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The Breakdown

Do you ever wonder why stress causes certain reactions in our body? Or how we learn to identify the taste of a banana? Or why some (often illicit) drugs alter our perceptions and feelings? All of these questions (and far more) are the provenance of the neuroscience major.

A demanding major, neuroscience is quite interdisciplinary. You’ll likely be required to take a combination of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and psychology courses. More specifically, you’ll study brain function and how that affects behavior, thought patterns and emotions. Additionally, some programs will have you choose a concentration. These can include behavioral neuroscience, cellular and molecular neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, computational neuroscience or developmental neuroscience. And of course, similar to other science majors, you should expect a healthy balance of classroom and laboratory work.

As a neuroscience major, quantitative and analytical skills will be vital as you’ll encounter (and need to interpret) a lot of data. Moreover, you should be a creative thinker who enjoys attacking unanswered questions. You should also have a strong desire to understand the inner workings of the mind and human behavior. Finally, you’re likely to interact with a wide range of people, from fellow researchers to subjects and patients. Therefore, strong communication skills will be essential.

Nuts and Bolts

Neuroscience majors learn all about body and behavior with classes such as: Immunology, Cognitive Psychology, Hormones and Behavior, Psychopharmacology, Cell Structure and Function, Animal Behavior, Statistics, Calculus, Sensation and Perception, Neurobiology of Memory and Learning, Experimental Psychology, Genetics, Organic Chemistry and Introductory Physics.

Decisions, Decisions

Since neuroscience majors are curious about how we think and function, they are also likely to study psychology, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, nursing, pharmacology, microbiology, child development, physics, pre-pharmacy, astronomy, environmental science and computer science.

What's Next

Undergrads who hope to pursue a career in neuroscience take note – you will likely need to attend graduate or medical school. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of fascinating careers that fall within the neuroscience umbrella. Neuroscience majors who enter medical school are apt to become neurosurgeons, neurologists or psychiatrists. Others might become neurological nurses or neurotechnicians, helping care for patients with neurological disorders. Research is another common path and many neuroscience majors find positions in labs, studying the brain and nervous system. A handful might find employment with mental health facilities or working in outreach, helping to educate the public about various disorders. Finally, additional job titles could include neuropathologist, neuropharmacologist, neuroanatomist or neurobiologist.


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Don Munce