After a product is created, quality control inspectors examine it to ensure that it meets manufacturer specifications and client expectations. Qualifications and working conditions vary by industry and business size.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, quality control inspectors study specifications, plans, and blueprints to determine the standards that they must check. They then test, examine, and measure the products, and either accept or reject finished goods. They monitor production lines to ensure standards are being met and discard products that do not meet specifications.
QC inspectors work in nearly all manufacturing industries including clothing, food, motor vehicles, electronics, plastics, and toys. Their measuring instruments can include hand tools such as alignment gauges and calipers, or machines such as three-dimensional scanners or coordinate-measuring machines. Those dealing in electronics may also use ohmmeters and ammeters to examine resistance and current flow.
Entering the job typically requires a high school diploma with on-the-job training that lasts from one month to one year. Qualifying study includes industrial trades in high school or in a post-secondary program from a trade school or community college. Those interested in biological and medical fields may find the study of nature or biology also helpful.
QC inspectors need dexterity and mechanical skills so they can use specialized tools and manipulate products from an assembly line. Physical stamina allows for standing for lowing hours and physical strength is needed to lift heavy equipment. Inspectors must have the technical and math skills to digest technical manuals, blueprints, and specifications.
Certification is available from the American Society for Quality, such as Certified Quality Inspector. Several years of experience and passing an exam are needed to get the certificate. While such documentation is not necessary to obtain a job, it may increase opportunities for advancement because it demonstrates professionalism and ability.
Quality control inspectors make a median $36,780 per year as of May 2016. This compares to $37,040 for all occupations and $31,520 for other production occupations.
The lowest-earning 10 percent make under $21,880 annually while those at the top 10 percent receive over $63,590 a year. The highest paying industries were in the professional, scientific, and technical services at $39,090, followed by manufacturing at $37,480, wholesale trade at $31,170, and administrative and support services at $27,750.
Most inspectors work full-time jobs during regular business hours. Overtime as well as evening and weekend work may be needed when production deadlines loom.
The BLS predicts that jobs form QC inspectors will decline by 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, compared to a forecast of 7 percent growth for all occupations and an 11 percent decrease for inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers.
Technology is automating inspection tasks, which reduces demand for QC inspectors. Many manufacturers are also being integrated into production processes so tasks that were once done by inspectors are now being transferred to factory workers.
New QC inspectors will still be needed to replace those who retire or leave their positions. Those with experience and certification should find the best opportunities.