Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field of study that primarily focuses on examining and researching the human nervous systems and the brain, and can include other branches of science, such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, and mathematics. There are two kinds of advanced degrees in neuroscience that you could pursue, including a master's in neuroscience and a doctorate in neuroscience. Master's level programs can require a thesis and laboratory work, while PhD programs include a dissertation.
Types of Graduate Programs in Neuroscience
Master of Science in Neuroscience
A Master of Science in Neuroscience is one type of graduate program, and can be completed in either two or three years, depending on the specific program. Your initial years in the program will be spent doing core and elective coursework in topics such as neurobiology, data analysis, and neuroanatomy while also building a foundation in laboratory research where you will learn how to design experiments and present your research. Towards the end of your program, you might also be required to develop your own thesis project based on your independent research. This thesis process will include several steps, including developing the thesis manuscript and defending your work in front of faculty. These programs are usually full time and meld coursework and lab experience in order to prepare you for a research-driven scientific career.
PhD in Neuroscience
The PhD in Neuroscience is a more advanced degree than the master's program in neuroscience. The PhD usually takes about five years to complete. In these programs, you will complete coursework in such topics as cognitive neuroscience, cellular and systems neuroscience, and neural dynamics. Some programs will allow you to choose a specific concentration, such as developmental neurobiology, human/therapeutic neuroscience, or addiction. Many PhD programs will also include lab rotations where you will be mentored by faculty and gain real laboratory experience in several different concentrations of neuroscience. Also, you will be expected to conduct and publish your own research in the form of journal articles and presentations. At the end of your program, you will be required to complete qualifying exams and complete a dissertation. The PhD program is a large commitment, and most, if not all, programs will be full time.
Common Entrance Requirements for Neuroscience Graduate Programs
To be admitted into a master's-level or PhD-level neuroscience program, you will most likely need a bachelor's degree from a post-secondary institution in the field of biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, or another related science field. However, some programs will only require undergraduate coursework in biology, chemistry, psychology, and math. Other entrance requirements include an application, a statement of purpose, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Last, each program has a different GRE requirement with most PhD programs and only some master's programs requiring this testing.
The two types of graduate programs in neuroscience both offer ample opportunity to study this field in-depth, gain laboratory experience, and conduct your own research. It takes about two to three years to complete the master's requirements and five years to complete the doctoral components.