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How Do I Become a Human Factors Psychologist?

M. Kayo
M. Kayo

To become a human factors psychologist, you need to have an interest in developing things that help people work or live more efficiently. Educational requirements for this position vary from a basic bachelor's degree to a more advanced master's or even doctoral degree. Research is the foundation for all work currently being done in this field, so you will likely be working for a research facility or research section within a larger company or organization. A human factors psychologist is focused on human interaction with machines and technology.

The educational and formal training requirements for this position include extensive coursework in the area of human factors and systems. This area of study is built around the need to address the challenges involved in optimizing the safety and performance of technology and machines used by people in modern everyday life. Colleges and universities offer several different degrees in this profession. A typical degree plan includes psychology courses for both the bachelor's and master's degrees, before moving on to earn a Ph.D. in a graduate program. Most programs also require the completion of a training-intensive internship with a major corporation or government organization to earn a Ph.D. in human factors psychology.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

A solid research background in human factors application and studies will likely be required prior to employment in academia, industry, or government institutions. There are several specialties within the broader category of human factors psychology, mostly related to research or design. For example, a large number of human factors psychologists are employed by the medical industry. These psychologists conduct studies and research to make new products user-friendly, safe, and ergonomic in design and function.

If you become a human factors psychologist, you will likely conduct research to find practical solutions to everyday problems. The basic duties of a human factors psychologist include applied and fundamental research in ergonomics, factoring for human error in design, workplace safety, product design, and more efficient human-technology interaction. Human factors is concerned with applying what is known about people, their characteristics, and abilities to design things they use, the places they live and work. For example, a person who wants to become a human factors psychologist might conduct research about how drivers respond to a vehicle that comes to a sudden stop directly in front of them. They might use this research to develop an early warning system in cars to help motorists avoid rear-end collisions.

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