Study Quality Engineering: Master's Degree, Certification & Course Info

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Master's degree and certification programs in quality engineering can lead to careers in manufacturing and software, among others. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your training.
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Quality Engineering Master's and Certification: Training at a Glance

Quality engineers use general management and mathematical principles and statistical methods to ensure product standards or improve the quality of a system or process. The specific duties of a quality engineer can vary, depending on the industry in which you work. If you work in manufacturing, you may work to improve delivery times within a supply chain. Alternatively, if you work in software, you may test software programs to ensure quality requirements are met.

One career option you may consider is becoming a logistician. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that this career field could experience a 26% growth in employment from 2010-2020. The outlooks are not as favorable for other professions. The BLS projects that job opportunities for industrial production managers will increase nine percent over the same time period. The low projections for these professionals have to do with the decline of the U.S. manufacturing sector.

Master's Certification
Who is this program for? Experienced individuals looking for a management position Individuals who want either a basic understanding of quality engineering or to validate their experience
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Logistician ($72,000)*
- Industrial production manager ($88,000)*
- Quality engineer ($43,000-$84,000)**
- Senior supplier quality engineer ($60,000-$100,000)**
Individuals who complete a certification program may have access to the same jobs as those with a master's degree
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time Varies
Common Graduation Requirements - Around 30 semester credits of graduate coursework - Comprehensive exam
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- GRE or GMAT scores
Varies
Online Availability Yes Yes

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures, median salary), **Payscale.com (November 2012 figures, 10th-90th percentile)

Master's Degree Programs

Master's programs in quality engineering may go by different titles, such as quality and reliability engineering or quality assurance. These programs will teach you the theoretical and applied concepts in areas like statistical analysis and experimental design. Some programs may give preference to students who have earned undergraduate degrees in engineering, science or math. Even if a specific degree is not required, these programs often require specific undergraduate coursework in calculus, probability, and computer science.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can prepare you for quality engineering careers in multiple industries, including aerospace, medical and technological fields
  • Opportunities for advanced research may be available
  • Options for specific professional certifications may be built into a program

Cons

  • A master's degree may not be needed for many jobs in this field, which often require a bachelor's degree*
  • Master's programs may give preference to applicants with specific undergraduate degrees or require prerequisite coursework
  • Experience is still required for some positions

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Coursework and Requirements

Master's programs in quality engineering typically cover topics in statistics, simulations, engineering and quality management. While many programs are offered as coursework only, some offer a capstone project as an elective. Examples of the courses you may take include:

  • Quality assurance
  • Reliability engineering
  • Statistical quality control
  • Design of experiments
  • Production analysis
  • Software quality
  • Quality systems

Online Programs

Master's programs are available online. These programs typically have the same admission requirements and offer the same coursework as traditional programs. Some programs are designed for working professionals who already have experience in the field. While online programs feature web-based discussion boards and live chats, you can still expect to purchase items like textbooks.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

Employers in this field look for professionals with experience in lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, Failure Mode Effects Analysis and other quality assurance concepts. You may consider looking for programs that offer these courses in the curriculum. You can also find additional training opportunities outside of a degree program that may be beneficial. You may also want to familiarize yourself with the specific software programs you could be using, such as Microsoft Testing Manager and Microsoft Access.

Certification Programs

Many colleges and universities offer courses that can prepare you for professional certification. These training courses vary in length, but many require just one course for completion. In addition, professional organizations like the American Society for Quality (ASQ) also offer training courses. After completing one of these courses, you can then begin the certification process, which typically requires applying through the professional organization offering the credential, paying a fee and taking an exam. Common quality engineering certification options are available through ASQ. Some quality engineering certifications are offered in specific areas, such as software. Experience is typically required for many certifications, but some years may be waived depending on the degree you hold.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can be completed in a shorter time period than master's programs
  • If you are already certified, you can earn continuing education credits by taking one of these courses
  • Certifications for concentrations within quality engineering are available
  • Experience requirements may be reduced for those who have earned a degree

Cons

  • Training courses and certification may not be sufficient for a position; some employers may require a degree
  • Experience is required to take the exam. Without a degree, you'll need to meet extensive experience requirements (8 years) to be eligible for a certification exam*
  • May have to pay additional fee to retake certification exams if you don't pass

Source: *American Society for Quality.

Coursework and Requirements

The curricula for quality engineering certification training courses can vary. Some programs are offered in formal classes, while others are given as self-study modules. In some cases, a preparation course may be available. Some of the topics you may study in a certification program include:

  • Management and leadership
  • Product and process design
  • Product and process control
  • Quality systems
  • Application and analysis of testing

Online Programs

Quality engineering training programs are offered completely online. Additionally, you may find online courses that incorporate techniques from a major quality-based philosophy, such as Six Sigma. While the course and related training materials may be offered online, you will need to take the exam in-person.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

In addition to earning a certification, you may consider gaining further knowledge of the specific methodologies of the industry you wish to work in. For example, if you wish to work in the manufacturing industry, you may need to be educated in supplier quality requirements and purchasing techniques. Being knowledgeable about the same software programs as someone with a master's degree could also be beneficial.

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Featured Schools

Southern New Hampshire University

  • MBA in Six Sigma

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Engineering Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • MBA - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • MSTIM - Engineering Management

What is your highest level of education?

Upper Iowa University

Tarleton State University

Southern Polytechnic State University

Grace College and Theological Seminary