A behavioral scientist studies the reasons people, as individuals and in groups, behave the way they do. This requires special training, and most behavioral scientists have at least a bachelor's degree in behavioral psychology. This career calls for strong research and analytical skills, an ability to observe and record behaviors, and teamwork skills.
A behavioral scientist researches and attempts to explain human behavior. This research can be done in many ways. Some studies require participants to fill out surveys about their behavior, thoughts and reasoning behind actions. Other studies will put participants into a particular situation and then observe how participants respond. Some behavioral scientists will go out into their communities, job sites or other places where people gather to observe behavioral patterns in a natural setting. Others may analyze recorded examples of behavior to predict future behavior.
After the data from the research has been gathered, behavioral scientists interpret the information, looking for patterns. These patterns can be used to identify and predict future behaviors or to explain a particular human behavior. Discovered patterns help scientists to better understand human behavior, in both group and individual situations.
Behavioral scientists may be hired to work with mentally disabled patients in hospitals or assisted living facilities. They help to develop new treatments for behavioral disorders and train other employees in how to best care for patients. Based on previous research with intellectually or developmentally disabled, they create individualized assessments and treatment plans for patients, oversee patient care and research causes and theoretical treatments for these disabilities.
Some specially trained behavioral scientists, such as the members of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, work in the criminal justice field. These behavioral scientists often have an advanced degree in behavioral science as well as a background in criminal justice. They use behavioral science to develop psychological profiles of criminals based on the crime scene and then use that information to locate suspects. These behavioral scientists also do research and teach behavioral science, as it applies to law enforcement, to other FBI agents, police departments and government agencies.
A behavioral scientist also spends time reading research papers relevant to his practice and finding ways to implement the research of others. He might also head committees, attend meetings and participate in the management of the facility where he is employed. Other parts of the career might include traveling to conferences and seminars, providing a consultation service to other agencies and teaching students, community agency members, health care workers and other employees he might be responsible for.