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Cognitive Science: Career Options and Education Requirements

Careers in cognitive science are numerous and diverse. Continue reading for an overview of courses of study, as well as career outlook and salary info for a few of the career options for graduates.

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There are many job options for those interested in cognitive science. Some possible careers include being a web developer, a technical writer, or a postsecondary teacher. A bachelor's degree is the typical requirement for web developers or technical writers, while postsecondary teachers need to have a graduate degree.

Essential Information

Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary domain that explores the brain, including the mechanisms and activities that affect thinking, information processing and learning. This field of study integrates a great deal of research with applications that focus on optimizing language acquisition, mathematical comprehension and behavior formation.

Career Web Developer Technical Writer Postsecondary Teacher
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree or experience Bachelor's degree Graduate degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27% 10% 13%
Average Salary (2015)* $70,660 $73,350 $77,480

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

A major in cognitive science offers opportunities for individuals to work in different industries, such as information systems, government agencies, educational services and non-profit organizations. Job designations usually depend on a student's concentration, technical training and elective courses. Those who have a background in data analytics and computer programming work in areas including multimedia design, information architecture (IA), clinical research consulting, telecommunications, artificial intelligence (AI) and linguistic analysis. Students who pursue a graduate degree in cognitive science often have an advantage in landing a job in similar fields and moving up the corporate ladder.

Candidates who have obtained a master's degree or a doctoral degree in cognitive science also get a better chance to acquire a higher starting salary and may qualify in management, postsecondary teaching and industry-level research positions. Software development companies, research institutes and publishing firms may hire qualified professionals with backgrounds in instructional systems design (ISD), human cognition and research to help create interactive educational solutions, instructional computer games, courseware and Web-based learning applications.

Other common job titles of cognitive science graduates include the following:

  • Computer resource specialist
  • Legal research analyst
  • Marketing assistant
  • Research technician
  • Software engineer
  • Account manager
  • Technical writer
  • Web developer
  • Teacher

Career outlook will depend on the individual position achieved. The BLS predicts that positions for teachers at the postsecondary level will increase by 13% between 2014 and 2024. In the same period, positions for technical writers will increase by 10% and positions for web developers will increase by 27%.

Education Requirements

A career in cognitive science begins with an undergraduate program, which may be offered as a major or a minor in colleges and universities. Foundations involve essentially related disciplines, such as linguistics, psychology, computer science, music, mathematics, philosophy and neuroscience.

Undergraduate Programs

Education programs help students to examine cognitive processes, such as attention, reasoning, language, memory and problem solving. Cognitive science aims to study how the mind functions by looking into sociocultural dynamics and cognition. Research projects also help uncover the factors that contribute to disorders such as autism and dyslexia. An undergraduate degree in cognitive science can help prepare students for graduate programs in this field or in medicine, law, education, business administration and information studies.

Graduate Programs

A graduate degree program in cognitive science lets students focus on methodologies in their specializations. Programs are intended to train students to become professional cognitive scientists adept in cognitive psychology, computer modeling, linguistic analysis, brain imaging and independent research. These topics help them achieve technical mastery for career advancement in business, education, government, instructional systems technology and communications research.

The field of cognitive science focuses on the brain and how people process information, as well as what affects how people think and how people learn. There are many career options in the cognitive science field that include working with computers, or working in legal, medical or educational professions. Technical writers, web developers and postsecondary teachers all work in this field, and are all expected to experience faster-than-average job growth from 2014 to 2024, which means there should be many job options for cognitive science professionals to pursue.

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