How To Become a Neuroscientist

how to become a neuroscientist

A neuroscientist is a scientist with advanced expertise in neuroscience, the biological branch that deals with neuron and neural circuit physiology, biochemistry, psychology, anatomy, molecular biology, and their relationship with behavior and learning. Using computer simulations, a person in this area may perform theoretical studies, conduct laboratory experiments on tissue samples, supervise clinical testing and trials, and write scientific papers.

In a university, government department, or private sector environment, neuroscientists typically work as researchers. Neuroscientists usually spend their time planning and carrying out experimental studies in research-oriented professions that lead to understanding the nervous system and its operation.

Neuroscientist usually participates in research that is fundamental or applied. Basic research aims to contribute knowledge to our current understanding of the nervous system, while applied research seeks to resolve a particular concern, such as improving a neurological disease cure.

To learn about the brain, nervous system, and behavioral habits, a professional neuroscientist also uses various strategies. And to do past studies and analyze findings from current ones, they must also be competent with computers. Also, neuroscientists often use microscopes while employed in the lab.

Who is a Neuroscientist? 

A neuroscientist is a person with the knowledge, skills, education, and license needed to study the human body’s nervous system. The human body comprises several neurons that make it function properly.

The Neuroscientist performs extensive studies and research to diagnose diseases relating to and affect the body’s nervous system. They also research effective cures and treatments for those diseases and disorders. 

As you can see from the above definition that being a neuroscientist isn’t an easy task or something you can learn overnight. It isn’t a profession you can learn across the streets like mechanics or fashion designing; before you can become a neuroscientist, you need a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and probably, a Ph.D. in neuroscience.


  • Neuroscientists deal with the human brain and the nervous system. For anyone to be qualified and licensed as a neuroscientist, he/she must meet up with the laid down requirements and rules guiding the career prospect. 
  • Neuroscientists conduct in-depth research, clinical experiments, trials and publish their findings. They are different from other medical practitioners. Each medical practitioner has their areas of specialization; some focus on the eyes (opticians), bones (physiotherapist), and a host of others. 
  • In general, neuroscientist research disorders influencing the nervous system.
  • They use different machines to create multiple simulations to study how brain conditions can be eliminated.
  • Although Neuroscientists can be referred to as Medical practitioners or Doctors, they deal primarily with the brain and nervous system. They also specialize in the information on treatment procedures, tools, and experiments in neuroscience.
  • To distinguish the nerve elements, they must know how to use multiple dyes and antibodies.
  • They study current brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • To discover the essence of nerve cells, they study brain cells and tissue extracts under the microscope.
  • They also concentrate their research on anyone disease in particular and then study them to know how to eradicate it or slow down its development.
  • To better track brain function and its responses to specific compounds, they use numerous instruments and experimental techniques.
  • A Neuroscientist can work with the government (in a government-owned hospital), in private firms, research labs, universities, and pharmaceutical companies.


Neuroscience provides a special viewpoint that it can be used in various areas, so neuroscientists work in various fields. Neuroscientists can research topics from the brain’s major hemispheres to micro-level neurotransmitters and synapses in neurons. Thus, below are some of the major branches of neuroscience, such as:

  • Affective Neuroscience

Experiments investigate how neurons act in response to different emotions.

  • Neurolinguistics 

Specialists research how the brain makes it possible for us to learn, store, understand, and communicate language. It lets speech therapists create techniques to support kids with speech disorders or adults who, after, for example, a stroke, try to recover their speech.

  • Developmental Neuroscience 

In this field, neuroscientist looks at how the brain and the nervous system evolve from maturity and then develop. The knowledge gained lets scientists learn more about the creation and evolution of neurological processes. This encourages them to describe a variety of developmental disabilities and understand them. It also provides clues on how and when to regenerate neuronal tissues.

  • Cultural Neuroscience 

This area looks at the relationship between cultural variables and genetic, neurological, and psychological mechanisms. It is a modern discipline that may help to understand the differences between different groups of health measures. Findings may also aid scientists when conducting studies to prevent cultural prejudice.

  • Neurophysiology 

In this field, the neuroscientist looks at how the brain and its roles apply to various parts of the body, from the subcellular level to the entire organs and the nervous system’s position. It also makes scientists understand how human cognition functions and offers insight into nervous system conditions.

