Ergonomists are employed by various organizations: hospitals, factories, communications industries, and other businesses. They may be part of the regular staff at a large corporation, or they may work on an as-needed, or contractual, basis. Many ergonomists work as consultants for one or many companies. Ergonomists may practice in tandem with physical therapists, sports medicine practitioners, chiropractors, kinesiologists, and physicians. Those who work in research and design may work with engineers, architects, interior decorators, contractors, and builders.
Most positions available will be in larger, more urban areas. Since the government also hires ergonomists to work in various organizations, one of the largest concentrations of ergonomists is in Washington, D.C. The field is evolving at a rapid pace, and skilled ergonomists will be able to forge their own way in the profession.
People looking to enter the ergonomic field have many ways to get started. Some complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees prior to getting a job in the profession. Others prefer to work full time while earning their credentials part time. Still others work on the fringes of ergonomics before earning certification. They may have expertise in other areas, such as sports medicine, architecture, or engineering. Often, an interest in preventing injuries rather than treating them leads many people from the medical field to a career in ergonomics. In any case, most certification programs require some professional experience in the field prior to certification.
Your first job in ergonomics can let you shape your own career. If you are interested in using ergonomics in a sports setting, for instance, you could try getting a job as a consultant to a minor league sports team in your community. If you think you would prefer working in a more businesslike environment, you should get a job with an established ergonomic service. Professional organizations, such as the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, usually provide job listings and career assistance, and all colleges and universities have career services offices. If you plan on using ergonomics training for your own consultation business, it's often a good idea to do an internship or assistantship with an established ergonomist or group of ergonomists in order to practice your skills and build a client base.
Because ergonomics is still rapidly evolving, advancement opportunities should be plentiful for the near future. There are not that many people involved in the field and, therefore, there are many opportunities for qualified individuals, especially those who have a special area of expertise. Many ergonomists develop skills at a first job and then either use that experience to find higher paid work at a different company or to get increased responsibility in their current position.
Qualified ergonomists often are promoted to management positions, with an accompanying increase in earnings and responsibility. They can also start their own consulting firms or branch off into teaching or research. Those in government work may choose to move to the private sector, where salaries are higher. But others may opt for the security and job responsibilities of a government position.
Tips for Entry
Join the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) and other organizations to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Read Human Factors: The Journal of the HFES and Ergonomics in Design: The Quarterly of Human Factors Applications (both available at https://www.hfes.org/publications/periodicals) and User Experience (http://uxpamagazine.org) to learn more about the field.
Read Quick Tips for Finding a Human Factors/Ergonomics Job in Industry and Preparing for a Career in Human Factors/Ergonomics: A Resource Guide. Both are available at https://www.hfes.org/publications/free-publications.
For job and internship listings, visit:
Attend the Applied Ergonomics Conference (https://www.iise.org/ergo/conference) to network.