How to Become a Neuroscientist

November 23

Table of Contents

The intricate human nervous system and the brain play a key role in how people think, feel, and act. Neuroscientists study these factors to understand better how the brain and nervous system function and develop strategies for enhancing them. 

The definition of a neuroscientist and the process for becoming one will be covered in this article. After reading this article, you can comprehend all the details and necessary steps in becoming a neuroscientist.

What is a Neuroscientist?

Neuroscientists study the chemical & biological processes that take place in the brain. These experts are typically medical specialists researching various topics, such as brain development, brain tumor treatment, and dementia diagnosis. However, some neuroscientists also practice medicine and interact with patients.

Neuroscientists are interested in how the brain affects behavior and cognitive processes. They are also concerned about how the nervous system functions typically and what occurs to the nervous system in neurological, psychiatric, and neurodevelopmental impairments.

Additionally, a neuroscientist assesses, diagnoses, and treats patients in clinics and hospitals while conducting research in offices or laboratories.

What are the Requirements to Become a Neuroscientist?

The journey to becoming a neuroscientist starts immediately after high school. However, you will join the path directly after completing your bachelor's and master's degrees, which will open the path for having a Ph.D.

Here is the list of educational qualifications needed to become a neuroscientist:

  • Having an Undergraduate degree
  • A Masters Degree
  • Complete A Ph.D.
  • Complete post doctoral programs

Other requirements are:

  • The ph.D. degree, which includes a thorough, in-depth investigation of cutting-edge subjects in the field, spanning from neurotoxicology to phase plane brain oscillator analysis.
  • A license and certification to practice neuroscience in a clinical environment.
  • The capacity to use medical instruments, technology, and software.
  • A thorough understanding of all mental illnesses.
  • Strong decision-making and critical thinking abilities.
  • An ability to recognize patterns in concepts, theories, and mathematical configurations.
  • Strong deductive and inductive reasoning skills.
  • Good interpersonal and communication abilities.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Neuroscientist?

The total cost to become a neuroscientist can vary, depending on the school and the curriculum.

The average tuition for undergraduate programs for the academic year 2020–2021 was $11,704 for in-state students and $40,322 for out-of-state students.

After that, candidates should complete the graduate program, where the average cost is $13,381 for in-state students and $28,612 for out-of-state students.

For a Ph.D., the tuition fees might vary with the course type and University location. For example- The brain and Cognitive Sciences Ph.D. Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would cost $28,795 per year. In contrast, a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Princeton University would cost around $56,010 per year.

The overall cost is shown here in a table:


Average Cost

Undergraduate programs (4 years)

$44,000- $160,000

Graduate programs (4 years)

$53,000- $112,000

Masters program (1-2 years)


How to Become a Neuroscientist?

The most common route to becoming a neuroscientist is to earn a degree in cognitive science or neuroscience and possibly earn a master's or doctorate.

These are the steps to follow in this journey:

  • Step 1: Qualifications for a Career in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Undergraduate Level
  • Step 2: Future Neuroscientists Should Earn A Masters Degree
  • Step 3: Getting Your Neuroscience Ph.D.
  • Step 4: Finishing Multiple Postdoctoral Programs.

Now move to these steps, one by one:

Step 1: Qualifications for a Career in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Undergraduate Level

After high school, getting your bachelor's degree is the next need for becoming a neuroscientist.

You should be aware that medical school is mandatory if you want to work with patients. Because of this, picking a degree with a pre-medical focus or concentration is a good choice. 

You are not required to attend medical school just because you choose a pre-med degree. You can pick a pre-med engagement even if you aren't sure if you want to pursue cognitive or clinical neuroscience.

Your precise degree choice will determine the kinds of classes you take. However, generally speaking, you can anticipate studying things like the following:

  • Biological ideas, principles, and operations, such as the parts of cells and life cycles
  • Chemistry basics, such as chemical bonds and chemical structures
  • Using medical jargon to make business communications easier
  • Chemical reactivity, thermodynamics, kinetics, and membrane structure are examples of biochemical concepts.
  • The study of psychopharmacology, or how medications affect a person's behavior and thoughts,
  • Psychology, conduct, and thought.

Step 2: Future Neuroscientists Should Earn A Masters Degree

After completing the Bachelor of Science degree (BS), you should obtain a graduate degree and focus on your Master's or Ph.D.

Find a neuroscience master's program from a recognized university if you decide to pursue one. 

