People with a passion for studying how others work and designing tools to help them do so more easily and without the likelihood for injury might find becoming an ergonomist suits them well.
Also known as human factors engineering, this unique field is a hybrid of engineering, psychology and occupational safety, among other disciplines. Growing at a pace that’s faster than average, this field draws those who like to help others, streamline processes and create new ideas to make everyday tasks less daunting for their fellow human beings.
A Day in the Life of a Human Factors Engineer
From a broad perspective, human factors engineers are tasked with designing environments, facilities and objects that optimize the well-being of humans while enhancing overall performance. They also investigate human behavior and performance factors in relation to the use of different forms of technology.
Duties for an ergonomist can vary, but may include such tasks as:
* Conducting research into human performance
* Designing aids
* Training people in the use of new techniques or ergonomic principles
* Reviewing safety records to evaluate the effectiveness of safety programs and to zero in on tasks with high rates of injury
* Recommending workplace improvements that could enhance safety and health
* Helping establish workplaces that reduce physical hazards while also modifying tasks to reduce time involved in completion
* Human factors engineers may find themselves working in a number of settings. In many cases, these professionals work in private corporations and manufacturing settings. They may also find employment with engineering firms, government agencies and other employers looking to improve workflow while enhancing safety and performance.
Skills for the Job
Ergonomics draws on a number of disciplines to provide its professionals with the skills they require to understand humans at work and what measures and/or devices might assist them in performing better while enhancing safety. Inasmuch, this field calls for a number of skills that cross disciplines. They include:
Strong analysis and observation abilities
A sharp understanding of human physiology, especially in working situations
Communication skills to interview people while also presenting information and findings
Mathematical abilities, including ability to understand and process data and statistics
How to Become a Human Factors Engineer
Human factors engineers generally get started by pursuing an applied psychology degree in the field or an engineering degree related to ergonomics or human factors. Some employers might require a Certified Professional Ergonomist designation. This certification is offered through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics and requires at least a bachelor’s degree and three years of work experience in addition to successful completion of an exam.
Human factors engineers who wish to advance their careers and seek higher certifications often go on to earn master’s or doctorate degrees.
The Future is Bright: Ergonomics and Human Factors Engineering Salaries
While the U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t track human factors engineering as its own breakout career field, other organizations do. Recruiter.com, for example, estimates average salaries in this field to fall in between $86,000 and $108,000 with a strong employment outlook through 2022.
Professionals who pursue ergonomics may also find themselves working in related positions, such as public administration, health and occupational safety and so on. Students interested in exploring human factors engineering are urged to conduct their own research. Job availability and salary may vary best on location and position.