Are you considering Cognitive Science as a major? Here are some frequently asked questions that will help you to make your decision:
- Is there a set of core, required courses in Cognitive Science?
Yes there are core requirements, although this can sometimes be hard to detect from the way the calendar is set up! Regardless of which of the five concentrations you ultimately select (Cognition and Computation, Cognition and Psychology, Philosophical and Conceptual Issues, Language and Linguistics, Biological Foundations of Cognition), all students who major in Cognitive Science are currently required to take the following courses (total of 9.0 of the 20 credits for the degree):
- Cognitive Science courses: Either (A) CGSC 1001 and PHIL 1301, or (B) FYSM 1607 or 1400
- Cognitive Science courses: CGSC 2001 (introductory), 2002 (2nd year honours class), plus two third year CGSC courses.
- Computer Science course: CGSC 1005 or COMP 1005 (introductory programming course).
- CGSC 4001 (Cognition and Artificial Cognitive Systems) or COMP 4106 (Topics in Artificial Intelligence); note that the latter course has several COMP pre-requisites at the 2nd and 3rd year levels
- Psychology (PSYC) 1001 and 1002 (introductory courses), 2001 (Research methods), 2307 (Biological), and 2700 (Cognition)
- Linguistics (LING) 1001 (introductory), 2005 (Linguistic Analysis I), and 2007 (Phonetics)
- Philosophy (PHIL) 2501 (Philosophy of mind – introductory), plus PHIL 2001 or 3306 (beginning and advanced logic)
- CGSC 3004 (Philosophy and Cognitive Science) or one more half credit in Philosophy (see calendar for details)
Notes. In addition to these core requirements, each specialization requires another 4-5 credits in the core discipline. Please refer to the calendar for details. This structure ensures that students can, if they choose, go on to a Master’s degree in the discipline in which they do their specialization (or to graduate work in Cognitive Science).
A chart displaying all requirements can be found here.
- Do all specializations have the same computer science requirements?
Currently, all specializations require 0.5 credits in computer science (CGSC 1005 or COMP 1005), plus a 4th year Artificial Intelligence/Computational Modelling course offered through the Institute of Cognitive Science (i.e., CGSC 4001) or through Computer Science (i.e., COMP 4106). Of course, students in the Cognition and Computation concentration will take many more credits in computer science. All Cognitive Scientists need a working knowledge of computer programming, enough to allow them to evaluate computational models of the mind, even if they never actually work on such models.
- Do I need high school math to do well in Cognitive Science?
There are no explicit high school mathematics requirements for entry into the Bachelor of Cognitive Science. However, some courses in the Computation concentration stream have prerequisites that include two Grade 12 math credits. Students who plan on entering the Cognition and Computation specialization are thus advised to have the requisite high school courses. Students entering this stream without these prerequisites may be required to take the prerequisite math courses as electives (i.e., at university level, students can take two of MATH 0005, 0007, or 0107 to gain equivalent math background).
- What courses should I take in my first year?
We recommend that first-year students take PSYC 1001 and 1002, LING 1001, CGSC 1005 (or COMP 1005 and 1006 if in the Cognition & Computation concentration), and either (A) PHIL 1301 and CGSC 1001, or (B) FYSM 1607 or 1400. See this document for more information about planning your first year.
- I'm unsure whether I really want to major in Cognitive Science - Is this a problem?
Many students change their minds about their interests and their major in their first year (or two) of university. If you start out majoring in Cognitive Science, you will take a range of courses from at least four disciplines (Psychology, Philosophy, Linguistics, and Computer Science), all of which will count towards any other B.A. program (either as required courses or as elective credits). So don’t worry too much about making the ‘wrong’ decision. Choose courses that interest you!
- What kind of jobs will I be qualified for when I graduate?
As in all Bachelor’s degrees, the goal of the Bachelor in Cognitive Science is to teach you critical thinking, writing, reasoning, and problem solving skills that can be applied to a variety of different jobs or careers. One additional advantage of Cognitive Science is that students have a very diverse set of skills, because the program samples from a variety of disciplines (Psychology, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Computer Science). Employers find this attractive, because it indicates that these students can cope with a variety of issues on different levels (computational and theoretical, for example).
Cognitive Science is still a relatively new discipline. As a group, our graduates have done exceptionally well, with many winning university medals at graduation. About half of those individuals have gone on to graduate school, in areas such as Computational Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Human-Computer Interaction, or Information Technology. Some graduates obtained positions at high-tech companies or have joined the public service.
Cognitive science career options link:
- How does a B.Cog.Sc. differ from other degrees at Carleton?
Cognitive Science offers one of the few degrees in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in which students routinely complete an Honours Project (Some Psychology and Geography Honours students also do Honours projects). An honours project allows the student to work one-on-one with a faculty member on a research project that is of mutual interest. Also, students in Cognitive Science are guaranteed at least one low enrolment course in each of their 2nd and 3rd years (CGSC 2002 and 3001, 3002) where they will have the opportunity to practice their writing and presentation skills.
- How many students are currently majoring in Cognitive Science?
Currently about 500 students are majoring in the Bachelor of Cognitive Science. Some students enter directly from high school, but many students transfer into the program in 2nd or 3rd year. There are about 17 students enrolled in the Master’s of Cognitive Science and 23 students enrolled in the Ph.D. program.
- Is there a co-op option in Cognitive Science?
Yes, there is a co-op education option in Cognitive Science. You would apply for co-op at the beginning of your third year (Fall of your 3rd year), with your first co-op term starting the following May. Please refer to the relevant sections of the calendar for more information about co-op.