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How to Become a Neuroscientist

How to Become a Neuroscientist

A neuroscientist is someone who explores the nature of the diseases of the brain and nerves. CareerStint enlightens you on how to become a neuroscientist.
CareerStint Staff
Quick Fact
Studies conducted by eminent neuroscientists have led to the clearing of myriad myths related to neurological diseases. One of the recent discoveries debunked certain assumptions about dyslexia―the condition wherein a person poses difficulty to learn to read.

Neuroscience is one of the most fascinating fields of medicine. Well, of course, this term is not so well-coined that one aspires to be a neuroscientist from the time one is a toddler. We understand the significance of this area of study after understanding related subjects, like anthropology, physics, physiology, biology, chemistry, etc. Be warned―it is not a cakewalk to become a neuroscientist; you need to put in hours and hours of hard work. If you are interested in understanding how the brain functions, nothing is going to stop you from becoming a success in this field. The education requirements and training you need to undertake in order to become a neuroscientist are given below.
Job Profile
  • A neuroscientist studies about the diseases affecting the nervous system, in general.
  • He undertakes research regarding existing brain and nerve disorders, like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's disease, etc.
  • He examines samples of brain cells and tissue under the microscope to explore the nature of nerve cells.
  • He uses the computer to create different models so that he can research on how to eliminate brain disorders.
  • He must know how to use different dyes and antibodies so that he can identify the nerve components.
  • He uses various tools and scientific methods to help monitor brain activity and their reactions to different chemicals.
  • He may even focus his research particularly on one disease, and learn how to eliminate it or at least slow down its progress.
Required Skills
  • Patience
  • Hard work
  • Attention to detail
  • Decoding psychometrics and psychological tests
  • Excellent writing and communication skills
  • Fine analyzing capability
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Good knowledge of experimental design
  • Knowledge of computers and subject-related software
  • Adaptability
  • A critical viewpoint
  • Very good numerical and statistical skills
  • Presence of mind
  • Ability to understand the human cognitive function
Educational Qualifications
The paragraph below outlines some career information on neuroscience.
Step I
  • To begin with, you need to take subjects, like physics, chemistry, biology, etc., in high school.
  • After high school graduation, you can undertake a Bachelor of Science program in related subjects, like anthropology, philosophy, biology, chemistry, behavioral endocrinology, cellular and molecular physiology, genetics, etc. Neuroscientists may be from any of the above disciplines.
Step II
  • After college education, you have to cross a major step―medical school.
  • You have to give entrance exams to get into a good med school, and also, prefer a school with a great research program because that is what your forte is going to be.
  • While studying, try to get some work experience in labs. A neuroscientist spends most of his time in the laboratory. This will also help you get recommendation letters.
  • You will receive your Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) after 6 years.
  • It is required that you complete your residency program successfully and also pass the Medical Licensing Examination of the United States.
  • You will learn a lot about lab work in your medical school. Also, your practical stints will be in rotation, and you will learn the basics of every medical category apart from neuroscience.
Step III
  • You will need to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) degree, as this is what will help you qualify for research.
  • It is not easy to qualify for a postdoctoral fellowship, however.
  • To begin with, you need to choose your discipline in neuroscience. It has cognitive neuroscience, behavioral neuroscience (which deals with the relation between the working of the mind and the brain), neural basis of cognitive control, neuroaesthetics, neuroethics, etc.
  • Decide what your thesis is going to be, and undertake extensive research on the subject before making a choice.
  • Your Ph.D. degree will take a long time, depending on how fast you complete the research on your subject.
  • You need to write and submit research papers on your thesis and review feedback.
  • When you finally get your Ph.D., you are a qualified neuroscientist.
Step IV
  • As a neuroscientist, research will be a part of your daily job.
  • After earning your doctorate, you can begin working at huge laboratories and pharmaceuticals or clinics as a research scientist.
  • You can undergo training under qualified neuroscientists so that you learn and understand the job.
  • With time and experience, you will rise up the ranks in your career, publish more papers, and perhaps make a wonderful discovery regarding the brain function!

Your entire educational period (including training, internships, and residency) may take you more than 14 years (Gasp!). Do not worry about the time frame though, as the intensity and depth of this field is worth every second.
Salary
  • As per the BLS, neuroscientists and other medical scientists are among the highly paid ones in the medical field.
  • With sufficient experience and a proper degree, one can earn between USD 60,000 to more than a USD 100,000, annually.
  • You may start on the lower range to begin with; also, remember that you need to gain sufficient experience before you foray into pure research.
  • Experienced neuroscientists may very well earn more than USD 125,000 per year.
  • The salaries vary heavily, depending on the field of expertise; while some solely undertake tissue sample research, some specialize in cognitive neuroscience.
Job Outlook
  • As per the BLS, this field has a predicted job growth rate of more than 12% over the next decade.
  • The research to explore brain activities and reactions is ongoing; hence, neuroscientists have a very good chance of securing good jobs in laboratories or clinics.
  • Moreover, this field encompasses many job profiles, like cognitive and behavioral neuroscience.
  • As the days merge into months and years, more and more brain-related diseases are being discovered, for which it is essential that neuroscientists carry on research to help find appropriate treatment methods.

As already mentioned before, a career in neuroscience is no mean feat. You need to have a keen interest in your work, combined with an analytical ability and hard work to achieve your goal. If you have a genuine desire to help find proper cures for nerve-related disorders, you will enjoy the journey of becoming a neuroscientist and your job as well.