Pros and Cons of a Career as a Quality Control Engineer
Quality control engineers assist organizations in achieving their maximum efficiency. Read on to determine if becoming a quality control engineer is right for you.
|Pros of a Quality Control Engineering Career|
|Relatively strong pay (around $81,000 median annual salary for industrial engineers)*|
|Can work in a variety of industries (including manufacturing, hospitals and research)*|
|Increasing efficiency is attractive to employers*|
|Helping organizations achieve productivity can be rewarding*|
|Cons of a Quality Control Engineering Career|
|Slow job growth expected (1% from 2014-2024)*|
|Must have a bachelor's degree for even entry-level positions*|
|Further on-the-job training typically needed (classes, seminars, projects and working under others' supervision)*|
|Depended upon to be extremely organized and detail-oriented*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Information
Quality control engineers attempt to develop greater efficiency in the creation and delivery of products and services. Some of the primary steps you'll need to take in controlling quality include observing and reviewing typical production schedules and work flows, creating methods for more accurately planning, predicting financial outcomes and reducing costs. You may also develop a job evaluation process to ensure workers are providing productive labor and developing consistent quality standards for specific products and services. Your goal will always be to eliminate any wastefulness and get the most out of an organization's performance, and you'll regularly make use of mathematical methods and management strategies in order to best achieve productivity.
You may find employment in a variety of industries and environments as a quality control engineer. At a manufacturing plant, you would likely observe the operational structure of a factory system, attempting to get a first-hand view of where and how productivity could be improved. Likewise, at a hospital, you would closely watch the work habits of staff to determine best practices for interacting with all patients in a timely fashion.
Salary Info and Job Growth
According to the BLS, quality control engineers earn an approximate median annual wage of $81,490 in 2014. The top 10% earned roughly $123,000 annually, while the bottom 10% earned about $52,000 annually. Your salary will generally correspond with the level of education and the amount of experience you possess. Job growth is estimated to be 1% from 2014-2024, due in part to the decline in growth of many manufacturing industries. However, the versatility that comes with being a quality control engineer can work in your favor as organizations of all types continue to seek cost reduction and greater efficiency.
With few exceptions, quality control engineers are expected to possess a bachelor's degree related to industrial engineering or quality control for entry-level work. You may also wish to pursue a graduate degree if you'd like to consider a career in research and development or as an engineering educator. You'll need to pursue a curriculum emphasizing courses such as statistics, manufacturing systems design and production systems analysis.
Additionally, you'll also need to work under the supervision of other quality control engineers as well as engage in further on-the-job training in order to be considered for more prominent positions. In general, you should strive to attain strong speaking and listening skills and develop an ability to expediently create solutions to problems.
Actual Job Postings From Employers
Experience is essential to most employers searching for someone to improve the overall functionality of their business, as they want to be sure they're hiring a person who knows their field well. Here is a list of real postings from employers in May 2012:
- A Texas company specializing in steam generating equipment is seeking a quality control engineer with five to seven years of experience. Candidates must have a technical or undergraduate engineering degree.
- A manufacturing organization in Sanford, FL, is seeking a quality control engineer with an engineering degree as well as five years of experience and other noteworthy quality assurance training.
- A company in Boston, MA, that makes advanced medical devices is looking for a quality control engineer with strong leadership and management skills in addition to a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience.
- A power company in Waseca, MN, is searching for a senior quality engineer with a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field. A minimum of seven years of experience in quality engineering and a sturdy grasp of various problem solving methodologies are required.
- A company in Libertyville, IL, making medical products and services desires a senior quality engineer with a bachelor's degree, five years of experience and expertise with project management training.
How to Stand Out
Likely, your most valuable asset will be your ability to excel with the initial projects given to you. As it becomes apparent that you have a thorough grasp of how to maximize quality for a project, greater reach and responsibility with future endeavors should be much easier to attain. Employers desire experience and proof of prior success before they become willing to hand over the responsibilities to much larger production processes.
While not as common for industrial and quality control engineers as with other engineering specialties, licensure can help you stand out as knowledgeable and experienced in the eyes of employers and may be required where government contracts are involved. The process of becoming licensed begins by acquiring a degree accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), followed by attaining a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Once students have garnered significant work experience, they can become eligible to take the Professional Engineering (PE) exam, which will make them fully licensed upon passing.
Alternative Career Paths
If the education requirements and on-the-job training needed to become a quality control engineer aren't to your liking, you could consider becoming a quality control inspector. Only a high school diploma is required for this job; however, the median annual salary is substantially lower at an estimated $34,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. Quality control inspectors are responsible for examining products for defects and ensuring that they meet manufacturers' specifications.
If you'd like to explore a similar occupation to a quality control engineer, but with a better job outlook, you might want to look closely at becoming a cost estimator. This profession involves much of the same financial planning and cost analysis, but is expected to experience a 36% growth in employment from 2010-2020, according to the BLS; this is due to its connection with the construction industry. Cost estimators estimate the budget and resources needed for a construction project. The annual median salary was about $58,000, according to the BLS in 2011, and the work may be more stressful due to the constant need to bid for contracts.