The success of any product is largely based on its usability. After all, consumers steer clear of products that are too complex or frustrating to use. That’s why the study of human factors, or human-centered design, is becoming an increasingly critical field of education as consumer demand for tech gadgets continues to grow.
There are a few different paths students can take to pursue a career in human-centered design and engineering. Some students opt for the technical route and obtain an undergraduate degree in mechanical or industrial engineering, informatics, or computer science, choosing a program that emphasizes human factors or offers a course of study targeted to the human factors component.
Others prefer to pursue degrees in psychology, such as industrial and organizational psychology, in which the interaction between humans and products, humans and machines, and humans and others are emphasized. With several paths to the ultimate outcome, there are a variety of exceptional undergraduate programs to choose from.
The following 50 degree programs include some of the best, most comprehensive undergraduate options for students who wish to pursue advanced studies in human-centered design and engineering, or those who wish to enter careers in human factors engineering or design upon graduation.
***Please note that the following list is in no particular order.
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The Top Human-Centered Design and Engineering College Degree Programs
1. University of Washington
Human-Centered Design and Engineering
Discover the principles behind design and engineering with the University of Washington’s cutting-edge program. The program focuses on innovative technologies and real-world solutions where students will discover hands-on experiences from international companies while working with award-winning staff. Upon graduation, students may find careers in the architectural, design, programming, and researching fields. The college also offers user-centered design certificate courses.
2. Northern Michigan University
The Human-Centered Design degree from Northern Michigan University incorporates a level of psychology into the curriculum. Students leave with a handle on how to design programs and products that best connect with cultures and help shape social norms. They’ll also receive a combination of training in environmental design and product design to better understand experimental solutions of society.
3. Northwestern University
Undergraduate Degree Program in Computer Science
Northwestern University approaches their design degrees with the idea that design is not only about aesthetics but also about usability. With a computer science degree from Northwestern University, students will emerge with an understanding of computer science and the whole scope of how it relates to and affects engineering, medicine, science, and business. Graduates will also learn how to design effective human-computer interfaces and how to effectively approach problems. They also have opportunities to participate in research.
4. Clemson University
BS Computer Information Systems
Clemson University prepares students to enter the world of evolving technology and computer science. Students learn to identify and address computer design problems while applying design principles to the solution. They will also gain the necessary skills to work on a team, comprehend mathematical functions, and express ideas efficiently. There are also opportunities to continue studies to the Master’s and Ph.D. level within the university.
5. Indiana University
BS in Informatics
A degree in computer informatics from Indiana University sets students up to “lead the next tech revolution.” The program focuses on teaching students how to create new technologies with an emphasis on how people interact with those programs and products. Students have the unique opportunity to engage in group projects where they can apply their new skills. Plus, over half of the students in the program complete internships, which helps them apply their skills to real-life scenarios.
6. Arizona State University
Product Development and Manufacturing Technology
The Product Development and Manufacturing Technology degree from Arizona State University is based on the belief that putting products on the market with success starts with a comprehensive sense of the humans who use those products. This program helps designers and manufacturers connect with this idea to focus on customer needs in an environmentally-friendly manner. Students will learn through hands-on training and team-based group work.
7. University of Illinois
Bachelor of Science in CS–Human Centered Computing Concentration
The University of Illinois’s Human Centered Computing concentration offers students the chance to better understand human centered computing while taking other computer science classes. Students will take classes in mathematics, psychology, communication, and computer science to achieve a broad perspective on the industry from a variety of angles. Students are also free to utilize tutoring options to put themselves on the path toward academic success.
8. Wright State University
BS in Industrial & Systems Engineering
Students seeking knowledge of how to design and improve complex systems will find the BS program in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Wright State University a wonderful fit for their career goals. The program emphasizes mankind’s role in these systems and has developed its curriculum with a user-centered focus. Graduates have a strong understanding of mathematics, science, engineering, and manufacturing and can choose a range of concentration areas to best suit their preferences.
9. University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Systems Design Engineering
Taking a broad systems perspective to design, the University of Waterloo’s Systems Design Engineering program allows students to opt for elective coursework in human systems. This helps students achieve a better understanding of systems that work closely with humans. Graduates of the program may work in engineering optimization, research, development, design, and more.
10. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
BS in Design, Innovation, and Society (DIS)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute says, “DIS is a hands-on, creative design program that addresses real-world problems.” Their Design, Innovation, and Society program certainly has that going for them, with a strong curriculum and hands-on training opportunities. Students get to design real projects as well as prepare for careers and graduate programs in design, social sciences, engineering, and management.
