When looking for jobs that are in demand and also provide good wages, STEM jobs often come to mind. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is a rapidly growing field that offers exciting, lucrative, and popular career options. Engineering psychology is a field that definitely falls into these categories. Working as an engineering psychologist is often described as a job that offers exciting, rewarding, and constantly-changing employment demands.
5 Skills You Need to Become an Engineering Psychologist
Individuals with strong interpersonal and writing skills, as well as an interest in tinkering and solving problems, are the ones that typically choose this career. In order to work as an engineering psychologist, you must satisfy certain educational and training requirements. However, even with the right degree, you will need to possess certain traits and skills. Here are five important traits you’ll need to be successful in engineering psychology.
1. Aptitude for Technology
2. Love of Research
3. People Skills
5. Oral and Written Communication Skills
Aptitude for Technology
As a STEM job, you can expect this career to be loaded with technology. As great as new technology can be, it’s not for everyone. Not everyone is technology savvy, but engineering psychologists must have a great aptitude for psychology. They must also enjoy technology. Engineering psychologists may walk through a manufacturing factory, look at a chair, and determine that it’s not the best option because using the chair may cause worker injuries.
While this may sound like a simple enough task, it takes knowledge of technology to come to that determination. However, that is not the only type of services these professionals perform. They might work for a consumer electronic company or may work for a healthcare facility designing medical equipment. They can also be found in factories observing, researching, and learning what makes the employees happy and how to make the workplace better.
An engineering psychology student may learn a lot about technology through the computer engineering or computer science courses that may be required, but the student should also have a solid understanding of technology and be comfortable dealing with technology.
You may know how to set up a computer system, but if you’re not comfortable doing it, you won’t find as much enjoyment in this job as someone that enjoys technology. Individuals pursuing this career may find it beneficial to obtain some entry-level certifications like Intro to programming or A+ prior to starting the engineering program.
Love of Research
Social science research plays a vital role in the engineering psychology field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that industrial-organizational psychologists, which are very similar to engineering psychologists, find the best employment opportunities working for scientific research and development services. Regardless of what position an engineering psych may hold, there is going to be a lot of research performed.
As technology continues to rapidly change, the engineering psych must keep up with the technology, and this is best done through constant research. They monitor things like productivity improvements, injury reduction rates, or employee satisfaction in the workplace. They may interview end users, talk to employees or conduct focus groups and consumer surveys.
If you love analyzing data, finding new information, and performing research, this may be an ideal career for you. Although it’s beneficial to have good statistical skills, a love of research is even more important for this career.
Of all the requirements the engineering psychologists must satisfy that set them apart from other engineers, good people skills are the most important. Good people skills are important for any engineering field, but they are most important for engineering psychologists. Some engineers, like chemical engineers, may spend a great deal of time working alone in a lab and seldom talk to others.
Electrical engineers may also spend a lot of time working independently. Engineering psychologists, on the other hand, design products for human use. Therefore, they must not only be good at communication but also enjoy talking and interacting with others. The engineering psych will interact with many people describing certain products and their features, so they must be comfortable.
This career is probably not a good fit for a shy or introverted individual. This is not to say that a shy person couldn’t do this job. They just might not be as comfortable as possible, and they may project this uncomfortableness onto clients and employees.
Unlike many other engineers or psychologists, engineering psychologists don’t just work in one specific industry or field. They work in various fields. For instance, while one engineering psychologist might work in aviation designing better safety features, another might be offering expertise on time-off policies in an industrial factory. In order to remain as versatile as possible, the psychologist must have a high level of curiosity.
When called up to do a new project, the engineering psych must look at it as a puzzle or interesting challenge and not an inconvenience. They must be curious about what could be wrong, how it can be remedied, and how best to satisfy the client. Their jobs may change from week to week or even day to day. A successful and good engineering psychologist is always eager to learn more, which requires a deep level of eagerness and curiosity.
Oral and Written Communication Skills
Although all fields prefer their workers have good communication skills, it’s even more important for an engineering psychologist. Engineering psychologists generally work as part of a team and must be able to relay their innovative research ideas in a manner so they’re easy to understand. They also work with clients and consumers and must be able to carry on a conversation easily.
They spend a lot of time interacting with others explaining projects, safety issues, and the improvements they’re making. Some engineering psychologists may be required to not only communicate with others but also write up reports for management and clients. Aspiring engineering psychologists who have difficulty with oral and written communication may find it helpful to create and maintain a blog or take some courses in business writing.
In order to work as an engineering psychologist, the applicant must have at least a master’s degree. They typically start their education by earning a bachelor’s degree in general psychology, which typically is a four-year program. Several universities offer undergraduate programs in engineering psychology or a similar area. Some degree titles may include:
• Industrial and systems engineering
• Human factors psychology
• Aviation human factors
• Design & environmental analysis
Another option for the aspiring engineering psychologist may be a bachelor’s in psychology or a bachelor’s degree in engineering with a concentration in psychology. Students in the bachelor’s degree program make have courses like abnormal psychology; general psychology; cognitive psychology, and developmental psychology.
