Bachelor's degree programs typically give students foundational knowledge of neuroscience through courses in math, chemistry, computer science, psychology and engineering. Students might be able to choose an area of concentration, such as behavioral or molecular studies. Students might also be able to combine bachelor's and master's degree studies into one program.
On their own, master's programs in neuroscience take two years to complete. These programs are research-focused on topics such as aging and plasticity. A thesis is generally required.
At the doctoral level, students can prepare for careers as university professors or clinical researchers. Doctoral programs may take up to six years to complete and combine classroom work and research. Students might be required to teach undergraduate classes, and a dissertation based on original research is usually mandatory.
Bachelor's Degree in Neuroscience
Bachelor's degree programs in neuroscience are highly interdisciplinary. Calculus, chemistry and biology courses typically consume the first year. Subsequent courses may cover subjects such as:
- Neurochemistry of behavior
- Biology computational tools
- Learning and neurobiology
- Molecular biology of cells
Master's Degree in Neuroscience
Completion of a baccalaureate program in neuroscience or related fields like chemistry or psychology is generally required to enter neuroscience graduate studies. Programs are available as terminal degrees and pre-doctoral training. Most master's programs in neuroscience are extremely research-intensive, leading up to a master's thesis. Some examples of research areas in this field include motor and sensory systems, disease and neurobiology, aging, cell signaling and plasticity. Neuroscience graduate coursework may include the following topics:
- Studies in synaptic transmissions
- Functional neuroanatomical processes
- Integrative neuroscience studies
- Genetics and genomics lab
- Motor control
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Doctorate Degree in Neuroscience
Careers in the highest levels of academic and clinical research require the completion of a Ph.D. program in neuroscience. This program can also be used to augment education in other careers, such as medical doctor and biological psychologist. A strong academic background in psychology, biology and physical science is required from program applicants.
To prepare graduate students for academic careers in neuroscience, some programs include a teaching component. Research and coursework in neuroscience at this level may include:
- Memory and neuronal mechanisms
- Mechanics of individual perception
- Biological music communication concepts
- Phase-plane neural oscillator analysis
The bachelor's program is primarily a gateway to a graduate degree. Some entry-level options, however, may include:
- Research assistant
- Pharmaceutical sales
- Technical writer
Neuroscience comprises a variety of fields to explore for those with advanced degrees. Ph.D. holders are also eligible to teach at the college level. Some careers in neuroscience are listed below; some professions, such as neuroscience nurse and neuroradiologist, require additional degrees and/or licensure.
- Neuroscience nurse
- Biological sciences professor
Neuroscientist Job Prospects and Salary Information
Biomedical science research is one career option for those not going on to Ph.D. studies. While most upper-echelon positions still require a Ph.D., those with master's degrees may find employment in academic or industrial sectors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted an 8% increase in job openings between 2014 and 2024 for biochemists and biophysicists, who were reported to earn a median salary of $82,150 in May 2015.
The BLS predicted a 13% increase in job opportunities for postsecondary teachers overall throughout the 2014-2024 decade. In 2015, those who taught courses in the biological sciences earned a median wage of $75,320 per year.
Students who are interested in the biology of the brain can pursue either an undergraduate or a graduate degree in neuroscience. Bachelor's degree programs generally combine a broad range of science-based coursework with specialized neuroscience studies, while master's and Ph.D. programs include more advanced courses and independent research projects.