Achieving quality at a low cost is a top concern in any business, and quality control and safety specialists can help businesses reach greater operational efficiency. QA professionals develop processes to ensure product quality and worker safety, in manufacturing or other industry sectors. Businesses of all types need specialists to develop high-quality products, ensure effective service delivery, reduce production errors and secure the workplace.
From software development companies to health care institutions, government agencies to scientific laboratories, quality control professionals keep businesses running smoothly and safely. This interdisciplinary field brings together elements of business management and engineering. Some specialty areas touch on biology, chemistry, medicine, food safety and environmental studies.
Quality control & safety degrees
Although many quality control and safety careers require a bachelor's degree or higher, various online engineering degrees are available:
- Associate of Applied Science. The two-year applied undergraduate degree offers training in quality assurance processes and inspection.
- Bachelor of Science. This four-year degree offers a broad foundation in quality management systems, preparing graduates for either a technical specialist or management career. Programs may emphasize either the business administration or the engineering side of quality control, or they may offer a curriculum spanning both management and technical topics.
- Master of Science. The two-year graduate degree gives quality control specialists the opportunity to develop advanced skills and complete an independent capstone project applying QA research to business practice.
- Master of Business Administration. This business professional degree allows quality control and safety specialists to pursue senior leadership, strategy and planning roles.
In addition, mid-career quality control and safety workers can boost their training with brief certificate programs targeting particular quality improvement tools and techniques.
Earning online degrees in quality control & safety
Online degrees in quality control and safety are available, answering demand for continuing education among quality assurance specialists aiming for careers in management. Online programs bring together a diverse array of quality assurance professionals in the U.S. and abroad, fostering exchange about QA best practices.
Quality control professionals need to be familiar with many digital tools, and e-learning may provide hands-on experience with industry software. For example, occupational health and safety specialists use compliance software and specialized databases, as well as spreadsheet and word processing programs. Product safety engineers rely on analytical and scientific software, product safety documentation software, computer-aided design or CAD tools, and project management applications.
Coursework for quality control & safety programs
The curriculum often combines business and technical courses, for example:
- Quality management systems, including Six Sigma, Baldrige, Total Quality Management and ISO
- Statistical Process Control, Taguchi methods and other statistical quality management applications
- OSHA regulations and compliance
- Logistics and supply chain management
- Product development
- Quality engineering and auditing
Programs also incorporate general business management training in project management, statistics and quantitative analysis, finance, accounting, and business communications. Specialty courses may focus on health care services operations, manufacturing, service delivery processes, food safety and laboratory quality control--biochemical research, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and so on.
Quality control careers and salaries
Careers in quality control and safety span QA testing and engineering, inspection and management. Job titles include industrial engineers and industrial production managers, who monitor product standards and implement quality control programs.
Salaries vary based on the type of position and the level of training; the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates these mean annual salaries for 2010:
- Industrial production managers: $95,660
- Science technicians, who also enforce safety standards: $45,980
- Inspectors, including quality control inspectors: $35,550
Major employers include pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers and the aerospace industry.
Quality control & safety at a glance
- Salary: 2010 mean annual salary was $95,660 for industrial production managers and $35,550 for inspectors (BLS)
- Key industries: Manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, health care services, biotechnology, software development and government
- Tools and techniques: Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Statistical Process Control, Quality Function Deployment, Design of Experiments and Statistical Quality Control