While schools rarely offer whole degree programs dedicated to quality systems management (QSM), students who are interested in management engineering, operations management, or a similar field might consider enrolling in a degree program that offers courses in the subject. Students could begin by completing a bachelor's program in a related field, like engineering, human resources, or computer technology, and then pursuing graduate study. Master's degree or graduate certificate programs that offer QSM courses might help graduates stand out or find advanced positions, especially since graduate level programs often require a student to complete an internship. Master's programs may sometimes conveniently offer courses online and can be completed in 2 years, while certificates generally take only 2 semesters. Students could then choose to pursue doctoral study, depending on their career objectives.
To be admitted into a bachelor's degree program, students will need a high school diploma. Certificate programs require a bachelor's degree as well as previous coursework in math; master's degree programs may require a bachelor's degree or previous relevant coursework. While master's candidates are not required to have earned a bachelor's degree in a specific topic, applicants are generally required to have a basic understanding of certain business principles.
Bachelor of Science Degrees Covering Quality Systems Management
QSM courses can be found in a huge variety of fields at the bachelor's degree level, including those in engineering, human resources and computer technology. For example, industrial engineering is a field that applies mathematical and scientific principles to integrated systems of material, information and people. Bachelor's degree programs in industrial and manufacturing engineering, industrial operations engineering or industrial engineering offer coursework in QSM. Students in these programs are able to apply their knowledge of topics like facilities analysis and process redesign to problems involving worker efficiency and injury prevention. Applicants are required to have completed high school. Students learn to map processes in order to find the underlying causes of failure. Additionally, students train in:
- Experiment design
- Quality control
Graduate Certificates Covering Quality Systems Management
Graduate certificate programs in quality management or quality systems take 1-2 semesters to complete. These programs are designed to provide working technical professionals with the knowledge needed to improve their efficiency and prepare for quality management positions. Students build upon their undergraduate training with courses in leadership, systems simulation and problem solving. These programs are open to bachelor's-level engineering or science program graduates. Applicants with a solid background in mathematics are also welcome to apply. Students in these programs learn to develop training programs, manage manufacturing processes and use technology to improve work performance. Other core topics that may be found in the curricula include:
- Industrial productivity
- Productivity analysis
- Quality design
- Systems simulation
Master of Business Administration Programs Covering Quality Management
Some 3- to 4-semester Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs allow students to declare a concentration in topics like quality management. Students look at case studies to understand how consultants streamline processes and how quantitative analysis can improve processes. Both fifth-year master's and online learning options are available for these programs.
Admission seekers commonly need to understand topics like microeconomics, accounting, marketing, management, business law, corporate finances and statistics. Applicants without an academic background in these topics are often able to take additional courses to prepare them for entrance into these programs. Because quality systems management is applicable to a wide variety of industries, students in the program prepare for employment by focusing on the underlying principles behind business operations and quality improvement. Commonly covered topics in these types of programs include:
- Data analysis
- Information technology
- Quantitative methods
Popular Career Options
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 279,550 industrial engineers employed across various industries as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). The same report showed that the highest employment numbers were found in the aerospace parts manufacturing industry, followed by architectural, engineering, and related services. Graduates of bachelor's programs offering quality systems management courses were qualified to find work as:
- Human factors engineers
- Management engineers
- Operations analysts
- Quality engineers
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, the 181,310 industrial production managers employed as of May 2018 took home an annual median wage of $103,380. These professionals were expected to see little or no change in employment from 2018-2028. The anticipated decrease in jobs was expected to stem from the increased use of automated production processes.
Licensure, Certification and Continuing Education Information
Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Business Administration programs are both available for those interested in earning a terminal degree in business administration. Including the research and writing of a thesis, completion of a doctoral program takes 4-6 years.
Graduates of engineering programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology are eligible for the Professional Engineer (PE) license. While licensure requirements vary by state, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying offers national requirement guidelines (www.ncees.org).
Licensure entails a lengthy process that includes passing two examinations and completing a 4-year period of supervised work under a licensed PE. Once licensure has been obtained, the credential must be renewed every 1-2 years, depending on the requirements set forth by the state. Renewal requires that candidates earn a certain amount of continuing education credits.
Certification for quality professionals is administered through the ASQ, or the American Society for Quality (www.asq.org). Earning the Reliability Engineer, Quality Engineer, Quality Auditor or Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence credentials from the ASQ entails meeting certain requirements and passing an examination. Most credentials from the ASQ require that professionals must re-certify every three years in order to keep their credentials current.
Initial certification requires that applicants have related experience totaling at least eight years, including a minimum of three years in a decision-making post. As of December 2011, most exams ranged from 4-5 hours and consisted of a 150- to 160-multiple-choice, open book test. As of the same date, the examination for the Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence exam also included an essay section.
Different types of Six Sigma Certification are available through the ASQ, at both the organizational and the project levels. While some of these credentials remain valid for a lifetime, others must be renewed to remain current.
Quality systems management is an interesting career path that doesn't really exist as an educational degree, though students who are interested in the subject can pursue related degrees, such as industrial engineering bachelor's degrees and bachelor's or master's of business administration. These programs allow students to enroll in more specific QSM coursework, and graduates can pursue careers including quality engineers, operations analysts, and other related professions.