Last Updated on August 27, 2022 by Smile Ese
For those of you who want to learn about the mechanics and rather intricate biology of the mind, Cognitive Science will take you on an amazing journey of exploration. So let us see how one can get into this field and become a Cognitive Scientist.
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What Is Cognitive Neuroscience?
Have you ever wondered why we do the things we do? What makes us tick?
Human beings are utterly complicated animals, with utterly complicated thought processes. Ultimately, however, we are controlled by chemicals and electrical impulses. This, of course, is an overly simple explanation, and the actual processes that the brain goes through in order to produce certain reactions or thoughts are very complicated.
The enigma of what makes us tick can partly be explained by cognitive neuroscience, a very specific area of neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscience is the study of human cognition, or thought, as it relates to neuroscience, or the biological functions of the brain and nervous system. Basically, the goal of this type of neuroscience is to help psychologists understand how the physical and biological parts of the brain influence or create the less tangible parts, like thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and memories.
Cognitive neuroscience is a relatively new field, and the coining of this term actually has a very short, yet interesting, history. In the 1970’s, a small group of scientists and psychologists planned a dinner. Besides good food and banter, these dinner plans also included discussing how the brain enables the mind. Two attendants made a fateful decision to share a taxi to get to the dinner. It just so happens that these two gentlemen, Michael Gazzaniga and George Miller, were a neuroscientist and a cognitive psychologist.
Actually, it would be more appropriate to say “The Beginning”. The beginning of modern cognitive neuroscience, that is.
How to get into Cognitive Science
There are two degree options in Cognitive Science: a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). Students inclined toward psychology, philosophy, and linguistics typically choose the B.A. option. Students interested in developing additional computational and mathematical skills and in focusing on both empirical and quantitative research usually choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree.
The interdisciplinary nature of the coursework allows you to explore a wide variety of research areas. Students interested in the humanities can study how the human brain shapes creativity. Those interested in the health sciences may opt to investigate such subjects as whether exercise aids cognitive functions. There are many options for study with this degree.
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Why Do We Need Cognitive Neuroscientists?
As mentioned above, cognitive neuroscientists play an important role in understanding the human mind. By better understanding how the mind works in relation to the physical aspects of the brain, scientists are often able to devise more effective treatment methods for certain disorders.
Not all mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders are able to be treated with counseling and psychotherapy alone. Some more severe disorders may need to be treated with medication as well. These medications alter how the brain functions, enabling it to work more efficiently or – in theory – how it is supposed to.
Some disorders that may benefit from medication include:
- Learning disabilities
- Bipolar disorder
What Does a Cognitive Neuroscientist Do?
>A cognitive neuroscientist is primarily a researcher, on a quest to find out how our brains contribute to our cognitive function. These professionals might conduct research a few different ways.
With today’s technological boom, scientists and researchers are using computers more and more. A cognitive researcher is no exception. He might use computer simulations, for example, to test theories and hypotheses. A cognitive neuroscientist career might also involve monitoring a patient’s brain activity with special equipment.
A cognitive neuroscientist might also study and test samples of brain tissue, in order to better understand the mysteries of the human mind.
Where Do Cognitive Neuroscientists Work?
When first starting their careers, cognitive neuroscientists will first usually complete a fellowship, which are very similar to internships. During a fellowship, a cognitive neuroscientist will work alongside experienced professionals in the field. Most cognitive neuroscience fellowships last a couple years. After completing their fellowships, cognitive neuroscientists are then able to look for permanent employment in a number of different facilities.
Universities will often hire cognitive neuroscientists as researchers and professors. Some other possible places of employment might include research facilities and pharmaceutical companies.
What You Need to Know About Becoming a Cognitive Science Major
Cognitive science majors explore the mind and intelligence through different disciplines, including psychology, neuroscience and philosophy.
Cognitive science majors study how the mind works. Students learn about cognition through an interdisciplinary curriculum that engages them in critical thinking and problem-solving. Those who are interested in better understanding cognitive processes such as memory, language, reasoning, motor control and attention, as well as how these processes affect our ability to learn, communicate and experience the world around us, might be a good fit for a degree in cognitive science.
What Is a Cognitive Science Major?
A cognitive science major is an interdisciplinary degree path that challenges students to examine and better understand cognitive processes. Because the field of cognitive science encompasses ideas and concepts from a number of disciplines, students will take classes in different program areas, including biology, psychology, computer science, neuroscience, linguistics, mathematics, anthropology and philosophy, to help inform their understanding of cognition.
Coursework typically focuses on understanding foundational theories as well as developing practical skills to prepare students to apply their training in the field. Cognitive science majors might also focus on a problem of interest and tailor their coursework to delve into that issue. Cognitive science majors can also engage in research, working with faculty members on specific projects or in affiliated research labs.
Common Coursework Cognitive Science Majors Can Expect
As with most majors, the cognitive science degree path often requires that students take several introductory classes to build foundational knowledge in areas such as cognition, psychology and philosophy. Once they’ve completed their introductory coursework, and depending on their program, students can typically choose from a wide selection of electives, including classes such as Metaphysics and Fundamentals of Artificial Intelligence.
Some students might choose to focus their elective coursework in a specific area. For example, Marquette University students interested in studying cognitive science through the lens of psychology might take the Psychology of Racism and Introductory Social Psychology to learn more about how the mind affects human behavior. Other students might even be able to choose from a tailored mix of electives offered at their school. Yale University, for example, outlines several custom course plans delving into areas such as Comparative Cognition, Gender and Prejudice, and Human-Computer Interaction.
How to Know if This Major Is the Right Fit for You
Cognitive science might be a good fit for you if you find yourself wondering what drives people to think, behave and communicate in certain ways. Cognitive science also explores how we might be able to use artificial intelligence and computing to advance our ability to develop and share information.
With its interdisciplinary approach and emphasis on problem-solving and critical thinking skills, the cognitive science degree path prepares students to apply their studies in a number of fields, including health care, business, law, psychology and education.
What Is the Median Annual Salary of a Cognitive Neuroscientist?
Cognitive neuroscientists (categorized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as medical scientists) earned a median salary of $88,790 as of May 2019.
Cognitive neuroscientists working for pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing companies earned the highest average salary during this time, at $111,630, followed by those working in research and development companies, at $95,770.
cognitive science major salary
The national average salary for a cognitive science major graduate in the United States is $71,238 per year or $34.25 per hour. The top 10 percent make over $130,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent make under $38,000 per year. Most jobs for cognitive science majors are in technology companies and professional companies. California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York have the highest paying jobs for cognitive science major graduates.
cognitive science jobs
There is no limit to what you can do with a B.A. in Cognitive Science. In fact, this degree is great for students who have eclectic interests and may want to have several different career options available to them.
Most commonly, students with a degree in cognitive science go on to pursue fields such as machine learning, human centered (UX) design, software design/development, etc. They may also go on to pursue advanced degrees in cognitive science, neuroscience, computer science, etc. Others may go on to attain professional degrees such as medicine or law. The options are as endless and wide as the imagination itself.
Historically, Cal students in this major have gone on to become:
- Research analysts
- Product developers/designers
- UX designers
- Software developers
- Linguistic analysts
- Data analysts
- HR specialists
- Founders of their own start-ups
And those looking to continue their education by getting an advanced degree (i.e., M.A. or Ph.D.) have gone into programs such as:
- Clinical Psychology
- Cognitive Science
- AI and Robotics
- Computer Engineering
- Education Neurobiology
- Law School
- Medical School