Behavioral Science vs. Psychology DegreeBehavioral Science vs. Psychology DegreeBehavioral Science vs. Psychology Degree

Human behavior has been studied throughout history. Like humans themselves, these studies continue to evolve with changes in technology and culture. Those who work in the broad fields of behavioral science and psychology influence our understanding of self. Professionals in both psychology and human behavior have an impact on a wide range of fields. However, there are key differences between behavioral science and psychology degrees, particularly the expertise and opportunities afforded to those who earn each degree.

What Is a Behavioral Science Degree?

What a behavioral science degree provides is an interdisciplinary approach to studying human behavior. It uses cognitive science, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and even artificial intelligence (AI) to explore and analyze human actions, habits, and intentions. This field incorporates both neuroscience and social sciences. Social sciences look at the impact of communication, language, culture, and the environment on human behavior.

What Do Behavioral Science Degree Graduates Do?

A behavioral science degree holder gains skills to help individuals understand their behavior, the behavior of their peers, or in the context of business, the behavior of consumers. They can apply these skills in human resources, social and community management, or other relevant areas. Some graduates work in business, applying consumer behavior insights to product development or marketing strategy.

Examples of behavioral science careers that require at least a bachelor’s degree include health service manager and social services manager. Other career examples include corporate coach, behavioral scientist, or behavioral science researcher; these roles often require advanced degrees and additional training and skills.

  • Corporate Coach: Also known as executive coaches, these professionals work with executives or other leaders to help them identify goals, improve self-awareness, and develop professionally. They do not typically give advice the way a therapist or consultant does, but rather they ask clarifying questions to help leaders identify solutions on their own.
  • Behavioral Scientist: These professionals work in fields such as law enforcement and social services, and have varied responsibilities that can include investigating public health issues or developing educational programs. For example, a behavioral scientist might develop a method to reduce the likelihood of repeated crimes, drug abuse, or another specific issue within a community by analyzing data and identifying patterns that address the underlying cause. The median annual salary for behavioral scientists was approximately $90,200 in February 2021, per PayScale.
  • Behavioral Science Researcher: These professionals conduct behavioral research studies at universities, healthcare facilities, and private companies. They interpret and analyze the outcomes of statistical tests; make informed choices on how to measure, screen, and prepare data; and prepare journal articles or oral presentations to share and distribute findings. PayScale also classifies this role under the behavioral scientist category, which had a median annual salary of about $90,200 in 2021.

Skills Developed Through a Behavioral Science Degree

A behavioral science degree can help graduates develop strong analytical skills, which are essential to accurately understanding an individual’s behavioral patterns. Strong communication competencies are also developed, enabling degree-holders to share their professional observations effectively and without ambiguity. Additionally, a behavioral science degree can help individuals develop skills that can allow them to thrive in team situations, such as project management.

Steps to Earning Your Behavioral Science Degree

Behavioral science degrees commonly feature coursework dedicated to various aspects of health, including psychology, sociology, and physiology. They may also include other courses such as statistics that can broaden a student’s analytical skills. Once this coursework is completed and a bachelor’s degree is obtained, graduates can begin pursuing entry-level roles in the behavioral science field. They can also use the degree as a stepping-stone to pursue advanced degrees in behavioral science.

What Is a Psychology Degree?

Psychology is the study of the human mind and human behavior. A key difference between behavioral science and psychology is specificity. What a psychology degree does is home in on the study of the brain.

The coursework in a psychology degree program emphasizes human brain biology, cognition, and mental processes. The program covers a broad range of study in psychology, including human development, abnormal psychology, multicultural psychology, social psychology, and biological psychology.

What Do Psychology Degree Graduates Do?

Those who earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology build a strong understanding of the human mind that can lead to many different careers. Graduates can apply their knowledge of psychology as human resource specialists or market research analysts, for example. Further study at the graduate level can lead to work as a mental health counselor, forensic psychologist, grief counselor, or development psychologist.

Types of Careers

  • Human Resources (HR) Specialist: HR professionals coordinate the hiring and internal communication activities of personnel within a company or organization. These specialists help employees navigate employers’ policies and facilitate communication between colleagues to resolve any disputes or other problems. They use their insights on human behavior to make determinations on new hires and navigate sensitive workplace conversations.
  • Mental Health Counselor: These psychology professionals use their understanding of the human mind to help people care for their mental health, especially when faced with challenges such as grief, marital problems, and anxiety. After completing a psychology bachelor’s degree program, these professionals must earn a master’s degree, licensure, and certification. The median salary for a mental health counselor was roughly $47,660 in 2020, per the BLS.
  • Market Research Analyst: Market research analysts collect and process data about a target audience for a company and use that information to sell products. Using their insight into consumer behavior, these analysts can help guide marketing strategies that can lead to desired marketplace outcomes for a brand or company. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for market research analysts was approximately $65,810 in 2020.

