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 mail bags with waist straps in order 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 in order 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 in order to minimize wrist strains.
What Academic Careers are Available?
Many engineering psychologists work in university based research facilities. Often times, these facilities perform critical consumer product research for major corporations. For example, engineering psychologists have proven that using mobile phones decrease the driver’s performance and reaction time. They used electroencephalogram (EEG) caps on study participants who engaged in driving simulations. As a result, the 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 at 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 need 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 in order 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.
Related Resource: Developmental Psychology Careers
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.