Every company, organization or institution across all industries needs to control the quality of its product or service. Simply put, a quality assurance manager makes sure an organization's product or service meets the needs and expectations of its customers, as well as industry, safety and environmental standards and governmental regulations. A quality assurance manager helps an organization stay productive and profitable, typically by implementing and overseeing programs to maintain quality.
Most employers will expect a quality assurance manager to have experience in the field and a post-secondary education or certification. Undergraduate degree programs typically do not focus on quality, specifically. However, having an undergraduate degree that is particular to an industry that interests you is a good place to start. For example, if you are interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing, programs in engineering provide a good foundation in key skills used in this industry including mathematics and statistics. A few graduate programs are specific to the field of quality. One program to consider is the Masters of Science in Quality Management offered by Eastern Michigan University, which was developed in conjunction with the American Society for Quality, or ASQ.
To become a quality assurance manager in any industry, you're going to need working experience in the industry. While you might start as a quality inspector, attention to detail will move you away from collecting data toward interpreting it, as well as identifying trends and determining actions needed to improve an organization's effectiveness and efficiency.
Professional membership in the American Society for Quality, ASQ, is highly valued by many employers. The ASQ is a professional organization that has a global reach, with locations in Canada, Mexico, China and India as well as partner organizations in other countries. ASQ is recognized across industries, and has made particular strides promoting quality control from a service aspect in health and education organizations. You can obtain a student membership to gain access to a vast online library in addition to print publications, an online career planner, and a career center where you can post resumes and review job postings.
Quality certifications will give you an edge over other candidates -- and might qualify you for a position even if you lack a post-secondary degree. Certifications offered by ASQ range from quality inspector to manager of quality and organizational excellence -- and are awarded based on exam scores. Training courses offered by ASQ and other resources help prepare applicants for certification exams, but are not enforced as prerequisites. Certifications must be renewed every five years so that competency levels remain strong and each certificate holder's knowledge remains current.
According to a 2011 report published by ASQ, the median salary for a quality manager is just under $90,000, while quality certification can help improve a manager's salary expectations by as much as $10,000. A 2009 report published by CNN Money ranked a quality assurance manager as number 48 on a list of the best jobs in America, projecting a 10-year job growth of 16 percent between 2006 and 2016. ASQ reports that salaries for positions in the quality field are keeping pace with inflation, rising at about 2 percent annually.
- ASQ:Career Center: Resources
- ASQ: Create Your Own Path of Success
- ASQ: Don't Confuse Certification With a Training Certificate
- ASQ Quality Progress: Salary Survey 2011, Land the Big One
- CNN Money: Best Jobs in America, 48. Quality Assurance Manager
- Eastern Michigan University: Welcome to the Master of Science in Quality Management
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook:Quality Control Inspectors
- ASQ Quality Progress: Salary Survey 2011, Part 1, Section 17
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.