Take a closer look at the quality profession, from salary to the shop floor to larger management concerns.

The averageQualityreader works in the Midwest in a quality or product assurance position. He has been in the quality manufacturing industry for about 24 years, works about 48 hours week, and makes $75,781 a year. The industry also includes those in corporate management in the Northeast making six figures.

Quality’s12th annual State of the Profession survey reveals overall trends in employee compensation, work hours, job constraints, overall job satisfaction and improvements to quality operations. Read more to learn what your peers worry about besides the economy, what they would like to learn, and how much they make.

On the job

Attention to quality is on the rise, as 54% of respondents see their operation committing more resources to quality operations in the next three years. This past year, the size of the quality operations has increased at 39% of companies.

What does the workplace look like for these quality professionals? About half (49%) work at an OEM, while the rest are divided between components and parts manufacturers (32%) and job shops (19%).

Twenty-one percent of respondents work at a company that primarily makes fabricated metal parts. Aerospace followed at 15%; motor vehicles, body, trailer and parts at 9%; medical equipment at 8%; electrical equipment at 8%; plastics and rubber products at 7%. Computer and electronic products were produced at 6% of companies, followed by navigation instruments, machinery, primary metal and other manufacturing.

Including all locations, the average company size is 10,052 employees, while the median is 400 employees. The largest segment of respondents (28%) work at a company of 100 to 500 people.

While 95% of respondents work for companies that have production locations in the United States, production locations are based around the world. China (37%), Mexico (29%), the United Kingdom (22%) and Canada (21%) rounded out the top five. In fact, respondents listed locations on every continent except Antarctica.

Meet Your Peers

The primary job function is quality/product assurance/control for 71% of our readers. The others are in corporate management, manufacturing engineering, manufacturing operations, or research and development.

For 63% of respondents, supervising others is part of the job. Of those, 42% supervise less than five people. The average is 10 people.

Respondents are a stable bunch, with not a lot of turnover. On average, they have spent 13 years at their current company. Forty percent have been with their current company five to 15 years, while 25% have put in less than five years at their current company. Seventeen percent have been with their current company 16 to 25 years, and another 17% have been there more than 25 years.

And they are not new to the industry. The average respondent had 24 years in the quality manufacturing industry. Forty-three percent have more than 25 years of experience in the quality industry, and the numbers decreased from there. Thirty-one percent have 16 to 25 years, 23% have 5 to 15 years, and only 3% have less than five years.

Through the years these quality professionals have spent countless hours on the job. The average per week is 48 hours, with 44% working 40 to 45 hours, 32% working 46 to 50 hours, and 21% working more than 50 hours.

The hours worked have remained roughly the same since last year. The majority (71%) say the number of hours worked has not changed. Twenty-two percent say they are working more, while only 7% have seen a decrease.

For those whose time worked has increased, the average is seven hours. For those who’ve seen their work decrease, it went down by an average of four hours.

And projecting out for next year, numbers look similar. Seventy-one percent predict their hours will remain the same, while 24% expect an increase and only 5% see a decrease.


While on the job, what is the primary quality-related work? The top responses were implementing solutions to problems (79%), interfacing with management (75%), document adherence to formal standards such as ISO (68%), and dealing with customers (65%).

But there are difficulties as well. Namely, time. Time constraints were mentioned by 64% of respondents as a barrier they expected to impact their work. The other constraints received far lower ranks: management support was cited by 36%, dealing with suppliers came in at 32%, as did the skilled labor shortage. Budget cutbacks were mentioned by 31%, while dealing with customers came in at 29%. Other issues mentioned were dealing with new and existing standards, information overload and keeping up with new technologies. For some, moving to a new facility, unfair competition, or being less willing to travel was cited as a constraint.


What does this mean for overall job satisfaction? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not at all satisfied and 10 being extremely satisfied, the average was 7.33. Or, to put another way, 24% of respondents said they were extremely satisfied, while more than half of respondents (52%) ranked themselves as 7 or 8 on the satisfaction scale.

