Last Updated on May 31, 2022
Neuroscience is one of the most advanced and fastest-growing branches of biology today. It studies human thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and behavior. It looks at how the nervous system functions and finds ways to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders. There are still many unanswered questions about the human brain, so working in this field will put you at the forefront of scientific discovery.
Most graduates of Neuroscience pursue a career in the medical field as a physician. However, a degree in neuroscience also gives you opportunities to work in research labs, higher education institutions, the pharmaceutical industry, and even the government.
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Neuroscience Degree Programs
The field of neuroscience and behavior deals with many subjects, all of which relate to the study of the brain and nervous system. Students learn about topics including molecular psychiatry, neuronal function, basic and clinical neurology, neuronal development, and cellular and molecular neuroscience.
Students interested in Neuroscience Graduate Programs could find Masters and PhD in Neuroscience degree programs. Some universities may also award certificates. These might appeal to students who want to take graduate neuroscience classes without a full degree plan. Joint Degrees such as MS/PhD and MD/PhD may also be available.
Since they tackle a vast branch of knowledge, Neuroscience Graduate programs are often interdisciplinary. While neuroscience is traditionally classed as a subdivision of biology, it has close ties to other areas. Mathematics, linguistics, engineering, computer science, chemistry, philosophy, psychology and medicine are some examples.
Students might therefore get to choose the courses and research areas that appeal to their interests and aspirations. For this reason, it may help to take a look at the active research projects of faculty members in different schools before one makes a decision about which neuroscience program to apply to.
Those neuroscientists who do earn a MD might use their knowledge of the human brain to treat brain conditions. Neurologists are those professionals who diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases and disorders of the nervous system
Neurological surgeons use their skills to treat the brain and nervous system through operations. Neurological psychologists apply theories and principles of neuropsychology to diagnose and treat disorders of higher cerebral functioning.
In terms of coursework, graduate neuroscience programs address the molecular, structural, cognitive, physiological and behavioral aspects of the brain and nervous system. Students might also learn how to apply neuroscience data to the clinical sciences and biomedical engineering.
The particulars of each degree plan is usually determined by one’s area of emphasis. For instance, students might take classes in behavioral neuroscience to study the biology of neuropsychiatric disorders. That stated, some general elements of graduate neuroscience programs might include the following topics:
- Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience
- Brain Science
- Anatomy and Physiology of the Central Nervous System
- Molecular and Biochemical Bases of How Information is Processed
Neuroscience education Requirements
Neuroscientist jobs require an earned doctorate degree in medicine or neuroscience. Doctors that study the brain have a Ph.D., an M.D., or both. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that medical scientists, including neuroscientists, typically have a Ph.D. Those who want to have a clinical practice and treat patients must attend medical school and earn an M.D. Some medical scientists hold both an M.D. and a Ph.D.
Training to be a neuroscientist must start early. The Princeton Review suggests that students need a strong foundation in math, science and computer science beginning with advanced placement classes in high school. From there, students can complete a four-year neuroscience degree. A neuroscience education encompasses subjects like biology, chemistry, neuroscience, math, computer science and psychology.
Once admitted to graduate school, students immerse themselves in neuroscience classes and research projects. Earning a master’s and a Ph.D. requires intensive independent research that culminates in a thesis or a dissertation subject to faculty approval. A neuroscientist’s salary is commensurate with the rigorous neuroscientist education that requires years of study.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary earned by medical scientists, including neuroscientists, was $88,790, in May 2019, which means half earn more than this, while the other half earns less. Those employed by pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies reported the highest median income at $111,630 per year. Colleges and universities paid the lowest median salary at $64,140 per year.
Masters in Neuroscience programs could lead to a Master of Science (MS) degree in neuroscience, or another specialization. To earn a MS in Neuroscience, students may need to complete about 31 to 34 credits of compulsory courses and approved electives. A comprehensive written exam may also be required.
Course requirements for the Master of Science in Neuroscience major might include the four topics below.
Through these courses and accompanying laboratory classes, programs look at the anatomy of the nervous systems at the cellular and systems level. This could include the study of sensory and motor control areas both in the brain and spinal cord.
Also, the core courses could address drugs that modify nerve cell function and behavior. Topics such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Schizophrenia may be discussed.
Neuroscience PhD Programs Areas
Depending on the university, students might need to apply to an individual departmental area of emphasis, then study to earn their PhD degree in that concentration. These areas are not the same everywhere, so often a candidate will look for a school where they could pursue active research in an area that really motivates them.
PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience: Candidates often study the biological bases of behavior and look at how the brain affects behavior. Research in this area could discuss motivation or strive to gain insight into the organization of the brain and behavior to improve treatment for psychological illness.
PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience: Candidates might examine the higher cognitive functions that exist in humans, and their underlying neural basis. Cognitive neuroscience content may draw from linguistics, psychology, and cognitive science.
It could take either of several broad directions. One would be behavioral/experimental and the other, computational/modeling. The goal is usually to understand the nature of cognition from a neural point of view. Research in this area might explore memory, neuroimaging methods, and emotions.
