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.
A quality manager, sometimes called a quality assurance manager, coordinates the activities required to meet these quality standards.
Quality managers monitor and advise on the performance of the quality management system, produce data and report on performance, measuring against set standards.
They liaise with other managers and staff throughout the organisation to ensure that the quality management system is functioning properly. Where appropriate, they advise on changes and how to implement them and provide training, tools and techniques to enable others to achieve quality standards.
Quality managers use a variety of measures and management systems, such as total quality management.
Their work is specialised and the exact tasks carried out vary depending on the nature of the employing organisation. They may be involved in some or all of the following:
- devising and establishing a company's quality procedures, standards and specifications;
- reviewing customer requirements and making sure they are met;
- working with purchasing staff to establish quality requirements from external suppliers;
- setting standards for quality as well as health and safety;
- making sure that manufacturing or production processes meet international and national standards;
- looking at ways to reduce waste and increase efficiency;
- defining quality procedures in conjunction with operating staff;
- setting up and maintaining controls and documentation procedures;
- monitoring performance by gathering relevant data and producing statistical reports;
- making suggestions for changes and improvements and how to implement them;
- using relevant quality tools and making sure managers and other staff understand how to improve the business;
- making sure the company is working as effectively as possible to keep up with competitors.
- Starting salaries for quality managers are in the region of £20,000 to £25,000. It is often expected that you will have prior experience of working in quality or the relevant industry and so some starting salaries may be larger.
- With experience, you could earn around £25,000 to £40,000 depending on the level of the role and industry it is in. Some senior managers may achieve salaries higher than this.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours and conditions vary between sectors, but early starts and late finishes may be required, as well as 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 is important to keep your knowledge up to date.
What to expect
- Work may be office based, as in customer service operations, or laboratory based, as in process industries.
- Once experience has been gained, 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.
- Absence from home overnight and overseas work or travel may be required; for example, for visiting customers, carrying out supplier audits, meeting to discuss quality plans or investigating particular quality issues.
This area of work is open to all graduates but a degree in a relevant area, such as business management, will be particularly helpful, especially if it includes quality management modules.
Jobs in certain sectors may require industry-specific qualifications so degrees in the following subjects could be useful:
- physical/mathematical/applied science;
- engineering and manufacturing;
- textile technology;
- polymer science/technology.
Relevant HND subjects are the same as those at degree level as well as 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 with substantial experience and training.
It is also useful to gain membership of a relevant professional body, such as the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI). This provides regular newsletters, networking opportunities and free and discounted events.
In addition to industry-specific competence, potential employers will look for evidence of the following skills:
- interpersonal skills;
- problem solving;
- organising and planning;
- numerical and statistical ability;
- an aptitude for analysis;
- appreciation of other work disciplines, such as engineering and science.
Many quality managers move into the job once they have got experience elsewhere in the company or industry. This could be in project management or quality control roles or other areas that help to show they have knowledge of how a company or organisation operates.
If you do not have this experience it may be helpful to take a relevant postgraduate qualification to show you have an understanding of the area. Specific masters are available in quality management and in subjects for more specific industries, such as food quality management. Search for postgraduate courses in quality management.
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.
Try to obtain a relevant vacation job, seek out and talk to staff in supporting roles or arrange a work-shadowing placement to give you some background knowledge and experience.
Quality managers work in an increasingly wide range of industries. Many large companies and public sector organisations require quality professionals to ensure certain standards are met across goods, customer service and legal compliance.
Manufacturing organisations are a big employer across mechanical engineering, civil, chemical, electrical and electronic engineering, as well as the pharmaceutical, textile, chemical, and food and drink industries.
Many other larger 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 Chartered Quality Institute (CQI)
- Journals, recruitment websites and agencies associated with particular industries or service providers.
- Careers service vacancy lists.
- National and local press.
Recruitment agencies sometimes handle vacancies.
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.
Specialised qualifications are available through the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI). These start at the introductory Level 3 with a Certificate in Quality Management. This is aimed at new and potential quality managers and provides an understanding of what is involved in quality management in an organisational context.
Following this there are various Level 5 qualifications you can take which include:
- Certificate in Systems Management;
- Certificate in Assuring Service and Product Quality;
- Certificate in Managing Supply Chain Quality;
- Certificate in Quality Improvement for Business;
- Certificate in Quality Management Systems Audit;
- Diploma in Quality Management.
Further information is available from CQI Qualifications.
When you have built up at least five years' experience in quality management, you will be eligible to apply for full membership of the CQI. If you then commit to carrying out a programme of continuing professional development (CPD) you can achieve chartered quality professional status. This will help with career development and show you have reached a recognised standard.
Most employers support CPD as it allows you to maintain and develop expertise as well as build networks with colleagues in other locations. If you work for a smaller company, you may find that you need to take responsibility for arranging and funding your own development and training. Relevant courses and events are run by the:
Quality managers also need to have a working knowledge of the national and international quality standards that are relevant to the job. For more information on these see the British Standards Institution (BSI).
Career development prospects are good. Quality managers are able to progress while remaining within the quality function, which is becoming increasingly prestigious and central to organisations' activities, with appointments being made at all stages of management up to board level.
Work in quality assurance (QA) can also lead to management jobs in other areas of the business, such as:
- health and safety
- technical sales;
- human resources;
- customer relations.
Your immediate prospects may depend on the size and type of the organisation for which you work.
In large organisations, you may have more opportunities to specialise in a particular process area and to advance through the corporate structure.
In a small organisation, there may be the possibility 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.
Becoming a chartered quality professional may help your career prospects as it shows you have reached a recognised standard. You will need to be either a member or fellow of the Chartered Quality Institute and contribute towards continuing professional development (CPD). More information is available at Chartered Quality Professional (CQI).
With significant experience, it may be possible to work as a self-employed consultant, working on various quality projects for different organisations.