Knowing what a degree offers after college increases a student’s prospects of finding a career in their area of study. Students are encouraged to gain insight into their career choices long before graduation is completed. Many of today’s professional careers combine more than one major as a requisite for employment.
With so many gains in the fields of computing, procurement, and manufacturing, businesses are seeking out professionals with experience in engineering psychology. While the degree might be smaller than other engineering majors, the need for companies to make work safer for their employees is a guarantee that engineering psychology will remain a viable career path for graduates throughout the country.
While careers in engineering psychology are limited, they are very rewarding and challenging. This new field of psychology is still developing and growing. As more industries recognize the value of engineering psychology, there will be increased industrial integration and job opportunities.
What is Engineering Psychology?
Engineering psychology is a unique blend of mind and mechanical science. That is, engineering psychology combines the fields of ergonomics, psychology, and engineering. The primary purpose is to improve the quality of interaction between people, machines, and the environment.
Engineering psychologists continually seek to find the perfect balance between machine functioning and human competency. However, equipment redesigns aren’t just limited to machines. For example, engineering psychologists redesigned post office mailbags with waist straps to reduce mail carrier fatigue. All of this was accomplished through applied ergonomics.
What is Ergonomics?
All engineering psychology success rests on being able to understand and apply ergonomic principles to work processes. Ergonomics is the scientific study of how to adjust work processes, equipment, and the environment to increase efficiency and reduce health problems.
According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ergonomics is one of the keys to preventing musculoskeletal disorders. For example, many workers, who perform the same repetitive tasks every day, are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. However, ergonomic adjustments can reduce or eliminate this. For example, engineering psychologists successfully redesigned grocery checkout stations to minimize wrist strains.
What Academic Careers are Available?
Many engineering psychologists work in university-based research facilities. Oftentimes, these facilities perform critical consumer product research for major corporations. For example, engineering psychologists have proven that using mobile phones decreases the driver’s performance and reaction time. They used electroencephalogram (EEG) caps on study participants who engaged in driving simulations.
As a result, engineering psychologists were able to measure brain activity, eye movements, and overall driver reactions. Consequently, the analyzed data were provided to government and educational organizations. Because of this, many states formulated regulations to restrict mobile phone usage when driving.
What Transportation Careers are Available?
There are other careers in engineering psychology available through many industries. For example, an engineering psychologist may directly work for an auto manufacturer’s research facility. They may act as private consultants and work with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
However, the aviation industry is in equal need of qualified engineering psychologists who can increase pilot safety. Pilot cockpits are covered in complex electronic equipment that needs to be redesigned and more user-friendly. Even more important, the aerospace industry and NASA need engineering psychologists to streamline and improve their extremely intricate and laborious procedures and equipment.
What Industrial Careers are Available?
There are also industrial careers in engineering psychology available. For example, oil and gas exploration and extraction is a hazardous and problematic process. Therefore, the training, communication, and work procedures must be continuously improved to keep workers safe and protect the environment.
Any minor mistakes or miscalculations could result in catastrophic results, such as a major oil spill or explosion. In addition to this, the principles of engineering psychology are also useful for manufacturers, who must maintain the difficult balance between safety, quality, and fast-paced production.
Overall, engineering psychology may be a new field, but there are exclusive career opportunities available. These include working in the academic, transportation, and industrial fields. As time goes by, careers in engineering psychology will expand and offer new prospects.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are government employees with experience in engineering psychology. But depending on the entity and location, relative positions could be either subject to change or long-term. In most circumstances, the US government grants contracts to private companies to conduct research whenever the skill is needed, though the federal government and DOD may post positions online when people with the degree are needed. At the state level, openings could be listed on sites for businesses with ongoing contracts.
2. What about military careers?
The profession traces its history to militaries of the early to mid 20th century. With the amount of equipment produced in the conflict of the Second World War, participating governments trained and hired specialists in psychology and engineering. With the advent of personal computers in the 1970s, engineering psychologists ventured out of government, quickly spreading to businesses as a standalone career.
Today, the military has officer positions for people attending traditional colleges and military academies. In either place of higher education, majors related to it are provided. Based on the branch of service and the servicemember’s term, relevant duties could rest within the umbrella of engineering.
Engineering occupations in the military are diverse, and some of them could fall into the medical field or jobs testing and designing equipment for soldiers. However, due to the classified nature of the armed forces, details about the nature of the work could be sensitive and are routinely kept from the public eye.
3. In what ways is the work shown to the general public?
In many products that are mass-produced or depended on by people to do an activity, someone with an EP degree likely assisted in its design. There are lots of tools and home equipment built requiring people knowledgeable in ergonomics. The clothing and textile industries are but a few of many, where new designs made for protection are tested and built according to the needs of the people wearing them.
This is made evident in tactical equipment used by law enforcement such as vest design concepts and their comfort in police interceptor vehicles. In the manufacturing and industrial industries, machines operated by people must undergo stringent testing to assess their safety to the users and environment before being put to use. Engineering psychologists analyze new and existing designs for practicality, providing improvements to vehicle interiors, safety equipment in the handling of hazardous materials, and sportswear.
