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Information for Students

Blacksburg, Virginia

Title of program: Industrial and Systems Engineering – HFE Track
Year human factors/ergonomics program was established: 1972
Accreditation: HFES, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Primary department sponsoring program: Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Person(s) potential students can contact for more information, including applications:
Name: Hannah S. Parks
Institution: Virginia Tech Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Address: 233 Durham Hall, MC 0118, 1145 Perry Street, Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: 540-231-5586
Web site:
Is this program a joint program? No
Academic calendar: Semester
Human factors/ergonomics graduate degrees offered: MS, PhD
Number of degrees granted during Last 3 Years: 34
Can students attend part-time? Yes
Goals, objectives, and emphasis of the program: Human Factors Engineering and Ergonomics (HFEE) at VT is concerned with ways of designing jobs, machines, operations, and work environments so they are compatible with human capacities and limitations. The breadth of the field is emphasized, as HFEE researchers and practitioners are called upon both to apply existing human performance knowledge to the design or modification of equipment and also to generate new experimental data required for design.

Application deadline(s): Fall – January 15, Spring – September 1
Application fees: $75
Are separate applications required for university and department? No

Minimum requirements:

  • Grade point average (last 4 yrs: A = 4.0): 3.0
  • GRE combined: N/A
  • GRE Verbal: 146
  • GRE Quantitative: 141
  • GRE Analytical: 3.0
Undergrad degrees, backgrounds, or course work required (req) or recommended (rec) for admission: ISE 3614: Human Factors Ergonomics Engineering or equivalent
Importance of other criteria as admission factors:
  • Previous research activity: High
  • Relevant work experience: High
  • Extracurricular activities: Low
  • Letters of recommendation: High
  • Personal interview: Low
Tuition and fees: In-State – $6,792.50, Out-of-State – $12,942.00

Number of students applying to the human factors/ergonomics program last year: 27
Number of students accepted into the program last year: 14
Number of students entering the program last year: 6
Anticipated number of openings per year for the next two years: 10

Percentage of students in program receiving financial assistance: 50% overall, nearly all PhD students
Amounts received per year: $30,300 – $30,800 (includes in-state tuition)
Types of assistance available:

  • Teaching assistantship: Yes; tuition exempt
  • Research assistantship: Yes; tuition exempt
  • Fellowships: Yes; tuition exempt
  • Traineeships: Yes; tuition exempt
When should students apply for financial assistance? At the same time as submitting application for admission; all applicants are considered for financial assistance.

Graduate degree type: Master of Science (Non-Thesis)
Number of units required: 31
Exams required: None
Language requirements: None
Research required: None
Practical experience required: None
Typical number of years required to obtain degree: 1.5

Graduate degree type: Master of Science (Thesis)
Number of units required: 31
Exams required: Oral defense of thesis
Language requirements: None
Research required: Thesis research – 10 hours
Practical experience required: None
Typical number of years required to obtain degree: 2

Graduate degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Number of units required: 91
Exams required: PhD preliminary exam (1 written and 1 oral), oral dissertation defense
Language requirements: None
Research required: Dissertation research – 30 hours
Practical experience required: None
Typical number of years required to obtain degree: 5 post BS, 4 post MS

Titles of required courses: ISE Seminar, ISE 5604 Human Information Processing, ISE 5605 Human Factors System Design I, ISE 5614 Human Physical Capabilities, ISE 5615 Human Factors Research Design I, ISE 5644 Human Audition and Auditory Display Design, ISE 6604 Human Factors in Visual Display Systems, ISE 6624 Advanced Topics in Human Factors
Number of courses outside department that are required: None
Number of courses outside department that are recommended: 3+
Are required courses offered at night? No
Are required courses offered on weekends? No
Are required courses offered in summer? No
Are required courses offered through distance learning? No
Average or typical class size in a required course: 10–15

Research and support facilities available to students in the program: The HFEE program is a consortium of state-of-the-art, faculty-directed laboratories: Auditory Systems Lab, Cognitive Engineering for Novel Technologies Lab, Human-Computer Interaction Lab, Occupational Ergonomics and Biomechanics Labs, Locomotion Research Lab, Macroergonomics and Group Decision Systems Lab, and Safety Engineering Lab. In addition, students often work at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Other facilities include those normally found at a major University and include dedicated multimedia classroom space, computer laboratories, libraries and faculty and student office space.
Teaching opportunities available to students in the program: Graduate students have opportunities to teach as TAs. Senior doctoral students have the opportunity to take full responsibility for an undergraduate course, with the assistance of a faculty mentor.
Current research activities and projects being carried out by program faculty and/or students: Research project are ongoing in many HF/E areas: aging, audition auditory perception and auditory displays, warning signals, cognitive performance, construction safety and health, consumer product design, healthcare systems, human-computer interaction, industrial ergonomics, input/control devices, locomotion and balance, musculoskeletal disorders, occupational biomechanics, safety, sociotechnical (macro) systems, training, visual perception, virtual/augmented reality, wearable computing, and workload assessment.
Number of current HF/E postdocs: 2

Current number of active students in program, by gender: men – 15; women – 9
Current number of first-year students in program: 6
Based on current graduate students in the program, the mean score on admission tests and undergraduate GPA by degree being sought are:

  • Mean GRE Verbal: 156
  • Mean GRE Quantitative: 160
  • Mean GRE Analytical: 3.5
  • Mean undergraduate GPA: 3.6
Of the number of those graduating in the past year, what percentage gained employment in:
  • Academia: 0
  • Industry: 100%
  • Government: 0
Michael J. Agnew, PhD 2008, Kinesiology, Queen's University; HFES Member; ergonomics, occupational biomechanics, psychophysics
John G. Casali, PhD 1982, Industrial Engineering, Virginia Tech; HFES Member; product/systems design, acoustics and hearing protection, auditory displays, warning signals, aviation/driving human factors, forensics and litigation
Joseph L. Gabbard, PhD 2008 Computer Science; HFES Member; Usability engineering, human-computer interaction, cognitive human factors
Brian M. Kleiner, PhD 1990 Industrial Engineering, SUNY Buffalo; HFES Member; macroergonomics, computer-supported collaborative work, HF in complex work systems
Nathan Lau, PhD 2012, Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto; cognitive engineering, human performance, interface design, situation awareness
Maury A. Nussbaum, PhD 1994 Industrial & Operations Engineering, The University of Michigan Ann Arbor; HFES Member; occupational biomechanics, industrial ergonomics, human simulation, fall prevention
Faculty-to-student ratio: 1 to 4

[Updated April 2015]

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