One of the most important roles in a variety of industries is a Quality Engineer. Quality Engineers, who are sometimes called Quality Assurance (QA) Engineers, Quality Control (QC) Engineers or Health and Safety Engineers, are responsible for ensuring that companies are meeting quality standards and safety regulations and that all manufactured products fit the company’s specifications.
Quality Engineers work in many different industries that manufacture products, from aerospace and automotive to food and textiles. They can receive their certifications through the American Society of Quality (ASQ), an international organization that provides training and official certifications to workers, as well as access to a network of quality professionals.
The quality of products made by a manufacturing company relies heavily on the work of a Quality Engineer. Engineers must be able to ensure that products fit within the quality and safety standards set by the company or by organizations like the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
Quality Engineers are required to be familiar with the entire manufacturing process. If they notice a flaw with the product, they must be able to recognize what part of the process needs to be fixed in order to improve what is being produced. This is often done in concert with a team of engineers, including industrial engineers and mechanical engineers.
Engineers are also part of each aspect of the manufacturing process, including the initial design and development of the product. During project development, Quality Engineers work directly with Project Engineers to make every part of their project will ideally contribute to a high-quality final project.
They will often conduct audits on the manufacturing process, suppliers, and final products to check the quality of the process over time. Engineers also go through periodic training programs with the company and any related suppliers in order to gain an understanding of the requirements that are expected of them and the goals and schedules that the company has implemented.
Quality Engineers should also have certain skills that are not taught during training or on the job. They must have great attention to detail while inspecting their products as well as solid analytical and problem-solving skills. They must also be able to communicate and work well with others as they often have to work on a team.
Engineers are also expected to have some sense of customer service. Their primary goal is to make sure that the products being created are not only up to health and safety standards, but will also fulfill and exceed the expectations set forth by the customers. Engineers will often look to customer feedback for information about the products being manufactured, and create quality assurance programs and manuals for each manufacturing process.
All potential engineers will need to complete at least three years of training before becoming a Quality Engineer, and most QE jobs require at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering.
If a QE candidate has not had any more education after high school, they will be required to finish at least eight years of hands-on work experience to gain the knowledge needed for official certification. If they have gotten a diploma from a trade or technical school, then one year of the required training time will be waived.
If the candidate has earned a two-year associate’s degree, they will have two training years waived. A bachelor’s degree will waive four years of training and a master’s or doctorate degree will waive five years.
Although a high school diploma is the minimum level of education required to become certified as a Quality Engineer, most companies require their employees to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Potential engineers can earn their bachelor’s in engineering, but certain schools, like Kennesaw State University or California State University – Dominguez Hills have specialized quality assurance programs.
The starting average salary for a Quality Engineer is around $50,400. After only two years of work experience, that average rises to around $99,250 and after five years of experience rises to around $110,100.
The ASQ reports that Quality Engineers who have received some form of certification through the program can use their credentials to increase their salary. A quality professional without an ASQ certification will make an average of $87,748 per year, while those with one certification will make an average of $93,576.
Earning more than one certification can up the average salary even more. Professionals with two certifications make around $5,707 more per year than those with only one certification. Professionals with six or more certifications only makeup around 0.7% of quality employees but earn an average of $116,747.
Some professional certifications provide credentials that can greatly increase the salary for a Quality Engineer. The Six Sigma certification, for example, increases the average salary by around $18,000. Professionals who have achieved the highest Six Sigma certification, a Master Black Belt, earn an average of $142,080.
All Quality Engineers are expected to go through some sort of training before they are eligible to become certified or to begin work. Their training may come in the form of formal education or hands-on work experience, but the ASQ also requires potential engineers to have undergone training that will specifically prepare them for their certification.
The ASQ training programs, which are offered both in-person at their training facilities or as an online course, provide engineers information on every step of the quality assurance process.
Engineers will learn about risk management, failure rates and methods to maintain reliability among both the products being manufactured and the construction process. They will also gain technical experience in probability and statistics, data collection, relationships between variables and other mathematical skills needed in their inspection process.
Workers that are looking to become certified as engineers need to have completed their training through a paid full-time job; internships, co-ops and other course work do not count toward the required number of training years.
The full-time job that prepares engineers for their certification exams must be in one or more of the disciplines of the Certified Quality Engineer Body of Knowledge. This may include experience in quality audits, technical drawings, and specifications, material control or metrology.
ASQ also wants potential certification candidates to have held a “decision-making” position for at least three years. A decision-making position would have some sort of authority attached to it. This may include management or supervisory jobs, but candidates will have had experience defining, implementing or controlling manufacturing processes or projects and assumed responsibility for any outcomes.
ASQ provides a list of minimum expectations for all workers looking to become certified as an engineer. Potential engineers are expected to have a basic understanding of every aspect of the Quality Engineer role, including quality programs, the audit process, quality principles, data analysis, quality principles and methods and their relationships to team members, customers and the company as a whole.
The quality industry is expected to grow at an above-average rate within the next few years, adding around 25,100 jobs by 2026. The versatility of Quality Engineers—their ability to work in a range of different industries and comply with changing standards, as well as the financial benefits they provide to companies—enhances this growth.
There are multiple ways for certified Quality Engineers to advance their careers on their own. Gaining a higher level of education may provide an engineer with a more in-depth knowledge of their field and opportunities for higher-level careers; as degree programs increase in difficulty, they will often add in more advanced subject matter.
For example, an associate’s degree program will cover essential procedures and techniques, providing the information needed to start an entry-level quality engineering job. A bachelor’s degree program will often add on required math and science classes and a master’s program may require more hands-on work and some form of a capstone project, usually either a thesis or an exam.
ASQ also offers multiple additional professional certifications so that engineers can increase their knowledge of their field and gain credentials. Master’s degree programs will often prepare students to achieve one of these certifications, such as a Six Sigma or ISO certification.
Six Sigma programs focus on business processes and provide companies with the tools they need to improve the quality of their products while reducing defects and increasing profits. Six Sigma methods can help engineers to understand any issues within the manufacturing process or in the products and help them make processes more efficient and cost-effective.
Certain ISO certifications can also provide essential knowledge for engineers. For example, the ISO 9000 series is a set of internationally recognized standards that focus on quality management and assurance. Using ISO standards can help a company to streamline their processes and meet customer expectations all while meeting regulatory requirements.
Surehand wants to help certified Quality Engineers to advance their careers as well. The website connects quality professionals with employers looking to hire, helping engineers to stay on top of the job field and find their next career move. Sign up for a free online profile to let your future employer come to you.
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