Online Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology

By Nikita Nath

Updated March 15, 2024

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online

On this page
Back to top

The Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online focuses on advanced research and training in understanding human behavior. The program emphasizes the study of behaviors that originate and evolve over a person’s lifespan. Because of its focus on the basic principles of human behaviors, research designs, and experimental methods, students are trained to become highly competent behavior analysts and researchers. After completing a Ph.D. behavioral psychology, one could take up research or work in senior roles at healthcare facilities, governmental organizations, nonprofits, and businesses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals working in the field of behavioral psychology get paid an annual median wage of $81,040 [1].

Online Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology

Best Online Ph.D. in Behavioral
Psychology Programs

To find the best online Ph.D., students must evaluate many factors. First, they must understand if the topic they want to research is compatible with the facilities available in the college. Then there are other factors to consider, such as the availability of guides or mentors, lab resources, the concentrations available, and the quality of research-related resources provided by the college. Taking all these into account, some of the best Ph.D. behavioral psychology programs in the United States are: *

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (U of I, Illinois, or simply the University of Illinois or UIUC) is a public land-grant research university in Champaign and Urbana, Illinois. It was founded in 1867 and is the flagship institution of the University of Illinois system. The University of Illinois is one of the nation’s largest public universities, with over 56,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign(ONCAMPUS) 601 E John Street, Champaign, Illinois 61820 $14,635 85%

rankings methodology page

What to Expect from Ph.D. in Behavioral
Psychology Online Programs

The Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online degree helps students learn about behaviors in different settings. It focuses on changing undesirable behaviors to socially acceptable ones. Graduates learn to work in research laboratories, clinical settings, universities, and other organizations. People with a doctorate in behavioral psychology can use their expertise and knowledge to apply behavioral principles in various situations. Through the program, they develop skills like attention to detail, interpretation of meaning from data which is complex, and analytical thinking.

The online Ph.D. in behavioral psychology curriculum comprises common topics like statistics, experimental behavior analysis, conceptual foundations of behavior analysis, functional analysis, etc. Each program’s coursework differs from institution to institution.

Behavioral psychology Ph.D. programs usually range from 45 to 70 credits and take four to five years to complete if the program is full-time. Some common components of the Ph.D. program are:


The program includes courses in experimental methods, research design, and basic principles of behaviors. Different conceptual foundations with varied training in applied, intervention, and basic research like assessment, intervention, and evaluation in behavioral psychology are learned.


Teaching is one option available to prospective doctorates. Although it is not a compulsory requirement, it can help them gain teaching experience. Those who want to work in colleges as professors can pursue this option to gain skills in teaching.

Doctoral Candidacy Exams

After coursework completion, students can apply for comprehensive examinations. They must finish the practical and theory exam requirements to obtain their degree.


All Ph.D. students must complete their dissertations in collaboration with their doctoral guide. They must choose a topic of their choice, write a manuscript on it, and then defend their research by making oral presentations before a committee. The thesis and its evaluation are both empirically based.

Field Experience

Field experience is usually encouraged for doctorate students to pursue independent study and research during the program. It helps them integrate research and classroom theory with varied field activities. Students will get first-hand experience engaging with professionals and collecting research data.

With the dissertation being a considerable part of the doctoral degree, research topics must be narrowed to a specific study area. Some examples of research topics Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online students have covered include:

  • Person Perception
  • Prejudice and Discrimination
  • Speech Disorders
  • Problem-Solving
  • Social Cognition
  • Language
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • False Memories
  • Leadership
  • Dreams
  • Attention
  • Perception
  • Attitudes
  • Judgement
  • Gender Roles
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Parenting Styles
  • Aging Process
  • Child Abuse
  • Prenatal Development

To understand more about doctoral degrees, read the online Ph.D. guide.

Areas of Specialization in Behavioral Psychology
Online Ph.D. Programs

Specializations provide the skills that help students gain additional expertise in a specific area within the discipline, making them more eligible in the job market. Generally, behavioral psychology Ph.D. programs do not have specializations, as behavioral psychology is a concentration within psychology degrees.

Why should I do a Ph.D. in Behavioral
Psychology Online?

Behavioral psychology Ph.D. programs are usually very research-intensive and focus strongly on the principles of psychology, methodology, and research. After completing the degree, graduates can pursue traditional academic career positions, like working as professors in colleges, teaching in schools, taking up contractual research positions, and positions in the private sector.

Through the doctoral program, students go through various life experiences as they understand the importance of gaining competence in teaching, practice, and research design in behavioral science and related fields. Those who have completed a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online learn skills that will help them grow as experts in the field of behavioral psychology and work in multicultural settings. Some of the skills which students develop by the end of their doctorates include the ability to:

  • apply rigorous standards of evidence and logical principles through reasoning processes;
  • demonstrate in-depth knowledge in different mental abilities like perception, learning, thought, reason, and understanding;
  • develop curriculum in topics that connect human behavior and biological systems like emotion, stress, health, sleep and dreams, psychological disorders, etc.;
  • use inferential statistics in an accurate manner to make predictions about the population and use it to develop further theories and research;
  • use descriptive statistics to provide information about human behavior in a descriptive manner to the scientific community or the general population;
  • manage stress that leads to serious implications of health-related problems, including angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, change in eating patterns, etc.;
  • show a multicultural understanding of aspects like acculturation and racial stereotyping, and communicate these understandings to others;
  • demonstrate scientific thinking and applying ethics while dealing with clients;
  • showcase professional skills which are valued by many individuals in different occupational settings; and
  • critically think about scientific knowledge and theories of critical values and thinking.