One way to earn job satisfaction is the feeling of accomplishment, and 31% of respondents said that was the most important attribute. Technical challenge ranked as the top issue for 16%, having a good relationship with colleagues came in at 14%, as did job security. Only 11% listed salary as the most important factor in job satisfaction, while 9% cited a pleasant work environment and 3% most valued the chance to be a team leader.

Other factors mentioned included the freedom to try new things, being allowed to work part-time, and the overall company success. Providing jobs for other people also was mentioned, as was the ability to train others on lean manufacturing or work toward Green Belt and Lean certification.

When broken down by job function, those who worked in manufacturing engineering were more likely to value job security. They said it was the most important attribute in job satisfaction, unlike corporate management and quality/product assurance/control staff. Meanwhile, those in corporate management were more likely to say that a feeling of accomplishment is the most valued attribute.

What are you worried about?

The economy, management and job security topped the list of concerns. Economic conditions were cited as their top concern by 29%, management support by 19% and job security by 14%. Keeping current and technology and regulations followed, along with a sufficient operating budget, salary, outsourcing and privatization, and company mergers or acquisitions.

Respondents also worried about doing more with the same staff, burnout, and working with others on process improvements. The quality and skills of the workforce, time to implement projects, and opportunities to use their knowledge and skill set also were cited as areas of concern.

Again, answers varied by job function. Those who were not in management worried more about management support. Corporate management was more likely to indicate that economic conditions were the areas of most concern than the other sectors. Those in manufacturing management and operations were more likely to indicate management support as a top area of concern than those in corporate management. Those working in quality and process control/assurance were more likely to list job security and management support as the areas of most concern than corporate management staff.


This year’s average annual salary was $75,781. This is down from last year’s average of $78,504, which was a 6% jump over 2010’s $74,028. Though the average went down, the verdict was better for individuals, as salaries went up for more than half (51%) of respondents.

The distribution fit into somewhat of a bell curve. Thirteen percent made less than $50,000. The bulk of respondents made between $50,000 and $99,999. The largest group of respondents (38%) fit into the $50,000 to $74,999 range. The next category, $75,000 to $99,000, had 31% of respondents. Fifteen percent made between $100,000 and $130,000. Only 3% made more than $130,000.

If you didn’t receive a bonus last year, it might help to know that almost half (48%) of this group didn’t either. For those that did, the bonus averaged $6,992. Twenty-two percent of bonuses were between $1,000 and $4,999, and 13% of bonuses were between $5,000 and $9,999. The remaining segments came in at single digits. Seven percent received between $10,000 and $14,999, 6% received $15,000 or more, and 5% received less than $1,000 as a bonus.

In terms of overall salary, about half (51%) said that their salary increased from last year, while 44% said their salary did not change. The remaining five percent saw their salaries decrease.

For those who received raises, the gains were modest. The average salary increase was 5%. Seventy-three percent of respondents saw a salary increase of less than 5%. Twenty percent received a salary increase of 5% to 10%. Four percent received a salary increase between 11% and 15%. And 4% received a salary increase above 15%.

But for those who lost salary, the losses were higher. The average drop in salary was 14%. Thirty percent saw their salary decrease by more than 15%. Eleven percent lost 11% to 15% in salary. Thirty-seven percent saw their salary decrease by between 5 and 10%, and 22% saw a decrease of less than 5%.

For the 44% whose salary did not change, reasons included economic conditions and salary freezes. One said the salaried production staff had been operating on a 20% pay reduction since 2009.

For some, the reasons were more nuanced. Bonuses were given instead of salary increases or they had reached the top pay level. One respondent said that salary does go up every year, but overtime went down. Others said that they were the owners of the company so decided to give raises to employees instead of themselves. The Japanese tsunami was also listed as a factor, as it limited production.

Others said the reason related to timing: they had not yet received their review or that raises had not been given yet this year. When the next performance review does happen, 58% expect to see their salary increase, 31% expect no change in salary, and only 1% expect a decrease. Ten percent of respondents said their company does not do performance reviews.

