What Is Applied Behavioral Science?
“Applied Behavioral Science” sounds like it could be the title of a new drama series featuring a brainy pack of investigators who use arcane science to find conclusions to unsolvable crimes. While you may not find “Applied Behavioral Science” on TV’s fall schedule, you will find it among the degree offerings at Ashford University’s College of Health, Human Services, and Science. But what is it?
Defining Applied Behavioral Science
Dr. Joseph “Trevor” Belcher, Associate Dean of Ashford’s College of Health, Human Services, and Science, “Applied behavioral science is the application of multidisciplinary behavioral research and knowledge to solve real world problems.”
The key word in Dr. Belcher’s description is “multidisciplinary.” Applied behavioral science is a broad field of study that encompasses several other fields. Under the heading of Applied Behavioral Science, you will find familiar topics such as sociology, psychology, ethics, logic, and even law. When studying applied behavioral science, you will examine all of these fields and how they work together to influence human behavior.
“With knowledge of applied behavioral science, you can begin to understand why people and groups are behaving a certain way, as well as address problems that may impact businesses, organizations, or society in general,” Dr. Belcher says.
There is a strong focus on research within the study of applied behavioral science. For example, the Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science program at Ashford University includes classes on statistics and research methods. Students learn the basic principles of qualitative and quantitative research, as well as the accepted protocols for statistical analysis. These classes will help students learn how to collect and interpret relevant data.
The point of the BA in Applied Behavioral Science program is not an academic collection of data. Rather, the program strives to find practical applications for all of that data to affect real change in the world.
“One of our main goals with this program is to produce graduates who are able to look at complex social problems and use their knowledge to find solutions,” Dr. Belcher explains.
To that end, the degree program’s curriculum introduces students to many of the most challenging problems facing modern society. Courses such as SOC 203 Social Problems and SOC 402 Contemporary Social Problems & the Workplace look at issues like poverty, substance abuse, sexism, illiteracy, homelessness, race relations, the environment, and more. Classes look at the causes and consequences of these problems and, more importantly, encourage students to think of possible solutions.
Given the degree program’s emphasis on using research and knowledge to address major societal problems, it’s probably not surprising that many applied behavioral science graduates choose to pursue careers that allow them to address social issues. The most common career paths for graduates include jobs in human resources, youth services, human services, urban planning, consumer science, and law enforcement. All of those fields provide an opportunity to affect lasting, positive changes in our world.
Okay, so a degree in applied behavioral science may not prepare you for a career as a crime-fighting TV star, but it will set you up for more impactful endeavors. You will have the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills to understand real world problems and formulate solutions.
Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education