Patients struggling with anxiety, depression, or substance abuse fall under the category of behavioral health. This is the study of human mannerism and actions and what motivates them to make certain decisions. There are MSW programs focused on Behavioral Health, including online programs focusing on the area.

Behavioral Health Degrees in Social Work

Everybody makes these decisions on a constant basis and at some moments these actions are not even performed consciously. Specifically in behavioral health, professionals will determine how these decisions affect an individual's health on a physical and mental level.

Prospective students can gain the skills needed in identifying and treating behavioral health by reviewing institutions that offer health and mental health concentrations within social work. For students looking at behavioral health studies in their Master of Social Work program, they can find plenty of options in an online format.

Online MSW Programs in Behavioral Health

There are approximately 15 institutions that have an online program with a specialization in health and mental health and they have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). View all CSWE accredited programs that are online.

When pursuing an online program, prospective students should consider the format that is offered, such as courses taken at the same time as the on-campus format with a traditional semester schedule or an accelerated format that takes seven or eight weeks to complete each course. There are also technological requirements that need to be met, including having a modern computer and high-speed internet access that is capable of utilizing the learning management system offered by the college.

Bachelor's Degrees in Behavioral Health

For those pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work, there are typically courses offered with subjects surrounding mental health and behavioral health.

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At the Falk College at Syracuse University, courses like Drugs and Human Behavior explore the impact that various drugs have on people taking them. This includes both short and long-term effects from consistent usage and the evolution of drug use and treatment. Another course within social sciences, Foundations of Human Behavior, explores the psychology of human relationships.

There Are BS in Behavioral Health Programs

Programs that offer a Bachelor's degree in social work will often require 120 credit hours and they can be completed in a span of four years. Another degree option is looking at a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health, which is offered at Grand Canyon University through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

This is an online program that provides education on current trends and theories on behavioral health, gaining the skills needed for diagnosis and assessing patients, and utilizing electronic medical records for analyzing behavioral health.

Master's Degrees in Behavioral Health

Gaining further education in behavioral health is obtained by pursuing Master's degrees in social work with concentrations in health and mental health, or graduate certifications in mental health and trauma. There are numerous Master's degrees that have been accredited by the CSWE that have specializations under the umbrella of health and mental health.

Online MSW Programs Are Available

Depending on the program selected, they can be fully taken online or some coursework will be available virtually. It also depends on the level of education in the topic, as some institutions will provide concentrations or a few elective options.

Sample Courses

Examples of coursework in these concentrations include theory and foundational courses within mental health and substance abuse. Students will explore the history of awareness in this field and different treatment methods that have been used to curb substance abuse.

This includes behavioral therapy, medication, and group meetings that can help patients eliminate their reliance on drugs and alcohol. Courses involving trauma references either a substantial injury that has occurred or a shocking impact in a patient's life, such as abuse, rape, or certain situations that have put their life in danger.

University of Houston’s Specialized Health and Behavioral Health Degree

The Graduate College of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work that is available in a variety of formats, including on-campus, online, or a hybrid version of the two. Among the specializations are Health and Behavioral Health, which emphasizes education in how these topics impact communities and various evidenced-based treatments that can be used when determining behavioral health issues. Required courses in the specialization include Contemporary Issues in Mental Health and Behavioral Health for Social Work Practice in Integrated Health Care. Students will also take two electives that are related to the specialization, like Family Violence and Drugs in Society.

What makes the University of Houston unique from other colleges includes the Global Leaders of Behavioral Health Education, shortened as GLOBE, that provides workshops for students and faculty members to receive advanced training in this subject. There is also the Child Trauma Program, which gives students the skills necessary to diagnose issues in children and to perform behavioral therapy for those that have dealt with traumatic life experiences. Students will need to meet field criteria in order to graduate, meaning they must shadow behavioral health methods at a health clinic or hospital.

