Neuroscience is the study of cells in the nervous system. The nervous system consists of two main parts: the central nervous system, brain and spinal chord, and the peripheral nervous system, which includes the nerves in the neck, arms, trunk, legs, skeletal muscles, and internal organs. As a Neuroscience major, you will seek to understand the nervous system and its functioning at levels ranging from that of molecules interacting with cell membranes to that of brain systems serving cognitive functions such as language. Your goal is to advance the understanding of human thought, emotion, and behavior through the examination of how neurons communicate with each other as well as how cells develop and function at the individual level and as integrated systems of cellular networks. Through extensive research and rigorous coursework you will seek the answers to some of life’s most puzzling questions about the inner workings of the human mind.
The neuroscience program at JHU consists of two degree programs: a four-year B.A. and a five-year B.A./M.S. Each degree program is designed to provide intensive preparation for advanced study in either a PhD program or medicine. As a Neuroscience major, you will focus your research in one of three specialized areas: cellular and molecular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, and cognitive neuroscience. There has never been a more exciting time to study neuroscience, and as a JHU Neuroscience major, you have the unique opportunity to work collaboratively with some of the nation’s most innovative technology and faculty.
- B.A./M.S. in Neuroscience
- M.D./PhD in Neuroscience
- PhD in Neuroscience
The field of neuroscience is a newly recognized discipline with exciting opportunities. Neuroscientists work to describe the human brain and how it functions normally, determine how the nervous system develops, matures, and maintains itself throughout life, and find ways to prevent or cure neurological and psychiatric disorders. Some neuroscientists are interested in the basic understanding of how the nervous system works, while others are studying ways to prevent or cure nervous-system based disorders. Some scientists examine how neurons are replaced and regrow, while others are interested in discovering the causes of neurological disease. Your specialized area of research as a Neuroscience major may determine your career path; however, it is not the only factor that will contribute to your future career. Internship and research experience, extracurricular activities, and the skills you develop as a result of your academic and out-of-class experiences all influence the career paths of Hopkins students.
Internships and Research Experiences
To be competitive in today’s job market, it is important you apply the knowledge gained from coursework to the workplace. Employers value the academic preparation Johns Hopkins University provides, but they want to see your ability to employ knowledge outside the classroom. Because research is such an integral part of the Neuroscience program at JHU, your research experience can provide opportunities to showcase your transference of skills from coursework to the workforce. For more information on your research options in the Neuroscience program, visit the department’s webpage and discuss your research interests with your faculty advisors here. Internships in professional work environments can also be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge you have obtained in the classroom. To learn more about internships, consult the Career Center here.
Extracurricular and Volunteer Activities
Employers want to see your ability to work on a team and to lead a project. Involvement in extracurricular and volunteer activities is the most effective way to develop and hone these skills. Meet with your Career Counselor and/or Academic Advisor for more information on volunteer opportunities and extracurricular activities.
Develop Skills and Abilities Associated with Neuroscience
As a Neuroscience major, you not only have the unique opportunity to specialize in the skills needed to research and analyze molecules, genes, memory, movement, sensation, perception, and neurological and psychiatric disorders, but you will use these skills to reveal groundbreaking discoveries that will change the course of human life and development. A neuroscientist uses a plethora of materials from computers to special dyes to examine different units of the brain and nervous system. Mastering these valuable skills will prepare you for the various challenges the field of neuroscience faces.
There are many other skills you will develop as a Neuroscience Major:
- Operating scientific equipment
- Applying biological theories
- Designing experiments and recording results
- Applying scientific concepts to problems
- Reasoning logically to evaluate the effects of phenomena
- Attention to detail
- Reporting results and conclusions orally and in writing
Other skills you will acquire as a JHU student transferable to careers in neuroscience:
- Teach/train others by providing knowledge, insight and help to understand ideas and/or procedures
- Use various forms and styles of written communication
- Use various media to present ideas imaginatively
- Maintain group cooperation and support
- Interact effectively with peers, superiors and subordinates
- Work Independently (Initiative)
- Maintain deadlines and manage time effectively
- Apply curiosity and creativity to projects and small groups/teams
- Organization and Accuracy
- Apply information creatively to specific problems or tasks
- Identify resource materials useful in the solution of a problem
- Organize people and tasks to achieve specific goals
- Take initiative to be proactive and reach goals with minimum external supervision
- Critical Thinking/Analytical Skills
- Create innovative solutions for complex problems
- Analyze the interrelationships of events and ideas from several perspectives
- Appreciate the contributions of science and technology to contemporary society
- Create, imagine and develop new concepts; approach existing elements in new ways and merge abstract ideas to form original solutions to problems
- when making a decision or solving a problem
- Identify a general principle that explains interrelated experiences or factual data
- Assess a course of action in terms of its long-range effects on the general human welfare
- Research and Investigation
- Apply a variety of methods to test the validity of data
- Identify information sources appropriate to special needs or problems
- Formulate questions relevant to clarifying a particular problem, topic or issue
- Navigate various research sites with efficiency and accuracy
Additional skills may be applicable depending on what career path you choose. Schedule an appointment with a Career Counselor to discuss the skills necessary for your individual career plan.
