Best Neuroscience Schools

Updated on January 5, 2024

Neuroscience is an exciting and rapidly growing field that studies the nervous system and brain. For students interested in studying neuroscience at the graduate level, choosing the right program is crucial. Here is a look at 10 of the top ranked neuroscience schools in the United States based on factors like research output, selectivity, and career outcomes.

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Average SAT: 1510

Tuition: $51,000 per year

Average Salary: $72,000

Website: https://www.harvard.edu/

Harvard University hosts exceptional neuroscience programs across multiple departments and institutes. Whether studying neuroscience, neurobiology, or computational neuroscience, students work with world-renowned faculty at state-of-the-art facilities. The program provides superb preparation for careers in research, medicine, industry, and more.

Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Average SAT: 1500

Tuition: $57,000 per year

Average Salary: $80,000

Website: https://www.stanford.edu/

The Stanford Neurosciences PhD Program takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying the nerves system, bringing together faculty from over 60 labs across campus. Students benefit from the program’s flexibility, allowing them to explore topics like behavior, computation, molecular and cellular neuroscience. Graduates pursue impactful research and teaching roles.

University of California, San Francisco

Location: San Francisco, CA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 3%

Average SAT: N/A

Tuition: $36,000 per year

Average Salary: $75,000

Website: https://www.ucsf.edu/

The UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program equips students with advanced research skills through lab rotations, seminars, journal clubs and more. The program provides stipends and full tuition remission to all students. Graduates have exceptional research opportunities working with world-class faculty in this leader in biomedical research.

Washington University in St. Louis

Location: St. Louis, MO

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Average SAT: 1500

Tuition: $60,000 per year

Average Salary: $70,000

Website: https://wustl.edu

Washington University in St. Louis hosts a highly regarded Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, bringing together faculty from over 11 Ph.D programs. Students can specialize in areas like neurodevelopment, physiology, biophysics, computation and behavior. Graduates have a proven track record of research and academic leadership positions.

Columbia University

Location: New York, NY

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Average SAT: 1520

Tuition: $59,000 per year

Average Salary: $72,000

Website: https://www.columbia.edu/

Columbia University provides exceptional neuroscience training across leading departments like Neurological Sciences, Psychiatry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. Students take advanced courses, engage in groundbreaking research and work closely with faculty who are pioneers in the field. Many graduates take on research and faculty roles at top institutions.

Johns Hopkins University

Location: Baltimore, MD

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Average SAT: 1510

Tuition: $55,000 per year

Average Salary: $70,000

Website: https://www.jhu.edu/

The Johns Hopkins PhD Program in Neuroscience spans multiple departments in the School of Medicine, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and Whiting School of Engineering. Students benefit from the program’s breadth and depth, working with leading experts in areas ranging from cognition to computational neuroscience. Graduates pursue impactful research careers across academia and industry.

University of Pennsylvania

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Average SAT: 1500

Tuition: $57,000 per year

Average Salary: $72,500

Website: https://www.upenn.edu/

The University of Pennsylvania Neuroscience Graduate Group offers superb interdisciplinary training in this expanding field. With over 130 faculty to choose from, students individualize their training based on interests in areas ranging from signaling to aging. Graduates are prepared for high-level research roles advancing discoveries in neuroscience.

University of Pittsburgh

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 56%

Average SAT: 1350

Tuition: $22,000 per year

Average Salary: $65,000

Website: https://www.pitt.edu/

The Neuroscience Graduate Program at Pitt provides broad foundations in neuroscience while allowing students to specialize in areas like development, plasticity, or neuroengineering. With its leading Center for Neuroscience and access to 350 faculty labs, Pitt offers exceptional research and training opportunities. Graduates pursue impactful careers in research and health fields.

Yale University

Location: New Haven, CT

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Average SAT: 1530

Tuition: $55,500 per year

Average Salary: $70,000

Website: https://www.yale.edu/

Yale’s Neuroscience PhD Program is an interdepartmental program focused on cutting-edge research and training. With over 100 faculty to collaborate with, students tailor their training based on interests like neurodegeneration, neuroimmunology, cognition and more. Graduates are prepared to become leaders advancing discoveries in neuroscience fields.

Duke University

Location: Durham, NC

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Average SAT: 1510

Tuition: $60,000 per year

Average Salary: $68,000

Website: https://www.duke.edu/

Duke’s Neurobiology Graduate Program emphasizes interdisciplinary research, equipping students with broad foundations alongside research specialization. The program integrates computational training for modeling neural systems. With superb research opportunities and expert faculty, graduates pursue impactful careers advancing neurobiology understanding and applications.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best neuroscience programs for PhD studies?

Some of the top PhD programs in neuroscience are Harvard University, Stanford University, UC San Francisco, Washington University in St. Louis, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, Yale University, and Duke University. These provide exceptional research opportunities and training.

Which neuroscience program is easiest to get into?

The University of Pittsburgh neuroscience PhD program tends to be more accessible compared to some other top programs, with a 56% acceptance rate. Other highly ranked yet easier to gain admission include Duke University, UPenn, and Yale. The most selective programs include Harvard, Stanford, UCSF, and Columbia.

How do I choose the right neuroscience program?

Consider factors like research specialties that best fit your interests, opportunities for working with renowned faculty, available facilities/technology, career outcomes of graduates, location, program flexibility, financial aid packages and more. Identifying programs strong in your desired focus is key.

Which neuroscience schools have the highest salaries?

Graduates from top programs like Stanford, Harvard, UCSF, Columbia, UPenn, and Johns Hopkins tend to secure higher paying neuroscience research roles in academia and industry. But even graduates from less prestigious programs can build very successful and lucrative careers.

What classes should I take to prepare for a neuroscience PhD?

Recommended undergraduate classes include biology, anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, statistics, calculus, psychology, physics, computer science, and chemistry. Gaining research experience through assistantships and demonstrating excellence in relevant coursework are vital.

Is a masters required for a neuroscience PhD?

Most neuroscience PhD programs do not require a masters degree for admission. Exceptional bachelor’s training showing strong capacity for research is generally sufficient. Some programs offer the ability to earn a master’s first before continuing to PhD studies.

What are typical admission requirements for neuroscience PhD programs?

Expect 3.0+ undergraduate GPAs, strong recommendation letters, high GRE scores (especially quantitative), undergraduate research experience, relevant coursework/labs in biology and chemistry, and clear research goals matching program specialties.

What careers are available with a neuroscience PhD?

Common careers include working in academic/research roles as professors, scientists at universities, researchers in industry, working in pharmaceutical/biotech companies, consultants, science writers, policy advisors, lecturers, and more. Top graduates secure postdoc research positions at prestigious labs.

How long does it take to complete a PhD in neuroscience?

Most neuroscience PhD programs take 5-6 years to complete. This includes classwork, qualifying exams, laboratory rotations, dissertation proposal and research, publishing papers, and defending the PhD dissertation. Research-focused careers afterward often involve postdoc training.

What types of research do neuroscience PhD students conduct?

Neuroscience PhD research topics span cellular/molecular neuroscience, neurodevelopment, neuroplasticity, neurological conditions, cognition, behavior, computational neuroscience, neural engineering, neuroimaging, neurotherapeutics, brain-machine interfaces, and much more.

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Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.