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How Do I Go into Behavioral Neuroscience?

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  • Written By: A. Reed
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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A subfield of psychology, behavioral neuroscience focuses upon biological factors, specifically the brain which affects human behavior. To become a behavioral neuroscientist, you would first need to learn the basic fundamentals of psychology, meaning that earning a bachelor's degree in psychology is essential. Research is at the center of behavioral neuroscience, which requires a graduate degree in the subject or a closely-related field, such as biological psychology, human development, or psychobiology.

As an undergraduate, you will study all of the different areas of psychology, including developmental, biological, social, and cognitive. You'll discover its history and important theories, as well as learn about pathological mental diseases and treatments. In addition to the core subjects, it is essential that you take courses in mathematics and natural sciences, namely biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as anatomy and physiology. ‚Äč

Certain colleges and universities do offer bachelor's degrees in the area of behavioral neuroscience, which studies more of the sciences, particularly chemistry and biochemistry. What route you take depends upon whether you would enjoy more science or more psychology coursework, and your future career plans. Either track will adequately prepare you for graduate school, which is required for entry into the field. Another consideration is that the undergraduate behavioral science degree is highly specialized, while the psychology degree covers a broad field allowing you to keep your options more open. Completing a psychology major along with a minor in behavioral neuroscience is another choice to consider as well.

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One significant hurdle is getting research experience, as it is a requirement for entrance into most graduate programs in neuroscience or any psychology program. Seek out opportunities to be a part of research as early as possible in your undergraduate career, being sure to ask your advisor about special honors programs in your area of interest. Special honors programs consist of students who maintain above-average grade point averages consistently who are permitted to work on a particular research project led by a faculty member. Upon completion, students present findings at a symposium. There are a number of universities that offer special honors programs in neuroscience and psychology.

Though graduate programs, especially those offering a doctorate (Ph.D.) in behavioral neuroscience, are extremely competitive, there are other options for careers in this field. Neuroscience coursework can also be used as a springboard into several careers including medicine. One potential career is becoming a neurologist, a doctor specializing in diagnosing and treating conditions affecting the nervous system.

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