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Q is for Quality Control

by Tim O'Neill
November 2016

Over 800 defined occupations, only one, “Rock Splitters, Quarry,” has a word beginning with q. To get around this dilemma, we will focus instead on quality control, and the one occupation that embodies this the most, “Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers.”

What are we Inspecting?

The occupational title for Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers, referred to as inspectors for brevity, is one of the most straight-forward and self-defining titles of any occupation. From the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Employment Statistics program, Inspectors “inspect, test, sort, sample, or weigh nonagricultural raw materials or processed, machined, fabricated, or assembled parts or products for defects, wear, and deviations from specifications.” Essentially, inspectors perform quality control.

Spread over a number of major industry sectors, inspectors may be responsible for a wide variety of specific tasks. Such tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Reading blueprints, data, manuals, or other materials to determine specifications, inspection and testing procedures, adjustment methods, certification processes, formulas, or measuring instruments required

  • Recording inspection data or test data, such as weights, temperatures, grades, or moisture content, and quantities inspected or graded

  • Marking products with details such as grade or acceptance-rejection status

  • Recommending necessary corrective actions, based on inspection results

While the specific tasks may vary from one inspector position to the next, the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for inspectors are largely the same across the board. In terms of knowledge, inspectors are expected to learn about production and processing in order to maximize the effective manufacturing and distribution of goods. Additionally, knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistics are needed to a certain degree, as well as certain computer applications and programming. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, an estimated 57 percent of inspectors have some level of post-secondary education in Minnesota.

Employers hiring inspectors will be looking for candidates with good active listening, critical thinking, monitoring, and reading comprehension skills. Those hoping to be inspectors will need to be able to convey information as effectively as the tests and inspections they perform.

More information on the knowledge, skills, and abilities inspectors will need can be found at CareerOneStop: www.careeronestop.org/.

Sorting out Wages

In the state of Minnesota approximately 8,700 inspectors earn an hourly median wage of $17.53. As such, inspectors earn approximately 7 percent less than median earnings for the total of all jobs. Inspectors in the Twin Cities Metro Area, however, earn an hourly median wage of $19.26, slightly more than the median earnings for the total of all jobs. What’s more, nearly 60 percent of inspectors are located in the Twin Cities Metro Area. The starting hourly wage for inspectors in Minnesota, around $10.29, is higher than the starting wage for the total of all jobs, around $9.38 (see Table 1 for a breakdown of inspector wages across the state of Minnesota).

Table 1. Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Wage Data - First Quarter, 2016



Wage Percentiles






United States














Twin Cities Metro Area







Central MN







Southeast MN







Southwest MN







Northwest MN







Northeast MN







Source: MN DEED Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Program

Not surprisingly, nearly three-fourths of inspectors are employed in Manufacturing, with a median hourly wage of $18.81. An estimated 1,100 inspectors are employed in Professional and Business Services, with a median hourly wage of $14.79. The remaining inspectors in the state, just over 800 of them, are employed in Trade, Transportation, and Utilities; Other Services; Natural Resources and Mining; and Public Administration.

Weighing in on the Future

Looking forward, one technological trend will have major implications on the growth of inspectors: automation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, “many manufacturers have invested in automated inspection equipment to improve quality and productivity…[C]ontinued improvements in technology allow manufacturers to automate inspection tasks, increasing workers’ productivity and reducing the demand for inspectors.” Automation, with increased productivity per worker as its goal, is one of the major reasons why Manufacturing employment is projected to decrease through the next decade. More specifically, Manufacturing employment is anticipated to contract by 4.6 percent in Minnesota between 2014 and 2024. Automation in the inspector occupation is just one piece of that overall trend. Despite the impact of automation in the long run, employers are still looking to fill inspector positions as current workers retire or otherwise leave the occupation (see Table 2).

Table 2. Long Term Occupational Projections, 2014-2024

United States


Percent Change

Projected Job Openings



Total, All Jobs












Percent Change

Projected Job Openings



Total, All Jobs










Source: MN DEED Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Program

For more information on Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers visit DEED’s Career and Education Explorer tool at mn.gov/deed/data/data-tools/career-education-explorer/.

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