Best Colleges with a Cognitive Science Major

There are few majors that are more interdisciplinary in nature than that of cognitive science which combines elements of biology, psychology, computer science, linguistics, and anthropology, among others. Common paths for a cognitive science major include graduate school or entering careers as varied as medical research, software development, and healthcare management. Some of the schools on our Best Colleges for Cognitive Science list are small liberal arts institutions like Carleton, Swarthmore, and Vassar, while many others are large private or public universities, including multiple campuses in the University of California system.

Click the links below for more information about each college’s cognitive science program. Click here to read our methodology. Now, we are ready to begin our overview of the best cognitive science colleges.

1) University of California, San Diego

  • Number of graduates annually: 632
  • Students can choose from a BA or BS in Cognitive Science as well as a minor option. There are also a number of specialization areas including Design and Interaction, Neuroscience and Machine Learning and Neural Computation.
  • There are multiple CogSci student organizations on campus.

2) University of California, Berkeley

  • Number of graduates annually: 345
  • Students complete courses in Calculus, Discrete Math, Neuroscience, Statistics, and Computer Programming and then select classes from six Distribution categories.
  • Berkeley’s many research centers and labs lead to endless opportunities for meaningful undergraduate research.

3) Stanford University

  • Number of graduates annually: 106
  • Requirements include multiple classes in Linguistic Theory, Philosophy, Multivariate Systems, and Computational Methods.
  • Students with a 3.0 or better GPA are invited to participate in the Honors Program which entails writing a thesis.

4) Rice University

  • Number of graduates annually: 45
  • Cognitive Sciences majors at Rice choose one area of specialization from the following list: Computation, Linguistics, Neuroscience, Philosophy, or Psychology.
  • Students with a 3.3 GPA (3.5 in major) can apply for the Honors Program in the Cognitive Sciences. This program offers a chance for independent research under the supervision of a professor that culminates in a presentation to students and faculty.

5) University of Pennsylvania

  • Number of graduates annually: 61
  • Cognitive Science majors at Penn select from three concentration areas: Cognitive Neuroscience, Computation and Cognition, Language and Mind.
  • There are multiple ways to become involved in undergraduate research as a student in this program.

6) Yale University

  • Number of graduates annually: 30
  • Cognitive Science majors at Yale choose a custom set of courses from affiliated departments.
  • Senior Research projects under the supervisor of an advisor can be viewed here.

7) University of California, Los Angeles

  • Number of graduates annually: 181
  • Cognitive Science majors take extensive coursework in Psychology, Mathematics, Computing, Linguistics, Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Anthropology.
  • One laboratory course and two fieldwork/research courses are also required parts of this degree program.

8) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Number of graduates annually: 9
  • Undergraduates studying this discipline at MIT take courses including Constructive Criticism of Research in the Brain & Cognitive Sciences, Quantitative Methods and Computational Models in Neuroscience, and Cellular Neurophysiology and Computing.
  • Students can work alongside renowned faculty, engaging in cutting-edge research in variety of areas.

9) Johns Hopkins University

  • Number of graduates annually: 32
  • JHU’s program “incorporates a variety of perspectives and methodologies, including linguistic analysis, empirical studies of normal cognitive functioning in adults, developmental studies of children, cognitive neuropsychological research on cognitive deficits, functional neuroimaging studies, and computational modeling.”
  • Students choose two Focal Areas from the following List: Cognitive Psychology/Neuropsychology, Linguistics, Computational Approaches to Cognition, Neuroscience, and Philosophy of the Mind.

10) Dartmouth College

  • Number of graduates annually: 12
  • Students take 4 courses in one of the available Focus Areas: Decision Making, Language and Thought, Learning and Development, Consciousness, Cognitive Science of Design, Social Interaction Networks, Intelligence, and Moral Reasoning.
  • Students engage in undergraduate research at the Dartmouth Cognitive Neuroscience of Learning Laboratory.

11) Brown University

  • Number of graduates annually: 17
  • There are two degree options: The A.B. concentration requires 12 courses.  The Sc.B concentration additionally requires 1 laboratory course and 4 approved science courses, totaling to a total of 17 required courses.
  • Seniors will take either a seminar course or an independent research course as a capstone project.

12) University of Rochester

  • Number of graduates annually: N/A
  • The Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) major allows students to study Perception, Action, Thinking, Language, Learning, and Memory.
  • Students can work on independent research as well as assisting graduate students and faculty.

13) Swarthmore College

  • Number of graduates annually: 10
  • This program sits at the intersection of 6 disciplines: cognitive psychology, computer science, linguistics, mathematics and statistics, neuroscience, and philosophy.
  • There are 50 courses to choose from that can fulfill major or minor requirements.

14) Northwestern University

  • Number of graduates annually: N/A
  • Research opportunities abound, including for first-year students.
  • Many graduates of this program go on to “careers in business and technology (marketing, interface design, etc.). Some students go on to careers in medicine or healthcare. Still others choose a cognitive science major in preparation for further education at the graduate level.”

