Should I major in Neuroscience?

I just started my first year of college, currently for a major in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Neuroscience.

First off, I want to ask, is it possible for me to get an undergraduate degree in something other than Neuroscience and than go to grad school for Neuroscience?

The reason I’m asking this question is because neuroscience is probably what I’m most passionate about but I don’t want to get an undergraduate degree and be stuck having to go to grad. school before I can do anything useful with the degree. I’d rather get an undergraduate major that will give me the option of doing something I like with it right away and then choosing whether or not to go to grad school based on if I want to continue schooling and if I have enough money to do so (or if I can get enough scholarships, basically).

Also, what are some other majors I should be considering that will give me the option of working with the brain in one way or another? (For instance, I know that at my college, the University of Minnesota, there is a professor in biomedical engineering that has made a drone that you can fly with your mind in the most basic terms)

In the end, I would most love to do something that connects the brain to technology and develop different technologies that effect the brain in some way. I’d also love to do research for the brain and study different diseases and how they effect the brain and also just how the brain works etc. I literally love everything that surrounds the brain and the main reason I originally picked Chemical Engineering was because I visited UVa and in the lab they were doing something with Alzheimer (which effects the brain) and I was like that is super cool, I want to do something like that.

Any help at all will be much appreciated! Thank you!

If you’re interested in human-computer interaction or neural-machine interfaces, you could also study computer science, electrical engineering, or mechanical engineering. These would all allow you careers in themselves while also giving you the option of grad school.

  1. You can major in something else and go to graduate school for neuroscience IF you take enough of the prerequisites in neuroscience to be competitive for the degree. However, the number of classes you have to take will probably be close to if not equivalent to a major, so you might as well major in it. Those who are most competitive for a PhD in neuroscience will have taken a lot of significant coursework in it in undergrad.

  2. You can still have a career straight out of undergrad with a major in neuroscience. You might not be able to do anything in neuroscience, but people with majors other than engineering and computer science get jobs straight from college all the time. You just have to be a bit more imaginative about what you might do, and make sure that you get some good experience that makes you stand out - learning skills (coding, writing, presenting, etc.) and getting internships or part-time jobs that make people want to hire you.

  3. Biology and psychology are other obvious majors, as is biomedical engineering. Cognitive science is another. However, the major you choose depends on what you want to do with the brain. If you want to engineer biomedical solutions to brain damage, a psychology major isn’t best, for example.

Something that connects the brain to technology sounds a lot like biomedical engineering, neuroscience, and/or cognitive science. There’s also the possibility of double majoring in neuroscience and computer science, or majoring in one and minoring in the other. (In fact, that really sounds like the best combination for your interests.)

Thank you for the answers!

  1. I just looked up how to apply for the Dept. of Neuroscience at my university, and it doesn’t say anything about pre-req classes, just that I need to take the GRE (as well as do undergrad research and have a certain gpa etc). I will have to talk to an academic adviser and ask about it.

  2. I think that if I were to complete school after getting my undergraduate degree and I couldn’t work with the brain, I would probably like to do something in chemistry or engineering. I just don’t see the point of majoring in neuroscience if I won’t be able to work directly in it after finishing the major.

  3. Do you think it would be crazy if I were to double major in computer science and neuroscience? Looking at the 4 year plans of both, almost none of the classes overlap, and they’re also in different colleges in the university (CSE and CBS) which hopefully wouldn’t be a problem. I’m also not sure how much I like CS. I mean, I enjoy some basic CS, and I took AP CS in high school and got a 5 on that test, but I don’t really think in CS terms, I enjoy more chemistry and physics. Maybe I could do biomed engineering and neuroscience double major which might overlap a little bit more but still sounds like a crazy amount of work.

Also, I just discovered a thing called neuroengineering, which I don’t think is actually a major but a focus mostly within the biomedical engineers so maybe I should look more closely into that.

  1. By prerequisites, I don’t mean actual required courses necessarily (although some programs might have those). I mean courses that make you competitive for a program. For example, a sociology major with no biology or psychology classes will probably not be competitive for a PhD in neuroscience. A psychology major with little experience in biology won’t be as competitive as a psych major with more bio. There’s often a gap between what’s required and what actually makes you a competitive candidate for a good program.

  2. There’s not a whole lot of direct work in chemistry that you can do with a BA in chemistry, either. Engineering is, of course, a different story.

  3. No, I don’t think that’s crazy. It might be quite a lot of work, and could be impossible at your university depending on the course schedule. I’d talk to professors and/or advisors in both departments. ALSO, most colleges have the option for students to design their own major, usually in consultation with two professors. You could, potentially, design your own major in computational neuroscience or neuroengineering or whatever you want to call it - with elements from computer science and neuroscience. (Or you could major in CS and minor in neuroscience, and that would be enough for grad school in neuroscience - many NS programs are reaching out to students in STEM fields that interact with NS, as long as they have some background in NS.)