Free Courses for Behavioral Psychology
Online Ph.D. Students

Free behavioral psychology courses allow doctoral students to explore various topics connected with behavioral psychology. They can be useful in their research and writing of their dissertations. Here are a few examples:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
Fundamentals of Psychology [2]This course helps students understand the different methods psychologists use to learn about human behaviors. Course-takers explore human cognition and its aspects like memory, thinking, conditioning, cognitive processes, emotion, personality, etc.edX
Abnormal Psychology Specialization [3]In this course, various approaches are looked at to help individuals in distress. It introduces different surveys and mental health concerns in abnormal psychology. Scientifically-supported strategies for treatment are looked at as well.Coursera
The Psychology of Influence and Human Behavior [4]This course develops a foundation to manage and develop behaviors. It helps to understand the reasons and motivations behind others’ behaviors.Udemy

How to get into the Ph.D. in Behavioral
Psychology Online Program?

There are general and specific requirements for enrolling in an online behavioral psychology Ph.D. program. Because getting into the program is competitive, applicants must highlight their expertise in the area of study to be accepted into the program. Some of the more common Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online admission requirements are:

  • Completed application form
  • Non-refundable application fee
  • Statement of Purpose highlighting reasons for applying to the program, specific research and study interests, plans of careers, and other information highlighting background.
  • Letters of Recommendation – three are generally required by a qualified professional to evaluate teaching potential and academic work.
  • Unofficial transcripts from previous colleges attended for one year or more
  • Official transcripts to show conferral
  • Writing sample in the field of interest
  • GRE scores – required by some colleges
  • Certifications and Licensures (if attained after masters)

Online Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology
No GRE Programs

While the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are required by most colleges, some have done away with this requirement for Ph.D. programs. Instead of GRE scores, these colleges may have other requirements like essays, statements of purpose, work experience, or additional Letters of Recommendation. In some cases, students can submit GRE Scores as an optional requirement if they so wish. Examples of universities offering Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online no GRE programs are The Chicago School of Professional Psychology [5] and Kansas State University [6].

How Long does it take to complete a Ph.D. in
Behavioral Psychology Online?

The average time it would take to finish a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online is between four and five years. Doctoral students can complete the degree in a little less than four years in an accelerated format; others could take up to seven years if they study and research at a slower pace. A point to note is that students must do detailed coursework and research work regardless of the timeframe in which they complete it. Here is a quick overview of the behavioral psychology doctorate:

  • Minimum time required for a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology: at least four years
  • Maximum time required for a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology: usually about seven years
  • Typical time required to complete a doctorate in Behavioral Psychology: four to six years

Accelerated Online Ph.D. in Behavioral
Psychology Programs

Accelerated Ph.Ds. help meet the degree requirements in a shorter period. They allow students to earn their doctorate in about four years. Students can transfer credits in an accelerated Ph.D. program, depending on their educational background. Accelerated coursework is preferred by those who want to complete their academics faster due to personal or professional obligations. Accelerated Ph.D. degrees are provided by The Chicago School of Professional Psychology [5] and Kansas State University [6], among others.

Accreditations for Online Ph.D. in
Behavioral Psychology Programs

Accreditation is a process carried on by non-governmental bodies to ensure that educational institutions exceed or maintain set standards. Accreditation is important because it certifies that the degree one has earned has passed established quality criteria. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) [7] and the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs [8] provide information on whether a university or program is accredited by a competent authority.

While programmatically, behavioral psychology degrees can receive accreditation from the Association for Behavioral Analysis International [9] and American Psychological Association [10], institutionally, accreditation can be regional or national. Most colleges offering accredited behavioral psychology Ph.D. programs are regionally accredited by six authorized accrediting bodies, which are:

  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools anad Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

To understand more about accreditation, read the Guide to College Accreditation.

How to Pay for an Online Ph.D. in Behavioral
Psychology Program?

With the rising cost of education, students frequently find it difficult to use their savings or salary income to pay for their degrees or rely on their family’s money. Fortunately, governmental and state agencies, community organizations, non-profit foundations, and individuals offer various forms of financial aid to students pursuing behavioral psychology Ph.D. programs. Here are a few examples of such funding sources:


Scholarships are awarded to deserving students taking their merit and academic standing into account. Although most scholarships are open to applicants from all walks of life, a few are reserved solely for members of underrepresented groups, women, or other categories of students.


Grants are awarded to students not solely based on their merit but mostly taking into account their financial needs. Additionally, they are frequently distributed for specific purposes or to conduct research activities.

