Neurobiology PhD Programs: Degree Information

Neurobiology is the study of anatomy, physiology and disorders of the nervous system, as well as the brain's effect on behavior. Neurobiology is often offered as a concentration of a Ph.D. in Biology or biological sciences program; however, standard Ph.D. in Neurobiology programs also exist.

Essential Information

Students enrolled in Ph.D programs in neurobiology research the functional circuits of learning and behavior, the structure and organization of neural circuits and the physiology of neuronal signaling. Participants develop a thorough understanding of how the brain works, as well as the causes and treatments for a variety of neural diseases and injuries. Ph.D. programs in neurobiology provide extensive laboratory and research experience, preparing students for a variety of academic positions. Prerequisites include a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field, a strong background in psychology, and Graduate Records Examination (GRE) scores.

Ph.D. in Neurobiology

The curriculum of a Ph.D. in Neurobiology program contains few required core courses, focusing mainly on electives, seminars, supervised teaching requirements and doctoral dissertation research. The prominence of electives allows students to customize their programs to suit their personal educational and career goals. The course list is highly interdisciplinary, featuring classes not only in neurobiological sciences, but also in areas such as molecular biology, evolutionary biology and biomedical engineering. Some classes a student may encounter include:

  • Neuroanatomy and neurophysiology
  • Neurochemistry
  • Cellular and molecular neurobiology
  • Behavioral and systems neurobiology
  • Diseases of the nervous system
  • Neurotoxicology

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a Ph.D. in Neurobiology program typically seek academic or research positions. Most find employment at universities and other educational institutions, but some work for private industries. Some occupations chosen by graduates include:

  • Assistant professor of neurobiology
  • Research associate
  • Neurobiological scientist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth of 13% for postsecondary teachers in general, a broader category that includes assistant professors of neurobiology, from 2014-2024. As of May 2014, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $75,320 for postsecondary biology teachers. Research assistants to biological scientists, which the BLS refers to as biological technicians, could expect job growth of 5%, about as fast as the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024, and earned a median annual salary of $41,650 as of May 2015. The BLS predicted job growth of 8% for biochemists and biophysicists in the same decade, a faster growth than the average for all occupations; this group earned a median annual salary of $82,150 as of May 2015.

Continuing Education

Upon graduation from a Ph.D. program, many students choose to participate in a postdoctoral fellowship, which involves working closely with and being mentored by specific faculty members. Postdoctoral fellows often seek grant money and other funding sources to help support them while they develop their professional skills and knowledge. Postdoctoral fellowships provide detailed training in specialized areas, like brain imaging and analysis, neuroengineering and cancer treatment.

A neurobiology Ph.D. program can help students pursue a variety of careers in the sciences and academia. Students enrolled in these programs will have ample time to perform research in specific neurobiology areas they are interested in.

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