Field of Study: Quality Control Technology
Quality control technology programs prepare people to help engineers and others manage systems that measure and control for quality. Students learn standards that apply to various fields. For example, they learn about manufacturing standards. They also learn to inspect and test output, and write reports.
Quality control first made headlines in the 1970s. U.S. car buyers started to discover that Japanese cars were better built than American cars. At the time, U.S. carmakers denied this was true, but they studied what the Japanese carmakers were doing and copied their methods. Ironically, the secret was something discovered in the U.S.: it was a statistical approach of sampling output and working toward constant improvement of quality. Other industries copied this method. Meat packers, courier services, schools, hotels, and hospitals (among others) now use it.
When an industry decides to use quality control methods, management usually brings in industrial engineers. The engineers study the business and design a quality control program. Technicians help make the design work. As a quality control technician, you may collect samples of products coming off an assembly line and test them. You may do statistical analysis of your data to detect trends. You may interview production team members about their procedures. You may write a report on your findings and recommend changes to improve quality.
You can prepare for this work by studying this subject for two years full time beyond high school. This earns you an associate degree. About 80 colleges offer programs in quality control technology. Some are certification programs that take less than two years. A few are four-year programs leading to a bachelor's degree. (Also, at some schools you can specialize in this field within an industrial engineering program.)
Quality control means more than looking just a little harder at every widget that comes off the production line. It is a scientific approach. That means that in this program you study sciences, usually chemistry and physics, and you learn to use the scientific method. (These sciences also may help you understand methods used in a manufacturing setting.) You learn not only the math required for these sciences, but also statistics and experimental design. Quality control depends partly on discovering the right number of samples to examine and drawing valid conclusions from those samples. You study how to measure objects precisely. You learn how to create diagrams that analyze all the chains of events that can cause a product to fail. You study how to put work place teams together. And you learn how to analyze customers' needs and use these as the basis for improving a product or designing a new one.