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Health Behavior Science FAQ's

What is health behavior science?

Health behavior science majors explore and analyze how human actions, cognitions, communications, and environment affect health, chronic disease, relationships and quality of life across the lifespan. More specifically they work to promote healthy lifestyles through education, assessing needs, counseling and coaching individuals, developing and implementing programs, policy change, creating media and materials, and evaluating the impact and outcome of their efforts

What do health behavior science professionals do?

Health behavior science professionals work within a variety of settings and among a diversity of population groups:

  • Within medical facilities they work one-on-one with patients or families, or engage in efforts to reach out to a community or an at-risk population. 
  • Within college settings they work to promote student health via residence life, recreation and health programs, or counseling and educational programs. 
  • In public health settings they work primarily with local and state public health departments, and often serve on statewide councils or national committees that address specific health issues. 
  • In non-profits, they work to address the health issues of interest to the organization via program development, needs assessment, marketing and communication, and community outreach.  Within worksites they work in wellness or worksite health promotion programs, medical offices, and employee assistance programs. 

Due to their skills and training, health behavior science majors also work well in health-related businesses that provide a specific product or service. In this capacity, marketing and market research or delivery of a specific service is common.

What issues do health behavior science majors address?
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Tobacco
  • Cancer prevention and management
  • Global health
  • Personal fitness
  • Health promotion
  • Stress management
  • Aging
  • Mental health
  • Maternal and child health
  • Teenage pregnancy
  • HIV/AIDS and sexual health
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Obstetrics
What are some of the tasks performed in these positions?

The particulars of this career depend on the chosen specialty. The following are some examples of the types of work health behavior science majors do:

  • Planning health promotion and education activities
  • Providing screening services for individuals
  • Coaching or counseling individuals so that they can obtain optimal health
  • Conducting workshops, training sessions, and courses on health concerns
  • Identifying target populations for health behavior interventions
  • Developing and implementing public media or social marketing campaigns
  • Conducting pre-program and post-program surveys
  • Conducting program evaluations to determine impact and effectiveness
What are the key objectives of a health behavior career?

Understanding of dynamic development—health behavior science majors examine how people and groups grow and change over time. They learn to apply theories to understand the behavioral choices people make, as well as to guide their efforts to promote health and reduce disease.

Health knowledge—students must understand mechanisms for achieving optimal health, as well as mechanisms that lead to chronic disease.

Facilitating Behavior Change—students acquire skills to assist individuals in coordinating a comprehensive biological, psychological and social approach to behavior change and health.

What are some of the other key skills that lead to attainment of these objectives?
  • Assessing individual and community needs
  • Planning and developing health promotion programs
  • Implementing health promotion programs
  • Managing programs and personnel
  • Evaluating health promotion programs
  • Acting to change health policies
  • Building coalitions
  • Identifying resources and making referrals
  • Developing audio, visual, electronic, Internet, and print materials
What are some related skills that are valuable in a health behavior career?
  • Presentation and Writing skills—must develop the ability to express their knowledge, research, or opinions in a clear, concise, and engaging manner
  • Critical thinking and problem solving—must be able to see patterns that emerge in individual behavior, as well as among population groups, and identify those factors that are contributing to illness or health.
  • Project management skills—must learn to coordinate efforts of other health professionals, researchers, or agencies to effectively implement programs
  • Interpersonal communication skills—must be able to communicate, educate, and motivate others through the communication with individuals and groups.
  • Data analysis skills--must be able to utilize math and statistics to analyze data sets to determine what is causing a behavior or health outcome, or to determine the impact of a program, or to determine the health needs of individuals and communities.
What courses are within the health behavior science major?
  • Personal Health Management
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Health Behavior Theory and Assessment
  • Nutritional Concepts
  • Nutrition and Activity
  • Behavior Change Strategies
  • Physical Activity Behavior
  • Development of Health Promotion Programs
  • Research Methods and Statistics for Health Behavior Sciences
  • Health Behavior Science Internship
What are some of the personal qualities of a successful health behavior science professional?

When you embark on a degree path in Health Behavior Science, you should consider whether your personal qualities are suited for this career. Some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do I care if people are healthy?
  • Am I interested in how we use and care for our bodies?
  • Am I concerned about how people eat, exercise, act or think as it relates to their well-being?
  • Am I interested in helping people improve their health and quality of life?
  • Am I concerned about how our environment can impact our individual and societal health?
  • Am I interested in working as an educator, researcher, or manager?
  • Do I like working with people?
  • Do I work well with others in a collaborative manner for a single purpose?
  • Would I consider myself a "people person"?