11. Georgia Tech
Bachelor of Science in Applied Psychology, certificate in Engineering Psychology
Georgia Tech’s psychology programs equip students for a variety of careers, including computer software design. The Engineering Psychology certificate provides students with the knowledge they need to discern how people behave and react to develop the most effective products and programs. Students pursuing this certificate will take classes in organizational psychology, engineering psychology, sensation and perception, and cognitive science.
12. Tufts University
Bachelor of Science in Engineering Psychology
Taking a human-centered approach to engineering, the engineering psychology degree from Tufts University teaches students how humans interact with their environment. Those students looking to get into design will leave the program knowing how people think and behave to better design programs that connect with consumers. Students can also take this as a minor and may choose to study abroad while completing the coursework.
13. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Bachelor of Science in Human Factors Psychology
Students enrolled in the Human Factors Psychology program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate with an understanding of how humans and various systems interact. The program prepares students both for entering the workforce and for continuing their education. Students also have the unique opportunity to pursue graduate credit while completing their undergraduate degree.
14. Arizona State University
Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Graduates of the BS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology program from ASU learn the fundamentals of human performance to master the human psyche and produce products and programs that reflect this understanding. Students will go through real-world training to ready them for entering their career field with experience.
15. Simon Fraser University
Various Campuses, Canada
Engineering Science Major
The Engineering Science Major from Simon Fraser University delivers coursework meant to prepare students for careers in advanced technology. Students may declare an emphasis in computer engineering, electronics engineering, or systems engineering. Plus, a mandatory co-op delivers a real world experience to students.
16. United States Military Academy
West Point, NY
Bachelor of Science in Engineering Psychology
Available to cadets, the BS in Engineering Psychology from the United States Military Academy helps students recognize the fundamentals behind human behavior. This type of degree can set individuals up to design programs from a psychological standpoint, and the incredible opportunities presented through the Military Academy can brace students for a variety of other life situations.
17. University of Toronto
Toronto, ON, Canada
Human Factors Engineering
The University of Toronto shares a unique opportunity with student that allows them to focus their studies on Human Factors Engineering within the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering program. Students will graduate with an understanding of people and behavior through psychology training, which they can then apply to designing human-machine systems.
18. University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
Human Factors Engineering
From the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering comes the Human Factors Engineering program. This is a two-week program designed to introduce students to hands-on user interfaces that teach how to design systems for humans. Students may select from 14 seminars and workshops to broaden their understanding of topics that interest them.
19. Pennsylvania College of Technology
Industrial and Human Factors Design (BID)
Through Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Industrial and Human Factors Design program, students gain the skills needed to design marketable products. The program takes students through coursework meant to deepen their knowledge of manufacturing, engineering, ergonomics, aesthetics, and more. Students will also learn how to develop products and systems for specialty demographics.
20. University of Idaho
From the University of Idaho’s College of Engineering comes the Human Factors emphasis. This program introduces students to an array of psychology courses with opportunities to choose statistics and research method classes. The Human Factors emphasis is also available to distance students through the Engineering Outreach program.
21. Iowa State University
Ergonomics and Human Factors
The Ergonomics and Human Factors degree program from Iowa State University takes two approaches to the subject. First, students learn about physical ergonomics, which involves the study of medical conditions. Next, they discover cognitive engineering principals that help them understand human and computer interaction. Students can then take this knowledge and their new skills and apply them to their human centered design career.
22. NC State University
Human Factors & Applied Cognition
With the Human Factors and Applied Cognition program from NC State University, students will graduate with a deep awareness of psychology while developing the research skills needed for the field. With limited seats in the program, students know that they’ll receive close training with faculty. Plus, students can learn from real-world experience through apprenticeship relationships.
23. California State University, East Bay
Bachelor of Science in Psychology Ergonomics and Human Factors Option
With the option to minor in Computer Science, the BS in Psychology Ergonomics and Human Factors is a wonderful choice for individuals looking to get into human centered computer design. Students will also enter an internship while in the program, which will help them develop their skills in a real world setting.
24. University of Virginia
Systems and Information Engineering
With the Systems and Information Engineering program from the University of Virginia, students will explore a variety of disciples. Coursework covers ergonomics, politics, environment, tech, and more to prepare students for a career where mankind and technology converge. Students are also presented with opportunities to engage in hands-on projects to emerge with experience in the field.
