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what can i do with a phd in neuroscience?

isnwtaisnwta Posts: 195Registered User Junior Member
edited April 2009 in Graduate School
pardon me first if this sounds stupid,,i am just a freshman. I am thinking of majoring in biology/biochem as an undergrad,,but i am interested in neuroscience as well. I want to pursue it in Graduate Degree as well (pHd). But I am just curious about the career options with a phd in neuroscience that can earn a fairly decent amount. Thanks
Post edited by isnwta on

Replies to: what can i do with a phd in neuroscience?

  • vonlostvonlost Posts: 13,747Super Moderator Senior Member
    That makes me wonder if my answer is stupid: Work on a cure for Parkinson's or MS?
  • ticklemepinkticklemepink Posts: 2,764Registered User Senior Member
    Well if you're asking yourself what can you do with a PhD in neuroscience, then why even both thinking about graduate school?
  • BearsBeetsBSGBearsBeetsBSG Posts: 86Registered User Junior Member
    Agreed. If you don't know why you're getting a PhD, chances are you shouldn't be getting one. But to answer your question, you can do research. What does the PhD get you? Much more control over what that research is. Also, if your goal is to find a high paying job, chances are research isn't for you. If by fairly decent you just meant comfortably middle class, then just about any job requiring a PhD will get you there. There are other options other than research, but then nueroscience would no longer be the focus.

    My suggestion: Figure out what you want to do first, then see if a PhD is right for you.
  • belevittbelevitt Posts: 2,005Registered User Senior Member
    Huh I don't think I understand what you mean ticklemepink...

    The OPs question about high paying career options in neuroscience with a Phd can probably be answered by a google search but for the sake of redundancy, I will answer them here. Neuroscience, like many biomedical science Phd's lead towards degrees in research. While this career track can lead to careers that "earn a fairly decent amount" they take an enormous amount of effort to do so. Positions as a professor (asst, assoc and full) are difficult to get and require a Phd + one to two postdocs, however the average salary for these are in the six figure range (80-150K per annum). However, the salary during a Phd is 26-31K per year and the salary during a postdoc is 40-60K per year. There are a lot of years of unimpressive earnings before you could be a tenure-track faculty member. Alternatively, there are many opportunities in industry that pay especially well (100K and up) right out of the first postdoc.

    This really ins't a career that people choose for its earning potential, it is a career that is built around the passion to discover new ideas and improve the health of people around the world.

    After one obtains tenure, they are making substantial money and have the opportunity to become a member of a scientific advisory board and potentially a member of a board of directors. These are the positions where people make several hundred thousand to millions of dollars a year. But make no mistake, most people never make it to these positions.
  • mtlvemtlve Posts: 136Registered User Junior Member
    As others said, phds typically do not make much. Phds that go to industry make a lot more, but I am not sure how the market is for neuro.

    If you have an endless passion for understanding how things work and a desire to spend years studying a specific thing, consider this field. But you have to be comfortable with just living comfortably and not making the big months. If you want money, you are better off considering medicine or someother field.
  • jmleadpipejmleadpipe Posts: 628Registered User Member
    Although neuroscientists do more than research these two particular diseases, I've heard it's an exciting time to be doing research on both conditions. Huge strides have been made in the last decade in controlling both illnesses. Exciting stuff.
  • ParAlumParAlum Posts: 439Registered User Member
    A doctorate is about having a passion for research. There are many different ways and career paths to pursue research. I strongly recommend that you volunteer in a research lab this summer or next year. There is no better way to discover what research is and if you are suited to such a career than trying it out!
  • jessiehljessiehl Posts: 3,328Registered User Senior Member
    Phds that go to industry make a lot more, but I am not sure how the market is for neuro.

    Depending on what area of neuro one is working in, there are plenty of neuro jobs in biotech.
  • Badjuju270Badjuju270 Posts: 43Registered User Junior Member
    I would think someone with a medical degree and an undergrad in neuro would be more qualified to do research in neuro. Look into a school that lets you get your med. degree and masters simultaneously.

    (disclosure: I know less than jack about the medical field)
  • apumicapumic Posts: 1,529Registered User Senior Member
    Badjuju, a medical degree (i.e., MD/DO) is an applied degree and the training is focused much more broadly. Someone with an MD/PhD would be well-qualified for research in the medical areas of neuro, but it makes little sense to pursue an 8-year degree unless the OP is sure that this double-doctorate is necessary to reach his/her goals.
    In terms of research itself, the PhD is sort of the gold standard for entry into research in a given field, including neuro.

    The OP should know there are a number of different paths of neuroscience. There is the neurobiology path, where you'd be looking primarily at the biological underpinnings of the CNS. In my understanding, neuroscientists with a background in biology often research the lowest level functions. Another path you can take at the PhD level is the cognitive neuropsychology path, which deals more with what happens from the side of human experience when a certain part of the CNS is damaged or changed in some way. These researchers deal with issues primarily related to function of the anatomical structures of the brain. Areas of study here include such things as cases of neglect and the "2nd impact syndrome" (answers questions related to a phenomenon where if an individual receives a significant blow the head, there may not be any symptoms following that blow; however, if that person receives a second blow, even one that is fairly light and would otherwise not be a cause for concern, within a relatively short period of time -- i.e., a few weeks -- the person could have very severe swelling of the brain that results in almost certain disability and quite often death.
    Further down the clinical trail, you could go into neurology (with an MD, so 4 years + residency and $200-300k/yr salary, although med school costs ~$150-200k) or you could do clinical neuropsychology (PhD -- 5-6 yrs; PhDs are generally "free," btw), which starts at about $95-100k/yr (average) and requires a single 2-year post-doc (during which pay is typically around $35k/yr). This career path generally involves a lot of assessment and collaboration with MDs as well as similar research areas to a cognitive neuropsychologist.
  • belevittbelevitt Posts: 2,005Registered User Senior Member
    2-year post-doc (during which pay is typically around $35k/yr)

    Fortunately this salary level is substantially lower than the averages and even the minimums set by the NIH for postdocs. For comparison the minimum grad student stipend set by the NIH is 20,900. Who gets paid the minimum?
    NOT-OD-09-075: Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Stipend and Other Budgetary Levels Effective for Fiscal Year 2009

    Averages for postdoc across the whole country in industry is 55K and in government is slightly less. This doesn't include the substantial increases that accompany being termed "instructor" or "research associate" instead of postdoc.
    PayScale - Postdoctoral Research Associate Salary, Average Salaries
    PayScale - Postdoctoral Research Associate Salary, Average Salaries
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