Cognitive neuroscience involves the study of the neural connections involved in mental processes to gain an understanding of how psychology and cognition work on a neurological level. Born from a combination of neuroscience and cognitive psychology, this relatively new field offers exciting prospects if you enjoy studying the complexities of the human brain.
What Does a Cognitive Neuroscientist Do?
When studying neuroscience, you’ll learn how human cognitive development relates to common psychological and physiological patterns. This prepares you for many different on-the-job duties:
• Helping with research or heading up your own research team
• Writing grants and research proposals for universities
• Working in conjunction with other healthcare professionals
• Conducting patient evaluations at hospitals or clinics
Performing these duties requires a solid educational background supported by skills relating to research, writing and medical analysis. Developing proficiency in these areas may require additional training or experience beyond your degree.
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Careers in Cognitive Neuroscience
Depending on your interests and training, you can work in one of several fields as a cognitive neuroscientist:
• Medical analysis
• Research and writing
• Computer-human interaction
• Artificial intelligence
• Speech synthesis and voice recognition
• Development of treatments
Most of these careers involve researching and lab work rather than interacting with patients, but some cognitive neuroscientists do work in hospitals or other healthcare facilities, aiding doctors in diagnosis and treatment. If you become involved in conducting clinical trials, you may interact with select groups of patients and study subjects part of the time and spend the remainder assessing samples and collecting data. You can also choose to use your degree to teach at a college level and help others break into this unique field of study.
The average annual salary for cognitive neuroscientists in the U.S. ranges from around $59,000 to just under $89,000. In some areas, you can make over $100,000 per year depending on your field of work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), projected growth for these careers is expected to be around 13 percent by 2022, giving you many opportunities to use your cognitive neuroscience degree.
Obtaining a Cognitive Neuroscience Degree
To succeed as a cognitive neuroscientist, you need to be driven, have the ability to work independently, possess good problem-solving skills and be a good communicator. These traits not only help you obtain a degree but also serve you well in the work world. As you study, you’ll learn how to apply your strengths and improve weak areas to become well-rounded in the field.
Not all schools have degree programs specifically for cognitive neuroscience. You often have to start with a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as psychology, biology or pre-medicine. Use this time to become familiar with the specifics of other disciplines, including chemistry and math. You can then move on to a master’s in psychology, neurology, biology or neurochemistry before pursuing a doctoral degree. The final step is to obtain experience in the field and learn how to apply your knowledge to a full-time career.