North Carolina State University Department of Psychology

Location:   Raleigh, North Carolina

Department:   Psychology


Quick links:


Directory of Graduate Programs


Title of program:

Human Factors and Applied Cognition

Year human factors/ergonomics
program was established:


Accredited by HFES?


Contact person for more information, including applications:

Christopher B. Mayhorn, Human Factors and Ergonomics Psychology Coordinator
North Carolina State University, Department of Psychology
(Box 7650)
Raleigh, NC 27695-7650

Catalog (free): 
North Carolina State University
Poe Hall, Room 460
Campus Box 7650
Raleigh, NC 27695-7650

Academic calendar:


Human factors/ergonomics graduate degrees offered:


Goals, objectives, and emphasis of the programs:

Emphasis on cognitive/perceptual aspects of human factors such as identifying design principles for effective visual displays; evaluating important factors during safety decision making processes; human-computer/technology interaction; understanding how cognitive aging impacts adoption of new technologies; and developing procedures for effective information transfer in the context of complex systems and hazardous products and environments. Students gain broad knowledge through a structured program that also allows individual specialization. Our goal is to produce HF professionals, equipped with a broad range of methodological tools, who are able to deal with a wide variety of problems in diverse settings. Although each student will also specialize in a limited topic area, such depth is expected to enhance, rather than substitute for, breadth of training. Additional outside courses may be taken in a variety of fields, including design, computer science, statistics, and industrial/organizational psychology. The psychology and industrial engineering ergonomics programs cooperate in curricula offerings. Although specific requirements differ, students from both programs take many courses together. Occasionally, psychology students work on research with ISE faculty members. Students in both psychology and ISE cooperate in running an active NCSU Student Chapter of HFES.

Number of degrees granted during last 3 years:

15 PhDs

Can students attend part-time?


Are required courses offered through distance learning?


Are classes offered during summer

Research credit and statistics courses only

Does the university have an HFES student chapter?



Application deadlines:

December 1


Application Fees:



The NCSU Human Factors and Ergonomics Program requests a supplementary data sheet in addition to the university application and a departmental questionnaire. The university encourages online application; the supplementary data sheet and questionnaire are available from Student Services, Department of Psychology, NCSU, or online from our forms Page (see main psychology Web site).


Minimum requirements

  • GPA: 3.0 (special consideration for nontraditional students; course-by-course review)
  • GRE: 500 v, 500 q, 500 a

Recommended: Undergraduate major in behavioral, biological, physical, or computer science, engineering, or mathematics. Successful applicants usually have a solid background in mathematics/statistics, experience in conducting research, a broad range of coursework in the sciences, experience in using computers, and at least one course in some area of experimental psychology. Recommended: Undergraduate major in behavioral, biological, physical, or computer science, engineering, or mathematics. Successful applicants usually have a solid background in mathematics/statistics, experience in conducting research, a broad range of coursework in the sciences, experience in using computers, and at least one course in some area of experimental psychology.

Importance of other criteria as admission factors:

  • Research: medium
  • Work Experience: low
  • Letters: high
  • Interview: low

Tuition and fees


Number of students applying to the human factors/ergonomics program last year:


Number of students accepted into the program last year:


Number of students entering the program last year:


Anticipated number of openings per year for the next two years:

4 - 5


Percentage of students in program receiving financial assistance:

50 (of full-time students). Historically, program students have had great success in finding a local ergonomics-related co-op or internship positions with organizations. Most students are continually employed (part-time) after their first year.

Amount received per year:

Typical TA = $12,500 for 1/2-time, typical RA = $12,500 for 1/2-time

Types of assistance available:

TA, RA; both usually include health insurance and tuition waivers, if certain conditions are met and the student carries a specified number of hours.

When should students apply for financial assistance?

With Application


The Department of Psychology admits only those students who plan to complete the PhD. All doctoral students complete at least three courses (9 credits) in statistics and/or research design, as well as a one-credit orientation course, a two-credit ethics sequence, and some distributional courses. NC State requires 72 hours for the PhD (54 hours for the doctorate, if entering with a previous masters degree).

