Engineering psychology is a psychological science that applies human behavior and capability to the design and operation of products and technology. This field is considered an applied psychological field with an interdisciplinary relationship to the field of ergonomics. The goal of the Engineering Psychology field is to enhance the interactions between people and machines by helping in the design of products, technology, or systems that involve these interactions. An engineering psychologist is enlisted to make the use of products or technology more “user-friendly.”
What are the Main Responsibilities of an Engineering Psychologist?
Engineering psychologists are responsible for both research as well as work as consultants in fields such as engineering, product design, and software development. One of the major obligations of engineering psychologists is to implement research investigating what consumers want and need when it comes to products and technology. They may do this by creating focus groups, test panels, and consumer surveys. This allows engineering psychologists to study how people interact with products and identify potential problems, such as safety issues or difficulty for the user. Engineering psychologists work with other professionals to help create products that are less likely to result in problems due to human error. Another important area for the engineering psychology is the collection of demographic information and studying general user abilities. Another duty includes making subtle changes to product so that consumers will find it easier to use or more appealing.
How Much Can an Engineering Psychologist Earn?
There is a wide range of potential earning depending upon degree level, region of employment and area of employment. According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s (HFES) 2005 Salary and Compensation Survey, average salaries are highest for engineering psychologists in private industry and lowest for those in academia, with government work in between. Doctoral-level engineering psychologists working in the private sector earned an average of $111,368, professionals in academia earned an average of $92,614. Master’s-level professionals earned $90,164 in business settings, $90,500 in government and $75,150 in university positions. Starting salaries across all sectors range from $48,000 to $75,367. Consultants with PhDs who work in industry fared the best, earning $179,160 on average.
Where Do Engineering Psychologists Work?
Engineering psychologists work in a range of environments, including academia, government agencies and private industry. Engineering psychologists can become advisors for companies or government agencies such as automobile manufacturers, the US Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and NASA to help improve safety.
What are the Educational Requirements in the Field of Engineering Psychology?
There are currently about 70 universities in the United States offering accredited graduate programs in engineering psychology, and the list continues to grow as the field booms. Students enter these programs with a wide range of undergraduate degrees, including psychology, engineering, computer programming and product or Web design. Graduates with a master’s degree have the ability to find jobs in the field, however engineering psychologists with a doctoral degree often earn higher salaries and have a higher level of responsibility. Some areas, such as academia and government positions may require PhDs. Graduate students at both the master’s and doctoral level will complete courses in human cognition, development, learning and perception. It is highly recommended that graduate students look for additional courses in research methods and statistics.