BS in Behavioral Health Science (BHS) Degree

Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science

Offered By: College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Examine the Relationships Between Human Behavior and Quality of Life

Behavioral health science encompasses mental health issues, substance use disorders and the physical health issues that may arise from mental or behavioral health issues.1 At Grand Canyon University, the Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science degree includes an in-depth look at the approaches, techniques, current trends, history, research and best practices in behavioral health.

Students who pursue an education in this field can prepare for careers that center on helping clients improve their quality of life. Graduates of this bachelor’s program at GCU may go on to help people with addiction and substance use disorders, family dynamics and trauma.

Earn Your BHS Degree From GCU

As you work toward your BS in behavioral science, you will be introduced to a broad perspective on each of the specific areas of this field. The goal of the behavioral science courses is to help you analyze human behavior within a Christian values-oriented environment, so that you may emphasize compassion and ethics in your own practice. This degree does not lead to licensure, but it may meet requirements for more advanced degree programs in various healthcare fields.

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In addition to the on-campus format, this degree can be fully completed online. GCU’s interactive digital platform allows you to access course materials from virtually anywhere as you explore ways of improving quality of life for your future clients. By taking online behavioral sciences courses, you can continue to work and make college fit around your schedule.

As an on-campus student, you can benefit from face-to-face interactions with your peers and instructors, plus enjoy all that campus life has to offer while you examine counseling theories, human development and cultural diversity in the behavioral health field.

Delve Into Behavioral Health Science Concepts

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences designed this BS in behavioral science around the following core competencies:

  • Concepts of Behavioral Health
    You will analyze behavioral health concepts such as history, current trends, theories, approaches, research and best practices.
  • Behavioral Health Skills
    Using tools such as the DSM manual and ICD codes, along with emerging brain technology, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate competency in the scope of practice, including assessment, diagnosis and treatment for clients. Clinical and documentation skills, and laws and rules are also a focus.
  • Cultural Competency
    Examining the impact of culture, diversity and social justice on the behavioral health field may help you to better connect with future clients and patients.
  • Behavioral Health Information Technology
    You will use diverse technology for behavioral health, such as electronic medical and health records and record keeping. The importance of privacy, security and confidentiality with patient records is emphasized.
  • Professional Network
    BHS degree students can benefit from understanding the importance of a professional network in the behavioral health field. This promotes active engagement in professional communities.
Total Credits: 120
Campus: 15 weeks
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Online: 8 weeks
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Up to 90 credits, only 84 can be lower division
Campus: $8,250 per semester
[Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid]

Online: $485 per credit
[Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid]

Cost of Attendance

Behavioral Health Science Courses in This Program

As you pursue your health science degree online or on campus, you’ll be introduced to counseling theories, treatments for addiction and substance use disorders, and you’ll examine group dynamics and processes. As you progress through this program, you will take courses in human development, abnormal psychology, and probability and statistics.

Behavioral science course topics include:

  • Ethics of BHS, including legal standards and professional responsibilities
  • Cultural and social diversity, encompassing matters pertaining to social justice, advocacy and self-awareness
  • Applied clinical research and information literacy
  • Introduction to family dynamics, including roles, communication styles, cultural influences and parenting dynamics
  • Understanding trauma and its effects on a person’s emotional, sociological, cognitive and spiritual well-being

A capstone project completes the program. This course allows you to prepare a proposal for a community-based behavioral health organization on your area of focus.

Career Paths for Graduates With a BHS Degree

Graduates with this degree may pursue work in government, private and public entities, or in the following areas or positions:

  • Behavioral health
  • Health technician
  • Psychiatric technician
  • Psychiatric aide

Additionally, this degree may help you prepare for a master’s degree program in an area such as clinical psychology, counseling, criminal justice or social work.

Pursue Your BHS Degree From an Institutionally Accredited University

As an accredited university through the Higher Learning Commission, GCU emphasizes quality of instruction in order to help graduates prepare for a variety of careers in the field. Whether you choose to earn your behavioral health science degree online or on campus, your instructors will challenge you to develop critical thinking, communication, collaboration and other important skills.

Behavioral Health Science Degree FAQs

Before making the decision to enroll in behavioral science courses, you may wish to explore the field further. Use the following FAQs and answers to get started.

