Oh! The Places You’ll Go in the World of Neuroscience

By Amy Than

Neuroscience is very interdisciplinary! Here is an incomplete list of careers that folks who are passionate about the study of the nervous system tend to excel in. These jobs also have subcategories depending on the sub-field of neuroscience you choose to pursue. They also come with varying responsibilities, credentials, and degrees of expertise. Have one that you think we are missing or would like to share your personal experience in? Let us know in the comments or email us at knowingneurons@gmail.com!

Research and Knowledge Economy:

  • Professor (Principle Investigator)
    • manage a lab and mentor team(s) of scientists, postdocs, technicians, students
    • propose and conduct research projects supported by private and/or public funding agencies
    • write and review research articles
    • teach undergraduate students, graduate students and medical students
  • Research Scientist, Technician, Lab Manager
    • design and conduct experiments under the supervision of a principle investigator
    • manage projects, mentor junior researchers, and oversee safety protocols
    • write research articles
    • Note: job description varies based on the lab and whether it is within an academic or industry setting
  • Instructor, Lecturer, Guest Lecturer
    • teach for undergraduate, graduate, continuing education, non profit, and hospital programs
    • Note: May also conduct research
  • Dean/Chair
    • usually a tenured professor who oversees an undergraduate or graduate neuroscience program at a university
    • manage instruction quality, monitor integrity, confer degrees
    • oversee student recruitment, admission, and academic progress
    • serve as a liaison between faculty and students
    • Note: may also teach and conduct research
  • Primary/Secondary School Teacher
    • teach K-12 students on topics ranging from general science to introductory neuroscience
    • Note: may also advise neuroscience student organizations
  • Program Coordinator/Advisor
    • Within a university
      • organize and host neuroscience student recruitment, programming, and career development events
      • provide support regarding funding, career exploration, interpersonal matters in the lab, course enrollment, and community building
      • serve as a liaison between students, dean, and faculty
    • Within a youth education center
      • organize and host neuroscience workshops for youth
      • promote interest in neuroscience research and foster pipelines for higher education
    • Within a non-profit
      • organize and host neuroscience workshops for the public
      • communicate organizational efforts and advancements in neuroscience

Creative Sector:

  • Graphic Designer
    • produce scientific conceptual figures for audiences with varying levels of understanding of neuroscience
    • work for advertising companies, design firms, magazines and newspapers, and on the Web
    • work closely with art directors and clients to plan, design, and produce original artwork for use within an advertising or branding campaign
    • communicate neuroscience using softwares such as Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, GIMP, TinkerCAD, Maya, Clara.io, Cerello, and many more
  • Web Designer
    • create and maintain online scientific education material for organizations such as NIH, Scitable, university science centers, startup companies, and research labs
  • Media Science Consultant
    • fact-check and bring credibility to production of TV shows, movies, books, etc. on topics related to neuroscience
  • Artist
    • create art pieces of varying mediums and curate aesthetic experiences that represent or draw inspiration from neuroscience
    • create something interesting, unique or functional for use as an advertisement or product packaging, for sale or exhibition, or just to entertain
    • use visual techniques, such as composition, color, space, and perspective, to produce desired artistic effects
  • Toy Designer
    • design and create toys that either aid in neuroscience education, brain development, or can be used for neurological therapy
    • Example: fidget spinners for people with attention deficits, slime/goo for folks with sensory dysregulation disorders, and model brains to teach neuroanatomy
  • Musician/Instructor
    • compose, perform, teach, or study the neuroscience of hearing in the context of music
  • Screenplay Writer
    • create the blueprint and details of a script based on concepts or ideas related to neuroscience.
    • with particular attention to the storyline and target audience, develop screenplay that could be translated into cinematic production
  • Web Designer, Artist, and/or Writer for any neuroscience organization
    • you could be writing this!
    • create written articles, media content, or newsletters about the interesting and important topics within the scope of neuroscience

Writing and Publishing:

  • Writer
    • propose and secure funding for neuroscience research on behalf of a research organization
    • write manuscripts/grants/posters/etc. for the research teams within pharma/biotech/academia/medical affairs
    • stay up to date with current research trends and funding opportunities
  • Scientific Journal Editor
    • ensure that articles and manuscripts published in neuroscience-related journals follow proper publishing guidelines
    • serve as a liaison between the author(s) and the audience
    • fact-check claims made in submitted articles
    • some journals include: Neuron, Cell, Nature, Science, and Nature Neuroscience
  • Scientific Journalist/Blogger/Columnist
    • report neuroscientific findings or disseminate general information about the central nervous system to the general public
    • write informative, accessible, and often entertaining summaries of research articles
    • simplify complex ideas without losing informational accuracy of information
    • may conduct interviews, record podcasts, and create infographics
  • Writer (Scientific)
    • write and publish novels, textbooks, experimental protocols, and research articles related to neuroscience or neuroscientists
  • Writer (Creative)
    • write and publish novels related to neuroscience or neuroscientists for general public
    • may write for various audiences ranging from children and adults to neuroscientists and health care professionals
  • Science Book Publisher
    • manage the design, editing, and production process of scientific books
    • work closely with writers, editors, and printers to distribute written works related to neuroscience
    • write and execute contracts with publishing company staff recruit writers

