Cognitive Science Education Program Summaries

Oct 10, 2019

Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the study of reasoning, learning, and perception. Explore the different degree options, coursework and employment outlook.

Essential Information

Students enrolled in an undergraduate-level cognitive science program are encouraged to investigate elements of higher-order human thought and understanding while taking core coursework. At the graduate level, master's degree programs in this field are typically part of a dual-degree program - either a 5-year bachelor's/master's program or a 4-year master's/doctoral program. Ph.D. programs in cognitive science put emphasis on research and often require students to choose an area of concentration from which they base their dissertation research. Graduates of these programs may consider joining a professional organization such as the Cognitive Science Society to access professional development resources.

A high school diploma or GED is needed for a bachelor's degree. Most graduate-level schools require applicants to have a bachelor's degree, ideally in cognitive science or a related field, and require a minimum of a 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

Bachelor's Degree in Cognitive Science

Bachelor's degree programs in cognitive science are most useful for students who intend to continue their studies in a graduate-level program in educational technology, psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, or artificial intelligence. Many programs emphasize lab work to prepare students for research-intensive graduate programs. In addition to classroom study, students will complete a variety of research and lab courses. Common course topics include:

  • Fundamentals of cognitive neuroscience
  • Basics of artificial intelligence
  • Behavior and the human brain and Systems of perception
  • Computational technology and cognition
  • Evolution and development of human cognition
  • Mathematics and logic

Master of Science Degree in Cognitive Science

There are few master's degree programs strictly devoted to cognitive science. Students may learn about different topics such as neuroanatomy and physiology, as well as required cognitive science courses such as:

  • Childhood language acquisition
  • Behavioral neuroscience
  • Behavioral statistics
  • Cognitive engineering
  • Human learning and information processing
  • Perception and sensory systems

Doctoral Degree in Cognitive Science

Ph.D. programs in cognitive science usually take two to four years to complete, depending on a student's educational background. Most programs include comparative cognitive studies of animals, humans, and machines. A great deal of a student's time is spent in research and laboratory work learning and examining cognitive science philosophies, methodologies, and technologies. Students may study:

  • Cognitive science math and logic
  • Critical analysis of cognitive science philosophies
  • Computer programming for artificial intelligence
  • Social distribution of cognition
  • Visualizing information

Popular Career Options

Career options for those with a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in cognitive science may be prepared for careers that require writing, speaking, and technical skills. Possible career options might include:

  • Behavior technician
  • Associate support engineer
  • Technical writer or Research associate
  • User interaction (UX) or Information architect
  • Artificial intelligence researcher
  • Human performance scientist

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers no specific statistics for cognitive scientists as such, because they work in many different fields. For example, doctoral degree holders in cognitive science may work as neuropsychologists, a type of psychology specialist who studies the relationship between the brain and an individual's behavior. Career opportunities for all psychologists were expected to grow by as much as 14% between the years of 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

Membership in the Cognitive Science Society ( or the Social Science Research Network ( includes access to professional conferences and other continuing education resources. Journals like Cognitive Semiotics or the Journal of Mind and Behavior feature helpful articles and information related to additional training opportunities.

Degree programs in cognitive science are most commonly available at the bachelor's and doctorate levels, but may also be found as combined bachelor's/master's or master's/doctorate programs. The demand for psychologists is expected to grow, and continuing education is widely available for graduates of these programs.

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