As the economy continues on its road to recovery, some of the uneasiness quality professionals were feeling a year ago has subsided; many feel it is time to get back to business.

For 47% of quality professionals, the feeling of accomplishment is still what makes them roll over, stop hitting the snooze button and make the trek into the office every day, according toQualityMagazine’s 10th Annual State of the Profession study.

Replacing some of the apprehension over the economy from the past year are concerns regarding how to get the job done and the lack of management support, which jumped 10% in the past year. And these are just a few of the challenges quality professionals now face, the study revealed.

Average Salary by Region


Quality professionals are logging more time on the job in order to get the work done. For the 32% of quality professionals putting in more hours, the average increased from 45.8 hours in 2009 to 46.4 hours this year. The increase in time may well have to do with the fact that 37% of respondents saw a decrease in staff size. To meet the quality needs that exceed in-house capacity, 60% of respondents put in overtime, 24% outsource to third parties; 20% employ temporary workers, and for 17%, the work simply doesn’t get done.

The average quality professional juggles a myriad of tasks on a regular basis. As part of their quality-related work activities that are part of their primary responsibilities, most respondents (82%) implement solutions to problems; 75% interface with management; 64% deal with both customers and suppliers; 61% document adherence to formal standards such as ISO; 54% supervise day-to-day operations; 53% work on continuing education/training; and 51% are responsible for implementing quality methodologies such as Six Sigma and lean manufacturing.

Last year, time constraints and budget cutbacks, both at 59%, topped the list of expected job constraints/barriers in the upcoming year. Time constraints have become an even larger concern this year, as 67% cited it as an expected barrier. As the economy evens out a bit, budget cutbacks were cited as a concern by only 44% of those surveyed.

Annual Gross Compensation - Salary Only

But a growing concern among quality professionals is management support. Forty-three percent of respondents name it as a barrier in the upcoming year, up 6% from 2009.

Other barriers mentioned in this year’s survey include dealing with suppliers, 37%; dealing with customers, 36%; skilled labor shortage, 28%; new and existing standards, 26%; and information overload and integrating in-process measurement, both cited by 23%.

When asked what they are most concerned about, quality professionals, along with the rest of the country, say that economic conditions keep them up at night, but at 48%, this is a 9% drop from a year ago. Closely related, job security is mentioned by 36% of quality professionals as a concern, a 6% drop from last year.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents mentioned management support as an area of concern, which is up 10% from a year ago. Salary is cited as a concern by 21%, which is followed by sufficient operating budget as cited by 18%.

On the positive side, it appears that companies are committing more resources toward improving quality operations during the next three years. Forty-five percent see their companies as willing to commit to more resources, up from 36% last year. Only 12% expect their companies to commit fewer resources to quality, down from 19% last year. And 43% expect their company to commit the same resources toward improving quality.

Job Concerns

On par with previous years, when it comes to embracing new quality technology, 35% of companies are willing to be one of the early leaders, while 34% will wait until others successfully use it. Another 16% are likely to be the last, and another 15% are willing to be on the leading edge.

Meanwhile, the economic stresses of the past year appear to have taken their toll on quality professionals’ satisfaction in the job. The number of quality professionals who are highly satisfied in their jobs has dropped this year to 36% after edging up the past several years to a high of 43% in 2009. Fifty-six percent find their jobs moderately satisfactory, up from 49% last year, while 8% are not satisfied with their jobs.

Those in companies with 5,000 or more employees are most likely to be highly satisfied with their jobs, as 54.9% cited. This is followed by quality professionals who work for companies with fewer than 50 employees and with those between 50 and 99 employees, with 41.2% in each category being highly satisfied with their current job.

Annual Salary Compared to Last Year

Dollars and Cents

The average salary for this year’s respondents is $74,028, a 2.4% decrease from last year’s average annual salary of $75,861. Still, for 29% of respondents, this was an increase in salary from the previous year; 51% reported no change; and 20% reported a decrease in salary.

