Neuroscientists are highly-skilled professionals who’s research and development not only change lives but save them. Their findings have led to huge changes across the various industries they work in, such as neuroscience, pharmaceutical, clinical sciences and academia.
What is a neuroscientist?
A neuroscientist is someone who deals with neurological issues. Neuroscientists will help diagnose potential issues and research the brain, nervous system and spinal cord. A neuroscientist can also treat those who have suffered head trauma or have suffered from a stroke, epilepsy, motor neurone disease or Alzheimer’s disease and can also help diagnose mental health issues, such as schizophrenia.
While this is typically a medical-based role, neuroscientists are not unknown to work in other areas. There are other neuroscience careers available, you can work in government agencies and pharmaceutical companies and can also work in universities, carrying out research.
Neuroscientists are sometimes misconstrued with neurologists. Though this is one of the many jobs in neuroscience you can look into, a neuroscientist is someone who helps with diagnosis and research. In contrast, a neurologist is someone who actively carries out medical procedures on those with head injuries and is a fully-qualified doctor.
Your responsibilities will depend on your area of specialism. For instance, your responsibilities will likely differ if you specialise in memory research rather than language or injuries.
It is impossible to find a job as a neuroscientist or, indeed any neuroscience jobs, without a degree.
That being said, the most common responsibilities for a neuroscientist are:
- Analyse data.
- Carry out research and experiments.
- Create data modelling principles to chart changes in the brain.
- Ensure you are well-versed in research techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), magnetoencephalography (MEG), near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), positron emission tomography (PET) and transcranial direct-current stimulation (TDCS).
- Liaise with scientific and medical professionals.
- Use brain tissue samples to carry out more complex experiments.
- Use different techniques to image the brain and see how the brain works in specific circumstances.
- Use high-end equipment.
- Use statistical models to carry out research.
You will take on more responsibilities as you move into more senior roles. This will mean managing a team of medical professionals, heading up research projects and liaising with other medical professionals where needed.
Your salary will depend on what your specialism is. If you are a research assistant, you can expect a salary of around £30,000, depending on where you work. Working as a postdoctoral researcher can earn as much as £40,000.
Moving into more senior roles can earn you even more money. More experienced neuroscientists can earn between £50,000 and £60,000 - though like many jobs, your neuroscience salary will depend on where you are working, as pay tends to be better, typically, in London and the surrounding area.
It is impossible to find a job as a neuroscientist or, indeed any neuroscience jobs, without a degree. Some employers will insist that candidates have a postgraduate degree as well. Your degree will need to be in a science-based qualification.
The best subjects to study for a neuroscientist career are:
- Biochemistry degrees
- Biology degrees
- Biomedical sciences degrees
- Chemical engineering degrees
- Pharmacology degrees
- Psychology degrees
- Radiography degrees
It is also helpful to have a separate, but related degree. This could mean having a psychology degree at a postgraduate level and a science-based subject at an undergraduate level. It is common for students to also study a combined degree, generally one unrelated subject with a science-based one.
Finding neuroscience work experience is challenging to come by, but still possible.
For those looking for other subjects that can combine with a science-based degree, the best subjects for a neuroscientist are:
Training and development
Your training and development will likely be handled by the company you are working for. Despite this, you will also be responsible for keeping yourself abreast of developments in the industry, new research techniques and honing your skills.
Several professional and accredited bodies offer training courses for registered members. Institutions such as the British Neuroscience Association (BNA) or the British Association of Cognitive Neuroscience (BACN) will have training courses, networking events and lectures to help those who need it.
Though not necessarily an industry requirement, it is also recommended that neuroscientists complete a continuing professional development (CPD). Your CPD will mean that you are assessed by a fellow neuroscientist, who will evaluate your performance and ensure that you are up-to-date with training.
You may also need to take on new forms of specialised training. This training will focus on new experimental techniques, MRI scanning, and forms of statistical modelling.
There are several key skills needed to become a neuroscientist. As you begin to progress through the ranks, you will also have management responsibilities; this will mean managing a team of neuroscientists, managing budgets and liaising with various other medical departments.
The most common skills needed for a neuroscientist are:
- A logical approach.
- An ability to work with others.
- An interest in the nervous system.
- Brilliant communication skills.
- Critical thinking skills.
- Excellent research skills.
- Excellent team working skills.
- Good organisational skills.
The skills will also be further honed through training and development courses.
Finding neuroscience work experience is challenging to come by, but still possible. Though very difficult at a pre-university level, it is much easier to come by when studying at university. Some universities will have connections to the neuroscience community and will have many ways for you to forge industry contacts.
It is possible to find work through a sandwich course. Though the bulk of the work to find relevant work experience will need to be undertaken by you, your course tutors will be able to help you to find work if needed.
Summer internships are also a good way to find relevant industry work experience. Some large pharmaceutical companies may have internship placements for those who meet the criteria. Voluntary options with local and national charities are also welcome forms of industry experience.
Some universities have also been known to pay students to participate in research experiments on campus. This may mean being a test subject for specific forms of research or even by liaising with other neuroscientists and working together.
Career prospects for a neuroscientist are exceptional as there are lots of different routes to take at any time. You can choose an academic pathway, the medical route or even a more general research role.
A neuroscientist is someone who deals with neurological issues.
A neuroscientist typically starts off in a simple research role in most industries, generally as a neuroscience research assistant. With enough experience, you will then move into management roles, which not only sees you heading up research projects, but also managing teams and liaising with other departments, as well as scientific and medical professionals.
The beauty of a career in neuroscience is that switching roles is far easier than in other industries. Switching from medical-based roles into research roles or education as both can benefit from your years of experience.
There are also other jobs with neuroscience degree to look into. These can be a range of separate jobs such as clinical neuroscientist or other careers in neuroscience, such as neuroimaging jobs, computational neuroscience jobs, neuroscience research jobs or even cognitive neuroscience jobs.