Although some students may end their education after the bachelor’s degree, most engineering psychologist jobs go to those with graduate degrees. When choosing an engineering psychologist program, make sure it’s accredited by the Human Factors and Ergonomic Society.
Once you’ve completed the bachelor’s degree program, you’ll want to complete a master’s degree program, which is an additional two years. Many master degree programs offer areas of specialization, such as:
• Human-computer interaction
• Human factors
• Usability engineering
Courses in the master’s degree program may vary by program and school but may include the following.
• Human-computer interaction foundations
• Cognitive aging
• Analysis techniques
• Cognition engineering
• Research methods
• Industrial-organizational psychology
• Cognition and brain studies
• Cognitive research
• Systems integration
In addition to completing the course work, graduate students are typically required to complete a supervised internship in a setting with a licensed engineering psychologist. At the end of the program, students are required to complete a thesis based on research obtained.
Some engineering psychologists decide to advance their education and pursue a doctoral degree. They may choose from a Ph.D. in Engineering Psychology, a Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology, or a Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in engineering psychology.
There are many colleges and universities that offer engineering psychology graduate programs through distance learning. Distance learning is a convenient option for students who can’t attend classes on campus or who may not be able to attend college full-time for one reason or another.
Online programs generally have the same requirements as on-campus programs, but the courses and exams are taken online. Students log onto the school’s website to retrieve instructor messages, course requirements or to attend student lectures, etc. One of the biggest advantages of the online program is that students can do it at their convenience.
The online engineering psychology programs are most popular with the master’s and doctoral degree programs. Students often attend the online programs while working in an engineering psychology capacity. This allows them to learn while they earn so to speak. Working while earning the degree can also help with the internship requirement. In many cases, this can lead to full-time employment upon completing the degree program.
Another advantage to taking the online program is that you have a much wider selection of colleges from which to choose. Once you’ve researched all the various engineering psychology programs, you can choose the program that offers the courses and curriculum that closest matches your career goals. The type of industry you want to work in may affect the courses you’ll want to take.
Career Outlook & Salary Potential
Since engineering psychology is such a growing field, it’s understandable that engineering psychologists would have good career opportunities and the potential to earn good wages. The BLS states that while industrial-organizational psychologists could see a two percent job growth during the 2020-2030 decade, psychologists, in general, should experience job growth of eight percent.
As technology continues to grow and change, engineering psychologists should continue to be very much in demand. Engineering psychologists may find work in so many industries.
• Industry settings
• Government settings
• Business-related settings
• Medical-related settings
• Aviation related settings
• College and university settings
Engineering psychologists also have the potential to earn very good wages. The potential wages may vary by the reporting agency. The average annual wage earned by industrial-organizational psychologists as of May 2020 was $96,270 with wages as low as $57,440 and as high as $192,800 according to the bureau. The average hourly wage was $46.28. Glassdoor reports the average annual wage for engineering psychologists in the U.S. was $82,815 as of Dec 2021.
Certain factors can affect earning potential. These include the degree level, certifications earned, relevant work experience, employer, and location. Below are the five states where the highest wages were earned by industrial-organizational psychologists.
• California – $119,100
• New Jersey – $106,570
• Ohio – $98,770
• Pennsylvania – $95,000
• Texas – $64,820
Where the engineering psychologist chooses to work as well as the degree level both play roles in the wage potential. According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), the highest average wage of $111,368 was earned by engineering psychologists who worked in the for-profit private sector and held a doctoral degree. The doctoral degree holders who work for government agencies earned $107,314, while the doctoral degree holding engineering psychologists working in academic settings earned $92,614.
The wages were slightly lower for engineering psychologists with master’s degrees. Master degree holders working in business settings earned $90,614, while those working in government settings earned $90,500, and those working in universities and colleges earned $75,150.
Why Engineering Psychologists Are Important
Engineering psychology is both a branch of applied psychology and a part of industrial psychology. It involves various topics, including:
• Personnel procurement
• Organizational management
• Morale and human relations
• Consumer behavior
• Labor relations
Engineering psychologists work in so many areas, including product design, engineering, computer science, aviation, and software development. One of their main duties is learning as much as possible about what consumers want and need in their products. This is an important task because if the consumers aren’t getting what they want, they’ll stop buying the product.
With the increase in consumerism and the boom of the technology industry, engineering psychologists are more in demand than ever before. Businesses as well as consumers are all about safety today and want technology devices and software that is not only safe but more efficient and user friendly.
Engineering psychology is not only a rapidly growing field but also a challenging and rewarding field. Many of the traits required for this career can improve with practice. An individual may also find that completing a training program also enhances the traits and skills required for success in this field. If you like solving programs and possess even a couple of the required traits, you may want to start looking for a training program.