If you're meticulous about meeting standards and customer expectations, and committed to improving business performance, a career as a quality manager could be for you
Quality managers aim to ensure that the product or service an organisation provides is fit for purpose, is consistent and meets both external and internal requirements. This includes legal compliance and customer expectations.
As a quality manager, sometimes called a quality assurance manager, you'll coordinate the activities required to meet these quality standards.
Your role is concerned with monitoring and advising on the performance of the quality management system, producing data and reporting on performance, measuring against set standards.
You will need to liaise with other managers and staff throughout the organisation to ensure that the quality management system is functioning properly. Where appropriate, you'll advise on changes and how to implement them and provide training, tools and techniques to enable others to achieve quality standards.
Quality managers work across many industries and sectors. You may work as either a generalist or specialist. You'll use a variety of measures and management systems, such as total quality management, to carry out your role.
Your responsibilities will vary depending on the sector you work in. However, as a quality manager you'll typically need to:
- devise and establish a company's quality procedures, standards and specifications
- review customer requirements and make sure they are met
- work with purchasing staff to establish quality requirements from external suppliers
- set standards for quality as well as health and safety
- make sure that manufacturing or production processes meet international and national standards
- look at ways to reduce waste and increase efficiency
- define quality procedures in conjunction with operating staff
- set up and maintain controls and documentation procedures
- monitor performance by gathering relevant data and produce statistical reports
- review existing policies and make suggestions for changes and improvements and how to implement them
- measure performance and identify any areas of weakness, recommending and implementing improvements
- assess the effectiveness of changes made
- use relevant quality tools and make sure managers and other staff understand how to improve the business
- make sure the company is working as effectively as possible to keep up with competitors
- train and manage a team of quality control technicians.
- Starting salaries for quality managers are in the region of £23,000 to £28,000. You're often expected to have prior experience of working in quality or the relevant industry, so some starting salaries may be higher.
- With experience you could earn £28,000 to £50,000, depending on the level of the role and industry you're working in.
- Managers in certain industries, for example manufacturing, aerospace and automotive, may earn in excess of £60,000.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours and conditions vary between sectors, but you may be required to start early and finish late, as well as carry out shift work, particularly in manufacturing. Other sectors may provide regular office hours.
Career breaks are possible, but quality assurance techniques change and develop rapidly so it's important to keep your knowledge up to date.
What to expect
- Your work may be office based, as in customer service operations, or laboratory based, as in process industries.
- Once you have gained some experience, self-employment and freelance work are possible by working as a consultant to small firms or trainers.
- Jobs are available in organisations throughout the UK. Quality management is practised in all industries in the public and private sectors and by firms and organisations of all sizes.
- Travel within a working day depends on the employer and may sometimes be frequent.
- You may have to stay away from home overnight. Overseas work or travel may be required to visit customers, carry out supplier audits, meet to discuss quality plans or investigate particular quality issues.
Although a career as a quality manager is open to all graduates, a degree in a relevant area, such as business management, is particularly useful, especially if it includes quality management modules.
Jobs in certain sectors may require industry-specific qualifications so degrees in the following subjects can be useful:
- engineering and manufacturing
- food science and technology
- physical/mathematical/applied science
- polymer science technology
- textile technology.
Relevant HND subjects also include production, materials science, and printing and clothing technology.
A degree or HND in any subject that is specific to the industry in which you wish to work will be helpful.
Entry without a degree or HND is sometimes possible if you have substantial experience and training.
Many quality managers move into the job once they've got experience elsewhere in the company or industry. This could be in project management or quality control roles, engineering, health and safety, or other areas that help to show they have knowledge of how a company or organisation operates.
If you don't have this experience it may be worth taking a relevant postgraduate qualification to show that you have an understanding of the area. Masters courses are available generally in quality management, as well as in specific areas such as food quality management. Search postgraduate courses in quality management.
You'll need to have:
- communication and interpersonal skills
- analytical and problem-solving ability
- planning and project management skills
- persistence and the ability to influence others
- the ability to lead and motivate a team
- a strategic approach to work
- the ability to facilitate change
- skills in numerical and statistical analysis
- attention to detail
- an understanding and appreciation of other people's work disciplines, such as engineering and science.
Try to get relevant work experience via a work placement, internship or year out in industry. Talk to staff in supporting roles and see if you can work shadow a quality manager to give you some background knowledge and experience.
You may be able to start work at a lower level such as quality control technician and work your way up to the role of quality manager.
You might find it useful to join a relevant professional body, such as the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI), as a student or affiliate member. Membership provides access to networking opportunities and free and discounted events.
You can find work as a quality manager in a range of industries. Many large companies and public sector organisations require quality professionals to ensure standards are met across goods, customer service and legal compliance.
Manufacturing organisations are big employers across mechanical engineering, civil, chemical, electrical and electronic engineering, as well as the pharmaceutical, textile, chemical, and food and drink industries.
Many other large service providers, including healthcare organisations, banks, educational establishments, legal practices and government departments, employ quality professionals.
Look for job vacancies at:
- New Scientist Jobs
- Quality Jobs - official jobs board of the CQI.
Vacancies are also advertised in industry journals and on the websites of major companies and organisations.
Recruitment agencies sometimes handle vacancies.
Some major employers run graduate training programmes, which enable you to learn about all aspects of the organisation and provide experience through projects and other hands-on work.
Certified training is available through the CQI, which provides a range of quality management courses to help with career development. Training is available at three levels - introductory, practitioner and professional, in areas such as:
- change management
- communication with stakeholders
- management systems
- problem solving
- process improvement
- quality planning
- risk management.
In order to get practitioner membership of the CQI (PCQI), you'll need to have completed two years' work experience in any aspect of quality, as well as a total of 30 hours' quality-related training or qualifications. See the CQI website for full details.
Experienced quality managers, including consultants, can apply for chartered membership of the CQI (CQI MCQI). Chartered status can help with career development and shows you've reached a recognised standard of professionalism.
As a quality manager, you'll need to have a working knowledge of the national and international quality standards that are relevant to your job. For more information, see The British Standards Institution (BSI). NEBOSH health and safety qualifications are also required for some quality management jobs.
Other relevant courses and events are run by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
Career prospects are generally good. Quality managers are able to progress while remaining within the quality function, which is becoming increasingly central to organisations' activities. Appointments are made at all stages of management up to board level.
Work in quality assurance can also lead to management jobs in other areas of the business, such as:
- customer relations
- health and safety
- human resources
- technical sales.
Your immediate prospects may depend on the size and type of organisation you work for. In large organisations, for example, you may have more opportunities to specialise in a particular process area and to advance through the corporate structure.
In a small organisation, you may have the opportunity to practise quality assurance in several different functions across the business, to feel closer to the front line of business activity, and to see the direct commercial impact of your contribution.
With significant experience, it may be possible to work as a self-employed consultant, working on various quality projects for different organisations.