Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science

Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science

Offered By: College of Humanities and Social Sciences

What Is Behavioral Health Science?

Behavioral health science is the study of human behavior and interaction. Specifically, the GCU Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science (BHS) degree program includes the study of the approaches, techniques, current trends, history, research and best practices in behavioral health.

Students who pursue an education in behavioral health science can prepare for careers that center on helping clients improve their quality of life. Graduates of the BHS degree at GCU may go on to help people with: addiction and substance abuse disorders, family dynamics and trauma.

What You'll Learn With a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Degree

Students enrolled in this bachelor’s in behavioral science program will receive a general and broad perspective on each of the specific areas of this field. The goal of the behavioral science courses is to help students study human behavior within a Christian values-oriented environment, so that they may emphasize compassion and ethics in their own practice. This behavioral health science degree does not lead to licensure, but may meet requirements for more advanced degree programs in healthcare fields.

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences at GCU designed this BS in Behavioral Health Sciences around the following core competencies:

  • Concepts of Behavioral Health
    Students in the behavioral health degree program learn to 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, students understand 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
    The impact of culture, diversity and social justice on the behavioral health field helps students better understand future clients and patients.
  • Behavioral Health Information Technology
    Students understand and 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
    Behavioral science degree students understand the importance of a professional network in the behavioral health field. This ensures they will be active in their professional communities.

BS in Behavioral Health Degree Online

With a Bachelor of Science degree in behavioral health, students can go on to improve the quality of life for others who need help. In addition to the traditional on-campus format, this degree can be fully completed online or in the evenings. By taking online behavioral sciences courses, you can continue to work and make college fit around your schedule.

As you pursue your degree online, you’ll learn counseling theories, treatments for addiction and substance abuse disorders and gain a broad understanding of group dynamics and processes. As you move through the online BHS degree program, you will take courses in human development, abnormal psychology and probability and statistics.

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

Behavioral science course topics include:

  • Ethics of BHS
  • Cultural and social diversity
  • Research and information literacy
  • Introduction to family dynamics
  • Understanding trauma

What Can You Do With a Behavioral Health Degree?

Graduates of a behavioral health degree program may find work in the following areas or positions:

  • Behavioral health
  • Health services management
  • Health technician
  • Psychiatric technician
  • Psychiatric aide

These jobs may be found in government, private and public entities. Additionally, the BHS degree helps students prepare for master’s degree programs in areas such as clinical psychology, counseling, criminal justice and human sciences.

If your dream is to make a difference in people’s lives, it’s time to think about a behavioral health science career. Learn more about the BS in Behavioral Health Science degree program at GCU.

Behavioral Health Science FAQs

While there is some overlap in behavioral science and psychology courses and career paths, generally the behavioral science degree program focuses more on the study of broader influences on human behavior, allowing for more diversity in career opportunities. For students looking to study human behavior from an individual perspective (cognition, mental processes, brain biology), the psychology field may be a better fit. Although there are key differences between behavioral science and psychology, each requires a passion for understanding and interpreting human behavior.

A behavioral health specialist provides counseling and resources to assist people dealing with challenges like addiction, mental illness and family transitions. A successful behavioral health specialist is often empathetic, patient, caring, creative, practical and organized. Specialists typically work in hospitals, clinics, schools or individual practices.

After earning a bachelor’s in behavioral science, students will need to continue their education by earning an advanced degree in their area of interest. One common master’s program for behavioral health specialists is GCU’s MS in Mental Health and Wellness. Earning this degree can help prepare you for the professional experience you may need. Upon graduation, you will need to take further steps to earn clinical licensure as a counselor or psychologist. 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 $47,660 as of May 2020.1

1 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 2020. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect 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. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path.

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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 [More Info]
Online: $485 per credit [More Info]

Course List

General Education Requirements:
34-40 credits
48 credits
Open Elective Credits:
32-40 credits
Total 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-112, Success in Science, Engineering and Technology & Lab: 4
  • 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.

GCU Evening Student

Grand Canyon University’s evening programs cater to the demands of working professionals who prefer an in-person learning environment. Our night classes meet just once per week and offer the interaction and discussion of a typical college classroom.

* 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.

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