How Do I Become an Engineering Psychologist?

M. Kayo

To become an engineering psychologist, you need education and training in the discipline of human factors psychology. This area of psychology studies the interaction between machines and humans in many different environments. Educational requirements include an advanced college degree and possibly some actual experience from an internship or previous employment in the human factors psychology field. Those who want to become an engineering psychologist will find many career opportunities in the research sector of this profession. There are also a number of career opportunities for engineering psychologists in private practice and academia.

An engineering psychologist might find work in the medical industry researching mechanical devices or prosthetics.
An engineering psychologist might find work in the medical industry researching mechanical devices or prosthetics.

Those who desire to become an engineering psychologist must have a bachelor's degree in psychology or another related field like engineering, physics, or computer programming. Although job requirements will vary by employer, there are not many jobs in this field that don't require an advanced degree. Education and training should be focused on working in a specific industry like information technology, research, health care, or teaching. Many companies may require applicants to have some previous engineering work experience. A master's or doctoral degree requiring additional education in a specialized area of human factors psychology is necessary for those who want to become an engineering psychologist in a clinical setting or private practice.

A number of engineering psychologists are employed in the biomedical and industrial engineering sectors. About 40 percent of practicing engineering psychologists are in private practice or work as consultants. The military, typically a major employer of engineering psychologists, is now hiring those in private practice on a consulting basis. Others, in the area of academia, will help to teach students hoping to become engineering psychologists. Professional associations and groups representing engineering psychologists including the American Psychological Association (APA), the Human Factors Ergonomics Society (HFES) and the International Ergonomics Association (IEA).

Most individuals who want to become an engineering psychologist will find employment in the medical industry, at research facilities, in government agencies or in private industry. A career in research involves conducting experiments and developing theories to explain how people use mechanical devices and react to their surrounding environment. The findings from this research might be used to make a prosthetic leg function more efficiently or to make a bathroom more accessible to those who are physically challenged.

Many engineering psychologists work in the medical industry ensuring that medical equipment is safe, efficient, and ergonomic. In order to decrease their liability exposure from poorly designed or unsafe products, some companies are willing to pay a high salary to qualified engineering psychologists to design and monitor the manufacturing of their products.

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