Are you considering a career in quality control? Curious about whether it would be suitable for you?
Quality Control, often abbreviated to QC, is the practice of ensuring consistent quality throughout a manufacturing process and also uniformity in a company’s products. A large number of scientific and technical companies will have dedicated QC departments however QC is also required in a range of other industries. Depending on the size of the company, there may be many individuals who are each responsible for a different area of the QC process, or alternatively the QC duties may not be a full-time job and may be shared amongst different staff.
- Prepare and test samples from all phases of a manufacturing or other handling process, with the goal of determining if the substance meets the standards or requirements of the project.
- Work at the start of the production process (Raw Materials Analyst), during production itself (In Process Analyst) or at the end of manufacture (Finished Product testing).
- Ensure that experiments are completed according to established Standard Operating Practices (SOPs), and also Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) or Good Clinical Practices (GCP) for highly regulated industries.
- A variety of methods vary from industry to industry but generally require basic lab-work and use of chemical or pharma testing equipment and processes.
- Prepare technical documents that report the results of their lab work.
- Responsible for minor equipment troubleshooting, calibration and repair.
- Establish specifications for conducting assays and writing standard operating procedures.
Qualifications and skills necessary
QC Analysts usually need a degree or equivalent (or higher) in chemistry or a subject relevant to the industry sector they are going to work in. This could be pharmaceutical sciences or biochemistry, for example. For entry level roles, attention to detail, the ability to work both in a team or individually and good mathematical skills are all required. In some industry sectors the work is very fast paced, therefore the ability to succeed in a high-pressure environment would be advantageous.
For a role where experience is required, proven knowledge of methods/techniques such as HPLC, GC, and MS will be required. The skills necessary for the role will vary on the industry sector you are working within, what is being tested and for what purpose. Experience of having mentored, trained, supervised or managed other staff may help in career progression.
What to expect
You may be required to work on a shift basis, in which case you would likely be on a two or three shift rotation (usually 6am-2pm and 2pm-10pm and nights), rotating on a weekly basis. Weekend work will likely also be required. Shift patterns may not be for everyone, but this kind of work can be advantageous allowing time off during the week to help out with home commitments.
Some QC Analyst roles are conventional in nature, and the samples you test/test methods you use will be similar day to day. This is good for those who enjoy routine and excelling. On the other hand, some can be very varied and will incorporate a variety of test methods and types of samples.
The quality function is often very important within businesses, as the main aim is to check that the company’s product meets the standard required. In most companies there will be SOPs and internal standards to adhere to, and in certain industries there will be additional regulations, legislation and guidelines to comply with. Therefore, internal and external audits are performed to ensure that the quality function is delivering consistent and detailed results.
For an entry level role, a basic salary generally ranges between £18,000 and £22,000. If shift work is required, a monetary shift allowance may be given.
For a QC Analyst role where experience is required, the salary can vary widely. Most will be between £25,000 and £35,000, however the range can be as wide as £20,000 – £45,000. The more senior the role, the more niche the analytical skill set is likely to be, and so this will affect the salary offered. Location will also be a varying factor.
Types of employers
QC Analysts exist in a large variety of science and chemical industry sectors, so you could work for a multitude of different types of companies. Some of these include:
- Chemical manufacturers
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Environmental consultancies
- Waste management companies
- Materials manufacturers (plastics, resins, polymers etc)
- Chemical distribution companies
- Water/utilities companies
- Medical device manufacturers
- Gene therapy developers
A QC Analyst vacancy is an excellent role to begin a career in industry. Candidates will be required to perform a variety of tasks which will provide a broad range of experience which can be transferred into future positions. Having gained some industrial experience, you may decide to move into quality in another industry or working environment.
A quality background may open doors into other areas of a business and there are other roles that can be progressed into in the Quality Department such as:
- QA Manager
- QA Auditor
- QC Supervisor
- QA Officer