Quality Control Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Training Info

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What kind of job can you get with a master's degree or PhD in quality control - or quality assurance as it's more commonly called? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses in quality control/assurance degree programs.
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Studying Quality Control: Degrees at a Glance

More commonly known as 'quality assurance', a master's degree in quality control enables you to better understand the complex and ever-changing government regulations and compliance issues affecting a wide range of industries. However, unless your goal is to acquire an upper-management position, anything beyond a bachelor's degree and hands-on work experience is rarely necessary. PhD programs in quality control are unavailable, but doctoral programs in related fields allow you to teach at the university level.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Those in the manufacturing, healthcare, government, information systems, aerospace, customer service, pharmaceutical or food industries who want to better understand complex government and industry regulations Individuals who want to become professors or those in manufacturing, healthcare, government, information systems, aerospace, customer service, pharmaceutical or food industries who want to improve their organization's operations through assessment and measurement, statistical analysis or quality management
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salaries) - Top Quality Control Manager ($156,939)*
- Professor ($62,050)*
Time to Completion 2 to 3 years full time 2 to 3 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 11 to 36 hours of graduate-level courses
- Capstone project
- Roughly 60 to 72 hours of graduate-level courses
- Dissertation
-Some programs have foreign language requirements, qualifying exams and teaching assistantships
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree, letters of recommendation and work experience Master's degree in your particular field of study, letters of recommendation and work experience
Online Availability Yes Some courses are available online

Source: *Salary.com (June 2012 figures).

Masters in Quality Control

Master's degree programs in quality control or quality assurance emphasize the theories of quality and regulatory issues in various fields. An interdisciplinary approach is taken in most programs, resulting in their curriculum combining statistics, communication and management with the study of quality concepts.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can help you understand government regulations and how to ensure quality in production, which may make you more valued by employers in regulated industries
  • May lead to an upper-level position in the field, in which you might enjoy a wide degree of freedom in performing your job tasks
  • Can equip you with the skills necessary to conduct clinical trials in the scientific industry

Cons

  • A master's degree is often not required for upper-level quality control jobs; instead, work experience is usually preferred
  • Some quality control jobs are expected to see slower-than-average growth between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
  • May lead to a high-stress position in highly regulated industries in which regulations constantly change

Courses and Requirements

You can earn a master's degree in quality control as it pertains to a number of different industries. However, some basic core courses are common to most programs:

  • Statistical quality control
  • Measurements and testing
  • Project management

In addition, you complete a capstone project and take courses specific to your industry, such as:

  • Drug safety and development
  • Six sigma concepts
  • Supply chain management

Online Degree Options

Some schools offer fully online master's degree programs in quality control, while others offer a mixture of online and on-site courses. Usually aimed at working professionals, online programs are typically accelerated programs, and may take as little as a year to complete. Courses in online programs usually cover the same information as those discussed in on-campus courses.

Stand Out With This Degree

To get ahead while pursuing your master's in quality control, join professional organizations such as the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Joining this association offers you networking opportunities and possible employment leads.

During your studies, consider completing courses about quality control in highly regulated industries, such as those that involve chemistry or science, or taking advanced statistics classes. Completing these types of classes demonstrates that you are able to perform intricate mathematical equations and are familiar with the complex regulations that affect these industries, which some employers may prefer.

After graduation, consider earning voluntary certification. The ASQ also offers voluntary certifications, such as the Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence and the Quality Improvement Associate. These certifications demonstrate your knowledge of and commitment to quality control, which may make you more attractive to employers.

Degree Alternatives

Similar to a master's in quality control, a master's in regulatory affairs and compliance prepares you for an upper-level position in a number of industries while simultaneously helping you to understand complex government and industry regulations. Additionally, a regulatory affairs and compliance degree prepares you for jobs that have similar pay rates as quality control jobs. For instance the median salary for a regulatory affairs director in 2012 is $148,950, according to Salary.com.

PhD in Quality Control

PhD programs in quality control are currently unavailable. However, doctorates in related fields, such as assessment and measurement, statistical analysis, regulatory science and compliance, or quality management are available. These programs are usually designed for individuals interested in teaching or who want to advance their current career in the field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Professors have flexible schedules, with many taking summers off to complete research or travel
  • Retirements of high-level regulatory professionals means that there is a likelihood of more jobs becoming available for PhD holders in regulatory science and compliance
  • Can give you a competitive edge over individuals with undergraduate and even master's degrees when applying for research-focused positions

Cons

  • Unless you want to become a professor, a PhD is not required for most jobs in the field
  • For those with PhDs in regulatory science, entry-level jobs are hard to come by and require highly detailed work
  • Tenure track positions for college professors are becoming increasing more difficult to obtain, which may make it hard to find permanent employment after graduation

Courses and Requirements

Most doctoral programs have some common requirements, including statistics courses, passing PhD exams and writing a dissertation. Some programs also have a foreign language exam and require that students teach master's or undergraduate-level courses. The curriculum of PhD programs in fields related to quality control varies depending on the area of focus. For example, someone seeking a doctorate in quality management might take classes like:

  • Quality systems management
  • System design
  • Teaching quality systems management

Someone else seeking a a PhD in assessment and measurement might take classes like:

  • Measurement theory
  • Testing theory
  • Public policy and assessment

Online Degree Options

Courses in quality-control related PhD programs are available online, but entirely online programs are rare. Depending on the program, you may complete real-time courses online through live video or chat sessions.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

To get ahead with this degree, take advantage of any teaching opportunities, fellowships and available research assistant positions. Having hands-on experience teaching may make you more attractive to academic employers.

You might also consider completing technology or research-based courses available in your program. Classes like testing or measurement theory will provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to conduct quality control testing. This type of knowledge can help you stand out against your competition.

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