A career as a human factors engineer is often fitting for a person with a creative mindset and a knack for optimizing products or machines. Basically, these individuals work to enhance and improve things that human beings use on a daily basis. The goal of these engineers is to make things as safe, comfortable and efficient as possible. Generally speaking, at least a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related major is required to obtain a position in this field. Some typical duties of a human factors engineer include determining which factors people need in a product, testing existing products, identifying weaknesses, developing improvement strategies and implementing those strategies in new designs.
One of the most important aspects of being a human factors engineer is determining which factors people need or want in a product. For example, if an individual in the position is working to redesign a forklift, he might perform research to find what type of seating is most comfortable, where controls should be placed and how to make operating it safe. Pinpointing these needs is vital for making the most practical and efficient product possible. This part of the job often involves working with other professionals like psychologists or industry experts.
Another part of this career involves testing existing products and identifying weaknesses. Again, in the case of redesigning a forklift, a human factors engineer may use surveys of forklift operators to identify the most common complaints concerning design. He might also perform some safety tests to determine what the potential hazards of use are. This step is necessary for improving ergonomics and designing the best product possible.
Once a human factors engineer has a clear understanding of a product's flaws, he will begin the process of developing improvement strategies. In most cases, he will brainstorm different possibilities and experiment with various ideas. Sometimes, he will also interact with professionals within an industry to determine how realistic and practical his ideas are. This part of the job serves as a preliminary step before creating new designs for a product.
After he has some realistic improvements in mind, a human factors engineer will create new designs for a product. For example, he might design a forklift with a raised seat so drivers have a better view. He might also design a more stable frame to prevent the machine from rolling over. For this process, a human factors engineer will often use a computer aided design (CAD) software program. Upon completion, products can begin to be manufactured based on the improved design.