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What Quality Control Inspectors Do About this section

Quality control inspectors
Quality control inspectors remove or discard all products and equipment that fail to meet specifications.

Quality control inspectors examine products and materials for defects or deviations from specifications.

Duties

Quality control inspectors typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints and specifications
  • Monitor operations to ensure that they meet production standards
  • Recommend adjustments to the assembly or production process
  • Inspect, test, or measure materials or products being produced
  • Measure products with rulers, calipers, gauges, or micrometers
  • Operate electronic inspection equipment and software
  • Accept or reject finished items
  • Remove all products and materials that fail to meet specifications
  • Report inspection and test data such as weights, temperatures, grades, moisture content, and quantities inspected

Quality control inspectors monitor quality standards for nearly all manufactured products, including foods, textiles, clothing, glassware, motor vehicles, electronic components, computers, and structural steel. Specific job duties vary across the wide range of industries in which these inspectors work.

Quality control workers rely on many tools to do their jobs. Although some still use hand-held measurement devices, such as calipers and alignment gauges, workers more commonly operate electronic inspection equipment, such as coordinate-measuring machines (CMMs) and three-dimensional (3D) scanners. Inspectors testing electrical devices may use voltmeters, ammeters, and ohmmeters to test potential difference, current flow, and resistance, respectively.

Quality control workers record the results of their inspections through test reports. When they find defects, inspectors notify supervisors and help to analyze and correct production problems.

In some firms, the inspection process is completely automated, with advanced vision inspection systems installed at one or several points in the production process. Inspectors in these firms monitor the equipment, review output, and conduct random product checks.

The following are examples of types of quality control inspectors:

Inspectors mark, tag, or note problems. They may reject defective items outright, send them for repair, or fix minor problems themselves. If the product is acceptable, the inspector certifies it. Inspectors may further specialize in the following jobs:

  • Materials inspectors check products by sight, sound, or feel to locate imperfections such as cuts, scratches, missing pieces, or crooked seams.
  • Mechanical inspectors generally verify that parts fit, move correctly, and are properly lubricated. They may check the pressure of gases and the level of liquids, test the flow of electricity, and conduct test runs to ensure that machines run properly.

Samplers test or inspect a sample for malfunctions or defects during a batch or production run.

Sorters separate goods according to length, size, fabric type, or color.

Testers repeatedly test existing products or prototypes under real-world conditions. Through these tests, manufacturers determine how long a product will last, what parts will break down first, and how to improve durability.

Weighers weigh quantities of materials for use in production.

Work Environment About this section

Quality control inspectors
Quality control inspectors may be required to stand for long periods of time or lift heavy objects.

Quality control inspectors held about 590,100 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of quality control inspectors were as follows:

Manufacturing 63%
Administrative and support services 9
Professional, scientific, and technical services 9
Wholesale trade 5

Work environments vary by industry and establishment size; some inspectors examine similar products for an entire shift, others examine a variety of items.

Inspectors in some industries may be on their feet all day and may have to lift heavy items. In other industries, workers may sit during their shift and read electronic printouts of data.

Workers in heavy-manufacturing plants may be exposed to the noise and grime of machinery. In other plants, inspectors work in clean, air-conditioned environments suitable for testing products.

Injuries and Illnesses

Some quality control inspectors may be exposed to airborne particles, which may irritate the eyes and skin. As a result, workers typically wear protective eyewear, ear plugs, and appropriate clothing.

Work Schedules

Although most quality control inspectors work full time during regular business hours, some inspectors work evenings or weekends. Shift assignments generally are based on seniority. Overtime may be required to meet production deadlines.

How to Become a Quality Control Inspector About this section

Quality control inspectors
Quality control inspectors usually receive up to one year of on-the-job training.

Most quality control inspectors need a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training that typically lasts as little as 1 month or up to 1 year.

Education & Training

Education and training requirements vary with the responsibilities of the quality control worker. For inspectors who do simple pass/fail tests of products, a high school diploma and some in-house training are generally enough. Workers usually receive on-the-job training that typically lasts for as little as 1 month or up to 1 year.

Candidates for inspector jobs can improve their chances of finding work by studying industrial trades in high school or in a postsecondary vocational program. Laboratory work in the natural or biological sciences also may improve a person’s analytical skills and increase their chances of finding work in medical or pharmaceutical labs, where many of these workers are employed.

Training for new inspectors may cover the use of special meters, gauges, computers, and other instruments; quality control techniques such as Six Sigma; blueprint reading; safety; and reporting requirements. Some postsecondary training programs exist, but many employers prefer to train inspectors on the job.

As manufacturers use more automated techniques that require less inspection by hand, workers increasingly must know how to operate and program more sophisticated equipment and utilize software applications. Because these operations require additional skills, higher education may be necessary. To address this need, some colleges are offering associate’s degrees in fields such as quality control management.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers various certifications, including a designation for Certified Quality Inspector (CQI), and numerous sources of information and various levels of Six Sigma certifications. Although certification is not required, it can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. It can also increase opportunities for advancement. Requirements for certification generally include a certain number of years of experience in the field and passing an exam.

Important Qualities

Dexterity. Quality control inspectors must quickly remove sample parts or products during the manufacturing process.

Math skills. Knowledge of basic math and computer skills are important because measuring, calibrating, and calculating specifications are major parts of quality control testing.

Mechanical skills. Quality control inspectors use specialized tools and machinery when testing products.

Physical stamina. Quality control inspectors must stand for long periods on the job.

Physical strength. Because workers sometimes lift heavy objects, inspectors should be in good physical condition.

Technical skills. Quality control inspectors must understand blueprints, technical documents, and manuals, which help ensure that products and parts meet quality standards.

Pay About this section

Quality Control Inspectors

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Quality control inspectors

$39,140

Other production occupations

$35,580

 

The median annual wage for quality control inspectors was $39,140 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,260.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for quality control inspectors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $42,990
Manufacturing 39,690
Wholesale trade 37,810
Administrative and support services 31,060

Although most quality control inspectors work full time during regular business hours, some inspectors work evenings or weekends. Shift assignments generally are based on seniority. Overtime may be required to meet production deadlines.

Job Outlook About this section

Quality Control Inspectors

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Other production occupations

-3%

Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers

-17%

 

Employment of quality control inspectors is projected to decline 17 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Continued improvements in technology allow manufacturers to automate inspection tasks, increasing workers’ productivity and reducing the demand for inspectors. Fabrication and assembly workers monitor quality at every stage of production, assuming many of the duties previously done by specialized inspectors. In addition, use of three-dimensional (3D) scanners decreases the amount of time required to inspect parts and finished goods for correct measurement.

Despite technological advances in quality control in many industries, automation is not appropriate for all inspections. Personal inspections will continue to be needed for products that require testing for taste, smell, texture, appearance, fabric complexity, or performance. Automation will likely become more important for inspecting elements related to size, such as length, width, or thickness.

Job Prospects

Some job opportunities are expected to arise over the coming decade as quality control inspectors retire or leave the occupation for other reasons.

Those with certification and related work experience should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for quality control inspectors, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers

51-9061 590,100 489,600 -17 -100,400 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about quality control inspectors, including certification, visit

American Society for Quality (ASQ)

For more information about quality control training, visit

International Society of Automation (ISA)

Quality Assurance Association (QAA)

Society of Quality Assurance (SQA)

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Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers

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