Human Factors of Transportation Safety Graduate Certificate Program

For more than 25 years, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) has worked to ensure the safety of transportation users by leading cutting-edge research, especially in the pioneering of naturalistic study methods. VTTI’s innovative approaches, world-class facilities, and largest group of driving safety researchers in the world have led to a better understanding of such transportation challenges as distraction, inattention, fatigue, and the risks associated with teenaged and older drivers.

VTTI is thus positioned, with strong collaboration from the departments listed below, to offer the next generation of researchers the opportunity to gain in-depth understanding and hands-on experience and guidance in the area of transportation safety through the Human Factors of Transportation Safety Graduate Certificate Program (HFTS GCP).

Driver behavior is at the root of the majority of crashes, so human factors play a crucial role in designing efforts that enhance transportation safety and reduce crashes. The HFTS GCP will be administered through VTTI with support from the Graduate School and affiliated faculty in the following departments: Civil and Environmental Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Psychology, and Statistics. The certificate program has been designed to create and deliver to students in-depth knowledge and marketable skills applied to the research, evaluation, maintenance, improvement, and protection of all ground transportation users and their communities – all from a human factors perspective, which is a strong educational focus of VTTI and Virginia Tech. Students enrolled in the program will become leaders in the field of transportation safety within the Commonwealth, across the nation, and internationally.

I'm interested, but I have several questions...

The HFTS GCP is the first educational program to focus on human factors issues related to transportation safety. The program is designed to bring to life Virginia Tech’s hands-on and minds-on approaches to education.

Transportation is critical to every aspect of our modern society, yet it presents some of the most difficult challenges. Each year, more than 30,000 fatalities occur on U.S. highways alone (NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System) at an estimated economic cost of more than $200 billion.

In response to this national crisis, federal agencies are funding large-scale interdisciplinary research programs with the goal of greatly improving transportation safety. Companies in the private sector are also striving to produce safer and smarter vehicles and technologies. 

However, as more next-generation technologies are implemented, there is the potential to create unsafe driving conditions, such as driver overload, distraction, fatigue, and other unexpected outcomes. Therefore, human factors evaluations and solutions are key to the successful implementation of these technologies. Whether the system deals with lighting, presents a warning to a driver, or is an automated-vehicle component, it should function in collaboration with the driver to ensure that the driver and the vehicle are operating within their capabilities and expectations. These human factors considerations are vital to safe travel.

Graduate students enrolled in the HFTS GCP will be offered not only a formal educational path in the human factors of transportation safety; they will also have research opportunities that are designed to help government agencies and the private sector address the greatest transportation issues of today and the future.

The certificate is an option to Virginia Tech graduate students in the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISE), Psychology (PSYC), and Statistics (STAT). Interested students from other departments may contact the program coordinator.

Please refer to the Admissions & Course Requirements tab on the Graduate Catalog, HFTS.

GRA opportunities are typically available and should be discussed along with your interests when applying to the HFTS GCP.

Yes, internships and summer wage jobs may be made available through the certificate program. Students will be encouraged to spend time gaining experience at VTTI or with other industry collaborators with whom VTTI and the participating Virginia Tech departments have established relationships.

Internship opportunities may be discussed when applying to the HFTS GCP.

VTTI is one of seven premier research institutes of Virginia Tech, is the second largest university-level transportation institute in the U.S., and is renowned worldwide. The institute is dedicated to saving lives, saving time, saving money, and protecting the environment. VTTI is also devoted to fostering the next generation of transportation researchers, with more than 100 graduates and undergraduates funded annually who gain first-hand knowledge of transportation research, from data reduction to traffic modeling.

The institute is recognized as a leader in human factors research, with 12 centers, initiatives, and groups focused on conducting multiple human factors projects for both the government and the private sector.

The certificate requires a total of 4 courses (3 credits each for a total of 12 credits) distributed as follows: one course from each of Categories A, B, and C, and one course from either Category D or E.

In addition, courses from at least 3 of the 4 affiliated departments (i.e., Civil and Environmental Engineering, Industrial & Systems Engineering, Psychology, and Statistics) must be represented in the student’s overall graduate program of study.

Category A: Transportation Safety / Risk Core

  • CEE 5640 Highway Transportation Safety
  • CEE 5660 Transportation Risk, Reliability, and Security

Category B: Human Factors Core

  • ISE 5604 Human Information Processing
  • ISE 5605 Human Factors Systems Design I
  • PSYC 5344 Cognitive Psychology

Category C: Statistics and Research Design

  • ISE 5615 Human Factors Research Design
  • PSYC 5315 Research Methods
  • STAT 5594 Statistical Epidemiology and Observational Studies
  • STAT 5615/5616 Statistics in Research

Category D: Transportation-Related Eng./ Modeling / Design

  • CEE 5604 Traffic Characteristics and Flow
  • CEE 5644 Transportation Systems Planning
  • CEE 5654 Advanced Geometric Design & Highway Safety

Category E: Human Factors Aspects of Transportation

  • CS/ISE 5714 Usability Engineering
  • ISE 5644 Human Audition and Auditory Display Design
  • ISE 6604 Human Factors in Visual Display Systems
  • ISE 6614 Human Computer Systems
  • ISE 6624 Advanced Topics in Human Factors [1]
  • PSYC 5404 Biological Bases of Behavior
  • PSYC 6404 Behavior Management in Large-scale Systems
  • STAT 5204 Experimental Design and Analysis I
  • STAT 5204G Experimental Design: Concepts and Applications
  • STAT 5214G Advanced Methods of Regression Analysis
  • STAT 5514 Regression Analysis
Thesis/Dissertation Topic & Optional Research Internship
  • Thesis/Dissertation topic must be transportation safety related (and approved by the Human Factors of Transportation Safety Graduate Certificate Program administrative body as well as the student’s graduate committee).
  • If the student chooses the project option instead of a thesis, the project must be transportation safety related, and the student must take an additional course (5 total courses), with the fifth course being selected from any category within the HFTS GCP menu, A-E.
  • Optional research internship for one semester up to one year at VTTI or equivalent opportunity (e.g., NHTSA, GM, etc. [can earn up to 6 research credit hours and up to 3 independent study credit hours per semester of internship]) – note that these optional hours/experiences do not substitute for any of the 12 required credit hours.