25. Cornell University
BS Human Factors and Ergonomics
Combining the fundamentals behind human factors, psychology, and ergonomics, this degree from Cornell University opens a variety of opportunities for students. They’ll discover how to study, analyze, and apply findings all while learning how to put their knowledge to the test in manufacturing, consulting, programming, and other careers.
26. University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA
Industrial Engineering (IE) – Human Factors and Ergonomics
Students at the University of Iowa will both understand industrial engineering and take an in-depth look at areas that interest them. The program is designed to help students reach success through engineering principals. Students will also work in a small, personalized atmosphere with opportunities to research and utilize problem solving skills. The program aims to foster growth and success in students’ academic life and in their careers.
27. Texas State University
San Marcos, TX
Electrical Engineering – Micro & Nano Devices & Systems
Texas State University delivers a one-of-a-kind experience to students. Not only do they receive a strong curriculum in mathematics, engineering, and management, but there’s an entire lab focused on human factors to help students advance their understanding of how humans interact with technology. The various concentrations open the doors for students to specialize in areas that interest them the most.
28. Drexel University
Minor in Human Factors and Ergonomics
The minor in Human Factors and Ergonomics from Drexel University focuses on psychology aspects, helping students evaluate how people work in their environment. This minor, coupled with an appropriate major such as computer engineering, can help set students up for a career in human centered design. After completing the program, students will have a firm grasp on human psychology to give them an advantage in their career.
29. University of Washington
An Interaction Design degree from the University of Washington will prepare students to comprehend the relationship between humans and the structure of interactive programs. Students will learn how to identify design problems, how to respond to these challenges, and how the design process works. After graduation, students will enter an in-demand field where companies are looking for experts in interactive design to improve their products and programs.
30. Arizona State University
Applied Psychology (BS)
With the knowledge to apply psychology aspects to product usability, students in the Applied Psychology program from Arizona State University will graduate with a strong background in human performance and how it connects with products. The program prepares students for assessment, training, and design all while tackling modern issues. Graduates may enter the industrial-organizational psychology field, which looks at how people behave and interact in the workplace, opening doors for human-centered design.
31. University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT
Focusing on how people interact with their environments and equipment, the Human Factors certificate from the University of Utah helps students comprehend the design of equipment people use and how they use it. For designers, this certificate can help push their careers forward and help them understand how to create user-centered programs, which will ultimately help their products succeed on the market.
32. New Jersey Institute of Technology
BS in Human-Computer Interaction
Perhaps one of the best programs to gain a clear understanding of how humans and computer programs interact is the BS in Human-Computer Interaction from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The program delivers the framework students need to develop the interfaces people use to collaborate with systems. Students will leave the program with a grasp of how these programs can help boost productivity and make life easier.
33. The Art Institutes
Industrial Design Bachelor of Science
Graduates of The Art Institute’s program know how to create products–from beginning to end–that will connect with customers. After completing the program, students may work in software, special effects, car, furniture, and product design. Students will learn how to solve consumers’ problems and how to put those ideas into action.
34. Carnegie Mellon University
Available as both a major and a minor, the Human-Computer Interaction program from Carnegie Mellon University teaches students how to design, implement, and evaluate computer programs. This degree prepares students to enter the world of evolving technology all while teaching them how to face the interactive process and make it user-friendly. Students can also choose from over 100 elective areas to focus on the courses that interest them the most.
35. National University
Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Design Engineering
With a focus on manufacturing technology and hands-on experience, students enrolled in the National University’s BS in Manufacturing Design Engineering will emerge with a better comprehension of complex engineering systems, products, and devices. Most students find careers in design engineering after completing coursework in scientific and computer-based classes. Students will also go through a human factors course that tailors the message to design engineers who will be able to effectively create products consumers love.
36. California State University, Long Beach
Long Beach, CA
BS Industrial Design
While learning how to problem solve, graduates of this Industrial Design program will become designers with a firm comprehension of economic, psychological, and social factors. Students will learn how to develop systems and products within the industrial process, applying aesthetics, cost, presentation techniques, design methodology, and human factors to the products.
37. Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO
Applied Computing Technology (ACT) – conc. In Computing and Human Factors
With a concentration in Computing and Human Factors, students enrolled in the Colorado State University will enjoy hands-on techniques coupled with computer programming and web development classes. These teaching methods leave students with a strong background in computer principles and technology.
