Bureau of Labor Statistics

Quality Control Inspectors

quality control inspectors image
Quality control inspectors monitor production operations, ensuring that specifications are met.
Quick Facts: Quality Control Inspectors
2020 Median Pay $40,460 per year
$19.45 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, 2019 590,100
Job Outlook, 2019-29 -17% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2019-29 -100,400

Summary

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 annual wage for quality control inspectors was $40,460 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

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

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

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

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

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

Quality Control Inspectors

Median annual wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Quality control inspectors

$40,460

Other production occupations

$37,200

 

The median annual wage for quality control inspectors was $40,460 in May 2020. 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 $26,240, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $68,220.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for quality control inspectors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $44,520
Manufacturing 40,970
Wholesale trade 39,150
Administrative and support services 32,160

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

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

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

Occupational Title

Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers

SOC Code51-9061
Employment, 2019590,100
Projected Employment, 2029489,600
Percent Change, 2019-29-17
Numeric Change, 2019-29-100,400
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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 OEWS 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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

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 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Construction and building inspectors

Construction and Building Inspectors

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

High school diploma or equivalent $62,860
Fire inspectors and investigators

Fire Inspectors

Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met.

See How to Become One $62,120
Industrial engineers

Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers devise efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Bachelor's degree $88,950
Industrial engineering technicians

Industrial Engineering Technologists and Technicians

Industrial engineering technologists and technicians help engineers solve problems affecting manufacturing layout or production.

Associate's degree $57,320
Logisticians

Logisticians

Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain.

Bachelor's degree $76,270

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Quality Control Inspectors,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/quality-control-inspectors.htm (visited May 30, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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