Human Factors (also known as ergonomics or human engineering) is a psychology subspecialty that addresses the properties and characteristics of human beings and their capability limitations in order to develop products, environments or equipment that is safe and easy to use. It includes subfields of human performance, technology design and human-computer interaction.
What does a Human Factors Psychologist Do?
Psychologists who specialize in Human Factors can focus on many different areas. For example, they may research human performance and limitations both in terms of physical perception (visual,auditory, etc) and in terms of cognition (decision making, memory, ability to learn new skills, etc).
Human Factors psychologists may also focus on how people interact with technology (think accessible web design or usability testing) or they may examine the functionality of systems (such as the workflow within a business or even how to create a safe and manageable air traffic control system).
Careers in Human Factors
As you can see, there are many varied industries that would benefit from the analysis of a Human Factors specialist, meaning that there are many career options.
Human Factors psychologists can often be found working for federal or local government agencies analyzing computer systems or workflow in order to streamline departments. They are also often employed by private industry to help manufacture efficient products that will benefit customers. You’re likely to find Human Factors specialists working in many different industries, from computers and telecommunications to consumer products and automotive industries.
Entry level positions can earn anywhere from $45,000 to $75,000 annually, where as Human Factors psychologists with doctoral degrees can expect to earn an average of $180,000 per year, with the higher salaries reserved for those who work for private for-profit companies.
Obtaining a Human Factors Degree
Human Factors psychologists will have to be well versed in brain science and cognitive psychology, so these fields will most likely be where you will focus your education.
While there are a few positions available for someone with a master’s degree in the Human Factors industry, most of these will be as a research assistant supervised by a doctorate level psychologist. To really open up your career options (and earning potential), you’ll want to set your sights on a doctoral degree.