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We admit a select group of students into our program each year. The interests of these students are coordinated with the existing research interests of the faculty. USD promotes an independent working environment in which students are encouraged to pursue their degree requirements with the guidance and support of the faculty.

Graduate Training

Coursework is combined with extensive involvement in the applied research activities of the Heimstra Human Factors Laboratory. The faculty associated with the program provides an active program of both personal and sponsored research.

Students accepted into the program on a full-time basis are usually provided some financial support, typically in the form of graduate research or teaching assistantships. Each student is expected to assume progressively increasing responsibility for conducting research activities within the ongoing program of the laboratory. Corporate internships or fieldwork placements have been secured for many of our graduate students.

Degrees Offered

The human factors training program offers graduate training leading the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees with specialization in the broad area of human factors psychology. The primary mission of this program is to train Ph.D. level professionals competent to conduct and administer applied psychological research and to serve as human factors/ergonomics specialists for government, industry and the academic community.

M.A. Degree Requirements

Ph.D. Degree Requirements


Applicants for admission to graduate study must meet certain minimum requirements established by the Graduate School, the Department of Psychology and the human factors training program. Applicants are expected to have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.0, based on the A=4 grading system used at USD.

An undergraduate major in psychology is not required for admission to the program but applicants are ordinarily expected to have taken:

  • Experimental Psychology
  • Calculus
  • Basic descriptive and inferential statistics
  • At least one year of a laboratory science

Applications from students already holding a master's degree in psychology or a related area are also encouraged and roughly, one-forth of the admissions to the program are at the post-master's level. Thirty graduate credit hours may be transferred toward the Ph.D. degree requirements if you have completed a master's degree at another institution.

Satisfactory performance on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is an important criterion for admission to the program. Scores on the GRE should ordinarily be above the 50th percentile for serious consideration for admission. Foreign students are also expected to score above 550 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Three letters of recommendations are required.

In evaluating applications to the program, the faculty also takes into consideration unique work experienced and other background factors. We particularly encourage applications from non-traditional students with work experience in government, private industry and the military. Although human factors is traditionally a male occupation, half of our presently enrolled students are female.

Degree Requirements

The master's degree in human factors psychology requires 30 hours of credit including the completion and defense of a master's thesis. These 30 credit hours must include the courses listed below. Competence in math through calculus and at least one computer programming language are required prior to the award of the master's degree.

  • Seminar in Sensation and Perception
  • Seminar in Physiological Psychology
  • Seminar in Developmental
  • Seminar in Social Psychology
  • Seminar in Personality Theories
  • Quasi Experimental Design
  • Learning, Memory and Cognition
  • Research Design and Statistics-I
  • Research Design and Statistics-II
  • Master's Thesis Research

In addition, the graduate school as part of the master's degree requires six hours of coursework outside psychology.

The Ph.D. degree requires 54 credit hours beyond the master's degree and the completion and defense of a dissertation. Prior to beginning a dissertation, students must be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy. This requires passing an extensive comprehensive written examination, lasting for five days. The exam includes one day of questions concerning the particular specialty area chosen by the student, one day of general human factors questions, one day of advanced methodology and statistics and two full days of general psychology questions.

Coursework beyond the masters level must include the following:

  • Human Performance
  • Human Engineering
  • Seminar in Sensation and Perception
  • Human Factors Psychology
  • Methods and Instrumentation
  • Multivariate Statistics
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research