How to become an Ergonomist. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does an Ergonomist do?
Ergonomists, sometimes known as human factors specialists, help to make sure that equipment, machinery and environments are designed with the people who will use them in mind. They apply their scientific and technical knowledge to making things safer, easier, more comfortable or more efficient to use.
As an ergonomist, you would research and analyse issues including:
- the way muscles and limbs work
- the physical capabilities and limitations of the body
- the effects of environmental factors such as noise, heat and lighting
- how people think and behave, and the way this affects their use of equipment and systems.
Your tasks would vary depending on the particular job, but examples include:
- designing office layouts and advising on suitable furniture and equipment
- advising on the organisation of production lines and workstations
- designing equipment for people with disabilities
- developing equipment and systems that are easy to use and less likely to lead to errors
- changing vehicle design to increase the safety of the driver and passengers
- carrying out user trials to test new designs, and providing feedback to the manufacturer or client
- acting as expert witness in cases of industrial injury.
You could also be involved in research or teaching.
You would usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, but hours can vary depending on the employer and the project you are working on.
Your time would be divided between office work and travel to visit clients and sites. A lot of your work would be computer-based, involving the use of design software and computer-aided design (CAD) systems. You would also use a variety of equipment for measuring and making calculations.
How much does an Ergonomist earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Recently qualified ergonomics graduates can earn from £21,000 a year upwards.
- Experienced ergonomists can earn £33,000 or more.
As many ergonomists are self employed, salary levels can vary considerably.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You can qualify as an ergonomist in either of the following ways:
- BSc in Ergonomics at Loughborough University
- a degree in a relevant subject, such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychology, sports science, design, engineering or biology, followed by a postgraduate qualification in ergonomics.
You could take up ergonomics as a second career after working in areas like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychology or engineering.
The Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (IHEF) is the professional organisation for ergonomists. Visit the IHEF website for career and training information and details of recognised courses. Please check with colleges or universities for entry requirements.
You can join the IHEF on three different levels:
- Student Membership
- Graduate or Associate Membership (if you are a recent graduate)
- Registered Membership (if you are qualified and experienced).
As a Student or Graduate member you could gain experience by joining Opening Doors, the IHEF work experience scheme. Placements are available around the UK. Taking part in the scheme could give you an advantage when applying for jobs, as many employers would expect you to have some industrial experience as well as a postgraduate qualification.
- Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors – work experience page
To read case studies about the careers of ergonomists in various sectors, visit the IHEF website.
- Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors – case studies
Training and Development
Once you are employed as an ergonomist, you can develop your knowledge and skills by attending short courses. Visit the IHEF website for details.
- Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors – training page
As a qualified and experienced ergonomist, you can become a Registered Member of IHEF. This will mean you can use the initials MErgS and take part in the IHEF continuing professional development (CPD) scheme.
Skills and Knowledge
- knowledge of anatomy, physiology and psychology
- knowledge of work organisation, industrial sociology and design and evaluation methods
- statistical and applied maths skills
- IT skills
- good written and spoken communication skills
- an understanding of technical concepts
- close attention to detail
- an understanding of manufacturing processes and construction methods
- problem-solving skills
- the ability to analyse and communicate complex information.
You could work in research and development, product design or teaching in a variety of organisations, including:
- colleges and universities
- manufacturing companies
- government bodies
- computer consultancies
- research institutions.
With experience, you could progress to line or project management.
As a qualified and experienced member of the IHEF, you could move into consultancy work, perhaps providing specialised services such as workplace design or health and safety. Entering your details on the IHEF Consultancy Register would help you get noticed by potential employers.