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Inspector and Tester Job Description, Career as an Inspector and Tester, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training None

Salary Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Inspectors and testers check raw materials, parts, and entire products that are being processed in a factory. They must make sure that each product measures up to their company's standards. Most companies try to keep the quality of their products high. They want to be sure that customers are not disappointed or injured by a product. Companies must also comply with government quality-control regulations.

Job duties of inspectors and testers vary because they check many kinds of materials, parts, and products. About two-thirds of all inspectors work in factories. Some inspectors work in the food processing industry. Others are employed in factories that make motor vehicle parts, electronic components, clothing, textiles, leather goods, and other products.

Inspectors and testers may check goods in several different ways. Some products require a quick inspection, while others may require a more detailed one. Inspectors often test products under real-world conditions. They may taste tomato sauce to check its acid content. They may put articles of clothing on a form and look them over carefully for defects. They may select a random sample of screws and check them carefully using special gauges. Inspectors often use magnifying lenses and other tools such as micrometers and protractors. Sometimes they have to check work orders or blueprints to make sure products are up to company standards.

Inspectors and testers must note problems in products. Sometimes they reject products, then sort them according to the kind of defect. At other times they may send products for repair or fix minor problems themselves. They record the results of inspections, compute the proportion of products that are defective, and prepare reports. They often collaborate with production managers to determine the cause of recurring defects. Where inspection systems are automated, inspectors and testers may simply monitor the quality-control machines.

Education and Training Requirements

Education requirements vary based on the responsibilities of the job. For inspectors and testers who simply accept or reject products, a high school diploma plus basic on-the-job training are sufficient. Some employers may not require a high school diploma. More complex inspection jobs are generally filled by experienced assemblers and machine operators, who then receive additional training on the job. Courses in blueprint reading and mathematics are useful for some inspection jobs, and basic computer skills are expected to become required as more and more automated inspection equipment is used.

Inspectors and testers must have the patience to carry out lengthy testing procedures and be good at detail work. (© Roger Ball/Corbis.)

Getting the Job

Interested persons can apply directly to manufacturing plants. Sometimes plants list openings on a sign outside the building. Companies also place help wanted ads in newspapers. State employment offices may also have a listing of openings for inspectors and testers.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Inspectors can advance as they become more experienced or if they take courses in blueprint reading, shop mechanics, or related subjects at a vocational school. They may advance to a position where they inspect more complex products, become supervisors of other inspectors and testers, or move to related occupations with more responsibility, such as purchaser of materials or equipment.

The demand for inspectors and testers is expected to decline through 2014 due primarily to increasing automation of the inspection process. In some plants, inspection responsibilities have been integrated into the production process, leading to a decline in employment of specialized inspectors who test the finished product. Turnover in the field should lead to many job openings, but these positions are expected to be filled increasingly with experienced workers. Beginning workers may find employment in the employment services industry, which provides temporary workers to manufacturing firms.

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary depending on the industry. Inspectors in the electronics industry, for example, usually work in clean, modern plants. Inspectors in a machine shop may have to work in noisy, dirty areas. In some plants, inspectors may sit all day, while in others they may stand and lift heavy objects. Wherever they work, inspectors have to get along with others. They often work as part of a team with other inspectors and other kinds of production workers. The work-week is usually forty hours long. There may be times when inspectors must work overtime or shift work. Some inspectors belong to labor unions.

Where to Go for More Information

American Society for Quality
600 N. Plankinton Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53203
(800) 248-1946

Earnings and Benefits

The median hourly wage for all inspectors was $13.66 in 2004. Inspectors employed in motor vehicle parts manufacturing received the highest median hourly wage of $16.54, while inspectors in employment services earned the lowest median hourly wage of $10.08. Benefits may include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans. Larger firms offer better benefits than smaller firms. The employment services sector rarely offers benefits to temporary workers.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production