schools for neuroscience in the united states

9 Best Schools for Neuroscience in the United States

If understanding how the brain functions is something that interests you, then a career in neuroscience might be right for you. Earning a degree from one of the best schools for neuroscience in the United States will be instrumental to making a good living in a field as challenging as neuroscience.

In this article, you’ll understand what neuroscience is, the best schools that offer it, and the career options available to you after graduation.

In addition, you’ll learn about the necessary steps you need to take to become a neuroscientist.

So let’s begin by understanding what neuroscience is all about.

But before we begin, you might want to read about the 10 Best Schools For Biology Degree in 2023

What is neuroscience?

Neuroscience, also known as neural science, is the study of the brain, the spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system. It seeks to understand the function of the nervous system and its structure in the human system. Furthermore, it also seeks to figure out how the nervous system develops and how it degenerates.  

The study is focused on two areas: the central nervous system (which is made up of the brain and the spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (which refers to the nerves outside the brain and the spinal cord).

What do neuroscientists do?

Neuroscientists are scientists or researchers who study the nervous system, its structure, and functions. They want to understand how the brain works and its impact on the behavioral and cognitive functions of humans.

As a neuroscientist, you’re charged with knowing what happens to the nervous system when one experiences neurological, psychiatric, or neurodevelopmental disorders.

However, people often mistake neuroscientists for being neurologists. They’re completely different. While a neuroscientist is a scientist who is deep into research about the nervous system, a neurologist is a medical doctor who focuses on diagnosing and treating disorders of the brain and the nervous system.

But you can liken neuroscientists to neurobiologists, as neurobiology only studies the biological aspect of the nervous system, which makes it a part of neuroscience.

Is neuroscience a medical field?

No, neuroscience is a scientific discipline that focuses more on research about the brain, the spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system.

However, there’s a branch of neuroscience called “clinical neuroscience,” which deals more with the medical implementation of neuroscience.

Is there a high demand for neuroscientists?

Neuroscience is a relatively new field, and as such, the demand for neuroscientists isn’t great.

However, a degree in neuroscience could open up diverse career paths for you. You can further your studies to become a neurologist or become a doctor of neuroscience and pursue a career in academia.

Furthermore, very few neuroscientists in the US are well paid. So, if studying the brain is something that interests you, you’re sure to make a good living from it when you eventually get hired.

Related: 10 Good Schools For Forensic Psychology

Best Schools for Neuroscience in the United States

The best 9 schools for neuroscience in the US

According to US News and World Reports, here are the best 9 schools for neuroscience in the United States:

1. Harvard University

Harvard University, a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of the prestigious Ivy League schools. The School has a strong academic reputation in the United States as most of its programs are of world standard.

US News and World Reports ranks it as one of the best neuroscience schools in the United States. They offer both undergraduate and graduate programs. Neuroscience graduates from Harvard University find it really easy to get jobs in the job market.

Visit the school website to learn more.  

2. University of California, San Francisco

If your choice of school for neuroscience is the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), then you’ve made a really, really excellent choice. The public land-grant research university in San Francisco, California, trains students in the concepts and methods of modern neuroscience.

UCSF offers only masters and doctorate neuroscience programs to its students. The neuroscience programs involve laboratory rotations where students are exposed to different fields in neuroscience.

Visit the school website to learn more.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences is on a mission to reverse engineer the brain to understand the mind.

MIT is one of the schools with one of the best neuroscience programs in the United States. It offers two undergraduate and several graduate programs in the field. That’s not all; it also has two world-class research institutes: Picower Institute of Learning and Memory and the McGovern Institute of Brain Research.

The private land-grant research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts provides its students with several opportunities to take part in cutting edge research in the field of neuroscience.

Visit the school website to learn more. 

Read: 10 Best Schools For Public Health

4. Stanford University

Stanford University, a private research university in Stanford, California, has most of its programs, including neuroscience, ranked among the best in the US.

The school offers neurobiology at the undergraduate level and two graduate programs (master’s and doctorate) in neuroscience. The school has a strong reputation for research and prides itself on producing graduates who are expert researchers and innovators in their fields.

Studying neuroscience at Stanford places you far ahead of others and makes you a hot commodity in the job market.

Visit the school website to learn more.

5. Johns Hopkins University

Wherever high academic standards are mentioned, be sure to see Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in the list. JHU offers two degree programs in neuroscience: a BS program and a BS/MS program. The BS/MS program is a five-year BS/MS program in neuroscience that requires students to be involved in one year of intense research and seminars.

JHU is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Visit the school’s website to learn more about its neuroscience programs.

6. Columbia University

Columbia University is a private research university in New York City, New York. It is a member of the Ivy League colleges and has a strong reputation for research and innovation.

Columbia University’s Department of Neuroscience offers various neuroscience programs (both undergraduate and graduate programs). The school is not just recognized for its excellence in medicine; neuroscience is also a world-class program it offers to students.

You can visit the school website to learn more.

Also read: Schooling For Labor And Delivery Nurse: The Best 5 Schools To Attend

7. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia offers two comprehensive ways of attaining a neuroscience degree to its students. You can either go through the Undergraduate Neuroscience program or the Neurobiology Concentration. The latter is a program in the department of Biology, and it offers deep training in the molecular and cellular biology of the nervous system.

