The difference between quality control vs quality assurance

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

It's important that businesses focus on maintaining high levels of quality in the products and services they offer to their customers. Both quality control and quality assurance professionals work within a quality management setting to keep standards high, but the two fields have many differences. While quality control is about vetting products after production, quality assurance is about developing processes that keep quality high during production. In this article, we explore quality control vs quality assurance, looking at the similarities and differences between these fields and exploring job opportunities in both.

Defining quality control vs quality assurance

If you want to know more about the similarities and differences between these two fields, it's important to understand the definitions of quality control vs quality assurance. In both fields, professionals ensure that a company's products remain consistently high quality, but the processes, focus, goals and responsibilities of professionals in each field are slightly different. It's important to understand these differences before you apply for roles in quality management:

Quality control

Quality control (QC) is the process of checking the quality of products and services after the company has produced them. This involves examining products and processes to make sure they meet certain standards. QC professionals use a variety of methods to assess quality, including:

  • sampling and testing products after production

  • inspecting manufacturing plants during production

  • completing audits on manufacturing processes

Quality assurance

Quality assurance (QA) is the process of ensuring that products and services meet certain standards before they ship to customers. This involves developing processes and procedures that keep quality high during production and ensure that products meet the quality standards set by QA managers. QA professionals maintain high standards during production by:

  • developing quality control plans and documentation protocols

  • auditing internal QA procedures during production

  • training employees to keep quality high

Similarities and differences between QC and QA

To understand the differences between the fields of quality control and quality assurance, it's important to understand where the similarities and differences between these professions lie. QC and QA professionals both work in quality management, but their goals and processes are different. Below is a list of different factors and comparisons to consider:

Goals

The goals of both quality assurance and quality control teams are different. Quality assurance professionals ensure high quality during the production life cycle by implementing processes and testing that keep standards high. Quality control professionals exist only to test and validate the quality of products after production. QA is a field that incorporates elements of management, inventory and testing, while QC is more limited.

For example, a quality assurance professional may develop QA processes for all staff members to follow to improve the quality of products in the future. A quality control professional working at the same level might ensure that products in a particular batch meet the company's quality standards. Both professionals work towards the greater goal of maintaining high-quality standards across the company.

Related: How to develop SMART goals

Orientation and focus

Quality assurance teams focus on processes, while quality control teams focus on products. QA professionals work to standardise the processes that go into manufacturing products to prevent quality issues from arising. QC professionals are responsible for identifying issues with products after the production stage and fixing these before shipping the products to customers. This also means that while QA is a proactive process that seeks to prevent issues in advance, QC is a reactive process that aims to fix issues after they arise.

Activities

The activities that quality assurance and quality control teams perform are also different. Quality assurance professionals develop quality control plans and documentation protocols, audit internal QA procedures during production and train employees to keep quality high. Quality control professionals sample and test products after production, inspect manufacturing plants during production and complete audits on manufacturing processes.

For example, a quality assurance inspector might spend a lot of their time in an office assessing quality data, preparing quality management strategies and developing training materials to ensure that all production staff members know how to keep quality high. A quality control inspector spends more time on the factory floor, inspecting the quality of the items produced and investigating production.

Timeline

The timeline on which QA and QC professionals work is also slightly different. Quality assurance is usually a long-term process that can take weeks, months and years and which takes place before, during and after production. Quality control is a much shorter process that usually occurs at the end of production.

For example, quality assurance professionals may create QA protocols before the first batch of a product enters production. During production, they analyse data on production quality, and after production, they make recommendations on how production quality might improve. Quality control professionals only work on the quality of products at the end of the production stage, gathering information on the quality of products and making corrections to improve a select batch of items.

Responsibilities

Quality assurance and quality control roles carry different levels of responsibility and accountability. Quality assurance professionals are responsible for developing and implementing quality control policies, while quality control professionals ensure that products meet company standards. The ultimate responsibility of the quality of a product rests on everyone involved in the production process, including designers, developers, labourers and quality management professionals. The responsibility for any serious lapses in quality depends on exactly where and why the issue arose.

For example, a quality assurance professional might be responsible for creating a policy that requires QC teams to test all products before they leave the factory. A quality control professional is responsible for ensuring that the products leaving the factory meet the company's standards. If an issue arises because the QC inspector passed products that didn't meet company standards, the quality control team is accountable for this.

Related: What is accountability in the workplace (with tips)?

Job opportunities in QC and QA

If you're considering a career in quality control or quality assurance, it's important to understand where the job opportunities in quality management lie and what kind of work you might do in both fields. Quality control and quality assurance jobs exist in a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, food production, software development and hospitality. Below is a list of roles in quality management alongside their average salary:

1. Quality assurance inspector

National average salary: £36,440 per year

Primary duties: A quality assurance inspector is responsible for inspecting products and processes to make sure they meet certain standards during the production stage. They work in a variety of industries, including manufacturing and food production. These roles can be entry-level or middle-management positions. Depending on your experience, you might assist a quality assurance manager when creating documents, gathering data or writing reports on quality for senior staff members.

Related: QA Interview Questions and How To Answer Them

2. Quality control inspector

National average salary: £30,850 per year

Primary duties: Quality control inspectors examine the products and materials that a company produces to ensure they meet certain standards. They use sampling and testing methods to check products and inspect manufacturing plants and processes. Quality control inspectors have experience in quality control, in addition to leadership skills and analytical skills that allow them to identify issues with quality and motivate staff to create long-lasting change.

3. Quality technician

National average salary: £23,968 per year

Primary duties: Quality technicians work in entry-level roles in quality management, which explains the role's lower average salary compared to other roles. After working as a quality technician, professionals can move into either quality control or quality assurance positions. Quality technicians assist quality professionals in making notes, testing products and carrying out essential administration work.

4. Quality manager

National average salary: £41,531 per year

Primary duties: Experienced quality professionals can work their way up to the role of a quality manager with relevant experience and qualifications. Quality managers earn more money on average and are also more accountable for the quality of a company's products. It's possible to become a quality manager with experience in both QC and QA. As a manager, it's important that you have leadership skills, interpersonal skills and strong communication skills.

Related: 12 ways to improve your manager communication skills

5. Quality engineer

National average salary: £34,253 per year

Primary duties: Quality engineers ensure that products meet certain engineering standards. They work in a variety of industries, including manufacturing and automotive production. Quality engineers use their knowledge of engineering principles and practices to develop and improve quality management systems and ensure that the quality of products their company delivers remains high. A career in quality engineering could be ideal for qualified engineers who are considering a move into quality management, but who also wish to continue using the skills and knowledge they've developed as engineers.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

Related:

  • What is quality assurance and why is it so important?

  • What does a quality engineer do? With definition and skills


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