Cognitive Science B.A.

Students who choose to pursue the Cognitive Science B.A. degree seek to understand how the mind works. They are also likely to be interested in psychology, philosophy, or linguistics, and in conducting research in some aspect of the field.

Cognitive Science is a multidisciplinary and experimental approach to the study of the ways humans, animals and machines process information. A Cognitive Science graduate, skilled in the analysis of cognitive and decision-making processes, is well-prepared for a rewarding professional future.

The Cognitive Science Program is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. Program faculty, known for their research and teaching in a cutting-edge field, come from many departments at IU, including:

There are two degree options in Cognitive Science: a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). Students inclined toward psychology, philosophy, and linguistics typically choose the B.A. option. Students interested in developing additional computational and mathematical skills and in focusing on both empirical and quantitative research usually choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree.

The interdisciplinary nature of the coursework allows you to explore a wide variety of research areas. Students interested in the humanities can study how the human brain shapes creativity. Those interested in the health sciences may opt to investigate such subjects as whether exercise aids cognitive functions. There are many options for study with this degree.

In addition to the B.A. and B.S. degrees, the Cognitive Science Program offers a minor for students majoring in other disciplines.

Coursework

Getting started

You start exploring the Cognitive Science major by taking one or more of the following introductory courses:

  • COLL-C 105  Brains, Minds, Robots and Computers 
  • COGS-Q 101  Introduction to Cognitive Science 
  • INFO-I 101  Introduction to Informatics 
  • LING-L 103 Introduction to the Study of Language (an example of a prerequisite to Language Concentration courses)
  • PHIL-P 105 Thinking and Reasoning 
  • PHIL-P 150 Introductory Symbolic Logic  
  • PSY-P 101 Introductory Psychology 
  • PSY-P 155 Introduction to Psychological and Brain Sciences (an example of a prerequisite to Cognition and Neuroscience Concentration courses)  

Tracks and concentrations

Students pursuing the Cognitive Science B.A. degree choose one of the following concentrations in the major and take three courses, one at the 200 level and two advanced courses:

  • Cognition
  • Computation
  • Foundations
  • Informatics
  • Language
  • Logic
  • Neuroscience
  • Individualized students design their own concentration and submit a proposal to the Cognitive Science Program Advisor for approval

In addition, Cognitive Science majors establish breadth in the major by taking three courses not in their chosen concentration, from at least two different departments. The breadth courses are often prerequisites to the requirements for a higher level concentration in the major. 

Upper level coursework

Once you decide on a concentration for the major, you take several more advanced courses at the 300 or 400 level in a discipline of your choice. For example, when you choose to specialize in Cognition, you might choose two or more of the many relevant courses listed in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin. Among them are:

  • COGS-Q 301 Brain and Cognition
  • PSY-P 325 Psychology of Learning
  • SPHS-S 307 Cognitive and Communicative Aspects of Aging

In your senior year you take the COGS-Q 400 Senior Seminar in Cognitive and Information Sciences, completing an advanced project under the mentorship of a faculty advisor.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, a Cognitive Science B.A. degree will pair exceptionally well with many other disciplines of study. With the help of your advisor you may be able to combine several areas of interest, formally adding a second or third major, minor, certificate or another degree.

A common double major combination is the Cognitive Science B.A. and Psychology B.A. The Cognitive Science B.A. and Computer Science B.A. are also frequently paired. In fact, virtually any major or minor will work well with the Cognitive Science B.A., as will a second degree in many areas of study in other schools at IU Bloomington.

Cognitive Science majors who are interested in leadership and business often pursue the Liberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP) certificate.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing a B.A. degree in Cognitive Science, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

Students in the Cognitive Science Program are strongly encouraged to pursue the opportunity to conduct independent research with program faculty. One option is to create an individualized reading project tailored to your interests through COGS-X 490 Readings in the Cognitive and Information Sciences.

You could also assist a faculty member in an experiment project or lab data management project through COGS-X 497 Research in the Cognitive and Information Sciences or you could develop your own research idea in COGS-X 498 Research Project in the Cognitive Sciences.

Take a look at the COGS Independent Research Agreement Form before you discuss this opportunity with your advisor or a faculty mentor.

Honors

Students who would like to formally enhance their knowledge and experience in their chosen field and who maintain a minimum 3.3 overall GPA and 3.5 GPA in the Cognitive Science B.A. major, may apply for the Cognitive Science Honors Program.

Completing the Honors program involves conducting an individual research project or writing a thesis under the supervision of a faculty member. Interested students should discuss this opportunity with their advisor in their sophomore year.

Students approved for Honors are encouraged to take COGS-Q 499 Honors Research project with their faculty mentor by the spring of their junior year or the fall of the senior year. See the Senior Thesis Research Guide for more information.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

Every year Cognitive Science Program students are awarded Outstanding Achievement Awards in three categories: outstanding contribution, outstanding research and outstanding achievement.

Cognitive Science students can apply for the Undergraduate Summer Research Scholarships.

You may also be eligible to apply for many of the IUB scholarships and the College of Arts and Sciences scholarships for students in majoring in science and the social sciences. Talk with your academic advisor about these opportunities.

Internships

Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.