Skills Developed Through a Psychology Degree

Several of the skills developed through a psychology degree are similar to those cultivated by a behavioral science degree, such as analytical and communication competencies. A psychology degree can also help individuals strengthen research skills, which could be applied to gain further insight into human behavior as well as business and market trends. Additionally, a psychology degree can help cultivate leadership and management skills that can be applied to advanced roles.

Steps to Earning Your Psychology Degree

The coursework associated with earning a psychology degree typically covers subjects directly pertaining to the concept of psychology, such as abnormal psychology, biological psychology, and human cognition. Some degrees may also integrate courses devoted to the process of conducting research, from data gathering to data interpretation. After coursework is completed and a degree is earned, graduates can pursue various entry-level positions in psychology and non-psychology fields. They can also pursue advanced degrees if they are interested in building a senior-level career in the psychology field.

Branches in the Psychology Field

For those interested in using a bachelor’s in psychology as the foundation for a career in the field, there are several different pathways that may be considered. Each of these allows individuals to focus their knowledge on a specific type of psychological care. These career sectors include:

  • Healthcare: Professionals in this field help others overcome personal or socioeconomic roadblocks to improve their well-being. This field can range from psychotherapy to social work.
  • Education: This field enables individuals to apply their knowledge and skills to a classroom setting, up to and including the post-secondary level.
  • Research: Professionals in this field apply their knowledge toward the research and development of programs designed to help people overcome psychological, developmental, and sociological challenges.

Similarities Between Behavioral Science and Psychology

When comparing behavioral science vs. psychology degrees, it is clear there are many underlying similarities between the two. Psychology is generally considered a subdiscipline of behavioral science, and as such, the two areas experience some overlaps in coursework and career paths. Both degrees emphasize research strategies, analyze human behavior, and require courses that apply critical thinking to social science.

Differences Between Behavioral Science and Psychology

The differences between behavioral science and psychology degrees include the focus and coursework of the degrees themselves, as well as potential career paths. While these two disciplines are closely related, understanding the nuances between them can help students match their degree choice with their interests and professional goals.

Career Paths

Psychology majors can pursue work as psychologists, mental health counselors, or survey researchers, or in other specialties such as forensic psychology, grief counseling, or developmental psychology. It’s important to note that many of these specialties require study at the graduate level, as well as potential licensing and certification requirements. However, there are career paths, such as that of an HR specialist, caseworker, or veteran’s counselor that do not require an advanced degree.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a number of career paths are open to behavioral science graduates. These include health service manager and social services manager; both of these careers require a bachelor’s degree

Behavioral Science vs. Psychology Degree: Which Is Right for You?

Although there are key differences between these fields of study, each requires a passion for understanding and interpreting human behavior and actions. Behavioral science offers a program for individuals interested in studying the broader influences on human behavior. Those looking to study human behavior at the individual level through cognition, mental processes, and brain biology may find a psychology curriculum to be a better match for their interests.

Explore a Host of Opportunities with a Psychology Degree

Earning your Bachelor of Arts in Psychology online from Maryville University can prepare you for a wide range of jobs in areas such as business, research, and social services. Additionally, the diverse set of skills you develop can apply to a variety of settings, including schools, businesses, governments, and healthcare.

Find out more about where a degree in psychology can take you, and how Maryville University can help you get there.

Recommended Readings

How We Become Ourselves: Exploring Human Development in Psychology

Psychology vs. Counseling

Social Psychology vs. Clinical Psychology


Center for Credentialing & Education, Requirements: Board Certified Coach

Harvard Business Review, “Can AI Nudge Us to Make Better Choices?”

Innerbody Research, “What Does a Behavioral Scientist Do?”

Maryville University, Careers for Psychology Bachelor’s Degree Graduates

Maryville University, Online Psychology Bachelor’s Degree

PayScale, Average Executive Coach Salary

PayScale, Average Behavioral Scientist Salary

Simply Psychology, “What Is Psychology?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Human Resources Specialist

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Market Research Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

VeryWellMind, “Entry-Level Job Options for Psychology Majors”

Zippia, Behavioral Sciences Major

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