Graduate Assistantships

For students interested in assisting professors in the classroom or with academic-related activities, graduate assistantships are available. While teaching assistantships focus more on the classroom, research assistantships focus more on lab work and research. Students receive a stipend or a fee waiver in exchange for their assistance.

Student Loans

Federal Direct Loans and private student loans are the two types of student loans. Federal loans are government-funded low-interest loans. Because the government subsidizes these loans, students find them more affordable than private student loans provided by banks and financial institutions.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid helps students determine their eligibility for financial aid from the federal government and some universities. More information is available in the FAFSA Student Aid Guide.

Fully Funded Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology
Online Programs

Some institutions offer fully funded Ph.D. programs to their students. These programs reduce the high expenses of pursuing a doctorate. A fully funded Ph.D. behavioral psychology might be hard to find in the United States as behavioral psychology is a specialization within psychology. Some colleges provide a fully funded Ph.D. in psychology with a behavioral psychology concentration, such as:

Rutgers University [11]Rutgers University provides a fully funded Ph.D. in psychology for five years, provided students are in good academic standing. Their financial aid covers a 10-month salary, stipend, and tuition fee. There is also an option for summer funding available.
University of South Carolina [12]The University of South Carolina provides assistantships to doctorates in the first four years with a base stipend of $16,250 for an academic year. The department also covers the tuition fee in full, supplemented by summer funding from grants.
University of Maryland [13]The University of Maryland provides financial aid, which needs to be accessed by applying for fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching. Graduates could be given tuition fee remission for up to 10 credits a semester. Teaching assistants would commit to 20 hours per week.

FAQs Related to the Online Ph.D. in Behavioral
Psychology Program

Can you get a behavioral psychology Ph.D. degree online?

Yes. Several universities in the U.S. offer online programs in behavioral psychology. Students can opt for online learning to study at their own pace and easily manage other responsibilities like work and family.

How long is an online behavioral psychology Ph.D.?

What can you do with a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology?

What do you study in a behavioral psychology Ph.D. online?

What is a doctoral candidacy exam?

Is there a demand for behavioral psychologists?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after an Online
Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported a 10% increase in social and community occupations for 2021-2031 [15]. Those who have completed behavioral psychology Ph.D. programs can choose from various positions in behavioral psychology in academia, business, healthcare, nonprofits, governmental agencies, etc. Since the Ph.D. is an advanced degree, the scope in the field is much higher than it is for master’s degree holders. Some of the alternative and diverse roles Ph.D. holders can consider include:

  • Market Researcher
  • Social Worker
  • Behavior Therapist
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Family Therapist
  • School Counselor
  • Correctional Officer
  • Psychiatric Nurse

It is noteworthy that Ph.D. holders earn far more than bachelor’s or master’s degree holders and work in senior and responsible positions.

Certifications and Licensing for Behavioral
Psychology Online Ph.D. Students

Students with a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology online can pursue certifications that can complete their doctoral degree. Doing so can help them increase their expertise in the field of psychology and behavioral analysis in specific. It helps them venture into skills not covered by their academics and certifies that they are experts in their field. Here are some examples of certifications:

Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy Training [16]

The Interpersonal Social Rhythm Therapy Training certification allows professionals to build a routine and regulate their clients’ moods. Candidates learn about tracking instruments and tools to evaluate many symptoms of bipolar disorders. Classes can be taken in different formats, including recorded interviews with IPSRT experts.

Mental Health Facilitator Training [17]

The Mental Health Facilitator Certification helps one understand how to reduce the intensity and frequency of factors triggering client episodes and conditions. This certification is for those who want to work in mental health services.

The American Psychological Association specifies different requirements for licensure to practice as psychologists in various states [18]. Each state has its separate guidelines to practice as a licensed professional. After obtaining a license, individuals can work as psychologists, counselors, and consultants.

Additional Resources for Behavioral Psychology
Online Ph.D. Students

Students pursuing Ph.D. behavioral psychology will be able to attain in-depth knowledge, upskill, and interact with a range of industry professionals by being associated with professional organizations. They can also achieve additional benefits like opportunities to present and access research papers, attend conferences, webinars and seminars, and gain global insights through networking. Here are some examples of professional associations:

American Psychology Association [19]The American Psychology Association works to utilize psychology to impact issues critical to society. They prepare professionals in the discipline of psychology by apprising them of recent events and elevating people’s understanding of psychology.
American Board of Professional Psychology [20]The American Board of Professional Psychology provides certification to professional psychologists engaged in providing specialty services and practices. It serves the public by providing quality psychological services.
Association for Behavioral Analysis International [21]The Association for Behavioral Analysis International, or ABAI, conducts events promoting science dissemination. They also provide educational opportunities for practitioners in the field.
Association for Contextual Behavioral Science [22]The Association for Contextual Behavioral Science has established a community through which they work in an open, generous, non-discriminatory, collegial and mutually supportive manner. They develop theories, practices, and principle applications grounded in scientific evidence and empirical knowledge.
Association for Psychological Science [23]The Association for Psychological Science engages with communities and the public through psychological research. They provide an equal opportunity to all applicants and employees for employment. They have various resources like grants, awards, symposiums, etc.

Author Bio:

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.