  • Clinical Neuroscience 

Health professionals, such as neurologists, use fundamental neuroscience findings to look at nervous system conditions to discover ways to cure and avoid them. They also look at ways to rehabilitate people who have suffered neurological damage and to accept brain injuries as psychiatric conditions.

  • Computational Neuroscience 

Computational Neuroscientists seek to grasp how the brain computes. So they use computers to model brain processes and apply methods to analyze brain function from mathematics, physics, and other computational sectors.

  • Cognitive Neuroscience 

In this area, neuroscientists look at how our ideas are shaped and regulated by the brain and the neurological mechanisms influencing those processes. Scientists also measure brain function during experiments as individuals conduct assignments. This field, therefore, integrates neuroscience with psychological and psychiatric cognitive sciences.

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

This is the study of how behavior is influenced by the brain.

  • Neuroengineering 

To better explain, replace, restore, or upgrade neural networks, researchers use engineering techniques.

  • Neuroimaging

It is used to detect sickness and determine the brain’s fitness. It may also help the study of the brain, how it functions, and how multiple activities influence the brain.


Like you’ve read earlier, before you can become a neuroscientist, you have to be academically equipped and mentally alert. There’s no profession out there that doesn’t demand formal education, but some occupations require a high level of understanding and academic pursuit. To become a neuroscientist, you have to complete your education up until the Ph.D. level.

Just before you decide to go to the university and apply for neuroscience as a course of study, you need to know if you have the necessary skills for the role. Many people go to university, study a course they have no passion for or abilities, and later regret their actions.

The Educational Requirements for Neuroscience include:

  • Bachelor’s degree: This degree is obtained after completing an undergraduate education in any university of your choice. During the bachelor’s program, the recipient will undertake courses/subjects like biology, physiology, human anatomy, psychology, chemistry, etc. 

This is to equip you with knowledge about the human body, how it works, and what affects its efficiency. These courses are more or less similar to medical practices or someone planning to become a medical practitioner. 

  • Master’s degree: After the undergraduate studies and years, the neuroscientist aspirant then proceeds to have a master’s degree in neuroscience. During the master’s degree, you will be exposed to advanced learning and teachings. The master’s program will dwell more on practicals and clinical lab experiments. 
  • P.H.Degree: You might think this is not necessary, but it is. Almost every career in neuroscience requires a P.H Degree; this kind of degree program gives the aspirant more advanced knowledge of Neuroscience. This includes neuropharmacology, neurophysiology, cognitive neuroscience, and neurobiology.


This depends on the country and firm you’re practicing with. Some countries and firms pay higher salaries to neuroscientists while others don’t, but all the same, the money isn’t low. 

Although there’s no specific amount stipulated for neuroscientists in the USA, checking through the record, the amount paid to medical scientists starts from $80,500. You already know that neuroscientists are also categorized under medical scientist, just that they all perform different functions.

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the country’s research and development section employs roughly 40,000 neuroscientists annually with an average salary of $105,500.

Apart from the research and development area, the colleges and universities are the next sectors of the country that employs more neuroscientists (around 24,000) for teaching and research work. They pay an average salary of $68,810.

The next employers of neuroscientists are the general Medical hospitals (government-owned). Neuroscientists who work in public medical hospitals are saddled with providing surgical/non-surgical diagnostic and medical treatments for patients. Their average salary is $87,700. This sector employs roughly 20,000 neuroscientists.

Another area where neuroscientists are employed is private pharmaceutical industries and private medical hospitals. They conduct research and help in the production of new drugs for clinical tests and treatment. The pharmaceutical industries employ the least number of neuroscientists (6,500) and pay the most salary, $137,800.

You can verify that the salary expectations differ from one area to another, with the private pharmaceutical industries taking the lead. They pay higher wages compared to others but employ the least number of neuroscientists. 

All the same, you cannot compare the average salary of neuroscientists to other professions. They are making huge money for sensitive services they offer.

Years Of Experience Needed:

Before anyone can be certified and license to operate as a neuroscientist, he must first complete the specific academic years in school. This includes 5-6 years in the university for a bachelor’s degree, then 2-4 years in a master’s degree program, with another 5-6 years in P.H.D. However, some people can merge both master’s degree programs and PhDs while studying.

