Degrees in quality engineering are available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. Two common associate's degrees available to prospective students are the Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Quality Engineering Technology and A.A.S. in Manufacturing Engineering Technology. These degree programs typically take 2 years to complete.
Students seeking a bachelor's degree can obtain a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology in 4 years. The prerequisites for both the associate's and bachelor's degree programs is a high school diploma.
Master of Science and Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering degree programs typically take 2 years. Those looking to enroll in a master's degree must have a bachelor's degree in a related field. Graduates with a master's degree may consider pursuing advanced certification in the field.
Associate's Degree Programs in Quality Engineering
An associate's degree is a program that can lead to an entry-level position in quality engineering, in areas like manufacturing. These programs teach essential procedures like testing, quality measurements and quality assurance. Some of these programs offer internships or apprenticeships for academic credit.
In addition to general education requirements specific to each school, these associate's programs cover fundamental aspects of quality engineering, such as metrology and statistical analysis. Students are also required to take more specialized courses, which may include:
- Quality cost analysis
- Manufacturing processes
- Inspection and sampling control
- Quality auditing and corrective actions
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Quality Engineering
Quality engineering at the bachelor's degree-level may focus on the quality aspect or offer an emphasis in quality assurance. In addition to the practical and technical concepts learned at the associate's level, bachelor's programs also incorporate theoretical and management concepts that prepare students for more advanced positions.
The curriculum for quality engineering bachelor's programs typically incorporates hands-on training in a laboratory setting with classroom instruction and computer applications. Most programs have a capstone requirement, such as a project, and take four years to complete. In addition to the core engineering curriculum, students must complete supporting coursework in economics, calculus, physics and chemistry. Individual courses common to bachelor's programs include:
- Statistical process engineering
- Engineering economics
- Computer-aided drafting and design
- Advanced technical writing
- Management of manufacturing operations
Master's Degree Programs in Quality Engineering
Students seeking further specialization in quality engineering can pursue one of several available master's degrees, often as a concentration within an industrial engineering program. Master of Science and Master of Engineering programs in industrial engineering offer quality improvement foundations, strategies for organizational dynamics and business statistics for high-level careers in industry and government.
Master's degree programs in quality engineering require a substantial amount of hands-on, project-based work. For the capstone requirement, students are given the option of a thesis or comprehensive exam. The thesis option typically requires less elective coursework in favor of an independent research study and the submission of a thesis. Some possible course options may include:
- Applied stochastic processes
- Multivariate statistical analysis
- Simulation modeling and analysis
- Managing changing technology
- Nonlinear programming
Career Outlook and Salary Information
Since businesses are increasingly subject to process and production standards, degrees related to quality engineering qualify graduates for entry-level positions in a variety of fields across manufacturing and services industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that industrial engineers, which is a broader category the BLS classifies quality engineering under, are expected to have a 1% increase in the number of job openings from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). In January 2016, Payscale.com reported that most supplier quality engineers earned between $51,901 and $88,080.
Students pursuing associate's degrees in quality engineering can complete concurrent certificate programs offered by the school, such as Alternative Energy or Support Specialist certificates in Engineering Technology. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) also supports several professional certifications that can be obtained by individuals who hold an associate's degree (www.asq.org).
Many master's programs prepare students to take one of the certification exams of the ASQ, including Six Sigma Green and Black Belt Certifications. Students with work experience in a quality field and a master's degree may qualify for advanced certifications, such as Certified Quality Engineers. Additionally, some schools offer Ph.D. programs in quality management, usually as a specialization of an industrial engineering.
Prospective students now comprehend the time commitment and coursework associated with a quality engineering degree program, in levels ranging from associate's to master's. Upon completion of one of these programs, students can pursue professional certification through the ASQ, including Six Sigma Green and Black Belt certifications.