Many firms create quality systems consisting of plans, processes and procedures designed to ensure their goods and services comply with specifications and meet quality standards necessary to compete successfully in the marketplace. QA (quality assurance) auditors examine and appraise these quality systems at specified intervals to determine whether they are performing as required and, if not, to help initiate corrective actions.
Most quality systems dictate periodic internal audits performed by in-house auditors. Typically, the firm trains and appoints certain employees to work as internal quality assurance auditors. These auditors perform additional roles in the quality program or in other departments and perform the auditing function as needed.
A quality assurance auditor acts individually or as a team member. Auditors familiarize themselves with policies and procedures guiding an aspect of the quality system, enter a work area, interview employees and observe operations. They then report on any noncompliance with written instructions and policies.
In addition, firms hire external quality assurance auditors to provide objective proof that the quality system complies not only with internal standards but also with requirements of their customers or international certifying bodies. However, they perform the same basic duties as internal auditors.
Auditors possess the ability to comprehend the requirements a firm's written policies, procedures and instructions. They think objectively and determine compliance or noncompliance with requirements by the use of skilled observation and interviews. More experienced or trained auditors may be appointed as "leads." Lead auditors plan audits, conduct opening and closing meetings, and take responsibility for the overall management of an audit.
Education and Training
Most firms do not require special educational requirements for a quality assurance auditor beyond a high school diploma. The American Society for Quality offers internal auditor courses and certification but a firm may provide its own training. ASQ also offers more advanced instruction. The Certified Quality Auditor designation requires extensive experience or additional education beyond high school.
QA auditors with sufficient training and experience may become lead auditors. Certified and skilled lead auditors can potentially land positions with third-party, external auditing firms as full-time employees.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average annual wage for quality control inspectors in May 2008 was $31,240 annually or $15.02 hourly. Indeed.com reported quality auditor jobs in May 2010 offering wages between $30,000 and $110,000.
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