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Human Factors Engineer: Job and Training Program Information

Human factors engineers require significant formal education. Learn about the degrees, job duties, and paths to employment to see if this is the right career for you.

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Human factors engineers develop items such as tools, electronics, and software, factoring in the comfort, safety, and usability of a product during development. While some related software engineering positions may require just a bachelor's degree, most positions in this field require a graduate degree with a specialization such as applied research psychology, ergonomics, or human factors engineering.

Essential Information

A human factors engineer designs items used by people, such as machines, tools, and software, so that they are comfortable and safe for human use. This career may be a good fit for someone with a background and interest in the physical and behavioral sciences. Most positions require a graduate degree.

Required Education Most positions require a graduate degree, but some software engineering positions may only require a bachelor's degree.
Other Credentials Membership with the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is advised
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 1% (for industrial engineers); 17% (for all software developers)*
Median Salary (2016) $75,394 (for usability specialists)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Human Factor Engineer Job Information

Human factors engineering determines how to best integrate people and the items they use in the design of systems to maximize human well-being. Professionals who work in this field may have a variety of titles, such as human factors professional, ergonomists, information architect, interaction designer, contextual researcher, usability specialist, or user experience engineer.

Human factors engineers may work for software and technology companies and the government or in academia as well as independent consultants. In industry and the government, they may assist workers in discovering new ways to do their jobs better or improve a product's usability.

As part of their duties, engineers may conduct studies of groups of product users to discover how to make a product more user-friendly, in addition to interviewing workers to correct any work station issues. While jobs in academia or the government may have more stable work environments, engineers who work for private companies may be subject to time pressures to complete studies in time for a product launch.

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Human Factor Engineer Training Program Information

A career in human factors engineering generally requires a graduate degree. The jobs that specify only a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite usually prefer that the undergraduate major be in a technical field, such as software engineering.

Prospective human factors engineers usually find relevant graduate programs in the psychology or engineering departments of universities. Master's and doctoral degrees in human factors engineering, ergonomics, or applied research psychology are available at many schools.

Because the scope of this career encompasses a variety of industries, it may be beneficial for students to take part in an internship program during school to find an industry that is a good fit. Internships may also lead to permanent positions as well as provide students with contacts for future job prospects. Becoming a member of professional associations, such as the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (www.hfes.org), may be a good option for additional training information, job postings, and networking with professional contacts.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the employment of industrial engineers in general, including human factors engineers, would likely grow by about one percent during the decade spanning from 2014 to 2024. During the same time frame, the employment of software developers, including those who specialize in usability, will grow by about 17%, per the BLS (www.bls.gov). PayScale.com provided salary data for usability specialists, reporting that these professionals earned a median of $75,394 annually as of October 2016.

There are a number of industries employing human factors engineers, including academia, government, technology, and software, and job titles for these professionals vary and can include interaction designers, ergonomists, usability specialists, and information architects. Their job may involve interviewing users and conducting research studies. There are a few ways to get a head start in this career, such as joining a professional association like the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, or by participating in an internship.

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