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Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
The American Society for Quality offers 15 different types of certifications for workers in quality control. These certifications may assist workers in advancing within the occupation. They generally require a certain number of years of experience in the field and passage of an exam.

Advancement for workers with the necessary skills frequently takes the form of additional duties and responsibilities. Complex inspection positions are filled by experienced assemblers, machine operators, or mechanics who already have a thorough knowledge of the products and production processes. To advance to these positions, experienced workers may need training in statistical process control, new automation, or the company's quality assurance policies. Because automated inspection equipment and electronic recording of results are becoming common, computer skills also are important.

Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers held about 464,700 jobs in 2008. About 69 percent worked in manufacturing establishments that produced such products as motor vehicle parts, plastics products, semiconductor and other electronic components, and aerospace products and parts. Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers also were found in employment services; wholesale trade; and professional, scientific, and technical services.

Job Outlook
Like many other occupations concentrated in manufacturing industries, employment is expected to decline slowly, primarily because of the growing use of automated inspection and the redistribution of some quality-control responsibilities from inspectors to production workers.

Job Growth
Employment of inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers is expected to decline by 4 percent between 2008 and 2018. Because the majority of these employees work in the manufacturing sector, their outlook is greatly affected by what happens to manufacturing companies. The emphasis on improving quality and productivity has led many manufacturers to invest in automated inspection equipment and to take a more systematic approach to quality inspection. Continued improvements in technologies allow firms to automate inspection tasks, increasing workers' productivity and reducing the demand for inspectors.

In addition, work in many manufacturing companies continues to move abroad. As more production moves offshore, the number of quality-control workers is expected to decline as well.

Firms increasingly are integrating quality control into the production process. Many inspection duties are being redistributed from specialized inspectors to fabrication and assembly workers, who monitor quality at every stage of the production process. In addition, the growing implementation of statistical process control is resulting in “smarter” inspection. Using this system, firms survey the sources and incidence of defects so that they can better focus their efforts on reducing the number of defective products manufactured.

In some industries, however, automation is not a feasible alternative to manual inspection. Where key inspection elements are oriented toward size, such as length, width, or thickness, automation will become more important in the future. But where taste, smell, texture, appearance, complexity of fabric, or performance of the product is important, inspection will continue to be done by workers.

Although numerous job openings will arise through the need to replace workers who move out of this large occupation, many of these jobs will be open only to experienced workers with advanced skills. There will be better opportunities in the employment services industry, as more manufacturers use contract inspection workers, and in growing manufacturing industries, such as medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.

Median hourly wages of inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers were $15.02 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.58 and $19.52 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.28 an hour, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $25.47 an hour.

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