Building to Spec – The Life and Mindset of Quality Engineers

Engineers planning CNC machinery

Quality engineers take great pride in their training, skills, tools and work product. Listening in to their discussions on forums is a great way to understand what makes these specialists tick.

Quality is something most of us might find hard to define, even if we feel like we know it when we see it. When you’re an engineer and ensuring quality is your job, that’s something altogether different. We work with thousands of quality engineers across a wide range of industries, and we’re always curious about the kinds of people who are attracted to the field — how they trained, what path they followed, what they enjoy outside of work. In short, what makes a quality engineer tick?

Career Planning, Quality Engineer Style

First, we wanted learn more about how quality engineers chose the discipline and what sort of typical career path they followed. In this conversation, an aspiring quality engineer asked the question for us: “I’m curious what route you took to become a quality engineer. I became interested in quality control in the Navy and now I'm in school for a BS in industrial technology with a concentration in manufacturing systems. My end goal is a career in quality control. Any tips?”

The response from another user may not have been what he expected: “I just worked my way into a quality-responsible position, and then pursued training so I could actually do my job. Then, later, I pursued certifications from the American Society for Quality and the American Welding Society. These can help, especially if your customers have a lot of engineers who are certified. If you want an edge, learn GD&T and statistics in depth. I don't know of any good sources for learning problem solving but it is a crucial skill.”

A big question many aspiring quality engineers have is whether they should get a full BS degree in engineering. We listened in on numerous threads, such as this one started by an advice seeker in this Reddit thread:

“Background on me: I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and a certificate in CNC machining from my local community college. I currently work for a technology manufacturing company as a Quality Technician. My new main career goal is to become a Quality Engineer. Is there anyone on this forum that is a Quality Engineer and can provide me with some information as to what they really do? …I can't apply for some jobs because I don't have an engineering degree hence why I have to go back to school. Any advice would be appreciated.”

Among the extremely diverse range of opinions and advice, was this poster who replied encouragingly, “You're already on a career path in what you want to do, getting a minor education will not help you successfully skip over the required experience to become that quality engineer. Put in the time and hard work to earn that title.”

Next Generation Quality Engineers

Research continues to show that women comprise less than 25% of engineering students. That’s one reason we were inspired and encouraged by this post shared by @4africanwomeninstem on their Instagram page, congratulating an ambitious young woman on her progress toward her dream career as a quality engineer. As the new grad, Osei, says in the post, "Being a part of this... program has unearthed so many potentials in me... enabling me to develop versatility and build skills... that fit perfectly into my career goal of being a Health, Safety and Environmental Quality Engineer."

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