Neuroscience is a challenging discipline, and the skills needed to pursue a degree in the field are numerous. First and perhaps most important is an aptitude for math and science. Degree candidates should also have an interest in cellular research and an ability to work well independently. Strong organization skills, academic diligence, and steady concentration are also usually required.
There are several different kinds of neuroscience degrees, and each has its own specific requirements. The most basic neuroscience degree is a bachelor’s degree, which is marked by broad survey courses and research. Master’s and doctorate level degree programs are often designed with more nuanced research in mind. Every neuroscience degree has at its core an intense study of cells and the science of the human nervous system, however, and the skills needed to complete each are related.
One of the most important skills any neuroscience degree candidate must possess is academic strength in science in math. Required neuroscience courses typically include chemistry, calculus, and physics, along with molecular and cellular biology. Students who have natural aptitude for grasping complex calculations and scientific principles are generally happiest in neuroscience degree programs.
An ability to recall and absorb a significant amount of information quickly is always an asset, as well. Classes usually move through a lot of material at a relatively quick pace, and advanced classes usually require a firm foundational knowledge of the basics. As such, succeeding on tests and exams is not the only requirement: students must also remember lessons learned.
Candidates must generally balance rigorous schedules with both lectures and labs, which makes organization and time management skills essential. Moreover, degree requirements usually mandate that students' schedules contain several intense, challenging courses concurrently. Making time for outside interests amidst these demands can be challenging.
The majority of neuroscience degree programs are based at least in part on independent research. This is particularly true of graduate-level studies. Students must usually devise their own intensive projects, a task that requires a lot of creativity, a strong grasp of existing knowledge, and the tenacity to see research through from start to finish.
Most projects are designed to be long-term, spanning at least a semester — and often several years. Succeeding in independent research requires strong motivation and self-discipline, as well as an ability to work well without constant supervision. Students must also be able to deal with setbacks and research failings, including modifying projects midway through.
Many of the skills required for success in school translate to success in neuroscience careers. A neuroscientist must be able to recall vast amounts of dense material quickly while conducting research and juggling multiple job responsibilities. As with many careers, the skills needed to get started are also the skills needed to find fulfillment along the way.