A quality control inspector, also called a QA/QC inspector or quality assurance inspector, has the important duty of checking that a company manufactures products that meet specific standards for quality and safety. If you have a good eye for detail and like working with equipment and software, you can often get into this position with little preparation beyond finishing high school. You'll usually spend up to a year learning all the skills you need on the job.
However, you can also pursue postsecondary education in quality assurance or quality control management to both stand out to employers and prepare for future promotion into management.
The daily duties of quality control inspectors including keeping a close eye on both the production and assembly processes and the finished products. When they notice that products have a defect, quality control inspectors try to narrow down the issue to a specific production or assembly process, suggest improvements to that process and reject final products that don't meet the company's quality standards and specifications. They log problems when they occur, and when products do meet specifications, they certify and accept them for use.
Performing these QA/QC inspector duties and responsibilities requires having a good eye for detail and technical skills to visually observe products for defects, use specialized quality measurement software and try out finished products as needed. Inspectors also need mechanical skills to take advantage of tools such as rulers, scales, thermometers and gauges to check for issues with measurements, temperature and weight.
Besides needing a high school diploma in most cases, you usually don't need to do much preparation for basic quality control inspector jobs since you'll learn the needed skills on the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that such on-the-job training programs can take as much as one year and will teach you to use measurement software and tools, properly report and log manufacturing issues, understand technical documents and follow quality control and safety guidelines.
Although not necessary, you might have an advantage if you study industrial trades during high school or enroll in a quality control management, quality assurance or manufacturing management degree program. You can also pursue quality control inspector certification through the American Society for Quality, although this requires some prior experience you won't have when starting out.
You'll most likely find quality control inspector positions in manufacturing firms, although opportunities exist in wholesale trade, professional services and administrative services. If you work in a manufacturing plant, you may spend your shift standing and working in a noisy, hot and dirty environment.
Other settings may have a more comfortable, quieter and cleaner work environment where you can sit and work in an air-conditioned space. Production deadlines will dictate your work schedule, so you may work overtime and work irregular shifts when the company falls behind on its goals.
Years of Experience and Salary
Salary data from the BLS shows that quality control inspectors earned a median salary of $38,250 in May 2018 – half of them made more, and half made less. Those in the bottom 10 percent made below $23,550, and the highest earners made over $65,510. Of the top five industries employing quality control inspectors, those who worked in aerospace product and parts manufacturing earned the best average wage of $59,190, while those working for employment services earned the lowest average wage of $35,050.
Quality control inspectors typically see salary increases based on experience, and promotion to positions such as quality control manager can also boost earnings. As of July 2019, PayScale gives this sample quality assurance inspector average salary projection by experience:
- Entry level: $40,323
- Mid career: $45,594
- Experienced: $51,288
- Late career: $61,172
Job Growth Trend
Finding a job as a quality assurance inspector may be more challenging due to a decline in demand. Since companies can now automate quality control processes and allow current employees to work more efficiently, they need fewer workers to check products.
The BLS estimates an 11-percent drop in jobs for quality control inspectors between 2016 and 2026, which shrinks employment by 55,000. However, turnover will still create opportunities, and experienced inspectors who have obtained a certification may have a better outlook.