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Last modified: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

IU establishes historic master's program in ergonomics

The first ergonomics master's degree program in a kinesiology department has been established at the Indiana University School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER).

John Shea, chair of the IU Kinesiology Department, said the new program began this fall and is structured to encompass 12 months of course work and a one-semester internship.

Ergonomics involves facilitating physical job performance by structuring the workplace to better match the capacities of the worker, Shea said. The field has been defined as the applied science of equipment design, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. "The goal of ergonomics is to find the optimum fit of the job or task to the worker," Shea explained.

An example of ergonomics would be developing a better design for a secretarial work station. The computer monitor and keyboard are set at the proper height and angle for the worker, and the chair is set at the proper height and with the appropriate back support.

Shea, whose academic background includes developing and teaching ergonomics courses, said the ergonomics job market is outstanding, with beginning annual salaries in the $45,000-$65,000 range. "Any company with a large number of people doing jobs that involve physical skills is interested in ergonomics because it can reduce time lost to injuries and thus improve productivity," he said. Shea cited automobile manufacturers, insurance companies and NASA as examples of companies and government agencies that employ personnel in this field.

Ergonomics is historically more common at engineering schools, but IU's involvement through HPER is natural because kinesiology involves such disciplines as physiology, biomechanics, motor control and psychology of human performance, he said. "The field of kinesiology is expanding and relating more to society's needs," Shea explained. "Kinesiology is becoming much more than the training of physical education teachers and coaches."

Courses established for the master's degree program include human factors and ergonomics and cognitive ergonomics. A variety of required courses are available in motor control, biomechanics, exercise physiology and safety management. Elective courses include learning and motivation, instructional task analysis, introduction to human-computer interaction and complex cognitive processes.

For more details on ergonomics, contact Shea at 812-855-6420 or