Quality Control Inspectors

Summary

quality control inspectors image
Quality control inspectors monitor production operations, ensuring that specifications are met.
Quick Facts: Quality Control Inspectors
2015 Median Pay $36,000 per year
$17.31 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 496,600
Job Outlook, 2014-24 0% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2014-24 -1,100

What Quality Control Inspectors Do

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

Work Environment

Working conditions vary by industry, establishment size, and specific duty. Most quality control inspectors work full time during regular business hours. Overtime may be required to meet production deadlines.

How to Become a Quality Control Inspector

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.

Pay

The median hourly wage for quality control inspectors was $17.31 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of quality control inspectors is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. Job prospects should be best for those who are certified and have related work experience.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for quality control inspectors.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of quality control inspectors with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about quality control inspectors by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Quality Control Inspectors Do About this section

Quality control inspectors
Quality control inspectors remove or discard all products and equipment that fails 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
  • Accept or reject finished items
  • Remove all products and materials that fail to meet specifications
  • Discuss inspection results with those responsible for products
  • Report inspection and test data

Quality control inspectors, for example, ensure that the food or medicine you take will not make you sick, that your car will run properly, and that your pants will not split the first time you wear them. These workers 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). 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
Most quality control inspectors work at one location, but some may travel to more than one.

Quality control inspectors held about 496,600 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most quality control inspectors were as follows:

Manufacturing 66%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 9
Administrative and support services 8
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.

In manufacturing, it is common for most inspectors to remain at a single workstation. 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
Workers usually receive on-the-job training up to one year.

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 in this occupation 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. Certification 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 should be able to 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 must be able to use specialized tools and machinery when testing products.

Physical stamina. Quality control inspectors must be able to 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 hourly wages, May 2015

Total, all occupations

$17.40

Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers

$17.31

Production occupations

$15.51

 

The median hourly wage for quality control inspectors was $17.31 in May 2015. 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 $10.16, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $29.88.

In May 2015, the median hourly wages for quality control inspectors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $18.61
Manufacturing 17.64
Wholesale trade 16.30
Administrative and support services 12.56

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 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers

0%

Production occupations

-3%

 

Employment of quality control inspectors is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024.

Many manufacturers have invested in automated inspection equipment to improve quality and productivity. Continued improvements in technology allow manufacturers to automate inspection tasks, increasing workers’ productivity and reducing the demand for inspectors.

Manufacturers increasingly are integrating quality control into the production process. Many inspection duties are being reassigned from specialized inspectors to fabrication and assembly workers, who monitor quality at every stage of production. In addition, the growing use of statistical process control results in smarter inspections. Using this system, manufacturers survey the sources and incidence of defects so that they can focus their efforts on reducing the number of defective products. These factors are expected to result in less demand for quality control inspectors.

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

Job Prospects

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

Those with advanced skills, such as improvement certifications for Lean and Six Sigma, and related work experience should qualify for many of these quality control inspector positions.

Employment projections data for quality control inspectors, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers

51-9061 496,600 495,500 0 -1,100 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of quality control inspectors.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Construction and building inspectors

Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

High school diploma or equivalent $57,340
Fire inspectors and investigators

Fire Inspectors

Fire inspectors examine buildings to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires and explosions. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess fire hazards in both public and residential areas.

See How to Become One $54,790
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Quality Control Inspectors,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/quality-control-inspectors.htm (visited June 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

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Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.