There are two main routes you can take with a cognitive science degree: 1) Academia, and 2) Industry.
1) Academia: This field includes both research and teaching, and occurs at University or College. Your funding may be given to you by the institution or publicly and privately funded by government and non-profit or clinical institutions, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF).
2) Industry: The alternative to academic is industry. Both academia and industry are competitive, and will most likely require a second degree (e.g., PhD or MA/MS) or a stellar portfolio/job history to be a success. The way of industry is quickly moving into the field of cognitive science, and includes jobs like User Experience Design and Market Research.
Both routes are challenging and rewarding in their own ways. One way to achieve success is to find a mentor along the way--someone who already does what you want to do, and can keep you updated on what are the current trends in academia or industry. While in college, either volunteer your time (for credit) in research labs and/or work on projects in the industry you find appealing. There is a lot you can do to enhance your CV/portfolio, so try things out, and waste no time!
Ruth recommends the following next steps:
- Volunteer in a research lab for university credit
- Apply for academic funding or an industry internship for a summer project
- Talk to any and everyone in your field, and see what you find most appealing
- Think long term--build your CV or portfolio early and stay active in pursuing your dreams