MS &  PhD Academic Programs


The goals of the M.S. Training Program in Human Factors / Ergonomics (HFE) are to provide an adequate foundation and practical experience in human biology, performance, and biomechanics so that a successful graduate can become a competent resource for ergonomics issues within a company or agency, or develop an ergonomics consultation practice, or progress on to a Ph.D. training program.

Application to the HFE Program is through either:
  • Department of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health 


  • Department of Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley

  • Work with the program director, Dr. Carisa Harris Adamson to apply for the HFE emphasis


  • Applicants must meet the entrance requirements of the Department to which they are applying

  • All students are enrolled full-time and the M.S. degree takes 2 years to complete

  • In consultation with the Program Director, Dr. Harris, Students prepare a curriculum that meets their needs based on their academic background and the requirements of their Department

  • In addition to meeting the graduation requirements for the Department from which they are graduating, students must also complete additional courses required of the Ergonomics Training Program (see table below)

  • All Master’s students must also complete an original research project or a capstone project 


Core Courses

There are 12 Human Factors / Ergonomics (HFE) Core Courses (34 semester credits or 102 Semester Hours) that need to be taken to receive the HFE Emphasis (Table 1). Although most of the classes are offered in person on the UC Berkeley Campus, some are provided online, allowing some flexibility for other course requirements that are required by degree.

core HFE courses for UC Ergo MS program.JPG
Sample Curricular Plan

Typical 2-year Master’s degree curricular plans are shown in Table 2. The HFE core coursework is the same for all students regardless of whether they are receiving an MPH or MS in engineering; however, other course requirements for their respective degrees are shown for the MPH (yellow) and the Master of Science in Engineering pathways (blue). Since the engineering courses are cross-listed across departments, the curricular plan below provides a reasonable example of the courses that would be taken for students working towards an MPH or MS in Engineering.

Sample Course Plan for UC Ergo MS program.JPG


The program is administered similarly to the masters program. The Ergonomics PhD program is designed for students interested in a career in academia, government agencies or industry performing original research and possibly teaching. The program is small, with one to five doctoral students at any time. 


Students in the doctoral training program normally complete course work in two years and submit a dissertation on a research project in a total of five years. 


Application to the Doctoral Program is through one of the following departments:
  • Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health (UCB)

  • Bioengineering Graduate Program (Joint program UCSF/UCB)

  • Department of Mechanical Engineering (UCB)

If entering with a baccalaureate degree:
  • Your academic  program includes 1 major field of study and 2 minor fields

  • Approximately 16 semester units of predominantly graduate level course work in the major field 

  • Minimum 8 units of upper division and graduate courses in each of the minors (exclusive of seminars and research)

  • There are no formal unit requirements, however


If entering with a master's degree
  • Your academic program includes 1 major and 1 minor field of study

    • At least 14 semester units of graduate level course work in the major area

    • 9 units of upper division or graduate coursework in the minor area (exclusive of seminars and research) 


The PhD student curriculum is initially similar to that of the Master’s students (see above); however, students have additional requirements each semester that include doctoral seminars and additional research units (PH 299).Table 3 lists the additional courses for PhD students to take given their degree in Public Health (yellow) or Engineering (blue).The student background and degree programs differ so the exact curricula is developed with the consent of the within degree program advisor and HFE Research Advisor (Dr. Harris).

table 3 pdh courses.JPG
The Dissertation

The details of each PhD student's dissertation focus is determined by the doctoral student  in consultation with his/her Graduate Advisor. ​Students are encouraged to select topics which are a component of, or parallel to, currently funded studies. Research areas have focused on understanding pathophysiologic mechanisms of musculoskeletal disorders, developing new methods of measuring musculoskeletal tissue loads and effects associated with external loading (e.g., muscle fatigue, tissue oxygenation, tissue pressure, electromyography), epidemiologic methods and upper extremity disorders and ergonomics intervention research. Students can also develop their own research projects. 


What sets the UC Ergonomics Training Programs Apart 
  • Real-World Opportunities - The field report required of students in the Ergonomics course (PH269C) presents prioritized ergonomic risks and engineering solutions that are invited by the participating companies that students evaluate. Few other programs provide real-world opportunities for students to have a direct impact on workplace safety. 

  • Health Care System Experience - Students have an opportunity to experience the healthcare system as workers do in the Clinical Ergonomics class (PH298). Through this exposure students begin to understand the different perspectives of health care providers and the importance of coordinating the health care message to patients. 

  • Laboratory with Research Instrumentation- The Ergonomics Seminar (PH295) was recently modified to add two laboratory modules. These modules expose students to the more complex laboratory exposure assessment tools used in ergonomics.

  • Interdisciplinary Interactions - Through research projects and courswork, ergonomics students interact with students from industrial hygiene, occupational medicine, occupational health nursing, and engineering in Ergonomics (PH276A) to carry out a detailed job analysis and intervention design in a real-world workplace.  Ergonomics students take Psychosocial Factors in Injury (Nursing 248) with Occupational Health Nursing students and they interact with occupational medicine fellows, physical therapists, and attending physicians in Clinical Ergonomics (PH 298). Research advisors come from affiliated faculty like Dr. Lehman (UCB, Bioengineering), Dr. Diao (UCSF, Hand Surgery), Dr. Hargens (Bioengineering, NASA-AMES), Dr. Jeff Lotz (UCSF, Orthopaedics), Dr. Faucett (UCSF, Nursing), and Dr. Miles (Agricultural Engineering, UCD). 


Training Facilities

A major strength of the UC Ergonomics Research & Graduate Training Program are the vast facilities and equipment dedicated to teaching and research including approximately 6,500 square feet of space at the Richmond Field Station, a UC Berkeley Engineering Research Annex approximately six miles from the campus. The UC Ergonomics Laboratory includes:

  • A library/conference room, faculty and student offices with eight computers with Office, MATLAB, and statistical software (R, STATA)

  • Machine shop with drill presses, saws, and welding equipment

  • Laboratory testing space including:

    • Work Physiology & Biomechanics Lab

      • Includes a 3D motion capture system for upper extremity studies (Optotrack), a mobile spiroergometry system for cardiopulmonary analysis (Metamax), treadmill, medical grade heart rate monitors (Actiheart) and ambulatory blood pressure monitors (Spacelabs) for multiday data collection, and accelerometers to measure posture and activity (ActivePal), two Xsens IMU systems for whole body kinematic analysis, 4 GoPro HD Video cameras

    • Human Computer Interaction Lab

      • Includes Leap, Kinect, AR/VR equipment

    • HFE Work Simulation Lab

      • Includes PoLoTAE standardized apparatus for testing exoskeletons, concrete grinding/drilling test apparatuses, space for occupational physical activity assessment, six axis force plate

      • Includes simulated tasks in packaging, warehousing, assembly, cashier, and construction

    • A video analysis room for task analysis and simulation using Multi Video Task Analysis (MVTA), Jack, Santos, and 3DSSPP

    • Sophisticated equipment for field and laboratory testing, including:

      • Electromyography system (Noraxon), electrogoniometers (Noraxon), inclinometers, a vibrometer, force plate, two video analysis systems, an inertial motion capture system (XSens), push, pull, grip and pinch meter, pressure shoe insoles for foot contact pressure analysis​​