Behavioral biology is the study of the interaction between behavior and biology, and the interconnected ways in which they influence each other. Behavior influences biology in that an individual’s perception and reaction to life events can have substantial effects on hormonal and physiological functions, whereas biological factors like neurochemical substances and genetic factors clearly influence behavior. Behavioral biology seeks to establish a greater understanding of these interactions, and so is inherently and interdisciplinary field.
The advantages of studying behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins are many. First, the department is small – approximately 12-15 undergraduates per year - and emphasizes personalized curriculum and close interaction with faculty. Second, it enables students to heavily individualize their studies based on their interests: they can focus the major in natural sciences or social sciences, in everything from psychology to animal behavior, from the neurosciences to organismal and integrative biology.
Because the major’s curriculum is so heavily individualized based on each student’s interests, the careers available to graduates vary widely:
- Research assistants and associates – prior to graduate school, many graduates go directly into laboratory research to further develop, explore and gain experience in their area of interest.
- Psychopharmacology – the study of drug-induced changes in mood, thinking and behavior, the specific interaction between drugs and their target sites or receptors, and the widespread changes in physiological or psychological function.
- Behavioral neuroscience – the study of the relationship between the physiological processes that occur in the brain and the behavior of an organism, and the types of altered communication between neurons that are responsible for dramatic changes in behavior and cognition.
- Physiological Psychology – the study of the relationship between the brain and behavior using combined skills in psychology and knowledge of the brain’s structure and function.
- Psychology – the study of the human mind and human behavior, typically n a research, clinical or corporate setting.
- Zoology – the study of the origin, behavior, diseases and life processes of animals and wildlife.
- Science Journalism – investigating and writing about advances and trends in the sciences for newspapers, magazines, online and journals. Public information officers, who prepare news releases and other summaries of institutional research for the general public, also fit into this field.
- Medical, veterinary, dental or law school – behavioral biology provides an excellent undergraduate foundation of knowledge for professional school when supplemented with necessary coursework, and provides students with a more humanistic perspective on this fields.
In most areas, an additional degree in a more specialized field is required. The advantage of behavioral biology is that students can focus their studies on their area of interest, and they must utilize this opportunity in order to adequately prepare for the workforce or graduate study. Participation in research and internships are also highly recommended to further establish your knowledge and experience in a given area. Entry-level research positions following graduation provide an additional opportunity to explore particular areas of interest before committing to graduate or professional school.
Hopkins Behavioral Biology alumni go into a variety of career fields. Since 2005 the Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans 6 months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses from the Post-Graduation Survey of Behavioral Biology Majors.
Listed below are actual job titles that JHU alumni acquired with their degrees in Behavioral Biology:
- Clinical Trial Manager
- Database Administrator
- Director of National Client Services
- Director, national nonprofit civil rights organization
- Education Manager, SeaWorld
- Educational Software Developer
- Patent Attorney
- Project Coordinator, Nonprofit
- Sales and Marketing Associate, green technology company Sports Medicine Research Associate
Additional Alumni Profiles
Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.
For more information on what you can do with a Behavioral Biology Major go to What can I do with a major in Biology.
Want to know more? Read our Hopkins Career Profiles on Medicine, Law & Paralegal, Scientific Research, and Nonprofit.
If you would like to talk about how your search is going, we invite you to make an appointment with a Career Counselor by calling 410-516-8056.
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