PhD in Developmental Psychology: Candidates might examine how the nervous system develops on a cellular basis to look at what underlying mechanisms exist in neural development. Students could research infant, child, and adult cognition as well as social and emotional development.
PhD in Quantitative Psychology: Candidates might focus on the evaluation of statistical models in psychology, modeling and data analysis.
PhD in Social Psychology: Candidates might study to understand how biological systems use social processes and behavior. For instance, social neuroscience gathers biological concepts and methods to inform and refine theories of social behavior. It uses social and behavioral principles and data to refine neural organization and function theories—for instance, the role of theory of mind in moral judgement or the study of emotional experiences.
PhD in Neuroscience Application
Application information for Neuroscience PhD programs varies. In some programs, students might submit a personal statement about the research they wish to conduct and the faculty member with whom they would like to work, three letters of recommendation, a transcript, and GRE scores; a Psychology subject test may be optional.
MD Or PhD in Neuroscience Programs
In some schools, a joint MD/PhD in Neuroscience could blend coursework in fundamental and advanced areas of neuroscience with laboratory dissertation research. To this end, students might take part in rotations within several laboratories while in their first year.
Additional advanced courses might be taken in the second year along with a qualifying exam prior to advancing to candidacy. In addition to coursework, formal and informal instruction might help candidates develop a wide range of research and other capabilities.
Curriculums could involve a series of required courses. Students might study current research in neuroscience, as well as how to conduct research; therefore a course in experimental statistics may be compulsory. Some examples of other topics are listed below. Refer to individual programs for details.
- Neurobiology of Disease
- Medical Neuroscience
- Principles of Electrophysiology
- Cell Biology
This type of program may be designed for students who possess a strong undergraduate background in biology, physical sciences, or experimental/physiological psychology and who want to pursue a professional career in neuroscience research.
Certificates in Neuroscience
Some Neuroscience Graduate programs might offer graduate certificates, which are often shorter courses of study that could require about 12 credits. Usually, certificates are intended to add onto skills that a participant might have acquired through their Bachelor’s degree program.
Most certificates in neuroscience target a single theme. For instance, a Graduate Certificate in Medical Neuroscience could be aimed at students who want to apply to graduate or professional school and professionals working in the pharmaceutical or medical device industries. Students in this type of program could study neuroethics, and the pharmacology of drug addiction.
Best Neuroscience Programs In California
University of Southern California
You will receive a personalized education plan in this PhD program at the University of Southern California. The first year of study focuses on training in cognitive and biological processes, while further study is based on your interests. Coursework includes neuroanatomy and make-up of the brain. You typically complete a fellowship during your study, with opportunities ranging from the Department of Defense to the American Heart Association. The program application process includes GRE/GMAT scores from the last five years, a resume, and recommendation letters.
California Institute of Technology
You can choose from four options in the PhD program at California Institute of Technology: neurobiology, computational and neural systems, biology, and social and decision neuroscience. Program requirements and lengths will vary. As an example, the neurobiology track requires 54 credits, with courses in areas such as circular systems and biology. The program also requires students to complete three semesters as a teaching assistant. Accepted students usually have GRE scores in the 90% percentile or higher, along with an undergraduate GPA in the top 5% of their class. You will need to submit an online application.
University of California – Davis
The PhD program at the University of California – Davis has three designated emphases you can choose from: biophotonics and bioimaging, biotechnology, and stem and progenitor cells. Each emphasis has different requirements, such as a three to six-month internship for the biotechnology emphasis. In general, the first two years of study involve coursework and serving as a teaching assistant. You must then pass both a preliminary and qualifying test before moving on to the candidacy portion of your training. To apply, you will need to supply three recommendation letters, transcripts, and GRE scores.
University of California – Irvine
The PhD program at the University of California – Irvine usually takes four to six years to complete. Students will take required classes such as behavioral neuroscience in the first year. Graduation requirements include maintaining an overall GPA of 3.3, participating in a student research presentation series, and conducting a neurobiology lab for two semesters. The admissions process includes an online application, official transcripts, GRE scores, and three recommendation letters.
You must earn 135 quarter-credits to graduate with a PhD from Stanford University, with most students earning their degree in 5 years. Required classes include anatomy, neurogenetics, and cognitive. You will need a B in all required classes, along with passing a qualifying test and an oral thesis defense. The program requires a bachelor’s degree for acceptance.
California PhD programs in neuroscience usually take at least four years to complete. Some programs offer specialization areas like biotechnology.
Best neuroscience programs in the world
Harvard University Medical School
The Harvard Medical School (HMS) is the graduate medical school of Harvard University. Ph.D. Program in Neuroscience is also known as PiN spans the neuroscience community throughout Harvard University. The Program provides mentoring and advising to a close and supportive community of students who carry out Ph.D. thesis research in laboratories in the Harvard Medical School. PiN provides training for neuroscience careers including academic research, science policy, biotech, pharmaceuticals, consulting, K-12 education, community education, science writing, and outreach, “big data,” science policy and other developing fields.
