Programs in human factors engineering are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. They combine structured courses with practical, hands-on application and research. Digital design, analytical methods and human factors research are some examples of course topics. Such degrees may prepare graduates for work as research assistants, human factors engineers, industrial engineers or university professors.
Bachelor's degree programs require applicants to have a GED or high school diploma and submit ACT or SAT scores. Master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree, work experience and submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for admission. Doctoral degrees require a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is preferred; applicants to these programs must submit GRE scores as well.
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 also develop technical knowledge, skills and abilities though practical training. 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. 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
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 and problem-solving skills. Students continue to look at engineering principles and design from a human physiological, practical, statistical and operational standpoint. They 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
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. Students spend the majority of the program engaged in research relating to their dissertation topic. They may also be asked to act as graduate teaching assistants.
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. 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
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 the space, automotive and medical fields. Some popular career options include:
- Research assistant
- Industrial design assistant
- Space/aviation engineering assistant
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
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.
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 degrees typically allow for the greatest number of employment opportunities and a higher annual salary. Most college professors have a doctoral degree.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
A report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected little or no change in employment for industrial engineers, which included human factors engineers, from 2014-2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported that industrial engineers had a median annual salary of $83,470. Good job prospects and competitive pay will continue to draw qualified applicants.
It's possible to study human factors engineering at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. These programs' design and ergonomics training can prepare graduates for positions ranging from engineering assistants to industrial engineers and college professors.