What Does a Human Factors Psychologist Do?

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As technology continues to advance at a speedy pace and our sophisticated tools become capable of doing even more for us, the role of human factors psychologist is increasingly prominent in the field of engineering. Human factors psychology was established to study human capabilities and limitations with the goal of developing safer, more efficient, and more dependable products or technologies for consumers. Since more industries are realizing that their scientific research helps make final products more functional and enjoyable to use for improved sales, human factors psychology is one of the hottest post-grad growth areas recognized by the APA. If you are considering this fast-growing psychological discipline, read on to find a full job description for human factors psychologists in the rapidly evolving 21st century.

What Human Factors Psychologists Do

Human factors psychologists are focused on studying how humans interact with machines to improve technology, consumer products, energy systems, transportation, telecommunications, and other important tools in our daily living environments. Human factors psychologists conduct research studies on a wide range of human traits to help in the process of designing machines or systems that people can use properly, safely, and comfortably. Many human factors psychologists will study errors or accidents that have been made and determine which factors could be altered in order to avoid another incident in the future. In some case, human factors psychologists will specialize their career in working with architects to guarantee that factories, offices, hospitals, and other places of employment are designed with employee safety in mind.

Where Human Factors Psychologists Work

Depending on their area of specialty, human factors psychologists can find plentiful job opportunities in a vast array of work settings. The largest percentage of human factors psychologists are working for private corporations in the computing, manufacturing, medical, and engineering fields to boost usability while minimizing safety concerns. Many human factors psychologists also find employment within government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Furthermore, human factors psychologists often work in academia on college and university campuses to teach courses as well as study human/machine interfaces.

How to Become a Human Factors Psychologist

As with many other careers in the diverse psychology field, the minimum academic requirement for working in human factors psychology is to possess a master’s degree from an accredited institution. That being said, the majority of psychologists pursue a Ph.D. degree at one of the 70 universities in the United States that currently offer a doctoral program related to human factors or engineering psychology. In addition to completing coursework relevant to research methods, statistics, physiology psychology, computer science, organizational psychology, occupational safety, cognitive psychology, and human performance, it is recommended that you participate in research projects dealing with human factors. After graduation, some states will require human factors psychologists to receive licensure despite not providing direct health services.

Overall, human factors psychologists are interested in studying human traits like perception, sensory processing, attention, decision making, and motor skills to apply psychological principles a variety of fields. If you choose to become a human factors psychologist, you could be on the frontlines in helping develop products that maximize usability, improve efficiency in daily tasks, and enhance safety for better well-being.

Related article: Top 20 Most Innovative Graduate Psychology Degree Programs 2014

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