Ergonomics specialists make it easier for people to do their jobs by observing human movement as it relates to the work environment. They apply their knowledge of musculoskeletal function and how humans interact with their environment to make the workplace safer and more efficient. A career in this field may begin with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology program.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of health and safety specialists – a category that includes ergonomists – is projected to increase by 4% nationwide between 2014 and 2024. Employment growth will be fueled, in part, by a focus on reducing workers’ compensations costs in light of an aging workforce.
Career opportunities should be stronger for candidates with advanced educational qualifications, the BLS notes.
Job Duties for Ergonomics Specialists
Whether they are employed by private firms or public hospitals, ergonomics specialists perform a variety of tasks in their everyday work. They consult with clients on ways to control workplace hazards, and create a safe and productive environment. Ergonomics specialists also provide ergonomic assessments to employers by observing, analyzing and documenting workers’ movements and actions, and then presenting their recommendations. They may also train the client’s workers on proper procedures and body positioning to prevent injuries.
Ergonomics specialists may develop or conduct research for insurance underwriters or government agencies. Documenting their findings and maintaining proper records are also typical job duties. Some specialists forecast events such as decision-making or behavior by observing groups or individuals and applying modeling or quantitative analysis to data.
Collaboration with engineers, designers and clients is often part of an ergonomics specialist’s job.
Potential Salary Range
Nationwide, occupational health and safety specialists had an average annual wage of $72,480 as of May 2016, according to BLS statistics. Salaries for the top 10% of earners in this occupational classification exceeded $104,460 a year.
Recent bachelor’s graduates will generally start out toward the lower end of the range, and can increase their earning potential with additional education, experience and certification.
Education and Training
Most entry-level ergonomics specialist positions require a bachelor’s degree. Some employers may also require candidates to obtain the Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE®) designation from the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics.
The first step to an ergonomics specialist career can be a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology. Coursework typically includes introduction to psychology, scientific and technical communication, statistics and human-computer interaction.
Employers should expect graduates of an applied psychology program to be able to:
- Distinguish between the founding concepts and perspectives of psychology
- Understand the trends and theories of applied psychology
- Apply models and research in problem-solving and decision making
Eligible employees may have access to their company’s tuition reimbursement or assistance program, making it possible to gain an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and then pursue a master’s degree while working full time.
Is an Ergonomics Specialist Career in Your Future?
If you have strong communication and interpersonal skills, a resourceful approach to problem-solving, an interest in human behavior and excellent attention to detail, you may find a career as an ergonomics specialist to be personally and professionally rewarding.