Previous Cognitive Science students have found internship opportunities with organizations such as:

Cognitive Science interns in these and other organizations have been able to run experiments, conduct data analysis, do independent research, and more.

Learn more about internships, and the possibility of earning credit, through Arts and Sciences Career Services. You have access to many resources there for finding both domestic and international internships. It may be possible to earn academic credit for an internship by enrolling in COGS X-373 Internship in Professional Practice or ASCS Q-398.

Foreign language study

Students pursuing a Cognitive Science B.A. degree must demonstrate forth-semester proficiency in a single foreign language to fulfill the College of Arts and Sciences Foreign Language Requirement.

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 82 languages. Learn more about the foreign language requirement for a College of Arts and Sciences degree.

Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

Cognitive Science majors can also study abroad. Interested students should contact the IU Office of Overseas Study for help in selecting a program.

You can choose from many programs related to cognitive science, such as those offered through the Copenhagen Semester Program or the London-IES Semester Program.

Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with faculty, your academic advisor, and the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

The Student Organization for Cognitive Science (SOCS) organizes an annual Midwest Undergraduate Cognitive Science Conference (MUCSC) on the IUB campus. COGS majors may join the MUCSC planning committee and/or volunteer or present at the conference.

The SOCS group is very active, meeting weekly during Fall and Spring terms. SOCS also organizes discussions, talks and dinners with IUB faculty and graduate students, lab tours and movie viewings. Check out the SOCS Facebook page.

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Many professional organizations are relevant to cognitive science, including:

Use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, nonprofit organizations.

Build your skills

Through the major

The Cognitive Science B.A. degree provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. You will learn how to:

  • Collect and analyze data on cognition using the methodologies of a number of fields
  • Apply cognitive theory to problems in business, law, education, medicine, and the arts
  • Learn how to design and run experiments to test hypotheses
  • Hone skills for critical reading and thinking, teamwork, research and writing
  • Develop technology skills useful in various work environments
  • Present outcomes of problem-solving tasks to peers and supervisors

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Together with your other coursework, your degree provides many opportunities to develop the following abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
  • Learn to think critically and creatively
  • Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
  • Discover ethical perspectives
  • Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
  • Practice and apply scientific methods
  • Learn to reason quantitatively
  • Develop historical consciousness
  • Investigate and study the international community
  • Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
  • Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:

  • Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
  • Work in a team structure
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Obtain and process relevant information
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • Create and/or edit written reports
  • Obtain technical knowledge related to the job
  • Proficiency with computer software programs
  • Create and edit written reports
  • Ability to persuade or influence others

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic and career advisors about how you can develop in those areas while you are at IUB.

Your academic advisor and career advisor can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good career exploration starting point is an appointment with the Natural and Mathematical Sciences career advisor.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.

Use the IU Career Guides to determine if the path you are considering aligns with your short- and long-term goals. These offer information about each field's preferred educational preparation, employment opportunities, insider tips, industry-related interview questions, and more.

You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. College of Arts and Sciences students should consider taking ASCS-Q 299, College to Career III: Market Yourself for the Job and Internship Search. In the course, students learn how to craft a targeted resume, use their cover letter as a tool, prepare for successful interviews, locate and build a professional network, and prepare for a smooth transition from college to postgraduate life.

The job market

As technology and information industries have been steadily growing over the past few decades, the number of jobs and careers related to cognitive science has also increased. The demand for specialized technology will continue to rise, along with the need for people with information processing skills and experience. 

Students with the Cognitive Science B.A. degree take their education in many directions. They are well prepared to work in the information industry. They find jobs in a variety of sectors, including business, government, nonprofit, private corporations, education and research.

Graduates with the Cognitive Science B.A. tend to seek jobs in fields such as:

  • Artificial intelligence and information processing
  • Data representation and information retrieval
  • Education
  • Game design and development
  • Marketing consultation
  • Media and telecommunications
  • Medical analysis
  • Psychology and neuroscience
  • Scientific research
  • Software development

Talk with the Cognitive Science faculty, the academic advisor and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Cognitive Science Program and the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers or graduate school. Talk with your career advisor and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.

Researchers from the Cognitive Science Program participate in several training grants. Other resources for fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

A Cognitive Science B.A. degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as: business and consulting, computer science, informatics, law, neuroscience, psychology, public policy, and other academic fields.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you can prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.

Students who pursue graduate studies in Cognitive Science have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, government and intelligence positions, media, business and entrepreneurship.

You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:

Alumni connections

Read about where Cognitive Science alumni have gone after IU on the Alumni Spotlights page.

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni and Friends events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, follow careers, and let others know where your path takes you.


Is it for you?

The Cognitive Science Program attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. You could be:

  • Curious about how human or animal brains work
  • Fascinated by artificial intelligence, robots, and computer coding
  • Ready to investigate the concept of intelligence
  • Interested in the mechanisms of learning and reasoning
  • Eager to undertake individual research experiments and projects in cognitive laboratories, and to learn how to make scientific presentations
  • Intrigued by the relationships among cognitive science and the disciplines of psychology, philosophy, or linguistics
  • Excited about entering a growing and cutting-edge field with many career possibilities

Learn more

Contact the academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address
imziolko@indiana.edu