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Engineering Psychology: Career Info, Job Duties and Requirements

Engineering psychologists require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and job growth projections to see if this is the right career for you.

As the need to work with technical devices increases, the need to understand how people interact with technology has grown. Engineering psychologists examine how people interact with technological systems and then provide insight so that the design of things such as an airplane cockpit can be optimized.

Essential Information

Engineering psychology, a relatively new branch of industrial-organizational psychology, examines how people interact with technological devices and systems. These psychologists generally work in government, academia or industry, researching the needs of users in order to design more suitable equipment and work environments. Some also teach. Most professionals in this field have a doctoral degree in psychology. A few, however, work in this field with a master's degree.

Required Education Doctoral or master's degree in psychology with a relevant concentration
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 19% (for industrial-organizational psychologists)
Median Salary (2015)* $77,350 (for industrial-organizational psychologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Engineering psychology, sometimes referred to as human factors psychology, is a fairly new field. Careers for engineering psychologists can be found primarily in academia, manufacturing and government. Many of these jobs involve teaching or research; some engineering psychologists help design products.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 2,000 industrial-organizational psychologists, including engineering psychologists, employed in the U.S. in 2014. The BLS projects that the number of industrial-organizational psychologists will increase by 19%, adding 400 more jobs over the 2014-2024 decade. In May 2015, the BLS reported that industrial-organizational psychologists earned a median annual salary of $77,350.

Duties

Engineering psychologists examine users' needs and performance abilities to design equipment and work environments. For example, these professionals might research the design of airplane flight decks or nuclear power plants. Researchers who work in engineering psychology can study cognitive ergonomics, human engineering and aging, among other topics.

Cognitive ergonomics researchers might explore the relationship between individuals and technological devices. Researchers interested in human engineering topics might study how noise affects the way people process information or human perception in the driving environment. Engineering psychologists who study aging might focus on how older adults use automated systems or manage physical pain.

Requirements

The BLS notes that most psychologists hold a doctorate, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Psychology with a concentration in engineering psychology or a Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology. However, the American Psychological Association notes that some professionals in this field hold a master's degree. HFES accredits graduate programs in human factors, as well as engineering psychology. Coursework in these programs might emphasize research methodology and statistics, as well as cognition, perception and development.

Most environmental psychologists work in academic fields, for the government, or in manufacturing. Research is a critical component of their work, and they focus on understanding how people interact with technology. Those in manufacturing apply that information to how to improve designs to optimize their accessibility and appeal to people.


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