What does a Usability Engineer do?

What’s the difference between a UX designer and a usability engineer? 

Previously, I have spoken about careers in UX and its pertinence to human factors. Usability engineers do work that falls under the UX realm. Although most UX designers are equipped to handle usability testing, there may be instances were a company wants to employ or contract a usability engineer in order to do highly specific testing. In addition, products in the medical device field almost always will require that a third party firm conducts usability testing in order to ensure that the product being tested is not used in a harmful way.

Usability engineers must observe how users interact with products in order to figure out how to improve its ease of use and efficiency.

What do usability engineers do? 

In essence, usability engineers test “how well a user can actually carry out the tasks they want to carry out and find out where the current offering fails to deliver” (Interaction Design Foundation, 2015). In order to do this, the engineers will create questionnaires, conduct interviews,  design tests via software, and much more. These engineers usually have an area of expertise–such as medical devices. This is because many of these industries have established standards that the engineers must be well versed in.

The usability engineers obviously must also be highly analytical. They must use data in order to quantify their claims and the effectiveness of products. Because of this, usability engineers need to be able to use statistical methods and software in order to calculate the significance levels of different tests.

According to Meredith Sivick, as a usability engineer, “we have to learn how people learn and remember, how they sort through data, and what steps they must take when building something” (BLS, 2000). Sivick illustrates a provocative point that usability engineers must grab from multiple fields in order to succeed. From mathematics to psychology, Sivick aims to make products that minimize human frustration and make interacting with machines and environments more enjoyable.

Usability engineers must go through the process above while they conduct their testing.

How do I become a usability engineer? 

Like many other jobs in the humans factors field, many companies require a master degree or higher. This is because, like previously mentioned, usability engineers are responsible for the testing of machines such as medical products where human lives can be at risk. In college, one may want to major in human factors, cognitive psychology, or experimental psychology; however, another option would be to major in computer science and take relevant psychology classes (Shereen, 2018). Master’s degrees in the following fields above can be studied as well as human computer interaction.

How much do usability engineers get paid? 

Usability engineers get paid an average yearly salary of $91, 435; however, this salary can vary with experience and it ranges from $70,000 to $116,000 (Glassdoor, 2018).

Usability engineers must have high observation skills in order to give thoughtful recommendations on how experiences can be improved.

Works Cited
Black, Jessica F., and Shereen Skola. “How Do I Become a Usability Engineer?” WiseGEEK, Conjecture Corporation, 17 Apr. 2018, www.wisegeek.net/how-do-i-become-a-usability-engineer.htm.
“Salary: Usability Engineer.” Glassdoor, 2018, www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/usability-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,18.htm.
“Usability Enginner.” BLS, 2000, www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2000/winter/yawhat.pdf.
“What Is a Usability Engineer?” The Interaction Design Foundation, 2015, www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/what-is-a-usability-engineer.


  1. Great post. I liked the distinction you made between UX designers and usability engineers. I think it’s interesting to think about the different skill sets required of designers and engineers, even though the jobs are so similar.

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