PhD in Human Behavior: Program Overview

Doctorate programs in human behavior offer students training in the essential principles of how humans use their surroundings to design optimal work environments. Students in these programs can focus their studies by specializing in a sub field.

Essential Information

Ph.D. programs in human behavior and design prepare students to merge their knowledge of psychology and design to create safer, healthier and more productive environments. These programs, which are similar in scope to programs in human factors psychology, applied psychology and industrial-organizational psychology, explore the limitations, abilities and behavior of humans. Human behavior and design students might be able to choose a specialty, such as the interface between humans and the environment, human components in training and simulation or interactions between humans and computers. Students complete extensive research requirements.

Students typically can apply to doctoral programs in human behavior and design immediately after receiving a bachelor's degree. Often, their undergraduate major must be in psychology. Some programs require applicants to rank in the top 50% of their undergraduate class; most schools require an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Program Levels in Human Behavior: Doctorate degree
  • Some Program Specializations: Humans and environment, human training and simulation, human and computer interaction
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree in psychology
  • Completion Requirement: Research hours

Doctorate Degree in Human Behavior

The coursework of a human behavior and design doctorate programs focuses on human perception, use of technology and optimizing designs for the best human performance. Ph.D. programs highly emphasize research, so classroom course hours are usually fewer than research hours. Courses might include:

  • Anthropometrics and ergonomics
  • Industrial psychology
  • Mixed methods research
  • Perception and sensation
  • Physiological psychology
  • Planning and managing facilities

Popular Careers

There are a variety of careers available to Ph.D. graduates in human behavior and design. These might include:

  • Ergonomic designer
  • Management researcher
  • Marketing researcher
  • Organizational consultant
  • Systems designer
  • University professor

Career and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, market research analysts were expected to see extremely good job growth - 32%, from 2012-2022. The projected growth was thought to be driven by an increase in the use of market research data across all industries. The BLS reported a mean annual salary of $67,500 for this position in 2014.

Meanwhile, post-secondary teachers were expected to see a 19% increase in jobs during the same time frame. Psychology teachers at colleges and universities made an average salary of $74,890 in 2014, while sociology professors made $74,860.

Continuing Education

Psychologists specializing in human behavior and design generally don't need a license or certification since they don't offer patient care. However, they might want to continue their education to improve their opportunities for advancement. This can be done through seminars and additional graduate courses, as well as reading professional journals.

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