“I would like to study cognitive science in the USA!” – You would like to study What…?
The first two months of the summer brought students in for consultations who were keenly interested in studying cognitive science, social biology, environmental social science, and web science. Such explosive interest in these interdisciplinary sciences has encouraged me to devote my post to one of them. Today, I would like to talk about cognitive science and discuss some degrees, programs, and career options in this field.
What is the cognitive study?
When I hear the word cognitive science, I immediately imagine a person standing against the background of the surrounding world with an amplified picture of his/her brain and all of its functions. I also see another person looking at the other person’s brain and asking him/herself: “Oh! How does the human mind work? How does the process of cognition and perception of the world happen? What role does language, perception, memory, attention, thinking, emotions play in this?” These are all hard questions, and it is obvious that one scientific discipline alone is unable to reveal all of these complex interactions. Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field that studies the human mind, brain, thoughts, and behavior based on approaches, methods, and knowledge provided by many other disciplines including, but not limited to, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, biology, and education. This field of study is offered at the undergraduate and graduate level.
What courses of study are offered in a cognitive science major?
The sheer amount of disciplines involved in the development and understanding of cognitive science determines the variety of programs and courses offered in different programs. Of course, each university has its own set of subjects and its teaching methods, but any programs we look at surprises us with the variety and abundance of courses available. If we look at just one example provided by the University of California, Berkeley, we will immediately catch this trend. Look at the list options! It is a chock-full of goodies: from more obvious cognitive science-related course names, i.e. method of cognitive development, animal cognition and cognitive neuroscience to dozens of courses related to different fields of study i.e. human happiness, the psychology of sleep, metaphor, the mind behind the musical ear, advanced robots, and the list goes on.
How do students choose from so many options?
No one can embrace the entire world. One should reflect on the options available, think of one’s interests, skills, and future career ideas, and map out a direction of concentration within the field. The choice of specialization will play a crucial part in that process. A student can do that in close cooperation with an academic adviser.
Take a brief look at the websites of University of Pennsylvania and at Cornell University, the to gain some idea about lists of courses, credits and units requirements, as well as examples of course distribution based on different tracks and concentrations.
What undergraduate degrees are offered in cognitive science?
There are two-degree options in Cognitive Science: a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). What is the difference? If we flip through dozens of websites of different universities, we will not find descriptions of the types of degrees that would give a strictly limited list of courses required to obtain B.A. or B.S. Obtaining either degree depends on the particular school’s requirements, specializations and types of programs: course offerings vary from university to university. Generally speaking, the B.A. degree in some schools has fewer mathematics classes and less emphasis on computer science. Read about two degrees and examples taken from different schools to get some first-hand examples.
Is cognitive science STEM?
STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. At first glance, cognitive science does not fall under the “classical” STEM category, as it is a multidisciplinary science encompassing STEM and non-STEM fields of study. At the same time, it has been included in the STEM Designated Degree Program.
So, if we look at the “hard science” part of the cognitive science discipline, i.e. computer science and neuroscience, we can categorize cognitive science as a STEM-related major, but if we look at its “humanitarian” component, i.e. philosophy and education, its attribution as a STEM discipline is no longer obvious. The chosen direction, specialization, or concentration within cognitive science is of great importance as to whether it can be considered STEM or non-STEM. Of course, given the diversified essence of cognitive science, the exact answer to the question could be found only by contacting the particular program and school representatives.
Where can I find cognitive science courses within the schools?
Cognitive science programs use a wide range of all available school resources (professors, research, equipment, courses). The multidisciplinary nature of this science is reflected both in the diverse nature of the proposed programs and in their distribution among departments within universities. In different universities, different departments offer these programs. For example:
- At Indiana University, Bloomington, the cognitive science program is offered by the College of Arts and Sciences.
- At the University of California, Mercedes the undergraduate majors in cognitive science are administered by the Cognitive & Information Sciences (CIS) Department.
- At the University of Arizona, cognitive science is housed in the School of Mind, Brain, and Behavior.
What are some programs names in the cognitive science discipline?
The names of the programs, as well as their focus, are capturing the imagination! Communication Sciences and Disorders (U. of Florida), Child Development (Ashford U.), Computer and Cognitive Science (UPenn), to name just a few. Other examples of cognitive science programs as well as the schools that offer them can be found here. Anyone who wants to study this science and in some specific specialization will find a program that meets his or her interests and needs.
What can students do with cognitive science degree?
The availability of a variety of universities, programs, courses, acquired skills enable the graduates of the programs to work in different fields, to show their abilities in different professions, and to build their professional pursuits along different career paths. In addition to many factors, the chosen concentration within the area will greatly influence the further choice of career directions. There are some things that most of the graduates in cognitive science have, which includes a wide scope of interests in many different areas, strong research skills, the ability to collect and compare data, a multifaceted problem-solving capability, and the flexibility to adjust to changes. These are qualities and skills that employers are looking for. Look at the University of California at San Diego website and the website at the Yale University. Although these are just two particular examples, they will give you an idea of some graduate careers as well as the industries in which you can find the best application of your knowledge and skills.
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