Behavioral health science and psychology are similar fields that overlap, as they both focus on mental health. However, behavioral science is a broader umbrella field that encompasses psychology as a subfield. Whereas psychology focuses on the science of mental health and its relation to human behaviors, behavioral science emphasizes the relationships and interactions between people. Furthermore, behavioral science, as an umbrella field, also touches on areas such as religious studies, philosophy and anthropology.2

A behavioral health specialist provides counseling and resources to assist people dealing with challenges like addiction, mental illness and family transitions. This role is often a collaborative one, as behavioral health specialists may refer some clients to other providers, such as psychiatrists. Specialists typically work in hospitals, clinics, schools or individual practices.3

The requirements to work as a behavioral health specialist vary by state. You should research the requirements for the state in which you plan to work. In general, however, you should expect to need a bachelor’s degree in behavioral health science. After earning a bachelor’s in behavioral science, you may need to continue your education by earning an advanced degree.3 One graduate degree option for future behavioral health specialists is GCU’s MS in Mental Health and Wellness. Another option is the Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree. Earning this degree can help prepare you to earn your clinical licensure as a counselor. Talk with your university advisor to learn more.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors have a median annual wage of $53,710 as of May 2023.4

If your dream is to make a difference in people’s lives, it may be time to think about pursuing a behavioral health science career. Learn more about the BHS degree at GCU by filling out the form on this page.

1 American Medical Association. (2022, August 22). What is behavioral health? American Medical Association. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2023.

2 (n.d.). What is behavioral science? Retrieved Oct. 5, 2023.

3 Addiction Counselor. (n.d.). Behavioral health specialist careers – job duties and requirements. Addiction Counselor. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2023.

4 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors as of May 2023, retrieved on May 2, 2024. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 to 2023 may be atypical compared to prior years. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers nationwide with varying levels of education and experience. It does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors nor does it reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country or a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries. Your employability will be determined by numerous factors over which GCU has no control, such as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, the graduate’s experience level, individual characteristics, skills, etc., against a pool of candidates.

Course List

General Education Requirements:
34-40 credits
48 credits
Open Elective Credits:
32-40 credits
Degree Requirements:
120 credits

General Education Requirements

General Education coursework prepares Grand Canyon University graduates to think critically, communicate clearly, live responsibly in a diverse world, and thoughtfully integrate their faith and ethical convictions into all dimensions of life. These competencies, essential to an effective and satisfying life, are outlined in the General Education Learner Outcomes. General Education courses embody the breadth of human understanding and creativity contained in the liberal arts and sciences tradition. Students take an array of foundational knowledge courses that promote expanded knowledge, insight, and the outcomes identified in the University's General Education Competencies. The knowledge and skills students acquire through these courses serve as a foundation for successful careers and lifelong journeys of growing understanding and wisdom.


Upon completion of the Grand Canyon University's University Foundation experience, students will be able to demonstrate competency in the areas of academic skills and self-leadership. They will be able to articulate the range of resources available to assist them, explore career options related to their area of study, and have knowledge of Grand Canyon's community. Students will be able to demonstrate foundational academic success skills, explore GCU resources (CLA, Library, Career Center, ADA office, etc), articulate strategies of self-leadership and management and recognize opportunities to engage in the GCU community.

Course Options

  • UNV-103, University Success: 4
  • UNV-303, University Success: 4
  • UNV-108, University Success in the College of Education: 4


Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to construct rhetorically effective communications appropriate to diverse audiences, purposes, and occasions (English composition, communication, critical reading, foreign language, sign language, etc.). Students are required to take 3 credits of English grammar or composition.

Course Options

  • UNV-104, 21st Century Skills: Communication and Information Literacy: 4
  • ENG-105, English Composition I: 4
  • ENG-106, English Composition II: 4


Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to express aspects of Christian heritage and worldview. Students are required to take CWV-101/CWV-301.

Course Options

  • CWV-101, Christian Worldview: 4
  • CWV-301, Christian Worldview: 4


Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to use various analytic and problem-solving skills to examine, evaluate, and/or challenge ideas and arguments (mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, physical geography, ecology, economics, theology, logic, philosophy, technology, statistics, accounting, etc.). Students are required to take 3 credits of intermediate algebra or higher.

Course Options

  • MAT-154, Applications of College Algebra: 4
  • MAT-144, College Mathematics: 4
  • PHI-105, 21st Century Skills: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: 4
  • BIO-220, Environmental Science: 4


Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to demonstrate awareness and appreciation of and empathy for differences in arts and culture, values, experiences, historical perspectives, and other aspects of life (psychology, sociology, government, Christian studies, Bible, geography, anthropology, economics, political science, child and family studies, law, ethics, cross-cultural studies, history, art, music, dance, theater, applied arts, literature, health, etc.). If the predefined course is a part of the major, students need to take an additional course.

