Become a QA Inspector: Education and Career Information
Research the requirements to become a quality assurance (QA) inspector. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in quality assurance.
Do I Want to Be a Quality Assurance Inspector?
Quality assurance inspectors examine products to ensure that they meet manufacturer guidelines and do not contain defects, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Their job duties may include monitoring operations, reading blueprints, testing materials, measuring products, rejecting defective products, and reporting on product suitability to managers or other responsible parties.
Quality assurance inspectors, like other quality control inspectors, spend time in an office setting as well as on site, making evaluations of products and goods. They may be exposed to some dangerous locations and materials and must wear appropriate clothing and protective gear when completing their inspections. The majority work full-time during business days, although some night and weekend hours may be required.
The BLS states that a high school diploma or its equivalent is generally needed to work in the field, but that some jobs requiring precision only are available to individuals with previous industry experience. Additionally, associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available in quality assurance and may lead to increased job opportunities. The table below contains the common skills and requirements necessary to work as a quality assurance inspector:
|Degree Level||High school diploma usually required, but associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available*|
|Degree Fields||Quality assurance, quality management, quality assurance technician, manufacturing management or a related field****|
|Certification||Not required; voluntary certification is available from the American Society for Quality (ASQ)*|
|Experience||1-2 years' related experience***|
|Key Skills||Mathematical, technical and mechanical skills*, knowledge of production, processing, electronics, chemistry and computers**|
|Computer Skills||Able to use analytic and scientific, database, programming and spreadsheet software**|
|Technical Skills||Use of fork and torque sensors, ultrasonic examination equipment, tension testers and thickness measuring devices**|
|Additional Skills||Stamina and physical strength*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online, ***Multiple job posts (October 2012), ****Various universities and community colleges.
Step 1: Graduate from High School
A minimum of a high school diploma is required to work as a quality assurance inspector. Therefore, graduating from high school or earning a GED certificate is the first step to a career in the field.
- Complete elective math and science courses. Elective math and science high school-level courses provide instruction about measurement, testing and scientific techniques. Because much of a QA inspector's job duties include measuring and testing products, these courses can provide a solid foundation for the types of tasks an individual will complete in his or her future career.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Many employers prefer candidates with at least 1-2 years of experience. In a QA inspector position, an individual may inspect electronic devices, coordinate quality control with other departments and maintain accurate testing records. Additionally, individuals can become knowledgeable about the production processes used in a particular field, such as medical equipment manufacturing.
Step 3: Obtain Certification
The American Society for Quality offers multiple certifications to workers in the industry. Examples of these certifications include quality technician, quality inspector, reliability engineer, quality engineer, quality auditor and calibration technician, to name a few. Earning these certifications usually requires having related work experience and passing an exam.
Step 4: Earn a Degree
Although not always required to work in the field, an associate's or bachelor's degree can lead to increased employment or advancement opportunities. Associate's degree programs are available in quality assurance, quality control and management or in quality assurance technician. These 2-year programs may include courses in inspection methods and techniques, non-destructive testing, quality planning, blueprint reading, planning for six sigma, sustainability and machine shop calculations.
Bachelor's degree programs are available in areas such as quality assurance and manufacturing management. Classes in these 4-year programs could cover topics like physics, quality control, total quality management, quality auditing and planning, interpreting technical documentation and quality improvement. Some programs may require students to complete a capstone project prior to graduation.
- Complete an internship. Some degree programs allow students to complete internships with local businesses. These internships provide students with hands-on experience working in the field and may allow for networking opportunities that could lead to employment opportunities after graduation.
- Complete an independent research project. Students in bachelor's degree programs are sometimes allowed to conduct research independently. Experience investigating problems and finding solutions to them may be a skill that impresses employers during job interviews.
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