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Gain a thorough grounding in a fast-growing field, focusing on how people interact with engineering systems and processes.

Learn from experts in psychophysics, industrial psychology, and human factors engineering, with a university established as a Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) Centre for Safety and Reliability Engineering.

Gain vital professional knowledge, skills and career boost - with all the advantages of distance learning whatever your location in the world.


Human Factors Engineering (HFE) covers a range of issues relating to how people interact with complex engineering systems. These can be grouped into three main areas: man-machine interfaces and interactions, organisational behaviours, personal behaviour/human error. You’ll examine how failures in these three areas are involved in all major incidents.

HFE is becoming more relevant than ever before. Good designs fail because the person using the system fails to operate it as intended by the designer. HFE is about skills and techniques to introduce the user into the design of a system, building, workplace or product.

This course is designed for engineers in all sectors of industry, and other professionals involved in the design of systems, processes, buildings, workplaces or products.

You’ll be taught by highly-experienced academics and researchers in engineering and psychophysics, and leading experts in industrial psychology whose specialism is HFE.

Aberdeen is the obvious provider for this course, with an international reputation for teaching and research in engineering, and status as a Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) Centre for Safety and Reliability Engineering. Your programme has the added benefit of an Industry Advisory Board which constantly reviews your course content to ensure that you gain state-of-the-art knowledge and are up to date with emerging trends, technologies and career opportunities.

You can study this online short course standalone, or use it as a taster to progress to a full MSc in Safety and Reliability Engineering, also available fully online.

Why Aberdeen for this course?

The combination of reputation, experience, breadth of expertise, teaching and research strength, location and international outlook, makes Aberdeen the obvious provider of first-class education in all areas of engineering. We have been teaching safety and reliability engineering for over 20 years.

We are a Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) Centre for Safety and Reliability Engineering, now building on existing expertise and track record within our School of Engineering to form a world-class unit for research and teaching in safety and reliability engineering.

We ensure that our courses are up to date and connected to industry through the input of Industry Advisory Boards made up of experienced professionals from a range of backgrounds. These close links ensure that students are taught by industry professionals and world-class academics who collaborate with industry colleagues on cutting-edge research projects.

Aberdeen engineering graduates are today working at senior level, including CEO and MD, in the offshore industry worldwide. Wherever you are working in the world you are likely to have a fellow Aberdeen graduate engineer working with you.

You can study this credit-bearing online short course standalone, or use your credits to progress to a full MSc in Safety and Reliability Engineering - also available fully online, for you to study at your own pace, at any location, and fitting around your work and personal commitments.

What you'll study

In the first part of your course you’ll examine the human factors associated with designing processes and products, and review major accidents to identify the contribution of equipment design, individual behaviours, and organisational behaviours. You’ll learn tools and techniques for analysing individuals, workplaces and organisations, to minimise injuries and loss and achieve work improvements.

You’ll then consider the role of equipment/system design and the effect it has on individual behaviour, including man-machine interfaces.

Human error will be your next topic, including error types and the impact of environmental factors, and how this is applied to Critical Task Analysis and Human Reliability Assessment.

Finally you’ll examine organisational behaviours, and explore the strengths and weaknesses of leading and lagging indicators in promoting a culture of workplace safety.

How you'll study

This online, 12-week distance-learning short course offers all the flexibility and convenience to study when, where and how you choose, and to fit your learning around your location, work and personal commitments.

Our online courses are delivered through our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), as self-contained units of learning taught and assessed to the same quality as our degree programmes, and developed specifically for an online audience using a range of learning materials and assessment activities.

We aim to create an international online classroom experience and student community which enables you to enjoy the same learning experience as students on our full degree programmes, including access to a suite of learning resources and support.

We expect you to work 10-15 hours per week on your course work and associated reading. Material will be provided weekly via the VLE in the form of video lectures and tutorial. You will have plenty of opportunity to interact with your tutors, and with your online classmates on discussion boards.

Wherever you are in the world, as you enjoy the advantages of online distance study, you will still feel part of our very special Aberdeen family and learning community.


At each stage of your course you’ll complete practical assessments led by industry practitioners with specialist expertise in HFE. These will contribute 20% to your final mark.

You will also have a final three-hour written examination which will be worth 80% of your mark. Through our network of partners throughout the world we will arrange a convenient location for you to sit your exam. Alternatively, if you are based in Aberdeen, you can take your exam on our Aberdeen campus.

Entry Requirements

In general, applicants are expected to hold a relevant degree, however alternative/lower qualifications combined with an appropriate level of relevant experience may also be considered as a means for entry.

All students entering the University, including online courses, must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study our programmes effectively. Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. For details of our pre-sessional English courses see our Language Centre website.