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 Social Neuroscience Graduate Programs
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Stanford University.
- University College London.
- Johns Hopkins University.
- Columbia University.
- University of Pennsylvania.
- Washington University in St. Louis.
- University of California–San Diego.
Degree Options in Social Neuroscience
Master of Arts in Behavioral Neuroscience
Those who wish to enter the field with a master’s degree could look into Master of Arts (M.A.) programs in behavioral neuroscience. Students can often complete these programs in two years of study. Those with an M.A. may enter doctoral programs or seek positions as research assistants in laboratories. Students typically complete coursework as well as a research-based capstone or thesis. Applicants should expect to submit transcripts, GRE scores, recommendations, and a personal statement. Undergraduate coursework in neuroscience, statistics, and psychology is helpful in admissions.
Doctor of Philosophy in Brain Science
Another option for those interested in studying social neuroscience might be to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychological and brain science or cognitive and brain science. This degree differs from a clinical psychology degree in that it focuses on researching and understanding the biological and brain-based reasons for behavior. A Ph.D. program in brain science will typically take four to five years to complete, including coursework and a dissertation. Those entering this type of program will typically hold a bachelor’s degree and provide transcripts, recommendations, a resume indicating previous research experience, and goal statement. Some programs may require GRE scores as well.
Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy Dual Degree Programs
Those wishing to study social neuroscience could also choose to enter a dual Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Ph.D. program that covers both psychology and neuroscience. These intensive graduate programs are designed to train physician researchers and may take seven to eight years to complete. Students will often begin their training at medical school, while completing clinical rotations and seminars within their Ph.D. program group. Subsequently, they may focus upon Ph.D. coursework and a research dissertation while engaging in some clinical experiences. Students often complete their course of study with clinical medical coursework.
Best Social Neuroscience courses
A course in computational neuroscience examines neural network models of the brain and brain circuit approaches to understanding brain behavior. Specific topics may include neural maps, visual discrimination, and higher brain function. Some experience with computer science may be required.
This course may focus on understanding how behavior arises from brain activity and how to understand neural processes by studying behavior. The major systems of the brain, including the sensory, motor, and limbic systems, could be highlighted throughout the course. Tests of animal brains may provide for hands-on research activity.
Neuroscience of Memory
Within this course, students might be introduced to learning and memory. Specific topics could be working memory, skill learning, and semantic memory. Memory disorders, their diagnostic criteria, and treatment may be reviewed. Students might be introduced to imaging techniques that are utilized in diagnosis.
A cognitive neuroscience course is likely to examine higher mental functions of humans. Major areas including attention and language, and disorders associated with these areas such as ADHD and autism may be major components of this course. Methods used in research could be discussed.
Hormones and the Brain
A course considering hormones and the brain may begin by studying the endocrine system. Students may then move into examining how this system interacts with regions of the brain, both those regions related to reproduction and those that influence other behaviors. The role hormones play in anxiety, stress, and memory could be considered.
A graduate degree in areas of behavioral neuroscience and brain science can be a way to enter the field of social neurology. These degrees require core coursework and research focused upon an area of interest.