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What is the best/worst part of being a neuroscientist?

I'm planning to major in neuroscience, and I'm curious what people think the best part of being a neuroscientist is. However, I am also curious what people think the worst part is, because nothing is perfect. There are always bits people don't like - for anything, not just neuroscience - and those can be just as telling as what they do like.

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi, Kathryn

Accoding to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*, University of Washington, the

Pros of a Career as a Neuroscientist:

  • Intellectually engaging work (the work of neuroscientists requires a very wide range of mental faculties)
  • Socially valuable work (neuroscientists spend their days investigating and trying to resolve health problems that affect millions of people)*
  • Growing field (Employment growth projected at 13% between 2012 and 2022)
  • Opportunities for high salary (Scientists who worked at pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies earned a median wage of about $93,000 in May 2012)
  • Job stability (a neuroscientist with tenure at universities essentially has a job for life barring extreme circumstances, such as criminal conduct).

Cons of a Career as a Neuroscientist:

  • High barriers to entry (the work of neuroscientists typically requires them to have attained at least a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), in addition to relevant licensure)
  • Neuroscientists are often required to work with potentially dangerous biological samples
  • Neuroscientists often must compete with other scientists and researchers for funding that, depending on the economy and government budget situations, is sometimes scarce
  • Neuroscientists without tenure must depend on grants for job security


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Alejandra’s Answer

Hello Kathryn!

I majored in Neuroscience from Boston University, and I worked as a neurobio researcher for two years as a Research Assistant, which led me to have two neuroscience publications. Whether you like working in neuroscience has more to do with your personality and less to do with the actual work, I suggest keeping that in mind when picking a career or thinking ahead! To answer your question, here are the pros and cons that I felt when being a neuroscientist in a neurobio lab:

a. You can work relatively autonomously- Once you get the routine down on chemicals and dissecting ( I dissected ant brains), the job becomes more about managing the scientific process and working with your boss on ideas as to why you're seeing what you're seeing
b. You are discovering unknown information- This was my favorite part about working in neuroscience. The field is ripe for discovery because we are just now getting the technology that allows us to look at brains without destroying them in the process (can't study something if you slice through it), so getting published and discovering new information is at your fingertips! and very exciting to look and discover new things that nobody has ever seen
c. Academic setting- Now that I work in a corporate environment, I think back to how amazing it was to work amongst academics. Everyone is knowledgeable, and they value you for the thoughts and ideas you bring to the table. Of course, not all jobs are like this, but a good job is. Working in academia, this is more or less the standard, and it's an enjoyable process to experience.

a. Pay is low- Not everyone will get paid low, but if you work as a neuroscience researcher, the pay comes more in being published, speaking engagements, and where you could potentially take this talent next. Actually getting paid to do neuroscience research is not as high as potentially other jobs, but it can be worth it if you value education, autonomy, and the ability to study the unknown.
b. Work is slow- it takes time to discover new things, and sometimes you think you'll be doing something right only to realize you messed up along the way and all your work for the last 5 months is ruined. Patience is key in research, and some people's personalities may not mesh well with the progress that can take many years to experience
c. Growth- While you can stay a researcher only forever, you may want to go back to school and get more titles to earn higher pay and more control over projects. If you're not looking to expand into academia, I felt like there was little space to grow, and ultimately is why I left my career as a neuroscientist.

I hope that was helpful! Ultimately I loved studying and working in neuroscience, and I would not do it another way. It taught me a lot about self-management, what knowledge is, and the power we have in all of us to discover the unknown. Good luck!!