After the academic years’ conclusion, some neuroscientists proceed to medical schools to gain another year of experience and exposure in their chosen field. Apart from this, the required years of experience vary, depending on the career path one wants to follow. For instance, the year of experience needed from a research neuroscientist is different from a neurosurgeon.

Getting License Of Operation:

Before you can start operating as a neuroscientist, you need a license even after you have completed your education and year of experience. This depends on the field/ career job you have chosen. 

State psychology boards must license neuropsychologists. Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, or medical doctors must have a medical license before they can operate. To get a license of operation, you have to follow the steps and apply for the appropriate license (medical, physiologist, research) through your state licensing board. 

In the course of pursuing a license, you may be required to sit for tests and/clinical trials, conduct experiments, or even work as an intern for some number of months/years. 

It is vital to have a license of operation, or you won’t have total freedom to practice your career like others. Your education and year of experience might go to waste.

Books on Neuroscience for Beginners:

If you are new to neuroscience and would like to know the perfect books to read, which will help you build a solid foundation in neuroscience, here is a list. Each book includes the author’s name, and you can get them at the bookstore.

  1. How the mind works by Steven Pinker: This book explains how humans evolve into laughing, seeing, thinking, and interacting the way we do.
  2. The Ethical Brain by Michael Gazzaniga: This book brings forward thought-provoking and controversial questions in cognitive neuroscience.
  3. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman: A book that explores the evolution of autism.
  4. The Brains Way of Healing by Norman Doidge
  5. The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge: A book that recounts Personal Triumph’s stories from the Frontiers of Brain Science.
  6. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
  7. The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and The Secret World of Sleep by Guy Leschziner.


Neuroscientists observe and study both the biochemical and psychological elements of the nervous system. 40 percent of neuroscientists move on to do further graduate work after they end their post-doctoral degrees, while 37 percent of the neuroscientists carry on with their faculty positions.

A wide variety of biological approaches and imaging techniques, such as MRI and diffusion tensor imaging, are used by neuroscientists. They even try to be a part of many different neuroscience organizations, where they can write and read interesting things.


A neuroscientist’s working hours tend to be regular workplace hours from 9 am to 5 pm. You can often need to be versatile to respond to the availability of research project partners or while holding conferences. Getting paid overtime is unlikely, but you might be given days off to pay for the additional hours you have worked.

Neuroscientists’ research programs frequently run for a defined duration, often one or three years. This suggests that contracts usually have a set duration to accommodate the project. Yet positions are more likely to be lifelong within the industry, such as in the pharmaceutical field.


Becoming a neuroscientist takes more than just words of mouth; you have to offer anything it takes, including your time, energy, etc. You have to be sure you have an unwavering passion and the necessary skills needed to become a neuroscientist. Here are some of the skills you need.

  • Research skills: If you are not a fan of research making, you might have a minor problem becoming a neuroscientist. This is because neuroscience demands extensive research, and that is the primary work of Neuroscientists. They conduct research, clinical trials, and experiments on the human brain and nervous system.
  • Communication skills: This is a general skill that almost every profession requires. You will need this skill to report your findings, answer questions based on clinical trials, lab experiments, conducted research, and explain things to your clients/patients.
  • Reading skills: Anyone who doesn’t like reading or acquiring knowledge through books cannot become a neuroscientist. Reading skills are extremely needed because you have to be an advanced reader and become a neuroscientist. For aspiring neuroscientists, the tutors will recommend several voluminous books during their degree program days.
  • An aptitude for mathematics and science is first and perhaps most significant. Candidates for the degree should also include experience in cellular science and should have the capacity to function independently. Typically, good organizational abilities, intellectual diligence, and steady focus are also required.
  • There are also various kinds of degrees in the neuroscience field, and each has unique criteria of its own. A bachelor’s degree featured by broad survey courses is the basic prerequisite for a neuroscience degree. With more complex analysis in mind, master’s and doctorate level degree programs are also planned.
  • One of the most significant skills of any applicant for a degree in neuroscience is that they need to have strong intellectual strength in science and mathematics. Usually, classes in neuroscience include chemistry along with molecular biology. And in neuroscience degree programs, students who also have a natural capacity to understand abstract equations and mathematical concepts are normally healthier.
  • Often, the ability to easily remember and digest a large amount of information is an advantage. Since classes generally pass rapidly over a lot of content and advanced classes normally involve a solid fundamental knowledge of the basics. As such, it is not the only prerequisite to excel in assessments and exams: learners must still recall lessons learned.
  • For both lectures and laboratories, applicants must balance strict schedules, which make organizational and time management skills necessary.
  • Most projects are meant to be long-term, with a length of at least one semester and sometimes several years. To excel in such independent study, however, requires high motivation and self-discipline and the capacity to perform well without continuous control. 
  • Finally, students must also be able to cope with losses and testing failures, even halfway into the alteration of programs.