A master's in neuroscience often requires students to study full-time for two years. Expect a rigorous curriculum covering the impacts of aging, cell signaling, and the brain's adaptability. You'll take part in both lab work and classroom teaching.

You should probably complete a thesis within your master's degree program. The research and writing for this project are extensive. It's preferable to pick a subject that relates to the exact kind of study you want to conduct in the future.

Step 3: Getting Your Neuroscience Ph.D.

A thorough, in-depth investigation of cutting-edge subjects in the field, spanning from neurotoxicology to phase plane brain oscillator analysis, will be the focus of a Ph.D. program in neuroscience. Typically, a Ph.D. program starts with coursework and has a big exam.

This test is referred to as the "qualifying exam" or "qual" at some schools and the "preliminary exam" at others. To be adequately prepared for this difficult exam, plan on spending at least one semester in intense study.

A Ph.D. degree in neuroscience is typically completed in four to six years. You should prepare to dedicate yourself to your program full-time. 

You will likely help in undergraduate neuroscience lectures, create grant submissions for your lab, publish your research actions, complete your coursework, learn advanced lab techniques, and write your dissertation.

At the end of your Ph.D. program, you will defend your dissertation. In addition, you will defend your research and analysis in person before your dissertation committee.

Step 4: Finishing Multiple Postdoctoral Programs

After completing their doctoral degrees, neuroscientists should complete one or multiple postdoctoral programs. A postdoc is a transitional period between a doctoral program and a full-time career. Postdoctoral programs are often held in academic institutions and emphasize research. 

However, postdoc opportunities in business, politics or even several nonprofits might also exist. So, you'll probably have a little more leeway to pick your research topics as a postdoc than as a Ph.D. student.

You can strengthen your knowledge in your field of specialization or enlarge it through your postdoc program(s). It may take 1 to 2 years to spend in postdoc appointments. However, you'll probably teach classes, get funding, and publish your findings during this period.

Important Qualities Needed to Be a Neuroscientist

The field of neuroscience is extensive and extremely large. Because the set of skills essential to one sub-discipline is not used in others, it is challenging to generalize the skills required to do neuroscience research.

Let’s see the list of qualities a neuroscientist candidate should have:

  • Understanding of Mental illness: A thorough understanding of all mental illnesses is the primary requirement to become a neuroscientist.
  • Decision-making Skills: Strong decision-making and critical thinking abilities will stabilize your position in the industry.
  • Industry Knowledge: Finding patterns in ideas, theories, and mathematical configurations with strong deductive and inductive reasoning skills.
  • Communication Skills: Good interpersonal and communication abilities because you will have many 1-on-1 interactions with patients.
  • Analytical Skills: A willingness to learn computer and programming abilities, embrace statistical methods and mathematical analysis to deal with data, and have the flexibility to collaborate with people from different disciplines and work individually and in teams.
  • Time management Skills: Excellent time-management and planning skills and the desire to read scholarly works to stay informed and further your career.

How Much Do Neuroscientists Make?

Neuroscience research assistants can make between £25,000 and £35,000 in the UK. Moreover, Postdoctoral researchers' average wage is £35,758.

The average gross compensation for a neuroscientist in Canada is 69,400 CAD, excluding the additional bonus. Moreover, the average salary for a Physician / Doctor, Neurologist is 118k - C$179k.

In the US, the gross pay for neuroscientists ranges from $31,432 to $838,663, with a median salary of $149,722.

Here is a comparison of the earnings in different countries:


Average Annual Earnings



The UK


Final Thoughts

Depending on their field of specialization and place of employment, neuroscientists may have a variety of duties. For example, while some neuroscientists carry out patient care in clinics or hospitals, others perform research in offices or labs. 

You will find this job very interesting once you get used to taking practical experience after completing the neuroscience course.

We hope this guide was useful in helping you understand a career path in this field and has answered your questions about becoming a neuroscientist.

Additional FAQs: Becoming a Neuroscientist

Where Do Neuroscientists Work?

In addition to working in offices and laboratories, neuroscientists frequently participate in multidisciplinary research teams. 

Universities, hospitals, government offices, and enterprises in the private sector are common places to work.

Do I Need a Degree In Neuroscience To Work In The Field?

No, there are various ways to pursue a career in neuroscience. 

You can get the skills necessary to specialize in neurology later on through other health science degrees, including biomedical sciences, biochemistry, and pharmacology.

Is a Medical Degree Required To Become a Neuroscientist?

No. However, there are numerous options for trainee clinicians to earn expertise and credentials in academic research (such as a BSc/Ph.D.) with an integrated academic career path.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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