Why Earn a Behavioral Health Science Degree

Mental and behavioral health are broad fields with many exciting career choices. More people in America today are becoming concerned about good mental health; studies tell us that good mental health is closely associated with good physical health.

If you earn a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. in behavioral health, you will have the opportunity to make a major difference in the lives of many people. You may work with individuals, families, and groups to help them work through various mental health issues and life problems.

Some behavioral health professionals, such as counselors, psychologists, and clinical social workers, may have advanced degrees with specialized training in human behavior and emotions. These professionals will use their behavioral health skills to assist people with emotional and mental problems to overcome their issues and live a better life.

Graduates of a behavioral health program will be well prepared to provide mental health services at a variety of levels, depending upon their level of education. A bachelor’s level program will usually cover basic health topics such as biology, anatomy, and nutrition, as well as health promotion and health behavior theory.

A master’s degree in behavioral health will cover more advanced behavioral health research subjects, while a Ph.D. will examine leadership, executive administration, advanced clinical research and academic roles.

Career Paths in Behavioral Science Health

Earning a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. in behavioral health will offer you the chance to work in many rewarding fields:

Mental Health Counselor or Marriage and Family Therapist

These behavioral health workers assist their clients in managing and overcoming various mental and emotional disorders and issues in their personal lives. They spend much of their time listening closely to clients and then they ask questions to assist the clients in understanding their problems. They then offer to work with them to devise solutions to improve their lives.

The common duties in this profession include:

  • Diagnose and treat emotional and mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety
  • Encourage clients to talk about their experiences and emotions
  • Assist clients to process how they are reacting to various personal matters and to adjust them as needed
  • Guide patients through new processes of making better decisions about relationships and the future
  • Refer patients to other community services and resources, which may include inpatient treatment

This profession will see rapid 19% job growth by 2024.

School Counselor

These counselors help their students to develop better academic and social skills and to succeed more in school. Their duties include:

  • Evaluate the abilities of students and their varied interests through assessments, individual planning, and interviews
  • Identify any issues that they have that may affect their school performance, including poor classroom behavior and attendance
  • Help students to better understand and overcome various social and behavioral problems
  • Counsel students either individually or in small groups on the basis of personal and school needs
  • Work with students to come up with better skills regarding organization and time management

As a school counselor, you may work in either an elementary, middle or high school. This field will grow by 8% by 2024, which is about average.

Clinical Social Worker

A clinical social worker is another type of behavioral health professional who is qualified and licensed to diagnose and treat many mental health and emotional problems. They may provide individual, group and family therapy, working with clients to change problem behavior or to work through difficult personal situations.

Duties in clinical social work include:

  • Assess the needs, strengths, weaknesses and strengths of a patient or family
  • Help clients to adjust to the changes and problems in their lives which include illness, job loss and divorce
  • Follow up with clients after meetings to ensure that situations are getting better
  • Refer clients to available community resources, such as food stamps and utility payment assistance programs
  • Develop new services and programs to ensure that the needs of clients are met

Job demand for clinical social workers will increase quickly at a 19% rate by 2024.

Different Types of Behavioral Health Science Degrees

You can earn a  bachelor’s, masters or Ph.D. in behavioral health:

Bachelor Level Degree Options

Grand Canyon University offers a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science that will prepare you to work as a behavioral health specialist or technician in various settings. You will gain a complete understanding of human behavior in this four year, online program that stresses both compassion and ethics.

When you graduate, you will have a good knowledge base in these competencies:

  • Behavioral health concepts and being able to analyze them, such as history, current trends, approaches and theories
  • Behavioral health skills: Being able to examine ICD codes and DSM manual, brain technology
  • Cultural competency: Be able to understand the effects of diversity, culture and social justice on the field
  • Behavioral health information technology: Be able to evaluate various technology for behavioral health, include electronic and medical and health records

Core classes are:

  • Effective Communication
  • Foundation of Addiction and Substance Use Disorders
  • Group Dynamics and process
  • Ethics of Behavioral Health Science
  • Human Development
  • Introduction to Probability and Statistics
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Introduction to Family Dynamics

Master Level Degree Options

The University of Massachusetts Boston offers a Master of Science in Mental Health that covers all of the principles of behavioral health. This is regarded as a highly challenging and rewarding program in mental health counseling. It consists of 60 credit hours which meets all of the requirements for licensure in the state of Massachusetts as a mental health counselor.

This is a mostly online, cohort model program that may be completed in two years. Students begin the program each summer with a single online course, followed by two in person courses over a two week period on campus at UMass Dartmouth.

This program requires you to complete a 100 hour practicum in a site that has been approved by the university.

Required courses for this master’s program are:

  • Research and Evaluation in Psychology
  • Principles of Vocational, Educational, and Psychological Assessment
  • Ethical Standards and Professional Issues in Counseling
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Vocational Development and Career Information
  • Counseling Theory and Practice I
  • Counseling Theory and Practice II
  • Group Counseling and Group Dynamics
  • Human Development: Research, Theory and Practice

Ph.D. Level Degree Options

Arizona State University offers a Doctor of Behavioral Health program with a concentration in management. The focus is on management and behavioral care in an integrated, primary care setting. This concentration is designed to provide students with management training and experience, giving them the background they will need to take a leadership role in behavioral health.

This is an 84 credit program that can be completed largely online in four or five years. Most of the courses are synchronous or live with other students and your instructors.

This is a unique curriculum because it is a fully integrated behavioral health program that is designed to provide improved patient care, superior clinical outcomes and reduced cost of care. The quality and performance measurement is made to meet the needs of the popular Accountable Care Organization Model.

Students also may choose a clinical concentration instead of management concentration.


The most respected accreditation organization in the behavioral health field is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, or CACREP. You should seek this accreditation in any program that you are considering in behavioral health.


The field of behavioral health is growing as more Americans are focused on their mental well-being. Whether you earn a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate in the field, you should be able to find rewarding work that uses your behavioral health skills.