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Cognitive Science


Cognitive science programs focus on the study of the mind.

Cognitive psychology programs focus on the study of the mind and the nature of intelligence. Students learn neuroscience, computer science, and philosophy. They study the ways that people see, think, learn, and remember.

Cognitive science programs include topics such as:

Many colleges and universities offer interdisciplinary bachelor's degrees in cognitive science. Interdisciplinary programs combine courses from several college departments. In cognitive science it may be psychology, computer science, or neuroscience.


Several colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in cognitive science. A bachelor's degree usually takes about four years of full-time study.

Several universities offer graduate degrees in cognitive science. A master’s degree typically requires two years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree. Doctoral (PhD) degree programs usually require two or more years of study beyond the master’s degree.

See schools that offer this program.

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Program Admission

You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.

Below is a list of high school courses that will help prepare you for this program of study:

Graduate Admissions

Admission to graduate programs is highly competitive. You need a bachelor's degree, good grades, and good test scores. Your bachelor's degree may not need to be in psychology or cognitive science if you have taken some courses in the subject.

Additional requirements at some schools include:

Experience assisting with psychological or neuroscience research is a big plus.

Typical Course Work

Program Courses

A bachelor's degree program in psychology typically requires that you study the following core courses:

In addition, you usually must choose several (but certainly not all) of the following subjects. As preparation for graduate school in cognitive science, the subjects nearest the top of the list are most valuable. If you are able to specialize in cognitive science as an undergraduate, they are likely to be required:

An undergraduate major in cognitive science is likely to include fewer required psychology courses. But it probably adds required courses in calculus, general biology, human anatomy and physiology, computer science, and linguistics or a foreign language. These courses are all useful to take as preparation for graduate school in this field. This is true no matter what your bachelor's degree is in.

Graduate Program Courses

A master's degree program in cognitive science typically includes courses such as the following:

A master's degree program in cognitive science is likely to include fewer required psychology courses. But it probably adds required courses in philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence, and linguistics.

A doctoral degree program in cognitive psychology or cognitive science typically includes more courses such as the above, plus courses on research methods and advanced statistics, such as the following:

In addition, graduate programs typically require the following:

Laboratory work is likely to be of greater importance in cognitive science programs.

You may have opportunities to work part time as a research assistant. Part-time work as a teaching assistant is often required. Although either these activities can extend the amount of time it takes to get your degree, you are paid for the work, your tuition fees may be waived, and they help build your career.

Graduate programs often include several practicums, which are supervised experiences of real work in this field. At first you may merely follow a professional around and observe what that person does. Later you take on more real tasks, including research.

Things to Know

A bachelor's degree in cognitive science may prepare you for graduate school or (with the addition of some courses) medical or veterinary school. You may also prepare for grad school in this field by studying another branch of psychology as an undergraduate.

The major purpose of the doctoral program is to teach you how to do research. You add to your knowledge of statistics and research design (which you should have studied as an undergraduate). In addition, you do an original research project for your dissertation.


King-Snohomish Area

University of Washington - Seattle