Become a Certified Quality Engineer: Certification & Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a certified quality engineer. Research the education and career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in quality engineering.

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Should I Become a Certified Quality Engineer?

Quality engineers use various methods to identify and correct ineffective quality control procedures. This can involve developing quality control systems, testing products and analyzing the results to maximize product quality. Certified Quality Engineers (CQE) work in a variety of settings, including the automotive industry, architectural engineering firms and manufacturing industries. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) issues CQE certification.

CQEs might work in a climate-controlled office but also will likely spend time in manufacturing facilities or laboratories observing quality control procedures and equipment as it is being used. This variety in settings might give them the chance to travel as well as experience variety in their projects, though it could also expose them to noise and potential hazards, depending on the industry. Work hours might have to be flexible to match the work shift that needs their expertise.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree
Degree Field Engineering, science or a related field
Certification Voluntary CQE certification may offer increased job opportunities
Experience 8 years of experience or a combination of experience and postsecondary education
Key Skills Ability to analyze data, problem solving skills, interpersonal skills, good organizational skills and leadership abilities, familiarity with quality principles and standards, understanding of quality system development, knowledge of quality improvement techniques and tools
Salary (2016) $64,874 yearly (median for all quality assurance engineers)

Sources: American Society for Quality, CareerBuilder.com Job Postings, PayScale.com

Step 1: Consider Earning a Degree

Although the ASQ does not require certification candidates to have a degree, gaining postsecondary education reduces the number of years candidates need in order to qualify for certification. Having a diploma from a technical school reduces the 8-year experience requirement by 1 year. Having an associate's degree reduces it by 2 years, and having a bachelor's degree reduces it by 4 years. A master's degree or a doctorate reduces the ASQ's experience requirement by 5 years.

Additionally, according to job postings listed on CareerBuilder.com in January 2013, many employers prefer candidates with at least a bachelor's degree. Gaining a degree in quality engineering or another engineering field may offer aspiring CQEs a strong foundation in the skills and knowledge necessary for a successful career in this field. Since these workers are employed in a variety of industries, aspiring engineers might benefit from earning a degree relevant to the setting in which they intend to work. For example, a quality engineer working in the healthcare industry may pursue a degree in chemistry or natural sciences.

Step 2: Gain Experience

According to the ASQ, candidates for certification need to have worked for 3-8 years, depending on the candidate's education level. That experience must be in 1 of the areas of the Certified Quality Engineer's Body of Knowledge, a reference complied by the ASQ. Acceptable areas include management and leadership; product and process design; product and process control; statistical process control; and quality systems. Candidates must have worked in a decision-making capacity for at least 3 years.

Step 3: Prepare for the Certification Exam

The examination for CQE certification measures comprehension of subjects relevant to quality engineering. These subjects are documented in the organization's Body of Knowledge, which can be downloaded from the ASQ website. The Body of Knowledge is revised every 5 years, starting with a job analysis survey. The data from the results are analyzed and summarized, and a committee formulates the examination questions based on these results. The Body of Knowledge also contains a list of references that were used to create the test, and the ASQ offers a sample test to familiarize candidates with the types of questions that can be expected as well as the format of the test.

Step 4: Take the Exam

After preparing for the exam, candidates can choose a testing date and apply to take the exam. Applications can be completed online, or an application can be downloaded, completed and mailed to the ASQ. After application to take the certification has been approved, a candidate will be informed of the examination location.

The test is made up of 160 multiple-choice questions. Candidates are given 5 hours to complete the exam. The ASQ scores and emails the results within 6-7 business days. To pass the test and become certified, applicants need to score at least 550 points out 750 possible points.

Step 5: Maintain Certification

CQE certification must be renewed every 3 years. To become recertified, CQE's can complete 18 recertification units within the prior 3 years or sit for the certification exam again. Recertification units can be earned by completing activities such as professional development, taking courses or working in the field.

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