Quality Engineering Degree Program Overviews
Learn about quality engineering. Get information on associate's, bachelor's and master's programs, the required coursework and career prospects in this field to make an informed decision about your future.
Degrees in quality engineering are available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. Minimum admission requirements include a high school education for associate's degrees and some bachelor's degrees, completion of a 2-year program for other bachelor's degrees, and a 4-year degree in a related field for master's degrees in quality engineering. Internship opportunities may be available in some associate's degree programs. Bachelor's degree programs often include a capstone project, while graduate degree programs concentrate on hands-on training and culminate in a thesis or a comprehensive exam. Graduates with a master's degree may considering pursuing advanced certification in the field.
Associate's Degree Programs in Quality Engineering
An associate's degree can lead to an entry-level position in quality engineering, in areas like manufacturing. Several options exist for obtaining one, such as an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Quality Engineering Technology or an A.A.S. in Manufacturing Engineering Technology with a quality assurance concentration. These programs essential procedures like testing, quality measurements and quality assurance. Some of these programs offer internships or apprenticeships for academic credit.
Applicants to an associate's degree program in quality engineering must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Most programs also have proficiency or placement examinations and recommend that students have a solid background in math and the use of computers.
In addition to general education requirements specific to each school, these associate's programs cover fundamental aspects of quality engineering, such as metrology and statistical analysis. Students are also required to take more specialized courses, which may include:
- Quality cost analysis
- Manufacturing processes
- Inspection and sampling control
- Quality auditing and corrective actions
Since businesses are increasingly subject to process and production standards, degrees related to quality engineering qualify graduates for entry-level positions in a variety of fields across manufacturing and services industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that most engineering professions are expected to have net increase the number of job openings from 2010 to 2020 (www.bls.gov). In March 2012, Payscale.com reported that most supplier quality engineers earned between $44,698 and $91,019, including bonuses.
Students pursuing associate's degrees in quality engineering can complete concurrent certificate programs offered by the school, such as Alternative Energy or Support Specialist certificates in Engineering Technology. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) also supports several professional certifications that can be obtained by individuals who hold an associate's degree (www.asq.org).
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Quality Engineering
Quality engineering at the bachelor's degree-level includes Bachelor of Science programs in engineering technology. These programs may focus on the quality aspect or offer an emphasis in quality assurance. In addition to the practical and technical concepts learned at the associate's level, bachelor's programs also incorporate theoretical and management concepts that prepare students for more advanced positions.
Some quality engineering bachelor's programs require students to have completed their general education and foundational engineering coursework through an associate's degree or 2-year technical program. These requirements may include courses in mathematics, technical studies, science and English.
Program Coursework and Requirements
The curriculum for quality engineering bachelor's programs typically incorporates hands-on training in a laboratory setting with classroom instruction and computer applications. Most programs have a capstone requirement, such as a project. In addition to the core engineering curriculum, students must complete supporting coursework in economics, calculus, physics and chemistry. Individual courses common to bachelor's programs include:
- Statistical process engineering
- Engineering economics
- Computer-aided drafting and design
- Advanced technical writing
- Management of manufacturing operations
Master's Degree Programs in Quality Engineering
Students seeking further specialization in quality engineering can pursue one of several available master's degrees, often as a concentration within an industrial engineering program. Master of Science and Master of Engineering programs in industrial engineering offer quality improvement foundations, strategies for organizational dynamics and business statistics for high-level careers in industry and government. These programs can typically be completed in two years.
Master's-level programs in science or engineering require students to hold a bachelor's, often from a science or engineering discipline. Undergraduate coursework in calculus or statistical methods maybe required or preferred. Additionally, some programs require prior coursework in the industrial engineering field. If an individual is applying to a research program, an in-person or telephone interview may be required.
Master's degree programs in quality engineering require a substantial amount of hands-on, project-based work. For the capstone requirement, students are given the option of a thesis or comprehensive exam. The thesis option typically requires less elective coursework in favor of an independent research study and the submission of a thesis. Some possible course options may include:
- Applied stochastic processes
- Multivariate statistical analysis
- Simulation modeling and analysis
- Managing changing technology
- Nonlinear programming
Many master's programs prepare students to take one of the certification exams of the ASQ, including Six Sigma Green and Black Belt Certifications. Students with work experience in a quality field and a master's degree may qualify for advanced certifications, such as Certified Quality Engineers. Additionally, some schools offer Ph.D. programs in quality management, usually as a specialization of an industrial engineering.
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