For those lucky few who received a raise, the average increase was 4.8%; those who received less pay averaged a decrease of 11%.

Not surprisingly, corporate management garners the largest paycheck with an annual average salary of $115,183. But unlike many of the large corporations in the news lately, salaries for corporate managers in the quality field increased a mere $91 from last year, and bonuses from the previous year dropped 44% to an average of $10,675.

Length of Employment at Current Company

Those in research and development earn an average of $95,737; manufacturing management/operations bring home an average of $81,989; manufacturing engineers earn an average of $79,783 and those in quality/product assurance/control average $70,213.

In general, the larger the company an employee works for, the more they can expect to be paid. Those working for companies with 5,000 or more employees average $100,067 annually, an 8.2% increase from last year. Respondents working for smaller companies struggled this past year-those working for companies with fewer than 50 employees take home $60,728 annually, a decrease of 16.3% from last year.

Quality workers in the West fare the best when it comes to salary with an average annual paycheck of $82,886. Those in the Northeast, South and Midwest follow at $77,326, $72,569 and $70,090, respectively. While salaries remained fairly steady in most parts of the country, the South saw salaries drop 7.9% from last year’s average of $78,789.

As is the case in many fields, quality workers are rewarded for continuing their education. Workers with a high school diploma brought home an average of $55,348, followed by those completing a certificate program bringing home $58,839; an associate degree was worth $65,327; a bachelor’s degree, $77,747; a master’s degree, $89,758; and a Ph.D., $105,125.

In a sea change from previous years, quality professionals in navigation, measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing took the top spot as the category with the highest paid workers with an average salary of $94,900. This was followed by those in medical equipment and supplies manufacturing at $84,370; and electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing at $83,238. Computer and electronic product manufacturing came in at $81,110; and aerospace product/parts manufacturing rounded things out at $79,121.

Length of Career

Males are still taking home 14.2% more than their female counterparts, with men averaging a salary of $75,864 vs. $65,080 for women. The highest salary reported in this year’s survey, $220,000, comes from a female, but so too does the lowest salary at $10,000. The highest salary reported from a male is $181,000, while the lowest is $25,000.

Employees of larger companies-those ranging from 1,000 to 4,999 employees and those with 5,000 or more-were most likely to receive a bonus, at 40.6% and 52.8%, respectively.

Fifty-six percent of those working in medical and supplies manufacturing received an increase in annual compensation, which was followed at a distant second by those in aerospace products/parts manufacturing, where 37.4% received a pay increase.

As the economy begins to strengthen, quality professionals are expecting their paychecks to be a bit heftier as well. While half are expecting an increase in salary at their next performance review, only 1% expects a decrease in salary. Compare this to last year at this time when 56% of respondents were expecting a decrease in their salaries. The remaining 49% are not expecting a change in salary.

Of course, the amount workers see in their paychecks does not tell the entire story of their compensation packages.

Primary Product Manufactured

While the majority (64%) of quality professionals did not receive a bonus as of January 1, for the 36% who did, the average bonus was $3,038, down 32.5% from the previous year’s average bonus of $4,500. Twenty-eight percent of those receiving a bonus saw it increase from the previous year, while 40% saw it decrease; another 28% said the bonus amount did not change from the prior year.

Ninety-five percent of quality workers are offered health insurance; 92% are offered vacation time; 86% are eligible for 401(k); 85% are offered dental insurance; and 78% are offered life insurance. Tuition reimbursement is available for 58%, and on-the-job training is available for 49%. These numbers are virtually unchanged from the previous year with one notable exception: tuition reimbursement was available for an additional 6% of respondents last year.

Job Satisfaction

Typical Quality Professional

Predominately a male-dominated industry, the number of females in the quality field has slowly increased this year to 16%, up from 13% in previous years.

