Engineering psychology is a rapidly growing field in which students study the interaction between people and machines, as well as tasks and environments. Involving psychologists in the design of a product helps develop a user friendly and enjoyable consumer experience, according to Ronald G. Shapiro, Ph.D., interviewed in an article on the American Psychological Association's website.
Engineering psychologists in academia teach courses, supervise students and manage research projects. Engineering psychology coursework involves theories and methods helpful in analyzing and understanding how people use technology. Academics in this field conduct original research projects for publication in peer review journals. They also supervise graduate students' research projects. Academic professors, such as Dr. Neville A. Stanton, Ph.D., interviewed in an article on the Careers in Psychology website, indicate that they maintain involvement in industry through consulting, which in Dr. Stanton's case involves helping companies understand the role that human error plays in accidents.
Engineering psychologists working for the military might help develop military apparatus, such as planes or weapons which are safe and comfortable. An engineering psychologist working for the U.S. Postal Service may, for example, develop a mail bag that can be worn comfortably for long time periods without muscle fatigue. Engineering psychologists working for the government can influence laws by conducting research in areas such as worker fatigue and safety.
One of the reasons the demand for engineering psychologists is growing is because more industries are realizing that involving psychologists in the design process helps prevent costly redesigns. Engineering psychologists working in industry specialize in a variety of areas such as ergonomics or human-computer interaction. In addition to monetary compensation, these professionals take satisfaction in developing safer products that will be comfortable, reliable and easy to use.
Engineering psychology is a lucrative field, although there is a difference in pay by employer type. Those employed in industry tend to make the most money, followed by government employees and academics. In 2009, engineering psychologists in the mid-central U.S. averaged $88,317, compared to $118,434 for engineering psychologists in the northwest, according to the latest publication of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society's (HFES) salary survey. Doctorate-level engineering psychologists earned between 18 to 28 percent more than their master's level counterparts.
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