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What does a Quality Assurance Specialist do?

Quality assurance specialists, often called quality control inspectors or similar titles, work across a broad range of industries. They monitor the quality standards of nearly every product manufactured in the U.S, including foods, cars, textiles, electronics, building materials and clothing. They guarantee the products a company produces.

Testing procedures vary greatly by industry. Some work with materials or mechanical items, while others weigh and measure liquids or gasses. "QAs" might test electrical flows, or ensure that product materials have the same color, size and texture.

As a quality assurance specialist, you can expect to be involved in most aspects of the manufacturing process. Quality control and assurance are essential to the pharmaceutical and food manufacturing industries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. These fields employ many QAs.

Educational requirements, training and certification for quality assurance specialists

The amount of education needed to work as a quality control inspector varies by industry. For some jobs, a high school diploma is sufficient, the BLS reports. Other jobs require more experience and education. For example, workers in the semiconductor industry, who perform simple pass/fail testing on computer chips or similar products, typically don't need post-secondary education. Quality assurance specialists who operate more sophisticated testing machinery may need to complete a training program and certification.

There are several organizations dedicated to the field:
  • Society of Quality Assurance
  • National Committee for Quality Assurance
  • American Society for Quality
These organizations provide many different types of training programs for workers in quality assurance. Completion of these programs and obtaining certification may help you advance your career in the field of quality assurance, the BLS reports.

Employment and salary outlook for quality assurance specialists

More than two-thirds work in manufacturing industries. Employment is expected to decline by four percent, however, due to heavy investment in automated equipment that reduces the need for manual quality assurance methods. The continued migration of manufacturing firms overseas is expected to reduce demand for QAs. Job prospects will be best for those with experience, who have completed appropriate training and certification programs.

Salaries vary greatly by industry and technical requirements. States with a strong manufacturing presence--California, Texas, Pennsylvania--employ the largest number of quality control inspectors.

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