What are the Different Types of Human Factors Jobs?
Those seeking to specialize in the field of human factors science, sometimes called ergonomics, must understand how humans work, how machines work and how these two interact in order to find new ways for them to work together in a safer and more efficient manner. In other words, human factors jobs require employees to take into account human capabilities and limits in order to organize their activities in an optimal manner and to design the most efficient professional equipment and consumer goods possible. The broad nature of this goal translates into many types of human factors jobs across a range of fields such as engineering, statistics, industrial design and psychology.
Many companies that produce commercial goods hire ergonomics experts to develop products designed to take into account the human interface. For instance, many software companies offer positions to software engineers who have a human factors background. There also are many human factors jobs with various military branches in which human factors engineers are responsible for developing ergonomic military equipment. Some human factors employees who work in this capacity are concerned with such things as optimizing the safety of pilots and improving the performance of aircraft as the two interact.
Often, a higher degree such as a master’s degree or a doctor of philosophy (PhD) is a requirement for these types of positions. Human factor engineers who create consumer products must research the particular needs and wants of those who will use their finished product. They must implement their design, then evaluate their product while it is in use so that they can then make any necessary changes.
Other human factors jobs are concerned less with designing products and more with organizing workspace for clients. Many companies hire an ergonomics expert to evaluate the workspace of their employees. These experts are then responsible for designing a workspace that optimizes human safety, comfort and the employees' ability to produce work at optimal levels. For example, human factors specialists were brought in to optimize the design of the International Space Station to see to it that the astronauts living and working there were comfortable.
Specialists in human factors can choose to be employed with a company or to work independently as consultants. Working independently, specialists can take human factors jobs from a variety of companies. This might involve designing products for many companies or moving from company to company in order to evaluate the available workspace.
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