What They Do: Quality control inspectors examine products and materials for defects or deviations from specifications.
Work Environment: Working conditions vary by industry, establishment size, and specific duty. Most quality control inspectors work full time during regular business hours. Overtime may be required to meet production deadlines.
How to Become One: Most quality control inspectors need a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training that typically lasts as little as 1 month or up to 1 year.
Salary: The median annual wage for quality control inspectors is $38,580.
Job Outlook: Employment of quality control inspectors is projected to decline 12 percent over the next ten years.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of quality control inspectors with similar occupations.
Quality control inspectors examine products and materials for defects or deviations from specifications.
Quality control inspectors typically do the following:
Quality control inspectors monitor quality standards for nearly all manufactured products, including foods, textiles, clothing, glassware, motor vehicles, electronic components, computers, and structural steel. Specific job duties vary across the wide range of industries in which these inspectors work.
Quality control workers rely on many tools to do their jobs. Although some still use hand-held measurement devices, such as calipers and alignment gauges, workers more commonly operate electronic inspection equipment, such as coordinate-measuring machines (CMMs) and three-dimensional (3D) scanners. Inspectors testing electrical devices may use voltmeters, ammeters, and ohmmeters to test potential difference, current flow, and resistance, respectively.
Quality control workers record the results of their inspections through test reports. When they find defects, inspectors notify supervisors and help to analyze and correct production problems.
In some firms, the inspection process is completely automated, with advanced vision inspection systems installed at one or several points in the production process. Inspectors in these firms monitor the equipment, review output, and conduct random product checks.
The following are examples of types of quality control inspectors:
Inspectors mark, tag, or note problems. They may reject defective items outright, send them for repair, or fix minor problems themselves. If the product is acceptable, the inspector certifies it. Inspectors may further specialize in the following jobs:
Samplers test or inspect a sample for malfunctions or defects during a batch or production run.
Sorters separate goods according to length, size, fabric type, or color.
Testers repeatedly test existing products or prototypes under real-world conditions. Through these tests, manufacturers determine how long a product will last, what parts will break down first, and how to improve durability.
Weighers weigh quantities of materials for use in production.
Quality control inspectors hold about 557,900 jobs. The largest employers of quality control inspectors are as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||9%|
|Administrative and support services||8%|
Work environments vary by industry and establishment size; some inspectors examine similar products for an entire shift, others examine a variety of items.
Inspectors in some industries may be on their feet all day and may have to lift heavy items. In other industries, workers may sit during their shift and read electronic printouts of data.
Workers in heavy-manufacturing plants may be exposed to the noise and grime of machinery. In other plants, inspectors work in clean, air-conditioned environments suitable for testing products.
Some quality control inspectors may be exposed to airborne particles, which may irritate the eyes and skin. As a result, workers typically wear protective eyewear, ear plugs, and appropriate clothing.
Although most quality control inspectors work full time during regular business hours, some inspectors work evenings or weekends. Shift assignments generally are based on seniority. Overtime may be required to meet production deadlines.
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Most quality control inspectors need a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training that typically lasts as little as 1 month or up to 1 year.
Education and training requirements vary with the responsibilities of the quality control worker. For inspectors who do simple pass/fail tests of products, a high school diploma and some in-house training are generally enough. Workers usually receive on-the-job training that typically lasts for as little as 1 month or up to 1 year.
Candidates for inspector jobs can improve their chances of finding work by studying industrial trades in high school or in a postsecondary vocational program. Laboratory work in the natural or biological sciences also may improve a person's analytical skills and increase their chances of finding work in medical or pharmaceutical labs, where many of these workers are employed.
Training for new inspectors may cover the use of special meters, gauges, computers, and other instruments; quality control techniques such as Six Sigma; blueprint reading; safety; and reporting requirements. Some postsecondary training programs exist, but many employers prefer to train inspectors on the job.
As manufacturers use more automated techniques that require less inspection by hand, workers increasingly must know how to operate and program more sophisticated equipment and utilize software applications. Because these operations require additional skills, higher education may be necessary. To address this need, some colleges are offering associate's degrees in fields such as quality control management.
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers various certifications, including a designation for Certified Quality Inspector (CQI), and numerous sources of information and various levels of Six Sigma certifications. Although certification is not required, it can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. It can also increase opportunities for advancement. Requirements for certification generally include a certain number of years of experience in the field and passing an exam.
Dexterity. Quality control inspectors must quickly remove sample parts or products during the manufacturing process.
Math skills. Knowledge of basic math and computer skills are important because measuring, calibrating, and calculating specifications are major parts of quality control testing.
Mechanical skills. Quality control inspectors use specialized tools and machinery when testing products.
Physical stamina. Quality control inspectors must stand for long periods on the job.
Physical strength. Because workers sometimes lift heavy objects, inspectors should be in good physical condition.
Technical skills. Quality control inspectors must understand blueprints, technical documents, and manuals, which help ensure that products and parts meet quality standards.
The median annual wage for quality control inspectors is $38,580. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,820, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,970.
The median annual wages for quality control inspectors in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$46,280|
|Administrative and support services||$30,070|
Most quality control inspectors work full time. Some inspectors work evenings, overnight, or weekend shifts. Shift assignments may be based on seniority. Overtime may be required to meet production deadlines.
Employment of quality control inspectors is projected to decline 12 percent over the next ten years.
Despite declining employment, about 54,900 openings for quality control inspectors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Continued improvements in technology allow manufacturers to automate inspection tasks, increasing workers' productivity and reducing the demand for inspectors. Fabrication and assembly workers monitor quality at every stage of production, assuming many of the duties previously done by specialized inspectors. In addition, use of three-dimensional (3D) scanners decreases the amount of time required to inspect parts and finished goods for correct measurement.
Despite technological advances in quality control in many industries, automation is not appropriate for all inspections. Personal inspections will continue to be needed for products that require testing for taste, smell, texture, appearance, fabric complexity, or performance. Automation will likely become more important for inspecting elements related to size, such as length, width, or thickness.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
|Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers||557,900||489,800||-12||-68,100|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.