Cognitive Science Degree

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What is Cognitive Science?

Cognitive Science is an interdisciplinary field of study focused on the study of the human mind and its processes.  Cognitive science explores the functions, nature, and tasks involved with cognition.  Cognition scientists study human behavior and intelligence using the nervous system as a lens to process, transform, and represent the world.

The mental facilities used in cognitive science include memory, perception, language, emotion, attention, and reasoning.  In an effort to make sense of these mental facilities, cognitive science leverages intelligence from adjacent fields such as psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, anthropology, and artificial intelligence.

Cognitive science spans from learning and decision making to organization and planning to emotion and reasoning.  In addition to the core curricula of a Cognitive Science program, a student may be required by the college or university to perform specific types of research to help advance the field of study.

What Do Cognitive Scientists Do?

A cognitive scientist will study how individuals obtain, process, retrieve, and store information.  The primary brain functions studied by a cognitive scientist include:

  • Problem-Solving
  • Language Development
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Decision-Making
  • Information Retrieval
  • Human Perception

Scientists will help solve real-world problems in small groups or as part of a large team.  They will also have the opportunity to work in a variety of institutions from large, multi-national corporations to non-profit organizations.

Top Cognitive Science Degrees

The area of cognitive science is a fascinating, expansive field of study.  Colleges and universities around the country continue to learn more about the human mind and the variables that affect cognition.  Schools offer a number of alternatives for students to consider ranging from undergraduate programs to graduate degrees in the field.

In addition, many accredited colleges and universities offer online learning options.  Distance learning, commonly known as online learning, is a learning modality with distinct benefits when compared to a classroom-based degree program.

To learn more about online learning programs, simply visit our resource page today.   A summary of degree programs in cognitive science can be found below to learn more about each.

Bachelor Degree in Cognitive Science

An online bachelor’s degree in cognitive science will most frequently be found in a college course catalogue as a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree.  Degree options can vary from a general cognitive science degree program or a specialized degree.  Depending on the college, you may find cognitive science specializations that include:

  • Clinical Aspects of Cognition
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Computation
  • Design & Interaction
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Language & Culture
  • Human Cognition
  • Machine Learning
  • Neural Computation

Bachelor degree programs will typically take students 4-years of full-time matriculation to complete.  Part-time students, on the other hand, will take longer than four-years as a function of course load.  BS, Bachelor of Science, degrees in cognitive science will blend liberal arts education with core classes to provided students with a well-rounded education.  General education courses will often include: communications, history, statistics, philosophy, English, and art.

An example of classes that may be found in a general cognitive science degree track include: introduction to computing, design of everyday things, fundamentals of data science, research methods, minds and brains, neurobiology of cognition, the future of cognition, perception, sensation, data modeling, data analysis, design in commerce, machine learning, the developing mind, gesture, animal cognition, analysis of cognition and drugs, alternate states of consciousness, deep learning, and neural networks.

Cognitive Science Master's Degree

A master’s degree in cognitive science is a 2-3 year program.  Master’s degrees are conferred as a Master of Science (MS) given the emphasis on the sciences.  Students interested in pursuing a master’s degree in cognitive science will have an array of tracks to consider.

Programs will vary from university to university but may include research in cognition, theories and methods, behavioral science, neural oscillations, and design.  Classes at the graduate level can often be tailored to each student given the school’s resources and area(s) of expertise.

Doctorate Degree in Cognitive Science

Doctorate degrees in cognitive science are specialty degree programs known as a terminal degree as there are no additional degrees beyond the doctorate.  Doctoral degrees in the field are conferred as a PhD.  Graduate students will have a broad training in methods and theories of sociology, psychology, language, and culture.

Additionally, a PhD student will also have proficiency in neurological phenomena, neuropsychology, and computational methods.  PhD programs typically take 3-5 to complete.  The first half of the program will generally include students taking core classes, lab rotations, methods classes, issues courses, teacher assistantships, and applicable computer programming courses.

The final half of the doctoral program will be spent drafting a dissertation proposal, collecting data, writing, finalizing, and defending a dissertation project.  PhD students will also be asked to submit articles or white papers for journal submission and present research methods.  At the completion of the program, students will apply for industry jobs or teaching positions.

Employment in Cognitive Science

Cognitive science majors will have earned a specialized degree.  As such, employment will often be in a specialized field of science.  However, students may elect to follow a career path in a similar vocation instead of a narrowly focused area.  Options in related fields can include teaching in college, research specialist, genomics, psychology, immunologist, counseling, biochemist, anthropologist, forensic science, political scientist, survey research, and social work.

Where Do Cognitive Scientists Work?

A cognitive science major can work for a number of organizations across various industries.  Options may include self-employment working on a contract basis or an international pharmaceutical company.  With an ever-expanding need for cognitive scientists, students may find themselves working for any number of the following type of company:

  • Private Practice
  • Colleges and Universities
  • State Government Agencies
  • Consulting
  • Federal Government Agencies
  • Pharmaceutical Firms
  • Research and Development Organizations
  • Software Design Companies
  • Public Corporation

Cognitive Science Jobs & Career Outlook

Cognitive science jobs are expected to increase by 14% or more than twice the national average.  The net result will be an additional 23,000 cognitive scientists injected into our nation's economy.  Driving the bulk of these jobs are industries such as schools, medical centers, hospitals, social welfare centers, and mental health organizations.

Mean income for cognitive scientists and psychologists is pegged at $93,440 a year.  States paying the most include Maryland, California, Kansas, and Washington.  All of which average over $100,000 a year based on the latest data from the BLS.  The largest employers of scientists are the federal government, research firms, hospitals, healthcare facilities, and colleges.

Cognitive Science Resources

Additional information about the field of study can be found with trade-specific associations such as the Cognitive Science Society (CSS) or research organizations like Science Direct.  In-depth studies and networking opportunities may benefit students and working professionals looking to advance cognition and our understanding of the brain.

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Career Summary: Cognitive science Major




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