students also need to learn about topics that focus on individual or group decision making processes, individual or group communication, organizational behavior and social communication to name a few.

Some common courses that a potential Behavioral Scientist takes includes:

  • Sociology
  • Drugs and behavior
  • Social Psychology
  • Counseling

Taking a variety of courses regarding people and theories surrounding behaviors can strengthen a candidate’s educational background and knowledge of human behavior.

Behavioral Scientist Job Description

Behavioral Scientists can work with private businesses, governments, in psychology and private research firms.

They are good at not only observing people, but determining why people act the way they do.

They do it in a scientific way without judgment and objectively.

Behavioral Scientists need to be objective and refrain from using their preconceived notions about people in order to provide scientific work about them.

Candidates must be prepared to research and analyze human behavior under different situations.
The main job functions for Behavioral Scientists include the following:

  • Research: Researching is the first step a Behavioral Scientist takes in order to explain human behavior.This can be done in a variety of ways including creating written surveys for people to take or by physically observing them in their personal environment or one purposely created by a researcher.

    Other research can be performed by watching video recordings of people.

  • Analyze: Behavioral Scientists use the data they research to begin to understand their subjects’ behavior.In this step, they interpret the information they gathered and look for particular patterns.

    This step is important because it can help scientists predict future outcomes or explain certain behavior, such as why the community in Peru wasn’t washing their hands.

Some additional responsibilities a Behavioral Scientist may have depend on the industry they work in.

For example, a scientist working for the FBI may focus on criminals and create psychological profiles for these individuals.

Other Scientists can opt to work in the private sector and provide information for market research.

Behavioral Scientist Salary and Career Path

Behavioral Scientists have several opportunities available for them in different sectors and specialties.

Professionals can work in Psychology, the Health Worker, Social Worker or Anthropologist.

Sectors they can work in include corporate, Medical or government.

Salary depends on the specialty Behavioral Scientists work in, however the national median wage for Behavior Scientists is approximately $86,500 per year.

The salary range can be from $33,000 to $115,000 depending on the sector, specialty and level of education a candidate has.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$87,450
$45K
$59K
$87K
$102K
$132K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$69,190
Alaska$83,770
Arizona$65,400
Arkansas$73,050
California$111,750
Colorado$92,840
Connecticut$92,790
Delaware$80,060
District of Columbia$106,900
Florida$77,460
Georgia$90,760
Hawaii- NA -
Idaho$60,880
Illinois$75,050
Indiana$80,750
Iowa$83,090
Kansas$69,530
Kentucky$66,940
Louisiana$96,040
Maine$80,700
Maryland$79,870
Massachusetts$90,180
Michigan$90,700
Minnesota$84,550
Mississippi$72,470
Missouri$81,700
Montana$64,160
Nebraska$71,130
Nevada$83,280
New Hampshire$89,000
New Jersey$95,680
New Mexico$73,550
New York$96,170
North Carolina$80,670
North Dakota$92,370
Ohio$77,440
Oklahoma$66,400
Oregon$112,010
Pennsylvania$85,170
Rhode Island$84,120
South Carolina$68,040
South Dakota$77,560
Tennessee$78,270
Texas$73,920
Utah$88,480
Vermont$70,120
Virginia$88,880
Washington$77,700
West Virginia$54,780
Wisconsin$86,920
Wyoming$78,620
Puerto Rico$54,920

The top earning state in the field is Oregon, where the average salary is $112,010.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Oregon - $112,010
California - $111,750
District of Columbia - $106,900
New York - $96,170
Louisiana - $96,040
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists, OCC Code 19-3031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a behavioral scientist do?

A behavioral scientist is someone who studies how the actions of people affect their relationships with others and their development.

Behavioral scientists can work in a wide range of fields; they can work as criminologists, social workers, counselors, corrections officers, etc.

Usually, the three main career branches n behavioral sciences include anthropologists, forensic psychologists, and sociologists.

The latter exam the individuals and groups in different contexts; they analyze social influences and patterns.

Forensic psychologists, in most cases, present information in front of law officials; they assist clients and present evidence.

Anthropologists can differ in what they research; they research human and cultural aspects all over the globe.

QuestionHow much do behavioral scientists make?

On average, a behavioral scientist can make a little less than $90.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $50.000 and $135.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the specialization, the location and so on.

Behavioral scientists that work in New York and Georgia, for example, have the highest average salaries.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a behavioral scientist?

You would certainly need at least a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science, counseling, social work, or a related field, in order to become a behavioral scientist.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job prospects, you should go for a master’s degree ($6.000-$22.000 per year).

Those who want to become university professors and conduct independent research should have a doctorate degree ($36.000-$49.000).

QuestionWhat is the demand for behavioral scientists?

Between 2014 and 2024, the behavioral scientist job market is expected to grow by 12%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is faster than the national average for all occupations in the United States.

The candidates that possess a graduate degree and have some experience in the industry will have the best job prospects.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a behavioral scientist?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree should be enough to become a social worker or a behavioral counselor, for example.

A master’s degree will typically take you 2-3 years to obtain (you can then go for certain teaching and applied research positions), while a doctorate degree will require 3-5 years (a Ph.D. is a must if you want to become a university professor).

The majority of employers would prefer you to have a couple of years of experience in the field (seek internship opportunities while still in university).

The sooner you decide what your ultimate career goal is, the better.

Find a Program