Ergonomics students use engineering principles to design safer, more comfortable
products for the office or home. These products can range from comfy chairs
to special keyboards or mouse pads designed to be easier on your wrists.
You don't always get a degree in ergonomics. In most cases, you'll be
studying mechanical or industrial engineering, though a few kinesiology
programs also offer ergonomics courses. Look for a program that offers the
opportunity to take classes and specialize in ergonomics, which is sometimes
also called human factors.
According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), 67 schools
in North America offer graduate ergonomics programs. The society accredits
schools that meet certain criteria.
It's possible to get a four-year bachelor's degree in ergonomics, but most
programs are at the master's and PhD level. Professor Mark Chignell says
students entering the graduate program have bachelor's degrees in everything
from industrial, electrical or biomedical engineering to computer science
Because it's such a broad discipline, there's a wide range of classes
Chignell says his students complete "courses on research methods that cover
topics such as experimental design and statistical analysis and signal detection
theory. There are also courses on engineering psychology, cognitive work analysis
and theoretical foundations of human factors."
Gary Mirka is an industrial engineering professor at North Carolina State
University. He says courses focus on things such as occupational biomechanics
Many programs offer a co-op option, where students get a paid work
placement in the field.
Applicants to the master's program need a good undergraduate academic record.
PhD candidates must display proven research abilities and a minimum A-minus
grade level at the master's level.
Mirka says high school students need a strong background in math and science.
"I would recommend trying to get as much math, biology and science as possible,"
"If your school offers an anatomy or physiology course, that would also
be of help."
Chignell says students should pay close attention to how well the tools
and processes people use fit them. "Watching people drive cars [and] use bank
machines are examples of opportunities to see problems and issues relating
to human-centered design," he says.
On top of tuition, you can also expect to pay for books and some project
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