What is a quality engineer?
A quality engineer (also known as a QA engineer or QC engineer) is responsible for ensuring the overall quality of a manufactured product – that it is safe, reliable and meets customer expectations. They are also tasked with maintaining the production process by keeping it as efficient and cost-effective as possible, as well as fixing any potential issues.
What are the responsibilities of a quality engineer?
- Define quality standards that products should meet and devise testing methods
- Identify and fix quality issues with the manufacturing process and products
- Test systems and procedures
- Monitor the entire cycle, looking for malfunctions and productivity issues
- Update Quality Management Systems (QMS) with incidents, repairs and improvements
- Prepare reports
- Establish quality goals and track progress towards them
Types of employers
Quality engineers are required to work in a range of industries, so you could look for jobs with:
- Medical device companies
- Biotechnology companies
- Pharmaceutical organisations
- Food and drinks manufacturers
- Electronic companies
- Automotive and aerospace organisations
- Chemical companies
To find out who’s hiring right now, search quality engineer jobs here.
Qualifications and experience required
You will usually be required to hold an undergraduate degree or higher national diploma (HND) to become a quality engineer. Some companies may require a qualification that is industry-specific, however most quality engineers hold degrees in chemical engineering, process engineering or mechanical engineering. Holding a relevant degree or HND will show your commitment to, and interest in the industry you are hoping to work in.
Although a masters qualification is not usually essential, it can be beneficial to show that you have a deep understanding of quality engineering and its processes. You could undertake a general degree in general quality management or in a sector-specific discipline.
It is beneficial to have some industry work experience alongside your qualifications, such as a year-long university placement or summer internship. This will allow you to gain an insight into how companies work, develop the necessary skills and build a strong network of useful contacts. You could also start off in a more junior role – such as a quality officer or technician – and work your way up to more senior positions within the company.
Find downloadable CV and cover letter templates here.
How to become a quality engineer
To become a quality engineer, you will need to have a range of skills, including:
- Attention to detail
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
- The ability to work well within a team as well as independently
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- Numerical skills
- Good organisation, planning and project management abilities
- Leadership skills
Alongside these basic skills, you will need good working knowledge and experience of working to appropriate quality and regulatory standards such as ISO13485, FDA 21 CFR and Part 820. You should also be familiar with GxP standards and competent in non-conformance root cause investigation and documentation.
Within an interview, you are likely to be asked questions that explore your familiarity with quality management processes and procedures, such as “can you describe a recent project where you successfully implemented quality control procedures?” or “what are some quality control processes you have used in the past?”. An employer may also want to know about your ability to manage a group of staff or communicate effectively in a team environment. You should always use the STAR technique when answering interview questions, which you can find out more about here.
There are a variety of ways to search for quality engineering jobs. Job sites such as New Scientist, Just Engineers and Indeed are a great place to start, as well as professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Specialist recruitment agencies like CK Technical are one of the most effective ways to find engineering and IT roles, as they are able to offer tailored advice and support as well as speak with employers directly to provide candidate recommendations.
Sign up to CK+ to apply for roles at the click of a button and receive job alerts straight to your inbox here.
The starting salary for a quality engineer is usually around £23,000, although this can vary depending on the type of company and location of the job. With some experience, this can rise to upwards of £35,000. Salaries in this area of engineering tend to be higher because they are in demand.
There are a variety of career progression possibilities for quality engineers, such as:
- Progression into a more senior management role that takes on a higher level of responsibility (of both teams and tasks)
- A move into a different industry using the transferrable skills gained
- A move into a more commercial area of the business, such as finance, sales or marketing
- Travelling internationally to manage production operations overseas
- Maintenance Engineer – responsible for undertaking continuous routine maintenance on plants and machinery to ensure they run smoothly and reliably.
- Software Engineer – responsible for using scientific and mathematical knowledge to develop, build and maintain computer systems or applications.
- Production Manager – responsible for the planning, management and supervision of industrial manufacturing processes, to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.
Read our ‘day in the life of a quality engineer’ article