Pennsylvania State University



Title of program

Human Factors/Ergonomics Option in Industrial Engineering

Department sponsoring program

Industrial Engineering

Year human factors/ergonomics program was established


Accredited by HFES?


Contact person for more information, including applications

Andris Freivalds 
Penn State University 
310 Leonhard Building 
University Park, PA 16802 

Web site

Academic calendar


Human factors/ergonomics graduate degrees offered

MS and PhD

Goals, objectives, and emphasis of the program

The constantly increasing complexity of human-machine systems requires ergonomists to provide safe and efficient human-machine interfaces. Glaring results of poor ergonomic design are routinely observed in near catastrophes in transportation, complex industrial processes, military systems, and other human-machine environments. Engineers need a basic knowledge of ergonomics and human factors engineering, and should be specially trained to serve as ergonomic design and implementation leaders in industry.

The Human Factors/Ergonomics Engineering program provides an outstanding breadth of ergonomic knowledge plus competence within an area of specialization. The core areas include: 1) knowledge of the physical, physiological, and cognitive aspects of people, 2) research, analysis, and design methodologies, 3) mathematics and computer skills, 4) research experience via the M.S. thesis, and 5) practical experience via industrial projects, consulting experience, internships, and other university projects.

Number of degrees granted during last 3 years


Can students attend part-time?


Are required courses offered through distance learning?


Does the university have an HFES student chapter?




Application deadlines

December 15 (fall), September 1 (spring)

Application fee


Are separate applications required for university and department?




Minimum requirements

Grade point average (A = 4.0): 3.0

GRE Combined: no specific minimums

TOEFL IBT 80, Spk 19, Paper 550, CBT 213

Other: quantitative science, if not engineering

Importance of other criteria as admission factors

Previous research activity: low

Relevant work experience: low

Extracurricular activities: low

Letters of recommendation: medium

Tuition and fees

Per semester: $9,941 for PA residents; $16,693 for nonresidents



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




Percentage of students in program receiving financial assistance


Amount received per year

Average stipend: $9,247 + tuition shown above

Types of assistance available

Teaching assistantship, research assistantship, fellowships (all tuition exempt)

When should students apply for financial assistance?

At the same time as submitting application for admission



Graduate degrees offered

MS and PhD

Number of units required

MS: 32

Phd: 49

Exams required

MS: none

Phd: candidacy, comprehensive, and final defense exams

Language requirements

MS: none

Phd: English

Research required

MS: paper

Phd: yes

Practical experience required


Typical number of years required to obtain degree

MS: 1

Phd: 3.5



Required courses (units)

Engineering of Human Work (3), Engineering of Cognitive Work (3), Experimental Design (3)

Electives (units)

Human/Computer Interface Design (3), Safety Systems Engineering (3), Mechanics of the Musculoskeletal System (3), Human Reliability Analysis (3)

Distance learning courses

Courses IE327, IE419, IE479, IE552, IE553, and IE558 are available online, with a Web-based certificate presented after completion.

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 8–10



Research and support facilities available to students in the program: 
Ben Niebel Work Design Lab: computers, energy expenditure measurement equipment, strength testers, electromyographic equipment, bicycle and other ergometers, sound/hearing analysis equipment, light/vision analysis equipment, eye-tracking system, motion analysis system, video capture and digitizing equipment. Additional facilities include extensive arrays of robotics, machining equipment, workstations, quality control, and virtual reality hardware. Center for Cumulative Trauma Disorders, Noll Human Performance Lab: environmental heat/cold stress chambers. Center for Locomotion Studies: large array of locomotion research equipment. Pennsylvania Transportation Institute: Mack/Renault truck simulator, 5,000 ft. oval test track, crash impact tester. School for Information Science and Technology: software usability labs. Interdisciplinary projects have been conducted using the facilities and resources of the Psychology, Mechanical Engineering, Gerontology, Physiology, and Kinesiology Departments.

Human Performance Assessment and Modeling Laboratory (HPAM): With six Intel Pentium 4-class workstations and 20 PCs, this lab focuses on the understanding of operator constraints, abilities, and goals in the context of dynamic task environments and the design of systems to facilitate multi-modal man-machine interactions. Research within HPAM forms a mutually-supporting triad with human-in-the-loop simulations informing the development of inductive learning models to test hypotheses grounded in cognitive science.

Teaching opportunities available to students in the program:
MS and PhD students may serve as TAs or lab assistants. PhD students may serve as lecturers for entire classes.

Current research activities and projects being carried out by program faculty and/or students:

Models to predict CTD risk for jobs; strain-gauge and FSR instrumented glove to measure job stressors; cadaver hand studies to validate biomechanical hand models; development of improved and innovative telerobotic and virtual reality interfaces; analysis of system complexity and its impacts on technology development and strategy, product/process interactions, and human/technical interfaces; technology forecasting and decision making under uncertainty; supply chain integration, S-curve modeling, and information technology-assisted advanced Web search methods; analysis and modeling of skilled human performance in complex systems and environments; human-environment interactions in cognitively demanding tasks using inductive inference methods, acquisition of complex cognitive skills, development of adaptive interface technologies, applications to human-computer interfaces, medical product design, consumer products, and air traffic control; improving the health and well-being of individuals.


Current number of active students in program, by gender

6 men, 8 women

Current number of first-year students in program


Number of current HF/E postdocs


Of the number of those graduating in the past year, students
gained employment in

Academia: 50%

Industry: 50%

Government: 0%

Faculty-to-student ratio 1 to 2



David J. Cannon, PhD 1992, Stanford University; human-machine systems, robotics, automated material handling, virtual environments

Andris Freivalds, PhD 1979, University of Michigan; biomechanics, cumulative trauma disorders

Scarlett Miller, PhD 2011, University of Illinois, innovative product design, human-computer interface design

Ling Rothrock, PhD 1995, Georgia Tech; human-machine performance assessment and modeling

Yiqi Zhang, PhD, 2017, University of Buffalo, driver simulation, human performance modeling

[Updated October 2017]