Founded In: 1782
Tuition & Fees: $46,340
Finance and Adm. Office Contact: +1 617-432-1000
Stanford University School of Medicine
The Stanford University School of Medicine is the medical school of Stanford University. The Stanford Neurosciences Interdepartmental Program (IDP) offers interdisciplinary training leading to a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. The signature feature of the Stanford Neurosciences IDP is the combination of outstanding faculty researchers and exceedingly bright, energetic students, in a community. Students admitted to the Neurosciences Program are funded by training grants or pre-doctoral fellowships that provide for the stipend, tuition, and health insurance. The University also offers a limited number of fellowships to outstanding admitted students.
Founded In: 1858
Tuition & Fees: $44,757
Finance and Adm. Office Contact: +1 650-723-2300
University College London
The University College London is a public research university. It has a department of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Pharmacology. University College London (UCL) offers unrivaled opportunities for Ph.D. research in all aspects of neuroscience, generating 30% of England’s contribution to the world’s most highly cited publications. Ph.D. students have the best chance of getting off to a productive start in their research. UCL produces the highest quality neuroscience research of any university in the country.
Founded In: 1826
Tuition & Fees: £19,580 – £29,260
Finance and Adm. Office Contact: +44 20 7679 2000
University of California–San Francisco UCSF School of Medicine
The University of California, San Francisco is a research university. The UCSF offers an interdisciplinary program for graduate training in neuroscience. The purpose of this program is to train doctoral students for independent research and teaching in neuroscience. The UCSF Neuroscience Ph.D. program prepares students for independent research and teaching in neuroscience. Students take interdisciplinary core and advanced courses in neuroscience, as well as related courses sponsored by other graduate programs. In addition, students carry out research under the supervision of faculty members in the program.
Founded In: 1864
Tuition & Fees: $34,386 – $46,631
Finance and Adm. Office Contact: (415) 476-2310
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university. It provides the Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience (MCN) Graduate program. There are so many diverse opportunities to engage in neuroscience research at MIT that the options can be somewhat overwhelming. The program provides an integrated track so that students have access to neuroscience-based laboratories across the entire MIT campus regardless of their affiliation. It also provides a local community to support neuroscience based on student input and initiatives such as seminars and socials open for all interested student to attend.
Founded In: 1861
Tuition & Fees: $64,612
Finance and Adm. Office Contact: +1 617-253-1000
Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university. The Department of Neuroscience offers a diverse set of research and academic experiences that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience. Over one hundred faculties from two campuses combine coursework and experiential learning in basic, clinical and translational science, providing an exceptionally broadly based education. Neuroscience faculty members work with students to nurture and encourage development as independent scientists. Program directors closely advise students on choosing research mentors and courses.
Founded In: 1754
Tuition & Fees: $57,208
Finance and Adm. Office Contact: +1 212-854-1754
University of Oxford
The Oxford University is a collegiate research university located in Oxford, England. The Neuroscience Ph.D. program is highly regarded internationally and its alumni are now leading neuroscientists. The program gives an integrated view of Neuroscience and provides a wide range of practical skills. Oxford Neuroscience is represented by a thriving research community based across a number of departments in the University, with interests spanning molecular medicine to cognitive science. The courses are designed to give students a better technical and conceptual grasp of neuroscience than traditional graduate courses, expose them to a wide range of laboratory techniques and provide training in organizational and research skills.
Founded In: 1096
Tuition & Fees: $11,700
Finance and Adm. Office Contact: +44 1865 270000
University of California–San Diego
The University of California, San Diego is a public research university. At the Department of Neurosciences, the Neurosciences Graduate Program offers an outstanding opportunity for graduate training in one of the most highly interactive scientific environments available in the United States. The program is frequently ranked as one of the top neuroscience graduate programs in the country. The Neurosciences Graduate Program at UC San Diego is an interdisciplinary program that covers a broad spectrum of sub-disciplines in neuroscience including medicine, cellular and molecular biology, psychology, cognitive science, engineering, and mathematics.
Founded In: 1960
Tuition & Fees: In-state: $14,028 Out-of-state: $42,042
Finance and Admission Office Contact: (858) 534-3377
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is the academic medical teaching and research arm of the Johns Hopkins University. The Neuroscience Training Program and the Neuroscience Department were among the first neuroscience-focused academic centers established in the United States, dating back to 1980. This program covers the basics of molecular and cellular neuroscience, neuroanatomical, and systems neuroscience.
Founded In: 1876
Tuition & Fees: $52,670
Finance and Admission Office Contact: +1 410-955-5000
University of California–Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine
The University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine is an accredited medical school located in Los Angeles, California, USA. UCLA offers graduate training in Neuroscience through the Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program for Neuroscience (NS-IDP). Students in the program learn modern problem-solving skills and use state of the art approaches to explore a deeper understanding of how the brain processes information.
Founded In: 1951
Tuition & Fees: In-state: $13,749 Out-of-state: $41,763
Finance and Admission Office Contact: +1 310-825-4321