Quality Control Inspectors

Quick Facts: Quality Control Inspectors
2017 Median Pay $37,340 per year 
$17.95 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, 2016 520,700
Job Outlook, 2016-26 -11% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2016-26 -55,500

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Quality Control Inspection Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Quality Control Inspectors Do

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


Quality Control Inspectors

Duties of quality control inspectors

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 for quality control inspectors

Quality control inspectors held about 520,700 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of quality control inspectors were as follows:

Manufacturing: 64%

Professional, scientific, and technical services: 9%

Administrative and support services: 9%

Wholesale trade: 6%

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

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.

salaries for Quality Control Inspectors

The median annual wage for quality control inspectors was $37,340 in May 2017. 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 $22,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $64,450.


In May 2017, the median annual wages for quality control inspectors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services: $40,400

Manufacturing: $37,910

Wholesale trade: $35,720

Administrative and support services: $28,780

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 for Quality Control Inspectors

Employment of quality control inspectors is projected to decline 11 percent from 2016 to 2026.

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. In addition, three-dimensional (3D) scanners are reducing the amount of time it takes to inspect parts and finished goods for the correct measurement specifications.

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. Hand-held 3D scanners can provide a more accurate measurement of parts directly from the production floor. These factors are expected to decrease 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 of 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

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, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 520,700

Projected Employment, 2026: 465,200

Change, 2016-2026: -11%, -55,500

Careers Related to Quality Control 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.

Fire Inspectors

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

Industrial Engineering Technicians

Industrial engineering technicians assist industrial engineers in devising efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service. They prepare machinery and equipment layouts, plan workflows, conduct statistical production studies, and analyze production costs.

Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.


Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain—the system that moves a product from supplier to consumer. They manage the entire life cycle of a product, which includes how a product is acquired, allocated, and delivered.

Construction and Building InspectorsHigh school diploma or equivalent$59,090
Fire Inspectors$56,670
Industrial EngineersBachelor's degree$85,880
Industrial Engineering TechniciansAssociate's degree$54,280
LogisticiansBachelor's degree$74,590


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Quality Control Inspectors,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/quality-control-inspectors.htm