One of cognitive science’s biggest advantages is its interdisciplinary nature, which provides students with a large set of career options to choose from. However, this can also lead to students being indecisive about their choices moving forward, and it is important to understand and learn more about the various paths that you can take.
Before thinking about what to do after your undergraduate education, choosing the right specialization can help you narrow down your future career path. Each specialization — whether it might be Neuroscience, Clinical Aspects of Cognition, Language and Culture, Design and Interaction, Machine Learning and Neural Computation, or Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN) — has different career options that it provides. Those who choose to specialize in Neuroscience tend to choose the pre-med path or go into research. Those who choose to specialize in the Clinical Aspects of Cognition lean towards psychiatry or education. Those who choose to specialize in Language and Culture might choose to go into human psychology or physical therapy. Those who choose to specialize in Design and Interaction go into UX/UI, software engineering, or data visualization. Those who specialize in Machine Learning and Neural Computation go into artificial intelligence or mathematics. Those who specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience also tend to follow more of the medical path, similar to those in the Neuroscience specialization. While none of these are set in stone and it is always possible to do various things with each specialization, they still aid in focalizing a pathway.
Another important decision to make as a cognitive science major is graduate school. This sometimes depends on your specialization, as some specializations — such as Neuroscience and CBN — are typically more likely to choose graduate school as their path right after getting an undergraduate degree. However, there are advantages to going to graduate school for every specialization, and if that’s a path that you want to explore as a cognitive science major, here are some of the steps we recommend:
- Get involved with research on or off campus, especially if you are planning to join a PhD program
- Talk about your options with professors, advisors, or career center counselors
- Research what goes into a graduate school application and plan your next steps
- Consider the different kinds of graduate degrees (Master’s vs. PhD) and decide what the best option for you is
But graduate school is not the only option for post-graduate pathways, and there are many students who choose to go directly into industry after graduation. Specifically for careers in the technology industry, an undergraduate degree in cognitive science can be helpful in landing a job. Some of the most common professions for all of the specializations in cognitive science include human-computer interaction, software design, neuroscience, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence. These are all emerging fields and have great potential for further growth in the near future.
Cognitive science is such an interdisciplinary major, and with that comes a lot of flexibility in post-graduate options as well as career pathways. Just remember that there is not one single right path as a cognitive science major, so make sure to really think about what interests you as you start to consider life after graduation!