UPenn offers both major and minor neuroscience programs. It also has a program for those who wish to combine neuroscience studies with bioscience and healthcare management.

You can visit the school website to learn more.

8. Washington University in St. Louis

With their newly dedicated neuroscience research building, Washington University in St. Louis is bringing over 100 research teams together to solve brain mysteries. Washington University, a private research university with its main campus in St. Louis County and Clayton, Missouri, is among the schools with the best neuroscience programs in the US.

It offers three undergraduate neuroscience majors – the neuroscience track of the biology major, a major in cognitive neuroscience, and the philosophy-neuroscience-psychology (PNP) major. You have to make a choice based on your major interest in the field.

Visit the school website to learn more.

9. University of California, San Diego

The University of California in San Diego sits there as one of the best neuroscience schools in the United States. It offers two graduate degree programs in neuroscience – an MS and a PhD program. Students in these programs have access to over 150 research laboratories where they conduct crucial research about the nervous system.

This public research university has a history of producing great researchers who have global recognition.

You can visit the school’s website to learn more about its neuroscience programs.

Read: 11 Best Schools For Surgical Tech In The US

Can I go to medical school with a neuroscience degree?

Yes, a neuroscience major can provide you with a good background for a career in medicine. As a matter of fact, a good number of neuroscience graduates further their studies by applying to medical school.

What high school subjects do I need to study neuroscience?

The following high school subjects are important prerequisites for you to study neuroscience in college:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Human biology

What skills do you need to be a successful neuroscientist?

Having these skills would help you in your career as a neuroscientist:

  • The ability to use medical and laboratory equipment
  • Critical thinking and decision-making skills
  • Excellent deductive and inductive reasoning skills
  • The ability to see patterns in laboratory arrangements
  • Good knowledge about psychological disorders
  • Strong research and analytical skills
  • Ability to develop testable hypotheses

Where do neuroscientists work?

Neuroscientists work in a range of professional settings. They are mostly seen in research institutes, universities, hospitals, public agencies, and even private organizations.

As a neuroscientist, you can work at a university as a research scientist or even teach in a classroom. You can also work for private pharmaceutical companies and public agencies involved in medical research and sensitization.

Read: The 13 Best Schools For Ultrasound Technology

How much do neuroscientists make in the US?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual wage of a neuroscientist in the US is $127,907.

The lowest 10 percent earn below $50,638, while the highest 10 percent earn more than $168,337.

What are the highest paying Cities for neuroscientists in the US?

According to, these are the highest paying states for neuroscientists in the US, and their average annual wages are:

StatesAverage Annual Wages
Atkinson, NE$168,337
Dimondale, MI$156,012
Cambridge, MA$150,436
New York City, NY$146,410
Lake Marcel-Stillwater, WA$146,373

Is neuroscience a hard major?

Neuroscience is a challenging major, and this is mainly because it involves the core science subjects: mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology.

However, it’s worth the challenges as it’s a very interesting and rewarding field.

What are the steps to becoming a neuroscientist?

To become a neuroscientist, you have to follow these steps:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

This is the first step to becoming a neuroscientist. You have to earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. You can major in neuroscience or biology at this stage. There are schools that offer neuroscience programs at the undergraduate level with a special focus on the structure and functions of the nervous system.

However, neuroscience is a branch of biology, so you can decide to major in biology if your school doesn’t offer neuroscience at the undergraduate level.

Earn a Master’s degree

After your bachelor’s, you now proceed to earn a master’s in neuroscience. At this stage, you can specialize in areas like cognitive neuroscience, developmental neuroscience, translational and clinical neuroscience, computational neuroscience, etc.

This is also the stage where you decide whether to go into research or clinical neuroscience.

Earn a PhD or M.D.

If you choose research neuroscience, you’ll need to go for a PhD at this stage. You’ll be required to choose a specialty and conduct independent research and lab work on a key area of it.

However, if you choose clinical neuroscience, you’d need to attain a doctor of medicine (M.D) degree, attend residency, and pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This enables you to earn the license to diagnose and treat patients in the United States.


Whether you’re looking to study neuroscience as a pre-medical school major, or you actually want to pursue a career in neuroscience, you’ll notice one thing: neuroscience is an interesting field of study.

Furthermore, understanding how the brain, the spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system function can have a positive impact on every other thing you do in life.

I hope you find this article interesting and valuable. And if you do, kindly go on to share it with everyone who you think needs it.

Frequently Asked Questions about schools for neuroscience in the United States

How many years does it take to become a neuroscientist?

It takes approximately eleven (11) years to become a neuroscientist. That’s putting into consideration your three years of major at the undergraduate level, one to two years during your masters, and three to six years for your PhD.

What is the best school for neuroscience in the US?

According to US News and World Report, Harvard University is the best school for neuroscience in the US.

Can you be a neurologist and a neuroscientist?

You can be a neurologist and a neuroscientist if you study neurology in medical school and earn a PhD thereafter. A neurologist is basically a medical doctor with an M.D degree, while a neuroscientist, is a scientist with a PhD in neuroscience.

What’s the difference between neuroscience and psychology?

While it appears they deal with the same issue, they actually approach it from different perspectives. Neuroscience deals with the study of the brain (which is physical in nature), while psychology deals with the study of the mind (which is more abstract in nature).


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