4. Do specialists closely work with designers and engineers?
In some cases, yes. Engineering and ergonomics are often intertwined with each other, sometimes to the point where they’re essentially part of the same job. But engineering psychologists generally test and develop with efficiency in mind. Jobs are oftentimes tasked with increasing the productivity of the operator, yet in a way that maximizes their protection and comfort.
5. Is it closely related to the medical field?
There are a large number of engineering psychologists in the medical field. Hospitals must be designed to accommodate people with consideration for various disabilities. In almost any emergency room, ICU, or physical therapy facility, their work can be seen. It might seem inconspicuous without knowing it. Common items associated with design from people in the profession are hospital beds and devices manipulated by patients and medical staff.
The expectations for hospitals to feature a structure conforming to the needs of the disabled are high. Wheelchair and walker use is abundant. To make a hospital more accommodating and safer for everyone, the height and design of doors, walkways, and operating rooms are tested for defaults in their outline. Sometimes this occurs during renovations or before the construction of new wards.
The design of operating tables allows surgeons to perform crucial tasks for patients. Fixtures must be properly aligned to give doctors the visuals they need, through the placement of lights and positioning of the bed. For EMTs, critical life-saving duties are needed for the injured, oftentimes in confined spaces. The work of engineering psychologists has produced portable medical devices for paramedics, on the ground and in the ambulance.
6. Will it remain in demand for the foreseeable future?
A demand for more engineering psychologists will remain, even with many jobs becoming increasingly automated. Some work from the computer, figuring out ways to make hands-on equipment perform better for the employees of varied fields.
In the world of automation, the duty of a job is to control equipment using machines, but with fewer people. If the machinery is built or designed carelessly, an injury may happen. For this reason, engineering psychologists proliferate in the study and development of robotics. Designers of automated machines building computerized machines are sometimes referred to as robotics engineers. Good efficiency from these machines increases their level of productivity. In much of the world, the manufacturing of goods is controlled by robotic machines.
The parts are operated by people that handle them from one location. Since their monitoring and manual operation happens at some point, engineering psychologists will continue to produce increasingly better concepts for workers to administer.
7. What role do engineering psychologists play in the automobile industry?
The inside of all modern vehicles is built with safety in mind. For them to be safe, every part operated is carefully made using techniques within the knowledge of engineering psychologists. One of their primary techniques involves the study and implementation of a vehicle concept’s UI or user interface. UI allows engineering psychologists to bridge a connection between the driver or user, and the automobile being driven. It’s essentially the way people interact with computers.
If a user interface of a car is inefficient, operating it becomes more of a chore than a drive, potentially taking the motorist’s attention off the road. The work of engineering psychologists saves lives through their implementation of seats, steering wheels, and brakes that intuitively work to make driving easier.
8. Are engineering careers possible with an EP degree?
Yes, particularly in mechanical, industrial, and chemical engineering. Depending on the work, the degree can be used to land a closely related career path. However, some businesses may require an engineering major at the undergraduate or master’s level. It’s also taught in auxiliary courses for mechanical and industrial engineering majors. Some of the courses include ergonomics and experimental psychology.
Many engineering psychologists begin by pursuing a bachelor’s. The most common undergraduate course for this is psychology, then more career-oriented coursework for a master’s or doctorate. But plenty of colleges offer majors independently centered around the major, under different titles.
For avionics careers, courses on aviation human factors are also relative to engineering and psychology work. The FAA titles workers that study and assist in the production of aircraft interfaces as human factor specialists. Duties take place on the ground, primarily when aircraft undergo renovation to the cockpit, steward’s quarters, and passenger cabins.
9. What jobs involve consumer or customer interaction?
Most jobs undertaken by engineering psychologists involve interaction with consumers. To get a better understanding of what consumers of a product want, surveys, meetings, and direct feedback help in the creation of new products. This is particularly useful for private and defense contractors. Contractors work in areas where the construction and maintenance of dangerous materials are undertaken, such as nuclear power plants. The tools used for their work are created by scientists, engineers, and engineering psychologists assisting with information obtained through the operators themselves.
A Fulfilling Degree and Career Choice
Engineering psychologists understand human interaction with machinery and computers. Sometimes, the field bridges off into other industries.
Workers regularly interact with different people to come up with better ideas for human and mechanical interaction, having jobs consistently evolving with new but exciting challenges. And since many engineering psychologists bear degrees connected to engineering and psychological studies, a career can be found in a wide range of specialties. There are engineering psychologists in the aerospace industry, building machines used by astronauts and facilities housing the teams on the ground communicating with them.
Overall, it’s a fulfilling career that workers love and recommend. Many of the everyday tools entrusted by people are made safe and easy to use from the hard work of engineering psychologists. They allow doctors to perform useful techniques to get patients proper care with medical devices of all kinds. And with consistently new improvements made to AI and augmented reality, the career will rapidly expand into new markets faster than ever before.