What Types of Careers are in Human Factors Psychology?

Human Factors PsychologySo, a career in psychology sounds intriguing, but you’d like to know more about the available types of careers in human factors psychology. Or maybe you don’t even know what that branch of psychology does, but you are curious. Before you sign up for a degree program, it might help to look at this exciting and diverse area of psychology.

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What is Human Factors Psychology?

It is, for lack of a better definition, the application of all the things you learn about people in psychology to making life easier and more enjoyable. That means looking at the ways people relate to their homes, to their workplaces, to tasks they perform, to the tools they use and even to other people to design programs, systems and products to help people interact more successfully. Most human factors psychologists have master’s degrees in psychology along with computer skills because so many of the careers available in this field are based in software design or in engineering, but doctor’s degrees lead to better and higher-paying positions.

An Overview of the Field

An article on the website My Psych Mentor, looks at some representative types of positions in this field. A man with a master’s degree in engineering psychology shared about some of the jobs he has had. He worked briefly for the government helping to translate intercepted foreign audio transmissions into text. That task is vital to monitoring terrorism. The human factors part comes into play when you realize that much of the meaning of spoken language is contained in nuances and inflexion that translation software might not “understand.”

The man also worked to help design air trafficking control work areas and systems. The controllers had been asked about their needs and their perceived need was for faster systems. After researching, the psychologist realized their actual needs were in the ergonomics of the workplace and in customized keyboards, among other things. He helped redesign the workplace and many of the tools the controllers use, which resulted in a safer work environment for the workers and for the pilots that depended on them.

The man in the article then went on to talk about working for a major corporation to test their software usability. The software designers had built new systems, but hadn’t taken into account the limitations and characteristics of the users. The software wasn’t satisfactory. The psychologist ran tasks on older systems, identified the problems users had, and suggested design features to improve the usability of the systems.

His experiences mirror almost the gamut of careers in this field of psychology. He applied his knowledge of human characteristics and needs to real-world problems such as the translation and he researched a problem to identify the actual needs of the controllers, designing a workplace that was more compatible with the workers. The psychologist also used his skills and knowledge to help software designers correct mistakes they had made in a new software application.

Actual Jobs in the Field

A recent scan of the jobs list available on the website Simply Hired showed these openings for human factors psychologists:

  • Research Psychologist for the Central Intelligence Agency –  The duties of this job include making certain employees have the right training. A PhD is required and the salary is $81,471 to $105, 960.
  • Psychology Associate in a juvenile detention center –  Salary of this jobs $33,435 to $59,512.
  • Research Psychologist for a Detroit auto maker – This job is for someone who will help design driver interface computer systems and features for new cars. The salary is $80.000 to $100,000.
  • Industrial Designer –  This job is diverse, including designing new products for customers in baths and building operating suites and robotic surgery tools and systems to make surgery less invasive and shrink recovery time.

When you take into account that this field of psychology is used in so many ways, the opportunities are endless. Government, corporate, healthcare positions are only a few of the careers available in human factors psychology.

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