The majority of respondents (73%) work in quality/product assurance/control and have supervisory responsibility. For the 60% who oversee employees, 47% oversee between two to five employees. Many (39%) have received a bachelor’s degree and hold ASQ certification (65%). Eighty-six percent of quality professionals are 40 or older, with the largest number of respondents (40%) falling in the 50-59 year-old category. This group is likely to work in the Midwest (45%) at a company with less than 500 employees.


He likely works between 41 to 50 hours per week, which has remained the same for many (59%) during the past year.

The typical quality worker is likely part of a team or committee that sets quality goals for:
  • New processes, 69%
  • Productivity, 61%
  • New product development, 55%
  • New investments, 35%

  • What quality-related activities were part of your primary responsibilities during the past year? (multiple responses allowed)


    The majority of companies (76%) offer their employees opportunities for ongoing training throughout the year.

    For those who took training, quality methodologies such as Six Sigma were the leader with 34% engaging in the type of training, which was down 7% from the previous year. Thirty-one percent of manufacturers took management training and/or ISO, FDA and other regulatory standards training.

    Even though experts stress the importance of on-going training, 22% of respondents did not take any training even though their companies offered it. This is up 4% from the 18% who did not participate in training in 2009.

    Educational opportunities have taken many forms including:
  • Self-study, books, 56%
  • On-the-job training, 50%
  • Online seminars/Webcasts, 42%
  • Trade magazines, 40%
  • Technical training, 39%
  • Off-site seminars, 36%
  • On-site seminars, 32%

  • Highest Level of Education Completed

    When it comes to the differences in gender, more than double the amount of men (14.7%) have taken training in equipment operation/repair vs. 7.3% of women. On the other hand, 42.7% of women have taken training on the transition to ISO 9000: 2008 vs. 28.5% of men.

    While most forms of educational opportunities have remained constant over the years and self-study remains the most popular form of training from year-to-year, those receiving information from online seminars/Webcasts has grown 9% in the past three years; off-site seminars have decreased 10%.

    Look for quality professionals to continue developing their skills in the next 12 months, particularly in the following areas:
  • Project management, 41%
  • Problem-solving, 39%
  • Time management, 30%
  • Employee supervision, 16%
  • Public speaking and presentations, 15%
  • Teamwork, 14%
  • Writing reports and proposals, 14%
  • Finance and accounting, 13%

  • Certification Designations Held (Multiple Responses Allowed)

    Men are more likely to partake in time management training than women, 36.8% vs. 21.5%. Men would also like to develop teamwork skills compared to women, 17.4% 10.8%.

    When it comes to women, they are more likely to develop project management skills than men (52.7% vs. 45.2%) and problem-solving skills (48.4% vs. 43.6%).Q


    A total of 22,512 active, qualifiedQualityMagazine direct-request subscribers were selected from the domestic (United States only) circulation with e-mail addresses whose job titles included management, manufacturing engineering, manufacturing/operations, quality/product assurance, engineering/technical, and research and development. These subscribers principal product manufactured includes: furniture and fixtures, rubber and miscellaneous plastic products, primary metal industries, fabricated metal products, nonelectronic machinery, electric and electronic equipment, transportation equipment and instruments and related products.

    A Web-based survey instrument was designed for the study by the Market Research staff of BNP Media. It was sent via e-mail to subscribers between February 18 to March 3, 2010. As an incentive for response, three respondents had a chance to win a $100 American Express gift card. The survey was returned by 756 people for a response rate of 3%.

    Average Quality Professional at a Glance

  • Gross Annual Compensation: $74,028
  • Average Age: 50
  • Average Years at Current Company: 12
  • Average Length of Career in Years: 19
  • Average Hours Worked Per Week: 46.4
  • Average Number of Employees Supervised: 16
  • Primary Job Function: QA/QC (73%)
  • Average Company Size: 4,496 employees
  • Highest Level of Education: Bachelor’s Degree (39%)
  • Job Satisfaction: Moderate