Ergonomics is well-established in various sectors, including manufacturing, industrial, and healthcare. Even considering that there are quite a few professionals in this field, ergonomics is still expected to grow in the future, so career prospects are good. And if you wish to pursue a career in ergonomics, or maybe you've already been doing it for several years but you desire a better outcome, then this is the post for you. In this blog, we’ll dive into the world of ergonomics education and look at a few options for you to get started. I’m going to share what types of outcomes come out of typical ergonomics courses and what should be changed so you can get more effective results.
The way I think of ergonomics is that it's something that is in addition to what you're already doing professionally. Of course, you can do it full-time if you want, but what I mean is that you can apply ergonomics principles as value-adds to your healthcare profession position (Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist, Massage Therapist, Kinesiologist, and more). So basically, ergonomics is already within the scope of your practice. For that reason, I personally think that certification is not a requirement to get started.
One option for you to start on this career path is to go to school and take a degree in ergonomics, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Many people have done it that way, and that’s also how I got my start. But in my opinion, the real focus of school is mostly just theory. I'd say that it's applicable, but it's so narrowly focused on that little area of research that you do—e.g., a thesis or an independent study. Thus, it makes it very difficult to translate in the real world. And I'm saying that from experience. In my master's, I found that it’s so challenging to find an established organization that had the bandwidth for me to come in and do an independent research project. What I ended up doing was to set up a participatory ergonomics team and did pre-post measurements on ergonomic risk and job satisfaction survey for a pork processing plant. But here's the thing: it was sort of lacking because I didn't have enough participants in the pre-post for any sort of statistical significance and it was so narrowly focused on those specific tools I used.
The point is that I did go to school and spend money, but it was all about sound research and looking at the literature. At the end of the day, in terms of what the real-world skills required, it’s just theory. I think the value of investing in an ergonomics course is when you can get firsthand knowledge from someone who has done thousands of ergonomic assessments and knows exactly what you need to do so you can get better results in less time.
Here’s a pro tip: Board Certification (for the developer) is the most important thing when you’re investing in a course or a program. Right now, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of people out there who are offering courses on how to do ergonomics assessments but are not Board Certified. I highly recommend that you do your due diligence to make sure that whoever is teaching you has that Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE ) background. If their process hasn't been reviewed by other Board Certified Ergonomists, then you can’t know for a fact that they’re teaching you the right information and whether or not it’s an effective ergonomic process. Keep this in mind because ergonomics is not a regulated health profession. That means anyone anywhere can make ergonomics courses and certifications. That's probably the reason why there are so many people offering these types of courses right now (there's a market for it!).
Let’s take a look at how ergonomics education has been set up in the past. What you're going to learn from private label courses and some university courses is a practical approach to looking at ergonomic risk in the office. You'll also learn how to use a tool, how to come up with solutions, how to write a report, and hopefully, some aspects of a root cause analysis. At first, you might find that getting a client after taking a course through this is really straightforward. But at some point, you're going to realize that it’s a lot more difficult than you thought. There's going to be a lag of maybe a couple of months or even a year where you’re just trying all these different things, and you’ll say to yourself, “I need to learn how to market my business.”
The hard part of building and growing an ergonomics consultancy is figuring out how to position your services and how to market your process effectively. But if you're doing ergonomics assessments, you have to fulfill that so you can continue to have revenue. If you don't nail it, you’re going to end up working for someone else doing a typical nine-to-five job. So learning how to market in addition to learning the principles of ergonomics is the key to having a flexible schedule that you love and the freedom to do what you want to do.
I firmly believe that learning the ergonomics process and learning marketing has to happen at the same time and in a way that's not overwhelming. This is the reason why I'm making an entire shift on everything that I’ve been doing when I teach in all of my programs. Ergonomics education and marketing should be in parallel instead of doing one after the other. This is so that you can start marketing your services even before you have the technical skills to do this. So even though you're not yet fully set up on what the ergonomics processes are and how to identify risk, you've already made the commitment (this is the trick!).
Many Ergonomics Consultants that are starting marketing underestimate the amount of time it takes to turn a prospect into a client. If you're really serious about growing an ergonomics business, marketing has to happen earlier while you're learning the ergonomics process. So when you're ready, all you have to do is to reach out and grab those clients who are already engaged, make them an offer, and then move forward. That’s why it’s essential to do both concurrently.
The way that ergonomics has been taught to be an effective way to generate income is not aligned with what professionals have to do. Very much any private label course today is essentially talking about theory. Until we address marketing skills and getting real support in doing client-based cases and reports, it's going to take longer for you to get to where you want to be. This is why I've changed everything in my business, so I can support healthcare professionals who want to get into ergonomics and Ergonomics Consultants who want to improve their marketing.
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