There are plenty of industries and job opportunities you could hold with a master’s degree in human-computer interaction, one of the highest-paying master’s degrees. If you feel a calling to serve your fellow Americans in some capacity, you might consider seeking a government position in the human-computer interaction field. Both federal and state government entities rely on professionals with a background in human-computer interaction to ensure that their website applications, computer systems and other aspects of technology are in line with the best practices for creating usable technology. Many government positions for master’s degree holders in human-computer interaction fit into the category of either research or user experience design.
Government Jobs in Human-Computer Interaction Research
Research is an important part of moving forward experts’ understanding of how humans and computers interact. In government entities, much of the research in the field of HCI focuses on information creation and organization, information asset management, computer and device interaction and evaluation methods and metrics, according to the federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program.
Research roles related to the field of human-computer interaction are found in a variety of government research labs, agencies and entities. For example, the United States Army, the federal Census Bureau and the National Institute of Standards and Technology all employ researchers in this field, according to Digital.gov, part of the federal General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services.
Aside from research roles within these government agencies, there are career opportunities with government research labs. The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer represents more than 300 government research labs and agencies nationwide.
Government Roles in User Experience Design
IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain
There are also plenty of government roles in practical design of user experience and human-computer interaction. NASA, for example, has an entire Human-Computer Interaction Group of researchers as part of the agency’s Mission Planning and Operations division.
Computer technologies are crucial to NASA’s space exploration missions, involved in satellite imagery, spacecraft launch and navigation, communications and safety. Usability issues in NASA computer systems could be catastrophic, leading to deadly failures in launching, landing and navigating manned spacecraft. A loss of communication capabilities could render astronauts unable to express findings, challenges and needs to operators back on Earth. Even in situations where no life is on the line, a user error in piloting unmanned drones, satellites and rovers could leave these expensive machines uselessly stuck on distant planets.
While astronauts and ground operators are highly trained in the use of NASA computers, the reality is that well-designed technological systems that are aligned with the best practices in human-computer interaction do more than provide a frustration-free user experience. They also improve safety – in healthcare applications and beyond – when the professionals who design the technology take proactive steps to predict the most likely human user errors and minimize and mitigate those mistakes, according to the Radiological Society of North America’s Radiographics journal.
Other government jobs in human-computer interaction may be less high-pressure than working on NASA’s computer systems but are still important. User experience design is an important component of any government website application, particularly those facing private citizens rather than government employees. While government employers can train their workers in using computer systems on the job, private citizens must be able to submit information through government website applications without formal training.
Design roles in user interface and user experience exist in a wide array of government agencies and entities, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Patent and Trademark Office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Government entities in the healthcare sphere also need skilled human-computer interaction professionals for roles like health administration in the Veterans Affairs department and the development of user-friendly health insurance marketplaces at federal and state levels.
Consider looking beyond federal agencies to find a government position in human-computer interaction. You can even find work in this field in municipal governments’ city planning departments, health departments, and social services departments.
Think Outside the Box for HCI Career Opportunities
Beyond research and user experience design, you can use your background in human-computer interaction to land other types of government positions, too. If you find that you’re more interested in the technical side of computers, you might find work as an information architect. Information architects focus on the structure and organization of content on a website, in a database, in a software program or in a virtual library. Many government departments and agencies have a need for good information architects, including the Library of Congress, according to Digital.gov.
If writing better matches your strengths, consider a role as a technical writer or editor for a government entity, like the Department of Energy, that has a need to make technical information accessible for private citizens with varying levels of education.