Career Prospects For Neuroscientists:

A neuroscientist can choose to pursue any of these career prospects, depending on his passion, skills, and ability.

  • Neurobiologist: He specializes in the scientific study of nerves and brain functions in humans and animals.
  • Neurosurgeon: This is one of the highest paying career jobs in neuroscience. It is the most challenging and demanding of all career aspects of neuroscience. 

Neurosurgeons deal explicitly with the brain and nervous system to diagnose the nervous system and brain disorders. They also perform surgery on the affected brain or nerves. Neurosurgeons earn more than $400,000 per annum.

  • Neurophysiologist: They specialize in studying the functions and activities of the nervous system of the human body. 
  • Neuroanatomist: A specialist in studying the structure of a specific organism’s nerves/nervous system. (human or animal)
  • Neurochemist: A specialist who deals with the branch of neuroscience concerned with the nervous system’s chemistry.
  • Neuropathologist: They specialize in the study of diseases and discoveries of disorders associated with the nervous system.
  • Cognitive Neuroscientists: They combine the field of psychology and neuroscience. They specialize in the development of effective treatments for neurological disorders, behavioral disorders, and cognitive therapies. Their average salary expectations per annum are $68,000


The type of educational and career development programs available in the field of neuroscientist would rely to a certain degree on the field or business you work in. However, everywhere you work, in your career, you will need to keep your talents and skills up to date.

For instance, in academics, the training concentration could be on crucial aspects of your work, such as publishing your academic journal results and submitting proposals to support your study. However, in the industry’s case, you will spend time in the industry learning about the ethical implications of clinical trials or the method of drug production.

But whether you are in any field, to better learn what your colleagues are researching, you need to attend conferences and interact with other neuroscientists around the world. You can also offer analysis on your own. Specialist research in new scientific methodologies such as magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, or mathematical modeling applications will also be performed.


As neuroscience focuses on physical property sets and psychology focuses on mental equivalents, it can appear that the two fields are distinct. But neuroscience does have a role to play in the field of psychology. 

In reality, psychology and neuroscience will supplement one another in many ways, far from being totally separate disciplines.

Therefore, neuroscience has led to some interesting studies in regards to the following factors that influence mental health and behavior, looking closely into how psychiatry and neuroscience match together to achieve beneficial effects:

  • Problem of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders characterize persistent symptoms of concern. Treatment for anxiety disorders can take the form of treatment or prescription and has a differing degree of effectiveness. But after researchers established a brain mechanism that may be a potential target for anxiety-reducing drugs, a recent neuroscience-based discovery may alter how certain anti-anxiety drugs are developed.

Researchers have identified the mechanism by which the chemical helps counteract the stress reaction induced by the hormone CRH by measuring a chemical messenger called NPY related to the stress-sensitive region. Both chemicals use the same receptors, and researchers have been able to detect and suppress the production of a protein that induces fear before the channels gradually vanish, presenting a possible target for new drug production.

  • Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is a degenerative nervous system disease that triggers the weakening of brain nerve cells that regulate the activity and influences a person’s decision-making ability.

Neuroscience aims to explain the trajectory of the disorder in several ways, including the development of computer models that give insight into the frequency of ties within the brain’s basal ganglia region. How the interactions vary in Parkinson’s patients may help scientists develop treatments specific to neuronal degeneration patterns.

  • Clinical Depression

Clinical depression, marked by chronically depressed mood, has been treated via multiple fields of psychiatry. To detect improvements in people with depression, researchers have used brain scans before a course of therapy. And the results indicate that certain therapy forms function well for people with relatively regular baseline stimulation of the subgenital anterior cingulate cortex brain region. At the same time, some worked better for those with excessive baseline sgACC activation.

