The role of a quality engineer can vary from industry to industry and even within companies. With a qualification in engineering, a quality engineer typically spends his or her day ensuring that the processes that the company performs are working properly and to the required specification. Often, an engineer in this type of role also actively attempts to improve processes and trains operators in the necessary procedures.
Quality engineers can find jobs in many areas of engineering. Typically, the engineer oversees a manufacturing system that creates a product such as pharmaceuticals, technological products or even clothing. He or she is paid by the company to ensure the manufacturing process, and other support processes, run smoothly.
Often, a person in a quality engineering job spends much of the day inspecting and testing the engineering integrity of the manufacturing process. Where a fault occurs, or a potential danger to the efficiency of the process is present, then the engineer can step in and organize a strategy to fix and improve the situation. Areas where the process can be improved is also of interest to most quality engineers, and they can spend part of the day identifying such segments of the company, and forming strategies to improve them.
Typically, manufacturing processes need to comply with industry standards. The engineer, therefore, must be familiar with the standards and be able to work within the limits of certain legal requirements. When a product does not conform to the requirements, he or she must first be able to identify the aberration and then find the cause. Some quality engineer roles are not in the field of production, but rather in the research stage of a particular product, where working out a usable and efficient process is the first step to commercial production.
In addition to solid engineering knowledge and having the ability to apply that knowledge to processes, the job of a quality engineer may also have other, less technical, aspects. Often, the role involves dealing with suppliers and customers. Interpersonal skills may also be required if the engineer has to present reports to supervisors or act as part of a team. Teamwork can be especially useful when interdepartmental cooperation is necessary to make a change in production.
At the minimum, a quality engineer needs an associate's degree, which typically takes two years to complete. Many roles require a bachelor's degree, and some may necessitate further training, such as a master's degree. Experience of the industry in a previous role related to quality control is sometimes also beneficial to people seeking quality engineer roles.