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10 high-paying careers in neuroscience

If you are interested in the biology of the brain, a degree in neuroscience might make sense. It is also a practical choice if earning a healthy wage is a priority. Working in this fascinating field is about more than just cash, however.

Explore the pathways and connections a Central Michigan University neuroscience degree can give you. 

The Pan American Health Organization reports that neurological disorders account for 47.4 deaths per 100,000 in the U.S., the highest rate of any country in the world. Neurological disorders affect the brain and the nervous system and include such debilitating conditions as Parkinson's disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's.

In other words, choosing one of the many careers in neuroscience is a chance to not only make a living but to help others as you rid the world of some of the most devastating diseases. What careers will earn you the most, though?

What is neuroscience?

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, including the brain. Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary career path that works closely with other fields like psychology, linguistics, engineering, computers, mathematics, and medicine.

But neuroscience isn't just about treating disorders of the brain. Neuroscientists study the nervous system at multiple levels, including:

  • Cellular.
  • Functional.
  • Behavioral.
  • Computational.
  • Molecular.
  • Evolutionary.
  • Medical.

That is why there are so many career paths in this field.

Branches of neuroscience

The nervous system is highly complex. For this reason, there are many branches of neuroscience to study it. Each focuses on something specific to the nervous system. Some common branches include:

  • Developmental – Developmental neuroscience focuses on the brain and how it forms and changes over time.
  • Cognitive – Cognitive neuroscience is about functioning. How do people think, speak, and solve problems?
  • Molecular – Molecular neuroscience applies molecular biology concepts to the nervous system. It might be a study of neuroplasticity or molecular neuroanatomy. This field would also focus on neural signaling and other molecular functions of the system.
  • Cellular – Cellular neuroscience studies the nervous system on the cellular level.
  • Neurogenetics – Neurogenetics applies the concepts of genetics to neuroscience. What are the inherited factors of neurons? It would also cover inherited neurological diseases, such as Huntington's.
  • Behavioral – Behavioral neuroscience examines the different areas of the brain and how they function.
  • Clinical – Clinical neuroscience is the study and treatment of neurological diseases, including the treatment and prevention of conditions such as Alzheimer's.
  • Neurophysiology – This is an examination of the physiology of the nervous system. What are the different components, and how does each one tick?
  • Sensory neuroscience – Sensory neuroscience focuses on the senses and how the nervous system works with them.

Each of these branches offers one or more career paths that allow you to make a high salary.

Careers in neuroscience

Consider ten of the most profitable career paths in neuroscience. Most will require an advanced degree in the field.


A neuroscience researcher is a neuroscientist that may work in the academic or public sectors conducting studies to test theories regarding the nervous system and diseases affecting it. Researchers cover a broad field of analysis, performing studies ranging from molecular to cognitive to genetic. They may develop and test drugs for biopharma, as well.


A neurologist is a medical doctor specializing in brain and nervous system diseases. They would obtain an undergraduate degree and then go to medical school. From there, they specialize in the field of neuroscience. This doctor treats neurological diseases medically, not surgically. Their focus is primarily on degenerative diseases, not trauma. For surgical procedures, they would refer the patient to a neurosurgeon.


Neurosurgeons specialize in surgical procedures of the brain and spinal cord. Like neurologists, they go to medical school but specialize in surgery, not clinical treatment. You would see a neurosurgeon if you develop a degenerative disease of the spine or if you suffer an injury affecting the nervous system or brain.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who studies, diagnoses, and treats mental illness. They deal with the behavioral aspects of mental illness, as well as the physical and biological ones. They might offer patients a combination of drug and talk therapy as treatment options for their condition.

Clinical Neuroscientist

Clinical neuroscientists study brain functions as a medical doctor or researcher with the ultimate goal of conducting research. They often perform human or animal research to better understand how the brain works and how diseases affect it.


A biostatistician applies mathematics and statistical analysis to answer questions about medicine or public health. This is a data-driven role rather than a clinical one. However, they might work as part of a research group conducting clinical studies. They would collect the data, analyze it, and then interpret it to form conclusions about the study.

Pharmaceutical Sales

Pharmaceutical sales mean working on the cutting edge of biopharma. They work with a pharmaceutical company to help introduce and educate clinicians about emerging medications. Someone in pharmaceutical sales usually has an advanced degree and may even be a medical doctor.

Speech Pathologist

Speech pathologists help patients with communication disorders. They may be physical disorders such as hearing loss or cognitive like aphasia. You would need an advanced degree in speech-language pathology to enter this field.


Professors teach neuroscience at the undergraduate or graduate level. This role might also involve specialties in the field, like surgery or neurobiology.

Job outlook and demand in neuroscience

As the population continues to age, the demand for professionals in the field of neuroscience will grow. This is because many diseases that affect the brain and nervous system are age-related, like Alzheimer's or other types of dementia. Alzheimer's Disease International estimates that the number of people with dementia will double in the next 20 years. By 2050, it will reach 139 million worldwide.

Alzheimer's is just one of the many diseases impacted by those who work in neuroscience. There are many neurological disorders not related to age that benefit from professionals in the field, such as:

  • Bell's Palsy.
  • Brain Tumors.
  • Epilepsy and seizure disorders.
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
  • Chronic migraine headaches.
  • Meningitis.
  • Muscular dystrophy.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Add to this list the growing number of people of all ages suffering from strokes, concussion disorders, and acute injury, and it becomes clear that this field needs qualified professionals. Neuroscience is also very specialized, so any career path with be rewarding mentally and financially.

Neuroscience is also a career you can build on to improve your options. You might get an undergraduate degree, work as a researcher, and then return for your master's or doctorate. The more education you have in neuroscience, the more money you will likely make.

The key for most people considering their career options is finding a school with the right program. At Central Michigan University, we offer an authentic experience for the real world. There are programs available at many degree levels, with classes on campus or online, depending on the program.

CMU offers a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience, a Master of Science in Neuroscience, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience, all of which will open you up to all the options available to you as a professional in this field. You will gain hands-on experience in research and studying the causes of diseases such as Huntington's, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. With an advanced degree from the Central Michigan University neuroscience program, you could go on to work in laboratory management, medical science, or clinical research.

Contact our Admissions department today to learn more about the neuroscience program that interests you the most. 

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Categories: General Education
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