CM’s Guide to Biobehavioral Health Major

By  | 0 Comments

Want to be Meredith Grey’s “person” without the commitment of attending medical school? Majoring in biobehavioral health major (BBH) teaches you how to improve the lives of others. “For as long as I could remember, I wanted a career that allows me to help people in need,” Penn State alumnus Marc Neith said. “I want to provide help to people on a much larger scale through employment at global and public health organizations.”  With a vast amount of health options to explore, a student studying BBH’s can focus on helping cure children’s cancer to creating customized nutrition plans for people who want to lose weight.

As a biobehavioral health major (BBH), you have the opportunity make your mark on global and/or local public health.

What You’ll Be Doing

Ever wanted to know why you get a hangover after drinking? Or why your teenage brother is so moody? Biobehavioral health major is all about exploring these aspects of human life. Immerse yourself in the way the human body functions and behaves. Accept Osmosis Jones to be your new favorite movie. “I’m the kind of person who looks outside the box. Biobehavioral Health offers social and psychological applications to health,” Penn State junior Brady Lucas said. The idea of BBH is to combine the way your body physically functions on the inside with the way it behaves and acts on the outside.

Classes You’ll Take

There are a variety of topics that go into understanding a person’s health, so course topics change dramatically each semester. “It’s more of a build-your-own-focus major; you can focus on what interests you. I was more interested in psychology, but [with the] biological aspects of [biobheavorial health], I thought BBH was a good fit.” Penn State alumna Sara Manetta said. Begin your journey into the human body with intro biology–the foundation of your future courses. Want to learn about how to truly lose weight rather than what’s found in the click-bait articles written by Cosmopolitan? Intro to nutrition teaches what to truly eat to tone up rather than just eating a kale salad every day. You also have the chance to learn about how certain body parts function (like your brain reading this article, talk about inception) in intro to physiology. Curious about why your friend has blue eyes and you don’t? Find out in your genetics class. Or take it to the next level and learn about the contamination (yikes) of infectious diseases in epidemiology.

Internships for this major

Penn State alumna Daniella Kovalsky discovered her love for biobehavioral health through an internship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Injury Research and Prevention, where she studied the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. “The experience helped teach me how to talk to children in challenging and delicate situations.” Kovalsky said. But the opportunities to explore BBH in the real world don’t stop in a hospital setting. Want to help keep Curry’s bball career from fading into the abyss of washed up athletes? Help recovering players by interning at a physical therapy clinic. Interning in an alcohol intervention programs is a way to get experience with mental as opposed to physical health. There are internship opportunities to make a difference in any biobehavioral health department you feel the most passionate about.

Career Opportunities

1. Clinical

Imagine yourself as Meredith Grey’s best friend and sidekick Cristina Yang. As a health care provider, you can work as a doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse or therapist. That means instead of getting tested for mono, you’re the one doing the actual testing this time. This allows you to work with people directly as they come in rather than just sitting in an office. You could conduct research for the National Institutes of Health or provide support for the injured in a physical therapy clinic.

2. Public Health

Obsessed with The Walking Dead? You may be the one to save our planet when the next zombie outbreak occurs. A career in public health means researching the occurrence and prevention of an epidemic (okay so maybe not a zombie outbreak, but Ebola, Zika or the flu). You may work with government agencies such as the Center of Disease Control or a state health department.

3. Community Health Promotion

Looking to promote health in a smaller and more individual way? A biobehavioral health major may lead you to work for organizations that promote health awareness and positive wellness practices. Your job could be working for a university’s health organization or infirmary as a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, which everyone is familiar with visiting at least once in their four years in college. Another example could be assisting in your community’s drug prevention program or a rehabilitation facility. Through these programs, you can affect lives but also influence the policies these centers are run by.

4. Employee/Corporate Health

Harvard Business Review states that 57 percent of people with a high health risk reached a low health risk by completing worksite cardiac rehabilitation and exercise. Through promoting health and wellness in any corporation looking to keep their employees healthy, you hold workers responsible for keeping up with their health during business hours rather than letting it slip away through sitting and eating donuts at their desk all day. It’s an important part of any business to make sure their employees are healthy and you could be the one to enforce it.

5. Teaching

Aspiring to be the next Coach Hottie with a body? Or maybe the cool health teacher who answers all the awkward health questions? Dream no more. Take inspiration from Michelle Obama’s campaign “Let’s Move!” and teach students to eat well, exercise and pay attention to their mental health. Or take your passion for biobehavioral health to the max by becoming a BBH professor. “I was lucky to be involved in establishing the BBH graduate and undergraduate programs, and especially for the inclusion of epidemiology as a required component of the undergraduate curriculum,” Penn State BBH professor Frank Ahern said. By preparing the next generation to continue to promote and protect the health of others, you leave the largest mark on the future of public health.


  1. “Being a BBH major has given me so many opportunities I never would have imagined. Being involved in research during my time at Penn State taught me so much about how what I learned in the classroom applies to the real world. Even if you do not think that research is something you want to pursue as a career, find a professor that is working on a project that interests you and see if you think there is an opportunity to work with him or her.”–Danielle Kovolsky, Penn State, Class of 2015
  2. “Going abroad really confirmed my direction. Regardless of your major or career choice, anyone pursuing global health should go abroad. That trip was one of the best things I decided to do.”–Rita Seith, Penn State, c\Class of 2015, with a global health concentration
  3. “If I could give my advice to any new student studying biobehavioral health, I would say get involved in research, be a teaching assistant for a professor or enroll in a minor that focuses on something that interests you in addition to your BBH classes. There are plenty of opportunities to make a name for yourself.”–Marc Neith, Penn State, Class of 2015, with a global health concentration
  4. “I think BBH has given me an adequate understanding of how an all-encompassing health plan should work. BBH and the theories it teaches stresses having a broad understanding of a person’s genetics, behaviors and environmental conditions before making a judgment about how to treat them.”– Timothy Boyle, Penn State Schreyers Honors College, Class of 2014
  5. “Many of the graduate other programs I was considering were more exclusively focused on either biology or psychology. After talking with my advisor, I could tell BBH was exactly what I was searching for—a place where I wouldn’t have to restrict my research to one field.”– Danica Slavish, Penn State Graduate Program, Class of 2017

Top 10 Universities for Pre-Med Students

best schools for pre-med students

Music lover and yogi enthusiast. Passionate about photography, mother earth, and the color purple. Junior at Penn State University studying Photojournalism and Geosciences.

Enter our Monthly Giveaway

Win $100 for YOU & $100 for your student org. Sign up to enter our monthly giveaway.