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What Can I Do With a Major in Cognitive Science?

Is graduate study your next step? Do you plan to obtain a professional position upon graduation? How do you intend to apply the skills and knowledge acquired in your undergraduate coursework to life after IU? Believe it or not, you're not alone if your answers to these questions are less than certain.

There are a variety of career fields (and programs of graduate study) where cognitive science students might apply their knowledge and skills. Here we aim to encourage student exploration of future educational and professional options. We do not propose to present an exhaustive list of "jobs" that students can do with a cognitive science degree, because the possibilities are endless!

Using Your Major: Myths and Realities

Myth: Many college students believe there is an exact match between academic majors and specific career fields. This belief creates a pressure to choose the "right" major.

Reality: Most college majors don't offer specific preparation for a single type of work. While the relationship of college major to career field varies, relatively few career choices dictate that you choose a particular major, examples of "direct" majors include nursing, architecture, accounting, or engineering.

In fact, choice of major is only one factor in determining future educational and professional options. Your grades, the electives you choose, and the skills you acquire through your coursework, often tell employers or graduate schools more about what you have to offer them than does your major. Furthermore, other factors such as your personal traits, your goals, your experience (jobs, internships, volunteer work, extracurricular activities), and your knowledge of and demonstrated interest in a career field play a large part in determining an employer's response to you.

Applying Your Cognitive Science Knowledge and Skills
The interdisciplinary nature of cognitive science offers students a variety of options for applying their knowledge and skills to professional positions or further study at the graduate level. In general, the undergraduate cognitive science curriculum equips students with the ability to communicate clearly, critically evaluate evidence and data, program and use computers, and apply conceptual, analytical, and interpersonal skills to a variety of situations. These skills are highly marketable in ANY industry.

Students who study cognitive science can build on these generally useful or transferable skills by choosing concentrations, minors, double majors, or elective coursework that enhances their knowledge and skills in areas of particular interest. Such "specialization" may provide preparation and direction for students planning to pursue a specific career path or program of graduate study. Likewise, cognitive science students who conduct research projects, complete internship assignments, work part-time, or volunteer can develop knowledge and skills that will improve their candidacy for professional opportunities and/or admission to graduate school.

Sneak Preview: Possible Career Paths for Cognitive Science Students
Depending on your choice of concentration, minors, double majors, or elective courses, and the type of hands on experience you pursue, the following career fields/areas are just some options if you're studying cognitive science.
Artificial Intelligence/Robotics Mathematics/Statistics
Biotechnology/Medical Technology Neuroscience
Consulting Research & Development
Customer/Technical Support Software Development
Human Computer Interaction Technical Writing
Human Factors/Usability Testing Telecommunications
Information Technology Training and Education
Marketing/Sales Web Development

Similarly, there are a variety of graduate programs you may pursue with a cognitive science degree, some options include:

Business Administration Law
Cognitive Science Linguistics
Computer Science Mathematics/Statistics
Education Medicine
Human Factors/Ergonomics Philosophy
Information Science/Studies Psychology
Instructional Systems Technology
Creating the Link Between Coursework and Professional Life
How do you plan to connect classroom learning to your professional life after IU? Wondering how you might create a "specialized" course of study that sets the foundation for success professionally? Unsure how to complement your studies with learning experiences outside of the classroom? Contact the Cognitive Science Undergraduate Advisor for assistance.