So you want to go to graduate school in Human Factors?

This is the first post in an upcoming series about human factors graduate school.

If you have decided that you might want to further your education in human factors and ergonomics by going to graduate school, here is some useful information that Anne and I have collected over the years.  While there are many sources of similar information, this one is tailored to potential HF students and answers questions that we’ve received.

First, graduate school will be very different from undergraduate.  Yes, you take classes, but the most important experience is in conducting research–that is how you will be evaluated and ultimately what determines whether you are successful.

Most prospective students in HF are interested in the topic because they are interested in design or usability.  It is important to realize that graduate school will not be like working in a design studio.  Instead, it will be more like being in an experimental psychology program where you take courses in statistics, research methods, cognition, perception, etc.  

You will also take specialized courses in usability or other evaluation methods but it will be one of many.  The goal is to educate you on the fundamentals of human capabilities and limitations so that you can then use this knowledge in the design or evaluation of artifacts (for those going into applied fields).

In the rest of this series, we’ll discuss researching programs, contacting faculty, and various dos and don’ts.

5 thoughts on “So you want to go to graduate school in Human Factors?”

  1. You mentioned how graduate school differs from an undergraduate education in that the primary focus is on research training. Once someone finishes graduate school, what is the day-to-day like for someone working in the human factors industry?

    Will those with a PhD in human factors/engineering psychology continue to use the research methods and statistical training to answer questions about certain human performance?

    Or is it more likely that industry jobs for PhD graduates will require them to simply call on their knowledge of human behavior to assess the safety of products and environments? Kind of like the way a clinical psychologist would finish a PhD, but move on to be a more of a clinician than a researcher.

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