Data should be obtained from certain trials, and such medication selections may be made for people with clinical depression. Some may respond better to therapeutic interventions, while others respond to pharmacological therapy.

  • Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is defined as unhealthy habits of drugs or alcohol misuse that inflict damage to any aspect of an individual’s functioning. There have been a lot more studies in recent years on the mechanisms of substance addiction, particularly neuroscientific tests that evaluate how unconscious perception is influenced by environmental stimuli and induces addictive conduct.

A variety of causes contribute to the onset of addiction, and some neuroscientists believe that an individual’s social status impacts their well-being by implicit memory, causing a greater desire for extra brain incentives.

  • Huntington’s Disease 

This is a neurological syndrome that causes repetitive gestures and intellectual disability. Huntington’s is caused by a flawed sequence of DNA that produces poisonous protein and destroys the nerves of sufferers. Huntington’s disease does not yet have a cure, but neuroscience is helping to find a solution.

Via studies in recent years, different methods of gene editing treatment have been introduced. Still, a new method has shown promise in being safer and more precise than previous creations. The newly designed device has been able to break a DNA strand, deactivate the faulty gene, and inhibit toxic protein development, providing crucial evidence to warn Huntington’s possible future cure.

  • Autism

Autism is characterized by difficulties in coping skills, actions, and verbal and non-verbal speech, spanning a wide range of disorders. Study in neuroscience offers valuable knowledge about when and how autism is diagnosed and aims to offer insight into the disorder’s aspects of brain function.

Researchers were able to recognize both anatomical and cognitive variations in the brains of individuals with autism and associated spectrum disorders, finding that when people with autism attempt to decipher facial expressions, the amygdala brain region is underactive.

Because autism affects more men than women, researchers have also investigated the influence of fetal testosterone levels, showing that higher prenatal testosterone levels are correlated with decreased social skills but greater attention to detail in infants-autism markers that could assist with early detection.

  • Alzheimer’s Diseases 

Alzheimer’s, marked by cognitive impairment, refers to a decrease in an individual’s intellectual ability, which may induce personality and behavior changes. Researchers have found by neuroscience extended to animals that age-related memory loss may be reversed using a gene transfer strategy.

Scientists have identified the regulate neurons in a brain region that diminishes with age in experiments with monkeys and avoids producing the regulatory chemicals that influence cognitive ability and memory. Scientists have been able to recover cell count and function by adding a nerve growth factor into the cells and reinjecting them into the primates’ brains, giving useful insights into the possibilities for treating age-related diseases in humans.

  • Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia includes a host of crippling signs, like delusions and paranoia, a psychological condition defined by distorted awareness of truth. Scientists have made some strides in categorizing symptoms and assigning them to brain systems and functions through neuroscience, intending to establish and enhance care methods.

At a time when treatment discovery for schizophrenia had deteriorated, neuroscience was also continuing to accelerate study. Scientists have now learned when and where increases in dopamine occur in sufferers’ brains. Understanding the role of neurotransmitter mechanisms and brain areas may help recognize the main neurobiological symptoms of schizophrenia, such as increases in dopamine neurotransmitters.


Neuroscience predicts an employment growth rate of about 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, a large average job growth rate relative to other occupations. There are a variety of reasons for driving progress in the number of neuroscientists across the globe. For example, if individuals continue to live longer, there is an increase in support to treat age-related cognitive deterioration issues such as dementia. There is also a need for neuroscientists to build smarter interfaces between humans and computers as artificial intelligence grows. Neuroscientists are also in a rare position to share insights into human activity because of the exponential evolution of brain imaging techniques.

In a wide variety of sectors, including government policy, education, and industry, these innovations mean that there are wide prospects to advance your career. Yet career advancement depends on the field in which you work. For example, neuroscientists employed at universities can follow an academic course or teach alongside their studies. 

Academic jobs are extremely competitive, and before gaining a permanent position, you will often have to pursue a range of short, fixed-term contracts. Therefore, if you work in an industry, you can usually rise to a senior scientist’s level or become the head of a particular research field, often referred to as a research production manager. This may include coordinating and getting the ultimate responsibility for a piece of study by other neuroscientists.

How To Become a Neuroscientist

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