15) Carnegie Mellon University

  • Number of graduates annually: 17
  • Degree requirements include Cognitive Psychology Core, Cognitive Research Methods Course, Cognitive Science Concentration (3 courses), 2 Natural Sciences.
  • Students in this major can concentrate in areas like Linguistics, Artificial Intelligence, and Cognitive Neuroscience.

16) Vanderbilt University

  • Number of graduates annually: 47
  • Ample opportunities for undergraduate research in the cognitive sciences exist for Vandy students.
  • Coursework focuses on “aspects of human cognition, including communication, cognitive development, basic cognitive processes, applications of theories of knowledge, and sociocultural aspects of learning.”

17) Pomona College

  • Number of graduates annually: 6
  • There are six different departments at Pomona that offer courses in the Cognitive Science major.
  • Within this major, undergrads study the following areas: Computational models of the mind, cognition and the arts, why we are conscious, the neural basis of cognition, and when cognition is nonconscious.

18) University of Michigan

  • Number of graduates annually: 75
  • Students concentrate in one of the following four areas: Computation and Cognition, Decision and Cognition, Language and Cognition, and Philosophy and Cognition.
  • UMich’s research laboratories are always seeking undergraduate assistants and interns.

19) Washington University in St. Louis

  • Number of graduates annually: N/A
  • Graduates go on to become Analysts, Consultants, Lawyers, Physicians, Professors, Researchers, and Teach for America Volunteers.
  • There are 40+ faculty members that teach in this department.

20) University of Southern California

  • Number of graduates annually: 61
  • As part of this degree program at USC, undergrads take courses in computer science, human biology, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy and psychology.
  • Graduates go on to the fields of law, medicine, or PhD programs as well as fields that require problem-solving, scientific analysis, and quantitative skills.

21) Carleton College

  • Number of graduates annually: 7
  • Undergrads have opportunities within the Cognitive Science Research Lab.
  • Courses include The Musical Mind: An Introduction to Cognitive Science, Cognitive Processes, Embodied Cognition, and Cognitive Development in Children and Adolescents.

22) Tufts University

  • Number of graduates annually: 51
  • Majors complete 8 required courses followed by additional coursework in Psychology, Computer Science, and Philosophy.
  • Students are encouraged to complete a senior research project that can take one of three forms: yearlong research with a faculty member, an honors thesis, or a faculty-supervised review of literature.

23) University of Virginia

  • Number of graduates annually: N/A
  • Read here about how to become a Research Assistant in Cognitive Science.
  • Majors take 10 approved courses across a host of disciplines, including two upper-level courses in the same concentration area.

24) University of California, Davis

  • Number of graduates annually: 140
  • Cognitive Science majors chose courses from the following areas: (a) Cognitive Neuroscience; (b) Experimental Psychology–Sensation, Perception, Attention, and Memory; (c) Language Science; and (d) Computational Cognitive Science.
  • Joining the Honors Program in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences leads to additional opportunities for undergraduate research.

25) Vassar College

  • Number of graduates annually: 20
  • Vassar became the first institution in the world to grant an undergraduate degree in cognitive science in 1982.
  • Coursework within the major includes offerings such as The Science and Fiction of the Mind, Perception and Action, Knowledge and Cognition, Research Methods, and Qualitative Methods.

26) Case Western Reserve University

  • Number of graduates annually: 52
  • CWRU has a Cognitive Science Student Organization that hosts speaker events, organizes study groups, and hosts student-professor dinners.
  • Case’s department boasts an “unusual openness to additional input from the arts and humanities.”

27) Occidental College

  • Number of graduates annually: 19
  • Required coursework in this major includes: Formal Logic, Empirical Methods in Cognitive Science, Cognitive Neuroscience, and a Senior Seminar.
  • Students routinely publish in academic journals alongside their professors.

28) University of Georgia

  • Number of graduates annually: 47
  • Multidisciplinary major that includes psychology, computer science, anthropology, linguistics, biology, and education.
  • Majors choose two areas of concentration from the following list: Artificial Intelligence Foundations, Philosophical Foundations, Psychological Foundations, and Language and Culture.

29) University of California, Santa Cruz

  • Number of graduates annually: 143
  • 15 courses are required to complete the Cognitive Science major at Santa Cruz.
  • Upper-Division elective offerings include: Moral Development, Development in Infancy, Psychology and Law, and Adult Development and Aging.

30) University of Delaware

  • Number of graduates annually: 65
  • Undergrads select one of the following areas of concentration: Computational, Mathematical, & Logical Foundations of Cognitive Science, Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Science, Psychological Foundations of Cognitive Science, Science of Language, and Pre-Professional Speech-Language Pathology.
  • A combined BA/MA option allows students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in 5 years.

Final Thoughts: Best Colleges for Cognitive Science

We hope you have found our list of the best cognitive science schools to be helpful. Students interested in exploring related fields may find the following Best Colleges list to be of interest:

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