Graduate degree offered:


Number of units required:

36 (if MS at NCSU),
54 (if MS completed elsewhere)

Exams required:

Written and oral qualifying exams, oral defense of proposal and dissertation

Language requirements:


Research required:


Practical experience required:


Typical number of years required to obtain degree:

4 -5


Required Courses (units):

  • Overview of Human Factors Psychology (PSY 541)  - 3
  • Visual Perception (PSY 500) - 3
  • Physiological Psychology (PSY 502) - 3
  • Cognitive Processes (PSY 508) - 3
  • Learning (PSY 704) - 3
  • Ergonomics Performance Assessment -3
  • Area Seminars or Area-taught courses (PSY 710, etc) - 3
  • Research Hours (PSY 893) - 3
  • HFAC Colloquium Series (HFAC section of PSY 820) - 3


  • Non-core course or research hours (15)
  • Any advanced statistics course (3)

Number of courses outside department that are required:


Number of courses outside department that are recommended:


Average or typical class size in a required course:



Research and support facilities available to students in the program:
The Department is currently housed on two floors of Poe Hall, a modern building on NC State’s North Campus. All laboratories and offices are connected to the internet through the campus network. The following laboratories are directed by the faculty:


APPLIED COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY LABORATORY: Includes testing rooms and equipment for the display of visual stimuli and the recording of assorted behaviors, such as response time. The Applied Cognitive Psychology (ACP) laboratory is devoted to studying human attention and cognition, with applications of cognitive principles to human factors in healthcare and transportation.

COGNITIVE ERGONOMICS LABORATORY: Computers and a variety of custom-built equipment allow research to be conducted on risk perception and communication, information design, human-computer interaction, and visual search. Video equipment and a variety of computer software, including editing, database and statistical programs are available.

ERGONOMICS AND AGING LABORATORY: A number of individual computer stations and video equipment are available to test older and younger adults on a variety of applied cognitive topics such as medication adherence, human computer interaction, and product-usability evaluation. Statistical and video-editing software are available.

LEARNING, AGING, COGNITION & ERGONOMICS LABORATORY: Consists of on-campus and off campus space for testing the abilities and limitations of older and younger adults. An area is reserved for Research Assistants. Software is available for programming, designing stimuli, and statistical analysis.

USABILITY RESEARCH LABORATORIES: Part of the Learning and Research Center for the Digital Age (LRCDA) located in D. H. Hill Library at NC State. The URL consists of state-of-the-art usability equipment capable of collecting video, audio, and recorder data in real-time for observation and analysis of user-performance test sessions. It is managed by the Digital Library Initiatives Department and the Learning Technology Service of the NC State Libraries. In the new Hunt Library, the Usability Lab on the fourth floor is equipped with a workstation and software for capturing and analyzing human-computer interaction to assess software, interfaces, and other technology products. Morae software is available for screen capture and remote viewing. Video capture is made possible by point/tilt/zoom cameras located on two walls.

Teaching opportunities available to students in the program:
Teaching assistantships are typically 20 hours/week. Some TAs assist Introductory Psychology faculty with clerical duties and tutoring; others may conduct lab sessions for the undergraduate Methods/Statistics courses. Advanced students may be assigned to independent sections of courses in their areas of specialization, during either regular semesters or a 5-week summer session.

Current research activities and projects being carried out by program faculty and/or students:
For current research interests, please see faculty webpages.


Current number of active students:


Current number of first-year students in program:


Based on current graduate students in the program, the mean score on admission tests and undergraduate GPA by degree being sought are:

mean GPA 3.76; mean range on GRE V (155), GRE Q (151).


Yingchen He, PhD 2017, University of Minnesota; visual perception, visual impairment, brain plasticity, prosthetic vision, assistive technologies, accessibility.

Jing Feng, PhD 2011, U. of Toronto; attention, cognitive aging, cognitive training and intervention, human factors in driving and display design

Douglas Gillan, PhD 1978, U. of Texas at Austin; perceptual and cognitive components of information visualization and information presentation; perception of objects, space, and motion; assistive technologies

Christopher B. Mayhorn, PhD 1999, U. of Georgia; aging, HCI, safety

Anne C. McLaughlin, PhD 2007, Georgia Tech; aging, training, feedback, video games

Eric N. Wiebe, PhD 1996, North Carolina State U.; HCI, visual displays, cognitive ergonomics

[Updated November 2017]