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Is cognitive science a good major?

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Things you can consider for this specific question...

What is cognitive science?
What can you do with a major in cognitive science?
If you majored in cognitive science, what kind of work do you do?
Is there a lot of opportunity in the field of cognitive science?

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Ken’s Answer

This really depends on you and how the area of cognitive science matches with you personality traits. This is a very broad area, and possibility of placing yourself in the appropriate application will depend on getting to know yourself and the field better.


Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many .

Ken recommends the following next steps:

The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.
Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##
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Conner’s Answer

Hi - I graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with an undergrad BS in Cognitive Science (2015). As part of my studies, I was able to work in a research lab and assist PhD graduate students with their studies, including conducting literature reviews, running interviews for research plans, and more. I've worked with Google, for Lyft, freelanced as a user researcher, and am now at Twitter.

Cognitive Science is a great major, because there are many different fields you're able to focus on - linguistics, human computer interaction (HCI), psychology, anthropology, artificial intelligence, philosophy, or a combination of these. Most of my peers that studied linguistics, HCI, and psychology went to graduate school for a masters or PhD.

My focus was within HCI and anthropology, and with this, most of the larger technology companies like Google, Twitter, Apple, Amazon have job opportunities that cater to people with this background. The job titles are usually: "User Experience Researcher", "User Researcher", "User operations specialist", "User Experience Designer", "Strategist", "Program Manager", or similar. A large portion of this role is understanding how people use the technology of a given digital or physical product. If this sounds interesting, you'll want to know how to conduct user interviews, how products are built, and best practices in human computer interaction (like these: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/)

Some of the core skills that are required of this part of the job include knowing how to work with people - negotiating product decisions with managers, interviewing users to learn about how they use a product, or partnering with subject matter experts to explore new concepts. Communication is a key skill here, as is keeping up to date with HCI discoveries, psychology research papers, and industry trends .


Everything Ken, who has also answered this question, is good advice too. Attending meet ups, reading forums or joining mailing lists or slack/linkedin groups, and generally being proactive will have a major impact on what opportunities you find. Good luck!
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