How to Become an Ergonomist

Ergonomists are scientists who study how people think and how they perform actions for the purpose of designing products and systems to be safer, more efficient and more fun for people to use. Ergonomists work on design of a variety of products and systems including: airplanes, air traffic control systems, backpacks, computers, educational systems, furniture, homes, military equipment, ships, spacecraft, surgical equipment, toys and virtual environments. As scientists, ergonomists also publish their findings in journals and books for others to use. Most ergonomists in the United states have either a masters or a doctoral degree. They may be employed in academics, business, consulting, government or industry.


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    Earn an undergraduate degree. A few colleges and universities offer an undergraduate degree in ergonomics. Most ergonomics degrees are earned at the masters and doctoral levels, allowing a wide variety of choices for an undergraduate major. Common undergraduate degree choices are psychology and systems engineering. Other undergraduate degree options might include: aviation, biology, computer science, kinesiology, mechanical engineering, occupational therapy, physical therapy, physiology, software engineering and sports medicine. As an undergraduate become very involved in research at your college or university. Try to attend at least one meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES)or one of its local chapters as an undergraduate if you live in the USA. If you live in a country outside of the USA check out the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) website to find the contact information for the ergonomics organization in your country.
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    Select and apply to a graduate school. A listing of the graduate schools offering programs in ergonomics is available on the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES)web site.
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    Earn your graduate degree. While in graduate school be sure to complete one or two internships and become involved in meaningful research.
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    Consider certification. While certification is not mandatory in the field, may practitioners have chosen to complete examinations and have their work reviewed by colleagues to earn certification. One of the leading certification organizations in the US is the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE). If you plan to work on becoming certified be sure that you complete the requisite coursework in graduate school.
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    Seek employment. You may chose to work in academics, business, consulting, government, or industry. Throughout your time in school network with ergonomists by attending professional meetings, participating in internet discussions and completing internships. This network, in addition to reading formal job postings will help you to secure a great position. Ultimately, you may decide to open your own consulting business, but normally this would only be done after having years of experience.


  • There are many terms sometimes used interchangeably to describe ergonomics: these terms include Human Factors, Ergonomics, Engineering Psychology. Some professionals in the field will argue that there are differences between these but at the introductory level, in any case, all are closely related.
  • Become familiar with the three organizations HFES, IEA and BCPE referenced in this article.
  • If you are interested in computer usability, the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) might also be of interest to you.

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Categories: Occupations | Psychology Studies