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What is Neuroscience?
Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary study of the human brain and nervous system. A neuroscientist is tasked with understanding and decoding the brain’s functions and commands. As the field of neuroscience evolves, scientists are equipped to better understand and explain how the brain’s 100 billion nerve cells interact with each other and within the body’s ecosystem. How nerve cells grow, connect, and form are one of the many areas of study in neuroscience. By studying how cells organize themselves, functionality, and pruning process the science community at-large benefits. Breakthroughs in brain cell development impact every aspect of our economy from education to healthcare and insurance to parenting.
Types of Research in Neuroscience
More is unknown about the brain that known, at this point in human history. Neuroscientists aim to change that by shedding light on the complex nature of the brain’s function and development. Looking under the hood of brain science, we can see there are 3 major types of research. The types of research in neuroscience include:
- Foundational Research: Foundational research also known as discovery science is punctuated by the need to find answers to ‘why’ questions. Understanding why something happens will often lead to key discoveries leading to deeper understanding of biological events. The notion of foundational research provides a stepping stone for other scientists to extend learning in a related or unrelated field of study.
- Translational Research: Marrying foundational research with clinical research is the essence of translational research. Linking clinical applications to basic research can lead to understanding why things work a certain way or discover why things fail to work. These discoveries can help lead to advances in science for the benefit of society as a whole.
- Technical or Clinical Research: Technical or clinical research emphasizes the study of a particular therapy or disease. Specializing in a disease can markedly help medical providers better identify risk factors and early detection with advanced screenings, treatments, and prevention measures.
Degrees in Neuroscience
Below you will find a summary of various neuroscience degree programs offered by accredited colleges and universities. Programs range from undergraduate to graduate degrees that are science-laden and technical in nature. Students will learn about the complex interactions of neuronal systems linked to cognitive functioning along with regulation and expression of human behaviors coupled with biomedical and allied health research components. An overview of the degree programs in neuroscience include the following:
Bachelor Degree in Neuroscience
Bachelor degrees in neuroscience are 4-year programs for full-time students and longer for part-time students as a function of course load and program pace. Degrees in the bachelor program are conferred as Bachelor of Science (BS). You can find the program listed in a school’s course catalog under neuroscience or cognitive science. Bachelor’s degree programs meld liberal arts education such as communications, history, art, economics, and philosophy with core curriculum. Classes included in the core curriculum will typically include: general chemistry, modern biology, calculus, statistical decision making, cellular neuroscience, integrative neuroscience, neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, integrative neuroscience, neurobiology, neural plasticity, sensory and molecular science, neuropsychology, biochemistry, molecular genetics, human anatomy, medical neuropathology, neuroimmunology, neurotoxicology, and medical physiology.
Master Degree in Neuroscience
Master’s degrees in neuroscience incorporates upper level classes in science, applied psychology, behavioral psychology, artificial intelligence, software development, and engineering. Degrees are typically conferred as Master of Science (MS) in this field of study. Master degree programs generally take 2-3 years to complete based on full-time study. In addition to an approved thesis project and internship, students will often be required to choose an area of specialty in the field. Areas of concentration can include tracks such as cognition, neuroscience, computer modeling, human-computer interactions, artificial intelligence, and neurological diagnosis. Core classes by students will be a function of the area of concentration. Typical classes will include variations of cognitive psychology, neural net mathematics, functional neuroanatomy, cellular science, systems science, cognitive science, research methods, computational modeling, intelligent systems, and human-computer interactions.
Doctorate Degree in Neuroscience
The doctorate degree track in neuroscience is a PhD program considered a terminal degree as no additional degrees exist beyond it. PhD students focuses on the underlying aspects of neural processing including memory, perception, decision-making, reasoning, neuro-engineering, and neuroplasticity. Doctorate program are often self-designed under the tutelage of a qualified academic advisor as students march towards degree completion. In addition to core classes and electives, students will spend a substantive amount of time working on a board-approved dissertation project. Dissertations are broken down into key milestones such as topic discovery, topic approval, research, writing, drafting, editing, presenting, and defending. Total time in a PhD program will depend on the student but generally last 3-5 years of full time matriculation.
A degree in neuroscience will educate and teach an individual on how the nervous system works. The nervous system is one of the most complex systems in the human body; its study combines multiple disciplines in order to understand its operations. The approaches to studying the nervous system are multifaceted and specialization in a particular aspect of the nervous system is common. Though degrees are available at the bachelor level, graduate degrees are ideal if one wishes to have successful career in neurobiology.
As a cross-discipline study, individuals will be exposed to a variety of scientific principles and fields. Courses will provide in depth knowledge of the human nervous system, physiology, and biochemistry. Individuals will learn to perform experiments to gauge response and better understand how the nervous system works, providing practical and laboratory courses that explain the technologies and methodologies used to perform such research. Students in this field will also learn to write reports, perform analyses, collect research and test theories properly.
A curriculum in neuroscience may include:
- Organic Chemistry
- Nuclear Structure and Function in Disease
Neuroscientists will typically find themselves working in research positions for the government, universities or private companies. Based on the specialty of the neuroscientist he or she may work with pharmaceutical applications, medical research, psychological and behavioral research and more. Due to the increase in technology, and clearer understanding of how the nervous system works, new research projects are being initiated frequently in order to tackle a variety of issues involving the nervous system.
Some job growth is expected over the next decade due to the high barrier to entry (graduate level education) there is minimal competition for entry level positions. The need for qualified individuals who may advance the study of the nervous system and the multiple facets through which it is expressed allows individuals to pursue a variety of research opportunities, particularly those which involve the understanding and reversal of degenerative disorders. Private and public investment in the advancement of this field is substantial, thus allowing those with less than doctoral degrees to find work as technicians and assistants for projects.
The median annual income of a neuroscientist is $80,530 with the top 10% averaging $159,570 and the bottom ten percent averaging just under forty-five thousand dollars a year. The industry is set to grow by 8% growth creating some 42,400 job openings over the coming decade for neuroscientists. Additional considerations regarding salary will include experience, education, and ability.
Largest Employers of Neuroscientists
- Research & Development Firms 41,840
- Colleges and Universities 25,310
- Medical and Surgical Hospitals 15,610
- Pharmaceutical Manufacturers 4,970
- Offices of Physicians 4,350
States with the Highest Employment of Neuroscientists
- California 24,260
- New York 9,900
- Massachusetts 9,710
- Pennsylvania 6,750
- Maryland 5,010
Highest Paying the States for Neuroscientists
- New Jersey $128,620
- Connecticut $116,040
- Arkansas $115,120
- Delaware $114,430
- Virginia $114,170