Behavioral Sciences: One Degree, Many Job Options

Kelli Smith asked:

What Exactly Are the Behavioral Sciences?

The behavioral sciences fall somewhere between social sciences and natural sciences, absorbing some components of each. It’s a big category, so it typically gets broken down into two smaller ones: Neural-Decision Sciences and Social-Communication Sciences.

Neural-Decision Science studies the relationship between biology and decision-making, and disciplines in that field include psychology, ethology, psychobiology, social neuroscience, and management science.

Social-Communication Science focuses on communication. Specifically it deals with how both language and communication can affect the individual, relationships, and social interaction in general. A common discipline in this field is anthropology, but other disciplines include organizational behavior and behavior finance.

What Can You Do With a Behavioral Sciences Degree?

Here are just some of the careers you can choose to pursue and, briefly, what’s involved in each:

Anthropology: Anthropologists study the physical, social, cultural development, and behavior of human beings. Within anthropology several specialties exist such as sociocultural, linguistic, or biophysical. A bachelor’s degree in the behavioral sciences can be a strong starting point to continue on to a master’s degree or PhD in anthropology.

Ethology: A zoological science, ethologists study animal behavior, specifically instinctual rather than learned behavior. Ethology, as a part of behavioral science, instead looks at instinctual behavior in humans.

FBI Behavioral Science Unit: You can work for the FBI with a degree in this field. It typically does involve criminal profiling, made popular by TV and films, but it also has several other components, including studying the behavior of criminals in general and even working to better the operational effectiveness of the FBI itself.

Psychology: Since psychologists study human behavior, it makes sense that this field fits neatly within the behavioral sciences category. To become a practicing psychologist, you almost always need to have a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or PhD. All states traditionally require psychologists who see patients to have a license or certification.

Sociology: Sociologists look at society and social behavior. Sociology examines groups and organizations, different cultures, and social institutions. A master’s degree or PhD. in sociology is usually necessary, but majoring in behavioral sciences at a university can provide a solid educational beginning.

Interestingly, significant job growth has occurred in surprising areas that either didn’t previously exist or weren’t traditionally linked with the behavioral sciences:

Neuromarketing: This new field uses neuroscience to study consumer behavior, but it’s extremely small in the private sector at this time.

Public-Opinion Research: Behavioral science can better explain influences on public opinion and how it forms.

Health Education/Public Health: Behavioral science comes into play here in helping people make healthier choices for themselves. This can often involve community-wide education initiatives on topics as diverse disease prevention, nutrition, drugs and alcohol abuse, or even the quality of life for senior citizens.

Job Prospects and Salaries for Behavioral Scientists

Salaries vary throughout behavior sciences, however in 2007 these occupations earned the following annual median salaries:

• Sociologists: $61,140

• Anthropologists: $53,080

• Clinical Psychologists: $62,210

• Health Educator: $42,920

With so many career options, you should have plenty of job prospects with a behavioral science degree.

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