Inventors, entrepreneurs and commercial organizations are developing new products with greater speed than ever before. Thanks to modern technology, it’s never been easier to design a product and assemble the systems to manufacture it at scale.
This rapid advancement in product development, however, means the market is also highly competitive; companies that put out a subpar product will quickly be overtaken by someone else doing a better job.
This fast-paced and competitive environment creates the need for a person who ensures the utmost quality of their company’s products and the systems used to produce them. This person is a quality engineer.
Read on to learn more about the job of a quality engineer and how much you can expect to earn if you follow this career path.
A quality engineer’s core job function is to develop and analyze systems to ensure that a company’s product or service meets–and hopefully exceeds–the requirements of the market in terms of quality, reliability, efficiency and performance.
When we use the term ‘product’ here, we’re not necessarily talking about a completed product you buy off the shelf in a store (although that certainly might fall under the umbrella). Rather, we’re talking about any material, component or even service that a company produces to then distribute or sell.
A quality engineer devises the criteria that will be used to make a determination of the product’s quality and the tests that will be used to analyze the same. They create documentation to record quality issues and assist in finding solutions to those issues when they arise.
Quality engineers play a key role in improving the company’s processes and increasing its output, having a direct impact on a product’s cost, quality and most importantly, the viability of the organization itself.
A quality engineer is constantly inspecting processes and systems to find opportunities to make them more efficient. They work together with other professionals in the organization like product engineers and production floor managers to brainstorm and implement effective solutions.
They’re also responsible for making sure the company’s products are in compliance with any applicable quality standards, so they must be well-versed in the relevant standards for their industry. ISO 9001:2015 is of particular importance to professionals in this field; it’s the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) document that governs requirements for quality management systems.
Quality engineers are necessary in any industry where a product is produced; some of the top fields for this profession include manufacturing, transportation, automotive, industrial equipment, and software.
After establishing themselves in the field, many quality engineers advance to managerial or executive positions or go on to work in quality engineering training or consulting.
According to salary data from Indeed, the average base salary for a quality engineer is $77,323 a year. Your earning potential advances with each passing year in the field; quality engineers with between six and nine years of experience earn around $84,000 a year while those with a decade or more of experience earn upwards of $85,000.
If you work as an in-house quality engineer for a company (as opposed to being a contractor), you’re likely to have access to a number of benefits. Some of the most common benefits include:
Other benefits you might be eligible for include dental insurance, vision insurance, and tuition reimbursement for studies that advance you in your career.
The first credential you’ll most likely need to get a job as a quality engineer is your bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field. This is a minimum for most quality engineer jobs.
Many companies will also give preference to candidates who are Certified Quality Engineers. The Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) credential is issued by the American Society for Quality (ASQ), an organization that promotes and sanctions quality practices and principles.
To obtain your CQE certification, you must have eight years of qualifying on-the-job experience or a combination of on-the-job experience and education. The higher your level of education, the fewer years of practical experience that are required, as follows:
Once you’ve met the education and experience requirement, you’ll need to pass a rigorous five-and-a-half hour exam. The exam covers all aspects of quality engineering, including the development of quality control systems, procedures for testing and inspecting quality, statistical methods for diagnosing quality control issues, human factors, cost concepts, and auditing of quality systems.
In addition to the CQE certification, another popular certification for quality engineers is the Certified Quality Auditor (CQA) credential. Also offered by ASQ, this credential focuses specifically on quality systems and certifies a professional’s proficiency in the principles and techniques of auditing them.
The practical experience and education requirements for CQA certification are the same as for CQE certification; the practical experience used to qualify for one can also be used to qualify for the other. Both certifications must be renewed every three years.
ASQ offers both classroom and web-based training to help candidates prepare for these certification exams. The organization also recommends pursuing independent study using its suggested reference materials and practice question banks.
CQA is an in-demand credential among employers; the number of jobs requiring it has jumped by 40% since 2018. Quality engineers who have their CQA certification earn an average of 8% more than the typical base salary we mentioned above.
If you want to further increase your earning potential, consider pursuing Six Sigma certification. Six Sigma is a disciplined approach to project management that aims to eliminate any defects or waste in a system or process. It’s a system used by organizations like Amazon, 3M and the U.S. military.
This multi-level certification is offered by a number of organizations, and employers will sometimes sponsor Six Sigma certification for their most promising employees. Quality engineers who are also Six Sigma certified earn 14% more than the average base salary.
In addition to the certifications you hold and your level of experience, where you live matters when it comes to how much you get paid. Quality engineers in San Diego, California, for example, earn 22% more than the national average, while those in Irvine, California earn 16% more. Boston, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles also have higher-than-average base salaries for quality engineers.
In terms of global opportunities, the United States ranks among the best salaries in the world for engineers. Together with the U.S., Switzerland and Denmark round out the top three countries for paying new engineering grads.
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