38. University of Colorado
Comp. Sci – Human-Centered Computing Track
The Human-Centered Computing Track emphasis from the University of Colorado provides students with the necessary coursework to face the changing tech world with a user-centered approach. Students will take a look into the human mind as well as into society to better prepare for technologies of the future. The focus on social processes puts students in the unique position to understand not only how computer systems work, but how they can achieve success on the market.
39. Loughborough University
Ergonomics (Human Factors Design)
Studying ergonomics, or how people behave in the workplace, supplies students with a strong background in the psychology of how people interact with systems. The Ergonomics degree from Loughborough University sets students up for success by preparing them with the knowledge needed to design products more efficiently in a user-friendly manner. The program has been in place for 40 years, delivering a well-established curriculum to those enrolled.
40. New Jersey Institute of Technology
Two engineering options from the New Jersey Institute of Technology allow students to choose the best course of study for their dream career. With a Mechanical Engineering degree, students will take classes in energy systems, mechanical design, materials engineering, and manufacturing process. With the Industrial Engineering option, students will go through coursework in human factors engineering, operations research, quality control, engineering methods, and more.
41. Stanford University
Product Design Degree
Combining components of human factors, business factors, and technology into one program, the Product Design degree from Stanford University leaves students with a grasp on design features that suit consumer needs. Students will learn about the entire design process while engaging in activities that promote creativity, aesthetics, and brainstorming.
42. University of Washington
Ergonomics and Human Factors Emphasis
The Ergonomics and Human Factors Emphasis from the University of Washington comes with a psychological approach to the way individuals work in their environment. Students will study musculoskeletal disorders and leave the program comprehending how this impacts product design.
43. University of Houston
Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design
Integrating aspects of industrial design, architecture, and interior architecture into the curriculum, students emerge from the University of Houston with a strong background in design. They’ll learn through real problem-solving projects and group work in an integrated learning environment.
44. Savannah College of Art and Design
Bachelor of Fine Arts Industrial Design
The Industrial Design degree from SCAD takes students through a curriculum full of design, drawing, and industrial classes. With an entire semester focused on human factors, students will learn how to improve products by integrating human psychology principles. Students are also free to choose several electives, allowing them to expand their education into areas that interest them the most.
45. University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN
Focusing on an attention to detail, the Industrial Design degree from the University of Notre Dame introduces students to a strong curriculum and exercises that prepare them for the meticulous world of engineering. Students will go through courses that combine learning in art, engineering, psychology, marketing, and science. Upon graduation, students will have stronger organizational skills, a greater attention to detail, and a better understanding of human behavior.
46. Rochester Institute of Technology
Industrial Design BFA
Students in the Industrial Design degree program from the Rochester Institute of Technology have a passion for design. Coursework covers disciplines in art and design, drawing, graphics, and more. By the end of the program, students will know how human factors and design converge and how to execute the ideas to make that happen efficiently.
47. Art Center College of Design
Bachelor of Science in Product Design
At the Art Center College of Design, the faculty and students know that design isn’t all about aesthetics but that appeal and functionality must work together. The program prepares students to visualize the ever-changing future while studying the fundamentals of design, from the manufacturing process to the human factors involved.
48. Queensland University of Technology
Bachelor of Design (Honours) (Industrial Design)
Upon graduating from Queensland University of Technology, students enrolled in the Bachelor of Design program will understand how to create user-friendly and sustainable systems. The curriculum focuses on technical aspects of design, teaching everything from aesthetics and ergonomics to leadership. Students will graduate with an honours level qualification.
49. Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Bachelor of Product Design
Students in the Bachelor of Product Design program from Kwantlen Polytechnic University can choose from three different streams: Interdisciplinary and Leadership, Technology, or Creativity and Innovation. Coursework covers all aspects of design, from manufacturing and methods to marketing and technical skills.
50. Texas Tech University
Experimental Psychology: Human Factors Psychology
The Experimental Psychology program from Texas Tech University is uniquely suited for undergraduates looking to excel at the graduate level. It combines both the BA and MA programs into one with an emphasis on human factors. This advanced degree opens up plenty of doors for individuals entering this in-demand field. Upon graduation, students will wholly comprehend how humans connect with their environment, how they function in their jobs, and how they apply their abilities to the equipment they use.