Career Paths for Neuroscience Majors
As a neuroscientist, there are many possible professions and career paths. Conducting advanced research to unravel the many mysteries of how the mind works and develops, why humans feel emotion, and what causes neurological disorders is always a primary emphasis. However, you can also apply your skills towards other professions such as teaching neuroscience, performing neurosurgery, finding medicine to treat neurological disorders, developing advanced computer programs for neurological study, and/or seeking graduate and phD programs. The field of neuroscience also includes studies in biology, chemistry, and physics. Some specific areas of research and study in neuroscience can include:
- Neuroscientists at the molecular level use tools such as antibodies and gene probes to isolate and identify proteins and other molecules responsible for brain function. Molecular biologists isolate and describe the genes that produce the proteins important to neuron function.
- Neuroanatomists study the structure and organization of the nervous system. With special dyes, they detect specific neurotransmitters, and mark neurons and synapses with specific characteristics and functions.
- Developmental neuroscientists study how the brain grows and changes. They define chemicals and processes neurons use to seek out and connect with other neurons and maintain connections.
- Cognitive neuroscientists study functions such as perception and memory in animals by using behavioral methods and other neuroscience techniques. In humans, they use non-invasive brain scans -- such as positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging -- to uncover routes of neural processing that occur during language, problem solving and other tasks.
- Behavioral neuroscientists study the processes underlying behavior in humans and in animals. Their tools include microelectrodes, which measure electrical activity of neurons, and brain scans, which show parts of the brain that are active during activities such as seeing, speaking or remembering.
- Clinical neuroscientists — psychiatrists, neurologists and other medical specialists — use basic research findings to develop diagnostic methods and ways to prevent and treat neurological disorders that affect millions of people.
Advanced computer systems are enabling neuroscientists to devise models of neurons and their connections in the brain -- how humans perform complex tasks. This work may lead to computer programs that understand speech and respond to spoken questions.
As a Neuroscience major, you can explore which career path best illuminates your talents.
Industry Application of Neuroscience Majors
Expert knowledge in the study of the nervous system and brain can be pertinent to various career fields. As a Neuroscience major, your detailed, scrupulous research in cellular and molecular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, and/or cognitive neuroscience will help you develop crucial skills you can apply to several other industries:
Hopkins neuroscience alumni go into a variety of career fields. Since 2003 the Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans 6 months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses in the Post-Graduation Survey of Neuroscience Majors.
Hopkins Alumni in Neuroscience
Additional Alumni Profiles
Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.
For more information on what you can do with a Neuroscience Major go to What can I do with a major in Biological Sciences or What can I do with a major in Psychology.
Want to know more? Read our Hopkins Career Profiles on Medicine, Law & Paralegal, Pharmaceuticals, Scientific Research, and Nonprofit.
If you would like to talk about how your search is going, we invite you to make an appointment with a Career Counselor by calling 410-516-8056.
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The Neuroscience Department at JHU is among the oldest in the United States. The goal of the PhD program is to train doctoral students for independent research and teaching in neuroscience. For information on other top Graduate programs, the best people to talk to are the experts in the field you wish to study such as faculty members and graduate students in that specific discipline. We strongly encourage you to talk with your advisor and/or other faculty members with whom you have a good, working relationship.
The Career Center is here to help you navigate the graduate school search process. Click here for guidelines and preparing for Graduate School and Professional School.
For information on the specific programs, the best people to talk to are the experts in your field you wish to study, faculty members and graduate students in that specific discipline. We strongly encourage you to talk with your advisor and other faculty members with whom you have a good working relationship. This will also help when you request letters of recommendation. The Career Center has a handout to guide you in asking for letters of recommendation.
Involvement with professional associations is a great way to further explore your potential career paths as a Neuroscience major. These groups will not only provide materials and further resources to help you make your career decision, but they also provide essential networking benefits. In addition, many professional associations have student chapters at JHU.