Quality Control Specialist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Quality control specialists ensure that products manufactured by their employer meet certain quality standards and are safe to sell. Generally, this profession has few formal education requirements, although these requirements may vary by product and industry.
Job Description of a Quality Control Specialist
Quality control specialists work in a wide variety of industries, from automobile manufacturing to food production. Depending on the industry, they may visually inspect or manually test products, before, during or after the manufacturing process. Specialists may also run and monitor inspection equipment, as well as record and analyze quality data.
Quality control workers may perform their duties in a number of locations, such as a workstation, assembly line, laboratory or a quality control department. They may have to stand for hours at a time, or perform their duties seated in a controlled environment. In many industries, quality inspectors work in shifts and overtime may be required during heavy manufacturing periods.
Duties of a Quality Control Specialist
Specific duties vary, depending on the industry in which the specialists work. No matter which industry they work in, the main objective of all quality control specialists is to test the product for its intended use and make sure it performs up to the manufacturer's specifications.
Most specialists have the authority to accept or reject products as necessary. They usually keep a record of problems they find and may send defective products back for repair. In some industries, inspectors may have to repair the products themselves to determine the problems in the manufacturing process. Some specialists conduct controlled testing on products to determine how the products perform in a simulated environment.
Almost all quality control specialists use some type of instrumentation to perform their jobs. Quality control workers may weigh or measure finished products. Some specialists may be required to measure fluid levels, check lubrication, inspect workmanship or gauge product durability. Those working in the food industry may be required to sample products to determine quality.
Quality Control Specialist Requirements
Education requirements for quality control inspectors vary greatly and typically depend on the industry. For some jobs, a high school diploma is the only requirement and inspectors receive on-the-job training. Industries with more complex products may require an advanced education in quality control or specialized training within the industry field. Some employers may require specialists to receive professional certification in quality control.
Some community colleges and technical colleges offer certificate programs in quality control. Quality control fundamentals are discussed and some programs prepare students for the professional certification. Coursework can include drafting, blueprint reading and algebra.
Associate's degree programs provide an in-depth review of quality control procedures and practices. Coursework in these 2-year programs may include cost analysis, statistical control, testing procedures and material quality.
While there are a few bachelor's degree programs available in quality control or quality assurance, most programs at this level specialize in a specific field, such as environmental engineering, manufacturing management and technology management. Coursework in a general quality assurance program can include technical documentation, electrical measurements, metrology, failure analysis and statistical methodology.
Professional organizations and associations offer certification for professionals in the quality control field. For example, the American Society for Quality has a variety of certifications, including quality inspection, quality auditing, process analysis and reliability. Certification typically requires a skills-assessment examination, professional experience and coursework in quality control (www.asq.org).
Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), quality control specialists made a median hourly wage of $16.57 in 2012, or $34,460 per year. The BLS also predicts that this field should grow at about 8% between the years of 2010 and 2020, which is about 33,300 new jobs. However, this rate is slower than the national average of all occupations for that time period (www.bls.gov).
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