Testing Technician

Testers and inspectors monitor or audit quality standards for virtually all manufactured products, including plastics, foods, textiles, clothing, glassware, motor vehicles, electronic components, computers, and structural steel. As product quality becomes increasingly important to the success of many manufacturing firms, daily duties of testers and inspectors have changed. In some cases, the job titles of these workers also have been changed to quality-control inspector or a similar name, reflecting the growing importance of quality.

Testers and inspectors are involved at every stage of the production process. Some inspectors examine materials received from a supplier before sending them to the production line. Others inspect components and assemblies or perform a final check on the finished product. Depending on their skill level, inspectors also may set up and test equipment, calibrate precision instruments, repair defective products, or Increased emphasis on quality control in manufacturing means that testing and inspection is more fully integrated into the production process than in the past.

Formerly, many companies considered quality control to be independent from the production work. Now, companies have integrated teams of inspection and production workers to jointly review and improve product quality. In addition, many companies now use self-monitoring production machines to ensure that the output is produced within quality standards. Self-monitoring machines can alert inspectors to production problems and automatically repair defects in some cases. Many firms have completely automated inspection with the help of advanced vision inspection systems, using machinery installed at one or several points in the production process. Inspectors in these firms calibrate and monitor the equipment, review output, and perform random product checks.

Testers repeatedly test existing products or prototypes under real-world conditions. For example, they may purposely abuse a machine by not changing its oil to see when failure occurs. They may devise automated machines to repeat a basic task thousands of times, such as opening and closing a car door. Through these tests, companies determine how long a product will last, what parts will break down first, and how to improve durability.

Job Outlook and Growth Potential:

Like that of many other occupations concentrated in manufacturing industries, employment of inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers is expected to grow more slowly than average through the year 2012. The slower than average growth stems primarily from the growing use of automated inspection and the redistribution of quality-control responsibilities from inspectors to production workers. Numerous job openings also will arise due to turnover in this large occupation. Many of these jobs, however, will be open only to experienced production workers with advanced skills.

Employment of inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers will be positively affected by the increased focus on quality in American industry. The emphasis on improving quality and productivity has led manufacturers to invest in automated inspection equipment, hire more inspectors, and to take a more systematic approach to quality inspection. Continued improvements in technologies, such as spectrophotometers and computer-assisted visual inspection systems, allow firms to effectively automate simple inspection tasks, increasing worker productivity and reducing the demand for inspectors.

Testers and inspectors will continue to operate these automated machines and monitor the defects they detect. The increased emphasis on quality has increased the importance of testing and inspection and the demand for testers and inspectors. These two trends—increased emphasis on inspection and increased automation of inspection—have had opposite effects on the demand for inspectors.

Wages and Earnings Potential:

Median hourly earnings of Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers were $13.01 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $9.84 and $17.46 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.81 an hour, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $23.56 an hour. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers in 2002 were:

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing $18.24
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing $16.49
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing $12.86
Plastics product manufacturing $11.94
Employment services $8.85

Copyright © 2014, Ohio's 2-Year Council of Deans and Directors of Engineering & Industrial Technologies

Career information from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition and member schools.