A quality control inspector makes sure that manufactured products meet the specified standards before they progress to the next phase of production or are sent out to customers.
The role varies widely, depending on the sector. For example:
A quality control inspector working in engineering might use special gauges and other equipment to check that parts have been properly assembled or welded.
In the food sector, an inspector might make sure that cakes are a standard size and colour, and that they have been packaged in line with the specification.
In the clothing industry, an inspector might examine seams and stitching to ensure they are neat and strong, or check that all products are produced to the same size and standard.
In a pharmaceutical company, an inspector might check test records to decide whether batches of drugs are safe for use by patients.
An inspector's tasks are likely to include:
Besides production staff, quality control inspectors may work closely with other colleagues. For example, sales or account managers may liaise with the inspector to pass on concerns from a client that need to be addressed in the production process.
Inspectors may also deal with external auditors and customers' inspectors, who visit to check the production process and quality control systems.
Quality control inspectors usually work 35 to 40 hours a week. They often work shifts, including evenings, nights and weekends. It may be possible to work part time.
Inspectors are usually based in a workshop, laboratory or office. However, they often visit the factory floor or warehouses to check the production process, collect samples and talk to production staff. They may spend a lot of time on their feet.
Depending on the sector, factory premises may be clean and airy, or dirty and dusty. They can also be noisy. Protective clothing, such as overalls, plastic overshoes and hairnets, may be worn, for the inspector's safety and to avoid contaminating the products.
Salaries for quality control inspectors may start at around £20,000 a year. Additional payments may be given for working shifts and overtime.
Employers include manufacturers in many sectors, including:
- Building and construction
- Food and drink
- Oil and gas
The number of quality control inspector posts has been falling as more sophisticated equipment has been developed which is better able to pick up inconsistencies. Most companies are also now requiring workers to take full responsibility for the quality of their own output so that inspection activities can be reduced.
Job vacancies can be found in local and national newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices, on recruitment agency websites (often for specific industries such as engineering, pharmaceutical and automotive), and in magazines such as Quality Manufacturing Today and Qualityworld. Many of these vacancies are also listed on the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) website.
The role of quality control inspector is usually taken on by people with experience in the relevant industry. They often start out in production or engineering roles.
Some employers may ask for four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths, English and a science subject. Quality control inspectors in more specialised and technical industries, such as pharmaceuticals or aerospace, may need A levels/H grades, a BTEC/SQA national qualification, an HNC/HND or a degree in a science or technology subject.
Training is generally provided on the job by the employer. The length of training depends on the nature of the work.
Quality control inspectors may also study part time to extend their knowledge and advance their careers. For example:
Professional Development Awards in Quality are available in Scotland.
All CQI members are encouraged to participate in the Institute's Continuing Professional Development scheme.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A quality control inspector needs to be:
Quality control inspectors may progress to become a supervisor, team leader or trainer. Some become self-employed.
With experience, an inspector may progress to a wider quality management role, or into related areas such as auditing management systems, technical sales or production management.
There may be opportunities to work abroad in some sectors.
Chartered Quality Institute,
12 Grosvenor Crescent, London SW1X 7EE
Tel: 020 7245 6722
Engineering and Technology Board
Improve Ltd (Food and Drink Sector Skills Council),
Ground Floor, Providence House,
2 Innovation Close, Heslington,
York YO10 5ZF
Tel: 0845 644 0448
SEMTA (Sector Skills Council for Science,
Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies),
14 Upton Road, Watford WD18 0JT
SEMTA learning helpline: Tel: 0800 282167
Skillfast-UK (Sector Skills Council for Fashion and Textiles),
Richmond House, Lawnswood Business Park,
Leeds LS16 6RD
Tel: 0113 239 9600
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.