What’s the real answer to “What is a quality assurance tester?” These manufacturing employees help keep company products up-to-standard. Most testers work at manufacturing or industrial companies. Today, testers must use a wide variety of technology and computing skills to perform their job. Materials inspectors work with their hands to verify product quality. Mechanical inspectors use equipment to ensure products function properly. Testers use equipment repeatedly to test for durability. Samplers ensure that every batch of an item is made well. Some quality assurance testers work in busy plants and are on their feet for long shifts. Manufacturing plants may be noisy, dirty and require safety equipment. Mechanical inspectors may sit in one location and read electronic equipment. Testers may work in laboratory-like environments. Inspectors may need to work overtime during busy plant weeks, or may be required to work nights or weekends.
Degrees and Training
A college degree is not required to become a quality assurance tester, although it can help. For medical, pharmaceutical or other laboratory-based positions, employers want testers who understand the life sciences. Coursework in biology and chemistry, especially lab courses, will be useful in obtaining employment. Familiarity with computers is useful for mechanical inspectors. Older aspirants may be helped by taking a few computer classes at an online or community college. Advanced mathematics or electronics classes can also help, as can a basic engineering course to demonstrate competence with blueprints and technical documents. Most sites offer in-house training to familiarize inspectors with products. Promotions are usually based on experience and high-quality work rather than education level. Quality control inspectors can become certified by the American Society for Quality after working for a certain number of years and passing a test. Some companies may require certification for advanced positions. Depending on the specialty that inspectors pursue, physical strength may be necessary for lifting heavy parts. Inspectors may also need to stand for hours at a time.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2010 median hourly wage was $15.88 for inspectors. Inspectors may earn additional pay by working evenings, weekends or overtime. Many inspectors belong to a union that may negotiate for excellent benefits and guaranteed raises. Income is heavily influenced by region and specialization. As manufacturing jobs decline in the U.S., companies have less need for inspectors and offer less compensation. However, highly technical plants that can’t be outsourced need domestic quality inspectors. Hopeful quality testers should thoroughly evaluate their region to determine manufacturing needs.
The need for inspectors should grow approximately 8 percent by 2020. Quality assurance inspectors should be aware that many basic forms of inspection are being automated. Samplers cannot have their work done by machines, and some functions of materials inspectors must always be done by hand. Hopefully, companies will think about the question “What is a quality assurance tester?” before fully embracing machine technology for jobs that require humans.