What changes salary?

As one would expect, 76% of respondents said the company’s performance influences their salary. But individual performance also matters, as 59% cited their performance review as an issue. The plant’s overall operating performance was cited as a factor by 43%.

Other factors were tied to the work done. Twenty-nine percent said salary changes could relate to meeting standards such as ISO, 29% cited meeting deadlines for new projects, and 28% said meeting product quality requirements at certain volume or yield levels. Effective use of existing measurement, test and inspection equipment was listed as a factor, as was launching new products, leadership in implementing new technologies and support-oriented tasks such as finance and human resources. Processes-whether it was creating a new test, measurement or inspection process or revising an existing one-also had the potential to affect salary. Establishing a good network of suppliers was also important.

It's All about the Benefits

It is said you don’t have anything if you don’t have your health, and health insurance was listed as the top company-paid benefit, at 93%, followed by 91% with paid vacation. Dental insurance came in at 83%, followed by 401(k) matching at 76%, life insurance at 75%, and vision insurance at 70%. Less common, at just over half (53%) was tuition reimbursement, on the job training (44%), flexible hours (33%) and profit sharing (32%). Pensions were offered at 21%, stock purchase plans at 20% and childcare was available at just 2%. And finally, 2% said they received none of the above company-paid benefits.

Though health care is overwhelming covered, 75% expect the amount they pay for their company’s health care insurance premiums to go up. Nineteen percent foresee no change, while less than one percent see a decrease. Meanwhile, 6% do not use company health insurance.

Though training can be another job benefit, the largest segment of respondents, at 31%, said they received no training in the past 12 months. But for those who did receive training, 29% listed regulatory standards such as ISO and FDA. Management training came in at 27%, methodologies such as Six Sigma were 26%, and certifications were 21%. Training related to software or equipment followed. Software and PC training came in at 18%, while equipment repair and operation was 10%.

And respondents say they want to learn. Top goals revolve around certifications, problems and time. Many are interested in certifications, with 43% citing it as a skill they would like to acquire this year. Thirty-seven percent would be interested in developing problem-solving skills, while 28% were interested in time management. Others are interested in teamwork (13%), employee supervision (12%), public speaking and presentations (11%), writing reports and proposals (11%), and finance and accounting (10%). For some, learning foreign language and finishing a degree topped their list, while others were interested in specific equipment such as coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) or transmissions.


The group of respondents was 89% male and 11% female. Almost half (46%) are between 50 and 59. The next largest segment (27%) fit between 30 and 49. The 60 years and older group comprised 25%. Only 2% are under 30.

The Midwest had 45% of respondents, followed by the South at 24%, the West with 16% and the Northeast at 14%.

The largest group had a bachelor’s degree (43%), while both master’s degrees and associate’s degrees came in at 18%. Only 2% had completed a Ph.D. Twelve percent received their highest education level when they earned a high school diploma, while 8% attained their highest level of education after a certificate program.

When asked about ASQ or Six Sigma certifications, about half (51%) said they had not received any of these. Of those with certifications, ASQ certifications came in at 29%. The Six Sigma Green Belts were 19%, and decreased from there. The Black Belts were 11%, Champions were 2%, and just 1% were Six Sigma Black Belts.

The Survey Explained

The online survey was sent to a systematic random sample of the domestic circulation of active, qualified Quality subscribers with an email address on file. Three $100 American Express gift checks were randomly given to three people who completed the survey between February 21 to March 6, 2012. It was sent to 16,017 people, and had a response rate of 3%.

So the next time you worry about finding the time for a new project, rest assured that it’s not just you. Other people worry about the economy, job security and getting management support. Though salary is not the only thing that motivates you at work, it is a factor. And for the 58% expecting a raise at your next performance review, best of luck.Q

For state-of-the-profession analysis from past years, visit www.qualitymag.com:

Management: Money Makes a Comeback

Back to Business

Mission Accomplished

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