Quality Assurance Degree Program Information
Training to enter the multidimensional field of quality assurance can occur in bachelor's and master's degree programs. Read on for info about the curricula, requirements for admission and career options. You can also learn about certification and national employment statistics.
The field of quality assurance involves the analytical monitoring and assessment of systems, programs, equipment and processes to ensure that products are functional and compliant with regulations. In a 4-year bachelor's degree program in this field, students are exposed to math, design and blueprint reading. Those enrolled in the 2- to 3-year master's degree program learn about such topics as supply chain management, ethics and reliability. Both programs include practical work like an internship or research project.
Standard enrollment requirements for bachelor's and master's degree programs in quality assurance include holding a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree, respectively. Numerous certification options exist for graduates of these programs. Quality assurance degree programs can prepare students to work as quality specialists in health care, education, engineering, manufacturing, telecommunications and other industries that rely on product or service development processes.
Bachelor's Degree in Quality Assurance
Since the desire of industry professionals to augment their qualifications is often a focus of these programs, many are offered online or require little on-campus presence. Some programs may offer a 2-year curriculum for upper-level transfer students or working professionals, while others may more traditional 4-year programs for new undergraduate students. Programs can prepare students for careers in areas such as product management or design engineering, and can teach them management principles, statistics and systematic techniques to oversee efficiency, quality, consistency and overall flow of operations. Some programs offer concentration options for specialized study, which could include an area like measurement sciences.
Most schools require high school transcripts, as well as transcripts from any previous collegiate work, for admission. In addition, individual quality assurance programs may have additional requirements, such as having successfully completed a college-level calculus course.
Bachelor's degree programs in quality assurance are generally structured so that the fundamental math and science courses are taken first and subsequently built upon to cover the theory of quality and the methods and techniques of its application and practice. Many programs require a final project, capstone or internship, allowing students to gain practical quality control experience. Students can typically select several upper-level electives, which can allow them to take courses covering diverse material, including:
- Business communications
- Blueprint reading
- Human resource management
- Software quality assurance
- Geometric dimensioning and tolerances
- Experiment design
- System failure analysis
Popular Career Options
Quality assurance bachelor's degree programs can prepare students for careers in design, development and management of products and services, especially in manufacturing industries, including foods, motor vehicles and computers. Knowledge of quality assurance, also referred to as quality control, can be a key element in many careers, including:
- Occupational health and safety
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing
- Transportation or vehicular inspection
- Supply chains and logistics
- Production management and design
Bachelor's programs can prepare students for the qualification exams for one of the 17 certifications obtainable from The American Society for Quality (www.asq.org). Students can also prepare for the Green and Black Belt certifications in Six Sigma, a lean manufacturing quality methodology.
Master's Degree in Quality Assurance
Quality assurance master's degree programs can be offered online and are typically designed to be completed in 2-3 years. Programs awarding the M.S. in Quality Assurance tend to focus primarily on the theories and fundamental assumptions of the discipline, preparing students to address applications violating those assumptions and to assess the relative value of proposed solutions. Some programs offer a choice between manufacturing and health services concentrations. Most require the choice of multiple electives and a final thesis or project.
Applicants to master's degree programs must typically hold an accredited bachelor's degree, which must sometimes be in a technical field. Transcripts must typically demonstrate proficiency in mathematics and computing concepts.
Master's degree programs in quality assurance assume some prior knowledge of the subject matter, or at least proficiency in the mathematical and statistical techniques used. As a result, most of these programs focus more on developing depth of knowledge in key areas, rather than establishing a foundational breadth. Students take classes in the higher-level theory and application of quality principles, including:
- Experiment design
- Human elements of quality assurance
- Drug and biologics regulations
- Ethical and legal issues
- Quality cost and supply chain evaluation
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Since quality assurance is such an interdisciplinary field, degree programs prepare students for work in a wide range of industries, including service, manufacturing, government, health care and pharmaceuticals, among others. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), testers and inspectors across various topics, including aerospace, manufacturing, automotive and plastics fields, were expected to see a four percent decrease in employment opportunities (www.bls.gov). Professionals in this field earned a median annual salary of $33,030 in 2010, according to the BLS.
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