Course Options

  • HIS-144, U.S. History Themes: 4
  • PSY-102, General Psychology: 4
  • SOC-100, Everyday Sociology: 4

Core Courses

Course Description

This course provides foundational knowledge regarding addiction and substance use disorders. Topics studied include biopsychosocial dynamics; stages, processes, and impact of addiction and substance use; and the role of the addiction professional in prevention, intervention, relapse prevention, and aftercare. In addition, the course provides overviews of the substance abuse counselor's code of ethics, HIPAA, and legal issues involved in counseling.

Course Description

This course provides foundational knowledge in theoretical approaches to counseling. Theoretical models studied include psychodynamic, existential, Gestalt, person-centered, cognitive and behavioral therapy, family systems, and narrative- and solution-focused therapies.

Course Description

This course provides a broad understanding of group development stages, group dynamics, group counseling theories, and ethical standards pertaining to group work. In addition, this course explores theoretical approaches to group work. The course also addresses the growth and development of group members.

Course Description

This writing-intensive course provides a broad understanding of ethics, legal standards, and responsibilities in behavioral health. Students explore basic ethical concepts, legislation, and current trends in behavioral health ethics. This course pays special attention to technology and its effects on lawmaking and ethics in behavioral health. Important goals of this course are to help students develop a comprehensive understanding of the history and current application of ethics in the behavioral health field.

Course Description

This course provides a comprehensive foundation through exploring the content areas of cultural diversity, social justice, and religious and spiritual values. Examination of these areas strives to offer an overarching framework to guide students and gain perspectives for working with multicultural populations in the behavioral health field. This course assists students with developing knowledge and application of cultural diversity, cultural competency, and the importance of self-awareness, social justice, and advocacy. In addition, this course provides students a blended approach of the beliefs and values associated with religion and spirituality as a component of cultural competency.

Course Description

This course provides an understanding of the nature and needs of individuals across the life-span development. This course covers physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development across various points in human development. Additionally, students learn about the influence of spiritual and moral beliefs throughout the life span.

Course Description

This course is a study of elementary theories of probability, distribution, and testing of statistical hypotheses. Practical experience is provided in the application of statistical methods. Prerequisite: MAT-134, MAT-144 or MAT-154.

Course Description

This is a writing intensive foundation course in the science of abnormal behavior that offers students the opportunity to study the origin and development of abnormal patterns and disorders. This course is designed to assist students in recognizing and understanding mental illness through increased awareness of emotional, functional, and physiological factors influencing mental health. Specific topics include symptoms, diagnoses, etiology, epidemiology, and treatment of various psychological disorders and syndromes.

Course Description

This course provides a comprehensive understanding of the various documentation styles used in the behavioral health field. Students critically examine evidence-based research in the field of behavioral health. The course offers an introduction to conducting applied clinical research.

Course Description

This course introduces the historical and theoretical perspectives of family dynamics and systems. Topics include roles, communication styles, boundaries, generational patterns, cultural influences, and couples and parenting dynamics. Skills and modalities relevant to working with families in the behavioral health field are explored.

Course Description

This course offers an overview of various types of trauma and effects of traumatic experiences within the physical, emotional, sociological, cognitive, and spiritual domains of a human being. It studies the dynamics of trauma throughout the human life-span development. It offers a brief overview of trauma, informed care assessment and treatment, and ethics associated with working with trauma victims.

Course Description

The capstone project is a culmination of the learning experiences while a student is within the behavioral health science program at Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Students prepare a written proposal for a community-based behavioral health organization related to the student's specific area of focus. The proposal includes the name, geographical location, identified service gap, target populations, types of service/treatments, potential challenges, ethical considerations, and supervision/oversight considerations. The professional capstone project proposal needs to reflect synthesis and integration of course content. This capstone course needs to be completed at the end of program. Prerequisite: BHS-350.


GCU Campus Student

Join Grand Canyon University’s vibrant and growing campus community, with daytime classes designed for traditional students. Immerse yourself in a full undergraduate experience, complete with curriculum designed within the context of our Christian worldview.

GCU Online Student

Pursue a next-generation education with an online degree from Grand Canyon University. Earn your degree with convenience and flexibility with online courses that let you study anytime, anywhere.

* Please note that this list may contain programs and courses not presently offered, as availability may vary depending on class size, enrollment and other contributing factors. If you are interested in a program or course listed herein please first contact your University Counselor for the most current information regarding availability.

* Please refer to the Academic Catalog for more information. Programs or courses subject to change.