Graduate Programs in Human-Centered Design and Engineering
Many of the undergraduate options leading to careers in human factors or human-centered design and engineering can be used as stepping stones for more focused studies in the discipline at the graduate level. Psychology undergraduate degrees are often used for this purpose, enabling students to undertake a more rigorous, technical graduate program or opt for an academic path and pursue an advanced degree for teaching at the university level.
With so many potential paths and lucrative outcomes in the study of human-centered design, it’s worth a look at some of the graduate-level options available before determining which course of study to undertake.
1. Florida Institute of Technology
Human-Centered Design – M.S. and Ph.D.
The Florida Institute of Technology offers a multi-disciplinary program streamlining the M.S. to Ph.D. process in a continuous course of study. Graduates will “adopt the principals, methods and tools that support human-centered sustainable products and advance efficiencies, effectiveness and quality of life for everyone.”
2. George Mason University
Human Factors and Applied Cognition
George Mason University offers a number of graduate-level study options in Human Factors and Applied Cognition, including M.S., Ph.D., and graduate certificate programs. Students will acquire advanced theoretical understanding of human factors and cognitive processes impacting usability, advanced methodological and statistical skills, and develop the ability to apply this expertise to real-world human factors problems.
3. University of Idaho
The University of Idaho’s Human Factors program was founded back in 1984, representing an interdisciplinary course of study between the Department of Psychology and Communications Studies and the Department of Engineering. Students will undertake a rigorous and varied course of study, from Biomechanics and Human-Computer Interaction to Ergonomics and Advanced Human Factors.
4. University of Illinois
The Master of Science program in Human Factors at the Univeristy of Illinois emphasizes cognitive human factors issues in both aviation and non-aviation systems. The program includes a broad course of study with influence and faculty from a multitude of departments, including Aviation’s Human Factors Division, the Departments of Psychology, Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, Computer Science, and the Human-Computer Intelligent Interaction Group at the Beckman Institute.
5. Michigan Tech
Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors—M.S., Ph.D.
Michigan Tech offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors. The University estimates the average salary level for a Masters-level professional at $105,000 annually, while the average salary for a Ph.D.-level professional is $136,000 annually, which points to the value of this expertise in the modern product design and manufacturing industries. Students have ample opportunities to participate in intriguing research studies on usability and user experience (UX), human-computer interaction, data visualization, and a number of up-to-the-minute, critical research that will have real-world impacts.
6. The Ohio State University
Integrated Systems Engineering
The Ohio State University’s Integrated Systems Engineering graduate program options includes a program in Human Factors Engineering. The Human Factors Engineering program emphasized Ergonomics, and the two terms are often used interchangeably, with the program known as Human Factors/Ergonomics Engineering. The program is divided into two primary areas of cognitive engineering and biomechanics. Students can opt to focus on cognitive engineering and the application of artificial intelligence and cognitive psychology to the design of human-machine systems, or take the biomechanics route and emphasize the physical components of the human-environment interaction.
7. Bentley University
Human Factors in Information Design
Bentley University’s M.S. program in Human Factors in Information Design emphasizes the understanding of human behavior and the application of a deep understanding of behaviors to drive product insights and design innovation. Students will learn to apply this understanding to real-world problems, using this knowledge to give organizations a competitive advantage through the strategic role of user experience.
8. San Jose State University
San Jose, CA
Human Factors and Ergonomics
What better place to study human factors and ergonomics than in the heart of Silicon Valley, where technology and innovation take center stage? San Jose State University’s Master’s program in Human Factors and Ergonomics is a multi-disciplinary course of study that emphasizes theory, practical application, and research, preparing graduates for critical roles that will drive innovation for tomorrow’s organizations.
9. University at Buffalo
Industrial and Systems Engineering
The Human Factors Engineering/Ergonomics graduate program at the University of Buffalo focuses on “application of the sciences of engineering, physiology, psychology, and computer science to the design of working and living environments with explicit consideration of the physical and mental characteristics of users.” Students will dive into human-computer interaction, math modeling of human decision-making, workplace design, cognitive engineering, and much more.
10. Virginia Tech
Human Factors Engineering and Ergonomics
Virginia Tech’s Industrial and Systems Engineering department is ranked seventh in the nation for graduate-level studies. The M.S. program in Human Factors Engineering and Ergonomics emphasizes design, research, and evaluation methods, all critical to the successful design of ergonomic systems and interfaces. Students have the opportunity to learn about sensory design, influenced by sensory capabilities and limitations of the target user, among a variety of other critical topics and theories in the study of human-centered design and engineering.
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