The Pros and Cons of a Career in Quality Engineering
Quality engineers, also known as quality assurance engineers, help organizations ensure materials and products meet quality standards. Consider the pros and cons of becoming a quality engineer to determine if it is the right path for you.
|Pros of a Quality Engineering Career|
|Higher than average salary potential (annual median salary of $59,000 in 2015)*|
|Quality engineers can work in a variety of industries, such as manufacturing, healthcare and engineering services**|
|Certification isn't required for this career***|
|Cons of a Quality Engineering Career|
|A 4-year degree is required for most entry level engineering positions****|
|Certain positions may require repetition of daily tasks*|
|You will generally work under supervision and have limited freedom to make independent decisions*|
Sources: *Salary.com, **Payscale.com, ***I Have a Plan Iowa, ****O*Net Online
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Quality engineers design and test programs in accordance with customer specifications for products to determine the quality requirements. In this position, you may develop inspection and audit criteria for manufacturing processes and incoming materials.
Quality engineers also use the data gathered from inspections and audits to develop corrective actions that eliminate or reduce quality issues. This can include resolving quality problems with internal manufacturing processes or supplier issues. Reducing quality problems reduces waste and cost to the organization.
According to Salary.com the median salary for quality assurance engineers was $59,743 in August 2015. However, your salary potential can also vary based on your industry. For example, Payscale.com reported in July 2015 that most quality assurance engineers in the software applications industry earned between $41,000 and $93,000, while those in the medical device manufacturing industry earned between $51,000 and $91,000.
What Are the Requirements?
Most employers require a minimum of a bachelor's degree, which can be from an engineering discipline or a related field. You can find programs like the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Quality Engineering Technology or B.S. in Quality Assurance Science.
These programs may include coursework in quality auditing, mathematics, statistical process control, manufacturing processes, facilities planning and mechanics. Advanced degree programs, such as the Master of Quality Assurance, are available if you are planning a career in research and development or teaching at the college level.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Employers may be looking for quality engineers who have a degree in an engineering discipline and some experience with quality control systems. Some employers also require experience in quality inspection and manufacturing standards. Below are some examples of job postings for quality engineers that were available in April 2012:
- A South Carolina employer in the automotive parts manufacturing industry is seeking a supply quality engineer to work with suppliers on quality assurance activities. Job candidates must have a 4-year degree in engineering, two years experience in manufacturing and at least two years experience as a quality engineer.
- An employer in Illinois in the automotive parts manufacturing industry is looking for a quality engineer to lead quality inspectors and improve efficiency in the quality assurance department. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree in quality or manufacturing, certification in Six Sigma or as a Certified Quality Engineer and 2-4 years of experience. Job candidates without a bachelor's degree can qualify for the position with a 2-year degree or technical certificate and 4-8 years experience in manufacturing.
- A Washington employer in the aerospace manufacturing industry is looking for a quality engineer to work with the organization's quality assurance system to ensure compliance with federal regulations. The job candidate must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree education and four years experience as a quality engineer.
- An employer in California in the medical device industry is looking for a quality engineer to maintain and implement the company's quality management system. Job candidates must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in electrical or computer engineering and five years experience in quality assurance.
- A Connecticut employer in manufacturing is seeking a quality engineer to work with suppliers in the improvement of the quality of incoming materials. The candidate must have a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline and four years experience in quality engineering.
Standing Out in the Field
Some employers look for quality engineers with certification in quality assurance and continuous improvement systems, such as Six Sigma. The American Society for Quality offers certification options for quality professionals in Six Sigma and as a Certified Quality Engineer. Because not all employers require certification to qualify for a position, completing the requirements for the credential may help you stand out in the field.
Other Careers to Consider
If a career in quality is a good fit, but the 4-year degree requirement is holding you back, an industrial engineering technician career may be a faster way to enter the field. Engineering technicians assist engineers with data analysis and engineering experiments to improve quality. According to the BLS, an associate's degree is necessary to work as an engineering technician and the median salary for this position was $49,000 in 2011.
While quality engineers work to reduce defective products, health and safety engineers ensure workers are safe on the job. In this position, you would inspect work processes, investigate workplace accidents and recommend improvements to prevent worker injury and illness at work. Although this position also requires a bachelor's degree, the earning potential is slightly higher with a median salary of $75,000 in 2011, according to the BLS.