Healthcare:

  • Clinical Psychologist/Neuropsychologist
    • evaluate, treat, and diagnose mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders
    • implement interventions, counseling, and treatment for neurodevelopmental and neurological disorders
    • Note: May also conduct research
  • Physician (Doctor of Medicine [MD] or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine [DO])
    • manage and treat medical conditions related to neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, histopathology (tissues) ophthalmology (vision), otology/neurotology (ears)
    • Note: may also conduct research (MD-PhD)
  • Nurse/Nurse Practitioner/Physician’s Assistant
    • provide direct care and manage patient cases in clinical settings and hospital departments such as neurology, neuro-oncology, pediatric neurology and many others
  • Speech and Language Therapist
    • prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social-communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders
    • use alternative and augmentative means of communication to support individuals with complex communication needs
    • support neurological patients with neurodevelopmental disorders, and their families
    • serve as a liaison between patients and neurologists in diagnosing and treating nerve damage presenting as speech changes
  • Neuro-occupational/Physical Therapist
    • provide rehabilitative neurological care and support patients’ physical, social, and emotional well-being
    • manage symptoms of neurological or neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Nutritionist
    • consult and help manage diet from the perspective of the interaction between food, neurochemistry, neurobiology, behavior, and cognition
    • assess and treat nutritional needs of patients with neurological disorders
  • Social Worker
    • provide individuals, groups, and families with resources, therapy, and evidence-based strategies to overcome difficult social circumstances
    • prevent and treat addictive behaviors through counseling and community building within medical or rehabilitative settings
  • Clinical Researcher
    • conduct research to advance knowledge and enhance treatment of disorders related to neuroscience
    • could range in scope of patient care going from data analysis to population studies
  • Pharmacist
    • store, handle, prepare, and dispense various drugs with a specialization in neurological drugs
    • provide patients with pharmacological information
    • monitor drug therapy plans
    • detect therapeutic incompatibilities
  • MRI/fMRI Technician
    • operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to take highly detailed images of patients’ brains for patient care and/or research needs
    • interact with patients to ensure their safety and comfort throughout the scan
  • EEG Technician
    • apply electrodes to a patient’s scalp, connected to the EEG machine by wires
    • collect brain wave recordings for neuroscience researchers
    • work in a clinical setting (e.g., observing people while they sleep to test for abnormal brain activity while sleeping)
  • Biostatistician
    • employ statistical modeling and analysis to study population differences in brain systems or behaviors
    • conduct clinical trials, surveys, case studies, and data analysis on questions regarding the nervous system
  • Neuroepidemiologist
    • study the frequency, occurrence, distribution, and determinants of disease affecting the nervous system
    • support research-driven community efforts to improve local and global neural health
  • Medical Forensic Scientist
    • present psychological and neuropsychological assessment data at legal proceedings
    • answer forensic questions regarding emotion, cognition, and behavior
  • Biotechnologist
    • develop technology to treat or manage neurological disorders; specializations include pharmacology, neuroprosthetics, artificial intelligence, genetically engineered organs, and brain-computer interfaces
  • Technician for Other Neurological procedures
    • operate devices and assist in neurological care/research procedures such as deep brain stimulation, genetic counseling, auditory implants, Botox injections, concussion testing, spinal cord rehabilitation, palliative care, neurogenic bladder/bowel management and others
  • Radiation Physicist
    • maintain proper calibration, operation, and dosage of radiation equipment most commonly used to target tumors
    • collaborate with oncology health care professionals to develop radiation treatment plans and schedules
    • Note: may also work in nuclear power plant industries to monitor radioactive equipment as well as in research to study the effects of radiation on the human brain
  • Hospital Administrator or Coordinator
    • plan departmental activities, evaluate doctors and other hospital employees
    • create and maintain hospital policies
    • develop procedures for medical treatments, quality assurance, patient services, and public relations activities such as active participation in fund-raising and community health planning
  • Veterinarian/Veterinary Neurologist
    • treat diseases of the nervous system in non-human animals
    • treat common health problems such as epilepsy, herniated disks, autoimmune diseases, spinal and head injuries, meningitis, and cancers of the nervous system
  • Global Health Advocate/Coordinator
    • manage clinical research projects on global health efforts related to neurological diseases; can be based abroad, in developing nations, or at the Centers for Disease Control
    • collect, analyze, and/or report global health data on neurological health organizations include the UN, NGOs, MSF, OXFAM, USAID, World Bank