Radford University’s MSW Program

Students can pursue the Master of Social Work through the College of Graduate Studies and Research at Radford University through the standard or advanced routes. For the standard program, there are 61 credit hours required and full-time students should be able to complete it within five semesters, but part-time students typically need around 11 semesters. These times are significantly shorter through the advanced path that requires 40 credit hours. Students can also pick either the Radford or Roanoke locations to pursue the program. The limitation for the advanced program is applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree within social work from an accredited school with at least a 2.75 cumulative GPA.

There are prerequisite requirements for both formats with coursework in social sciences, humanities, and human biology. These were likely completed for those that have pursued a discipline within social work. Among the admission requirements are three letters of recommendation, with the school advising that at least one letter should be from a professional currently practicing in the field of human services, and another come from an academic reference. There are no testing scores needed to be submitted, but typical submissions like transcripts and a personal essay are.

University of Utah’s MSW

Many pathways exist to obtain the Master of Social Work through the College of Social Work. For example, an advanced standing pathway exists for those that already have a Bachelor’s degree in the discipline. There is also a full-time path that can be completed in two years at the Salt Lake City campus, and there is a two-year online option that also requires full-time enrollment. The full program requires 60 credit hours to complete, and the accelerated option only boasts a 45-credit hour option. There are seven total pathways that students can apply for, but only one of them can be applied to in each year.

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The online format offers a Mental Health in Social Work concentration, and along with field practicum sessions, courses in this category are Diversity and Social Justice, and Mental Health Practice in children and adults. Electives that students can choose from include working with others on grief and loss, administering play therapy, or being able to work with patients that have suffered trauma. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher to continue pursuing the program, and full-time students have the ability to take up to 16 credit hours in one semester.

University of Denver’s MSW Specialization

The Graduate School of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work online with a specialization in Mental Health and Trauma. Students pursuing this specialization will gain the ability to improve behavioral health care when accessing patients and making evidence-based decisions when it comes to treatment procedures. Their goal is to help those that have suffered with mental illness and trauma and create an effective healing process. Courses within this concentration include Assessment of Mental Health Across the Lifespan, Cognitive Behavioral Therapies, and Methods for Evaluating Practice and Programs.

After the completion of the degree, graduates will have the ability to obtain a license to become a clinician or counselor when working in mental health or substance abuse. Graduates have gone on to become professionals in medical social work, social case worker, and behavioral health specialist. Students have the ability to pursue a full-time or accelerated program format that can be finished in either 27 or 21 months. There are two separate internships that must be completed in each year, and that requires 12 hours of work each week during the foundational year, and 15 hours each week in the concentration year.

Behavioral Health Jobs and Careers


Professionals that study various behaviors in people and determine what disorders they are suffering from and what is the cause of these issues. They will interview patients and identify certain aspects of their emotions or social interaction, and they will recommend various treatments for them. Psychiatrists will often write reports or articles that detail their findings to improve treatment processes in the industry, and higher-level positions may supervise those that are just entering the field. Most professionals that have studied behavioral health will enter a counseling or developmental psychology position. In general, the median annual wage for psychologists is just over $102,000 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, with those working in the government receiving the highest pay based on industry. 

Mental Health Counselors

Gives advice and helps patients that are dealing with various mental health issues like addiction and drug abuse. They will work with these clients either individually or in a group setting, and typically recommend the next steps to take after diagnosing the issues. After having a close session with the client, counselors will speak with family members when available to help them understand the problem and the steps they can do in order to help the patient. The main difference between psychiatrists and counselors is their approach in helping patients, with the latter helping the patient see through certain issues instead of identifying certain tendencies and behavioral patterns. Counselors may have specialized roles, such as dealing with students at college or workers at bigger corporations.

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Child Welfare Worker

Ensures that children are being raised in a comfortable and safe environment while looking for services that will help improve their quality of life. Typical children that receive this care are those placed in foster homes or are homeless, have been abused, or have a handicap. These workers can develop a relationship with family members in order to establish the right protocol that will enhance the child’s life. They also determine solutions for children that are coming from broken homes or abandoned. Workers in this position must have tremendous communication skills and have compassion for helping children in various difficult situations.

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Psychologists, All Other reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.