Behavioural science is perpetually growing. And whereas in my days you just had to figure out whether you wanted to be an academic or an applied behavioural scientist, the applied domain has managed to wring out a couple of additional job titles. But things got confusing quite quickly. For example, do you know the difference really between a behavioural scientist and a behavioural strategist? As in, could you define what kinds of projects they take on, what their day to day looks like, and what the required skillset is? It’s okay, the majority of people struggle with that one. How about a Behaviouralist or Behavioural Therapist? Getting trickier already… Behavioural Science Jobs:
Behavioural Strategist: Behavioural strategists are the people who are charged with thinking about the behavior of an organization’s customers and ensuring that a rich understanding of their behavior is incorporated into new projects and plans. This is a planning, project management, stakeholder management and connector type role. You need to get stuff done. It often includes a form of experimentation, but it’s unlikely the main focus. Behavioural strategists are often consultants that get hired external to the company they get hired to.
Behavioural Risk Manager: Behavioural risk management is the process of analyzing and identifying workplace behavioural issues and ensuring that the potential for damage from risk is minimized. Workplace behavioral issues include individual risks such as behaviors of employees and directors, and organisational behavior which is a collective behavior taken by the organisation. This is most often an internal facing role, because you’re dealing with highly sensitive information and companies often don’t want that outsourced. It has little to do with HR but a lot with company culture. If you want to learn more about Behavioural Risk check out my latest article. Expect a job where you’re being brought in to fix highly systematic behaviours that have spiraled and lead to really bad outcomes.
Behavioural Scientist: This job is essentially the most vague, because, well, it doesn’t tell you a whole lot. Realistically, this role is a bit of a ‘choose your own adventure’ and depends more on the sector/company that you’re in. If you work for Cowry, Affective Advisory, MoreThanNow or Mindworx, it should be pretty obvious that you are an external facing consultant helping (mostly companies) fix very specific issues in project sprints where you’ll be an adviser. Yes, you will push for experimentation, but that really depends on your client. The sectors you work in depend on where demand is highest and your relationships are best. You also have places like BIT which still have a large developmental and non-profit remit of work, but that is not the majority of behavioural science consultancies. You can also be a behavioural scientist internal to an organisation (which is what I am now). The organisations that tend to have this are 1) huge, or 2) very human behaviour focused. Still, your role is dependent on what the ‘client’ wants and their appetite for experimentation. Largely, it is an internal consultant role.
Behavioural Designer: Behavioural Design is a systematic understanding of how people think and how they make decisions. This understanding forms the basis of thinking about interventions that lead to behavioural change. Behavioural Design is predominantly positioned as a method which implements a lot of design thinking, not all jobs require design skills and/or experience, but you might struggle getting your point across if you don’t know the basics of Figma and Photoshop.
Behavioural Data Scientist: A behavioural data scientist is someone who usually develops predictions and system models using data. They assess the impact of social and economic factors on human behaviour and forecast the most likely reaction. They can also work through customer journeys and see where there is space (or just the need) for improvement. The information can also be used to help identify customers at risk of churn versus those more likely to remain loyal customers. The intensity of the role is dependent on how much (and which kind of) data the company they work for has.
Now it’s clear with the latter two jobs that there might be some additional skillset requirements rather than ‘just’ knowing behavioural science. Luckily, most behavioural science degrees include a healthy amount of data science and experimentation, and some now even offer optional design courses. Obviously you can do this the other way round as well: a designer can get trained as a behavioural scientist and now be a behavioural designer. The world is your oyster! Now would these be the only jobs ever available to those with an interest and training in behavioural science. Of course not. Let’s look at some behavioural science jobs that can fly under the radar:
Implicit Behavioural Science Jobs: There are a plethora of key words that continue to pop up along side ‘behavioural science’ if you move them into a job search site, or just into Google really. Here are a few key terms for which you should really consider taking a closer look at the job description, and maybe even run a search on this key term itself:
Consumer Behaviour / Insights / Experience / Research (does this warrant any explaining, really?)
User Research / Experience (same boat as above!)
Change (e.g. the job title ‘Change Lead’ often refers to a domain closely aligned to Behaviour Change)
Human Factors (is where systems thinking meets behavioural science)
Personalisation (watch out it’s not the super technical end but the more conceptual / marketing orientation and behavioural science should have a lot to say about it!)
Human Insight (could be data-driven, could be marketing, is definitely behavioural)
Research Scientist (make sure you check out what sector the company is in, but this is an often used description for consumer research)
And of course jobs in our closest aligned fields, marketing and management for example, should provide us with some space to play as well. Realistically, it helps if you can narrow down your job search to a field (or two), so you really dive into how that field goes about advertising jobs that really are behavioural in nature.
Jobs that look like Behavioural Science, but likely aren’t:
Now there obviously also is a counter movement to jobs that have ‘behavioural’ in the title but really aren’t the kind of behavioural science you think it is. These jobs are often found in the health and (clinical) psychology domain. You might think that a Behaviour Support Practitioner could be a good fit for you, but this is already in the domain of clinical psychology, as in Behaviour Therapist.
These jobs are by no means exhaustive – I’m sure more titles will pop up, as well as new key terms. Let me know which terms you used to find your job, or if you are in behavioural science, yet your job title doesn’t reflect that!