If you answered yes to the above questions, then Health Behavior Science and the Health Promotion Master’s Degree Program are both a good fit for you.

What can you do with a degree in health behavior science?
  • Wellness Program Coordinator
  • Community Health Educator
  • Case Manager Specialist
  • Program Coordinator
  • Community Resource Educator
  • Health Promotion Coordinator
  • Cancer Community Educator
  • Health Fitness Specialist
  • Health Coach
  • Health Educator
  • Manager Health and Wellness
  • Health Promotion Manager
  • Health Promotion Director
  • Worksite Health Specialist
  • Risk Reduction Program Coordinator
  • Account Manager
  • Director/Program Promotions
  • Event Coordinator
  • Instructor/Teacher
  • Marketing Representative
  • Marketing Services Coordinator
  • Market Researcher
  • Social Marketing Professional
  • Operations Coordinator/Manager
  • Health Policy Analyst
  • Public Health Professional
  • Epidemiologist
  • Exercise Specialist
  • Project Director
  • Nutritionist
What are some sample work settings?
  • Alternative health care center
  • Assisted living facility
  • Birthing center
  • Chiropractic office
  • Community centers
  • Dance studio
  • Dentist office
  • Hospitals
  • Health insurance company
  • International health organization
  • Mental health facility
  • Non-profit organization
  • Nursing care facility
  • Pharmaceutical sales industry
  • Pharmacy
  • Private health clinic
  • Public health agencies
  • Rehabilitation institutes
  • Research center
  • Spa/health/fitness club
  • Substance abuse clinic
  • University/college health center
  • Youth center
  • Multiple private health product/service businesses

Government Departments

  • Air Force Medical Services
  • Army Medical Department
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of Social Services
  • Department of Veteran Affairs
  • National Institutes of Health
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Office of Personnel Management Employee Health Programs
  • Office of Public Health and Science
  • Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs)
  • Office of the Surgeon General
  • State and Territorial Health Departments
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
What is the career potential for people with this degree?

United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects behavioral science careers will grow by about 10% through the year 2016.  As more behavioral scientists demystify their work, many more businesses and organizations will carve out room in their budgets to explore ways that they can help them achieve their goals.  Others predict expected growth by 18% through 2018.  Growth is being primarily driven by the rising cost of health care.

How do I prepare for the health behavior science at the University of Delaware?

In your junior or senior year of high school, take the SAT and have your scores sent to the University of Delaware.

You will have to take courses in the university core curriculum areas required of all undergraduates in addition to your major courses.  Talk with your high school counselor about preparing for college, including the entrance exams (SAT and/or ACT) that you should take beginning your junior year.

In your senior year, submit your application for admission by the deadline on the application (typically between December 1 and January 15 depending on requested consideration) and request that your high school transcript be sent to the UD admissions office.

Advanced Placement courses can count toward college credit at UD.  For details, visit: http://www.udel.edu/admissions/pdf/apcredit.pdf

How do I choose a minor?

Within the Health Behavior Science major students are required to complete a minor.  Minors provide an opportunity to specialize in a specific discipline related to the major, AND position you better for jobs within the field of health behavior science.  Options include:

  • Public Health
  • Business Administration
  • Coaching Science
  • Disability Studies
  • Entrepreneurial Studies
  • Leisure Service Management
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology
  • Strength and Conditioning
  • Exercise Science
  • Leadership

Your choice of minor will depend on what your career goals and aspirations are. Your academic advisor can help you make this choice during your first or second year of college.

How do I plan my path at UD in the health behavior science major?

Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition faculty members will help you each semester to select the courses you need to take to obtain your degree and achieve your career goals. You should meet with a faculty member (who you will be assigned to once you are accepted into the major) each semester. If you are not in the major and wish to talk to someone about the program please contact Sue Coffing, Academic Advisor, at scoffing@udel.edu or 302-831-2252.

  • College of Health Sciences  •  Department of Behavioral Health & Nutrition  •  26 Carpenter Sports Building 
    Newark, DE 19716 •   Phone: 302-831-2079   •  Fax: 302-831-4261   •  © 2014
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