PhD in Quality Assurance (QA): Degree Program Overview
Quality assurance professionals work in a variety of industries and are responsible for overseeing the general quality of manufactured products, technological processes, managerial systems and more. While a graduate degree such as a Master of Science in Quality Assurance (QA) is often viewed as the most direct advanced degree in the field, there are some Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs with specializations in quality assurance.
Master of Science in Quality Assurance
Some universities offer 2-year master's degree programs in quality assurance in an interdisciplinary format; these programs can prepare any graduate student for a career as a quality assurance supervisor in the fields of healthcare, industry, engineering or technology. Other universities offer more specialized quality assurance graduate degree programs that cater to just one of these specific areas. While enrolled in a master's degree program in quality assurance, students learn how to measure quality within a product, system or organization, perform quality cost control and implement safety and quality assurance procedures.
A bachelor's degree is very nearly always required to gain admittance into a graduate program in quality assurance. Students interested in advanced studies in the field should consider completing an undergraduate program in quality assurance, organizational management or even engineering.
A Master of Science in Quality Assurance program will feature courses that introduce advanced quality testing and analysis techniques as well as theories of quality assurance. Some examples of course topics include the following:
- Statistical concepts and quality assurance
- Analyzing operating systems
- Total quality measurement
- Process control
- Applied system reliability
- Training programs and assessment
- Six Sigma concepts
Popular Career Info
Individuals in the quality assurance field can hold a variety of management and inspection posts in several different industries. Potential job titles include those listed below:
- Aerospace product inspector
- Manufacturing quality assurance manager
- Motor vehicle parts inspector
- Plastics product quality assurance director
- Personnel quality assurance director
- Building inspector
- Agricultural inspector
- Quality inspector
- Computer software quality assurance manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies quality assurance managers in the category for industrial production managers, and nine percent growth is expected for these professionals from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). This slower-than-average growth is due to the automation of manufacturing processes and foreign competition. Payscale.com reported in November 2013 that quality assurance managers made between $42,725 and $113,929 annually. The median salary was $71,686.
Organizations such as the American Society for Quality offer various types of certification in the quality assurance field. These include the designations of Certified Biomedical Auditor (CBA), Quality Inspector (CQI), Reliability Engineer (CRE) and several others. Individuals must have professional experience and pass an examination before they can gain credentials in any one aspect of the field.
Doctor of Philosophy with Quality Assurance Specialization
Although there are no Ph.D. programs related wholly to the field of quality assurance, there are a few doctoral programs available that allow students to specialize in the subject. Some of these include a Ph.D. in Technology Management and a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering. Such degree programs provide students with knowledge of research methodology and management theory, which is necessary to gain a position of leadership in the quality assurance field or else to work in branches of academia or research.
Aspiring doctoral candidates should have several years of education under their belts, including a baccalaureate and possibly a master's degree, before enrolling in a Ph.D. program. College-level courses in management, quality assurance and statistics are some other common prerequisites for a Ph.D. program related to quality assurance.
Doctoral courses covering the field of quality assurance delve into very specific management and testing techniques, as well as theories of human performance and leadership in the quality assurance field. Some examples of course topics are listed below:
- Principles of assessment and reliability
- Quality standards leadership
- Analysis of experimental design
- Human performance in organizations
- Culture of quality change
Popular Career Options
Gaining a Ph.D. in a technical field while specializing in quality assurance most typically prepares graduates for professional roles focusing on research or teaching. Some possible job titles might include professor or associate professor of technical quality assurance.
Other Ph.D. graduates might earn positions as directors or board members of organizations that monitor quality assurance in a particular industry, such as the Food and Drug Administration. Still other graduates work at the very highest levels of management and development within corporations that create and manufacture new products for consumers.
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