Medical/Regulatory Affairs:

  • Sales Representative/Marketing Specialist
    • represent and market devices and medicines that address neurological health care issues to the public, technology investors, and health care providers
    • establish and maintain business relationships with health care providers, researchers, and product developers
    • service customers, manage orders, organize meetings, and further the company’s goals in promotion and sales
  • Medical Science Liaison
    • establish and maintain relationships with leading physicians, researchers, and clinicians
    • help ensure that products are used effectively using advanced scientific training and communication skills
    • keep abreast of the latest neuroscience or specialized research and share information on new developments with physicians and clinicians in their areas of expertise
    • acts as the center of communication between pharmaceutical/biotech companies and clinicians
    • Note: often concentrates on a specific therapeutic area or disease state
  • Regulatory Affairs Specialist
    • write and facilitate regulatory submissions and other technical papers (such as clinical trial applications, IRB and IDE submissions, and 510(k)) applications related to a company’s device or service
    • monitor newly published FDA guidelines and international guidance documents
    • ensures all aspects of pharma/biotech (marketing, clinical trials, sales, etc) are in line with governmental regulations
    • Collaborate with the other team members on technical manuscripts and academic articles

Entrepreneurship, Business, and Law:

  • Funding Manager
    • manage fiscal responsibilities of a neuroscience lab
    • handle administrative duties related to government and private funding
    • provide financial resources and ensure proper payroll logistics for staff
  • Neuroeconomist/People Scientist/Behavioral Analytics Partner/Marketing or Advertising Consultant
    • analyze psychological trends in consumer behavior and advise businesses on economic choices
    • collaborate with partners and stakeholders to gain insight into consumer behavior trends
    • collect and analyze data to inform business executives about predictive outcomes related to hiring, productivity, and engagement
    • align research findings to business priorities while taking a customer-focused mindset
  • Chief-Scientific Officer (CSO)/ Executive Director at a Private Company, Non-profit Foundation, Government Institution, or Academic Program
    • evaluate and set scientific priorities for the organization, coordinate the administrative structure that supports scientists
    • communicate with the scientific and customer communities concerning capabilities and scientific product offerings
    • manage daily technological operations
    • oversee new employee training programs
  • Neuroscience Consultant
    • provide expert advice and recommendations in any and all aspects of neuroscience to a company or organization
  • Spokesperson for a Neuroscience-Related Company
    • educate the public on research going on within the company
    • promote a neuroscience-related treatment, medicine, or technology to people with and without knowledge of the field
  • Patent Lawyer
    • draft patent applications and secure intellectual property rights for neurobiological techniques or products
    • verify novelty in inventions and produce detailed legal description for patent applications
    • submit, defend, and negotiate licensing and royalty agreements
    • provide legal advice to developers, researchers, and health care providers within the scope of neuroscience
    • Note: General Intellectual Property Lawyers work with copyrights and trademarks along with patents
  • Lawyer
    • advise and legally represent clients with specialization in neurodegenerative disease cases, child development, and related matters
    • interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses
    • serve as a liaison between defendants, court authorities, and expert witnesses
  • Expert Witness
    • serve as a neutral expert in neuroscience or neurology for cases pertaining to neuroscience, neurology, neurotics, and more.
    • give unbiased and accurate professional opinion to the tribunal or court on particular matters in dispute
  • Lobbyist
    • advise lawmakers with information and resources with a specialization in neuroscience
    • influence legislation on the federal, state, or local level on behalf of clients
  • Librarian
    • advise students with information and resources with a specialization in neuroscience
    • collect, organize, and issue library resources such as books, films, and audio files
    • serve as experts in finding, selecting, circulating and organizing information
    • navigate, and analyze large amounts of information
  • Venture Capital Associate
    • source new deals and support existing investments of neuroscience-related venture capital firms (ie. companies that provide funding to other startup companies and small business)
    • produce initial analytics that lead a firm to pursue or reject a deal
  • Founder/Entrepreneur
    • manage a biotech/neuroscience-related company’s overall operations
    • delegate and direct agendas, drive profitability, manage company organizational structure, and communicate with company board of directors to meet short and long term goals

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…
-Dr. Seuss

–With thanks to Princeton Neuroscience Institute’s “What can you do with a degree in neuroscience?”

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Written by Amy Than
Illustrated by Sumana Shrestha
Edited by Melis Cakar, Arielle Hogan, Shiri Spitz Siddiqi, Gil Torten, and Lauren Wagner

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