Quality Engineering Degree Program Overviews
Students seeking a career as a quality engineer have a variety of educational options available to them. Although students cannot major specifically in quality engineering, other engineering programs at the associate's, bachelor's and master's levels may offer concentrations in it.
Degrees in quality engineering are available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. Internship opportunities may also be available in some associate's degree programs. Bachelor's degree programs often include a capstone project, while graduate degree programs concentrate on hands-on training and culminate in a thesis or a comprehensive exam. Graduates with a master's degree may consider pursuing advanced certification in the field.
- Program Levels: Associate in Applied Science in Quality Engineering Technology or A.A.S. in Manufacturing Engineering Technology; Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology; Master of Science or Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering
- Prerequisites: A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for entry into an associate's or bachelor's program; a bachelor's degree in a related field is required for entry into a master's program.
- Program Length: An associate's degree takes two years; a bachelor's degree takes four years; a master's degree takes two years.
- Other Requirements: Internships may be required at the associate's level; a capstone project may be required at the bachelor's level; a thesis may be required at the master's level.
Associate's Degree Programs in Quality Engineering
An associate's degree is a two-year program that can lead to an entry-level position in quality engineering, in areas like manufacturing. Several options exist for obtaining one, such as an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Quality Engineering Technology or an A.A.S. in Manufacturing Engineering Technology with a quality assurance concentration. 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 includes Bachelor of Science programs in engineering technology. These programs 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. These programs can typically be completed in two years.
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 5% increase in the number of job openings from 2012 to 2022 (www.bls.gov). In July 2015, Payscale.com reported that most supplier quality engineers earned between $51,531 and $87,680.
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.