Human Factors Engineering Education and Training Program Information
Explore degree programs for those who want to study human factors engineering. This article includes educational prerequisites, program coursework and popular career options.
Individuals who are studying human factors and ergonomics in engineering focus on the functional and physical relationships between humans and engineering design. Programs available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels combine structured courses with practical, hands-on application and research. Digital design, analytical methods and human factors research are some examples of program coursework. Students of higher-level programs could also be required to complete design or dissertation projects. Such degrees could translate to careers such as research assistants, human factors or industrial engineers, or university professors.
Bachelor of Science in Human Factors and Ergonomics Degree Program Overview
Students interested in human factors and ergonomics can earn a Bachelor of Science in Human Factors Engineering and Ergonomics. Degree programs teach students to look at engineering and mechanical design from a human usability standpoint as well as a design standpoint. Informative lectures give students comprehensive knowledge of introductory engineering and design concepts. Students develop technical knowledge, skills and ability though practical application. Critical thinking and problem-solving abilities are stressed. The goal of a bachelor's degree program is to prepare students for entry-level employment or further education at the graduate level.
Applicants must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Colleges and universities also take into consideration letters of recommendation and scores on college entrance exams, such as the ACT and SAT. Most programs recommend students take as many advanced science and mathematics classes in high school as possible to build their analytical skills, and some programs may look favorably on students with high school coursework that communications skills and a sense of aesthetics.
Degree programs blend general educational requirements in the humanities and social sciences with introductory and advanced courses specifically designed for the ergonomics major. Topical lectures cover topics, such as:
- The human-environment relationship
- Basic design principles
- Digital design
- Research methods in ergonomics
- Design and human anatomy
Popular Career Options
Students with a bachelor's degree in human factors and ergonomics usually apply for entry-level positions in engineering or engineering research. Human factors engineering and ergonomic principles are applicable to a variety of industries such as space, automotive and medical fields. Some popular career options include:
- Research assistant
- Industrial design assistant
- Space/aviation engineering assistant
Students with a bachelor's degree can study human factors and ergonomics in engineering at the master's level. While a bachelor's degree is usually considered the bare minimum requirement for entry-level employment, a graduate degree may lead to greater job opportunities and a higher starting salary.
Master of Science in Human Factors and Ergonomics Program Overview
Students can earn a Master of Science in Human Factors and Ergonomics, and programs offering this degree teach advanced design and engineering theories and principles and their practical applications in research. Programs look at the functional relationship between humans and machinery, and focus on design creativity, design analysis, design functionality, problem solving skills. Students continue to look at engineering principles and design from a human physiological, practical, statistical and operational standpoint.
A bachelor's degree program is the bare minimum requirement for admission to a master's degree programs. In addition, admission committees look at factors such as letter of recommendation, previous academic achievement, any applicable job experience and scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
Master's degree programs allow students to study human factors and ergonomics exclusively, and some programs may require a master's thesis or capstone project to complete the degree. Students divide their time between academic research, design research, design projects and lecturers in the following areas of interest:
- Analysis of engineering design for human compatibility
- Analytical methods
- Advanced design concepts
- Human factor influence in product design
- Human psychology in engineering
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
A report updated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in December 2012 projected a 6% growth in employment for industrial engineers, which included human factors engineers, from 2010-2020. In May 2012, the BLS reported that industrial engineers had an average annual salary of $82,100. Good job prospects and competitive pay will continue to draw qualified applicants.
Human factors and ergonomics can be studied at the doctoral level. A doctoral degree is considered the terminal degree in this particular field of study. Doctoral degree typically allow for the greatest number of employment opportunities and a higher annual salary. Most college professors have a doctoral degree.
Doctor of Philosophy in Human Factors and Ergonomics Degree Program Overview
The highest degree available for students interested in human factors and ergonomics is a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Doctoral programs are designed for intensive, concentrated research and academic pursuit of advanced concepts and principles of human factors engineering and ergonomics. Some programs establish a core set of educational requirements, while allowing some personal flexibility with students' special interests and elective requirements. Programs continue to look at engineering from a human standpoint, while paying special attention to systems safety, special needs and functionality.
While students may be admitted to doctoral programs after completing a bachelor's degree, competition for admission is strong. Many programs prefer to admit students who already have a master's degree since the master's degree provides a foundation for the student's doctoral research. Students are asked to submit letters of recommendation, a detailed list of applicable professional experience, a statement of purpose, GRE scores and official transcripts of all previously completed coursework.
Doctoral candidates spend the majority of the program engaged in practical application and research, as well as academic research relating to his or her dissertation topic. Students may also be asked to act as graduate teaching assistants. Students also attend lectures in the following related topics:
- Human factors research
- Human physiology and the work environment
- Elderly and special needs ergonomics
- Safety and accident prevention in ergonomic design
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a doctoral program in human factors and ergonomics are typically drawn to careers in engineering design, engineering research or education. Some popular career options include:
- Industrial engineer
- Department head
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