Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control: Choosing the Right Career Path

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Quality assurance and quality control are both part of quality management. This guide will outline the job roles of quality assurance and quality control, along with the skills, qualifications, salaries, and job outlooks for them.

[Featured Image]: QA tester, working with the team reviewing quality standards while developing the latest product.

Quality assurance and quality control are parts of quality management and have some similarities, but they differ in many ways. This guide will outline the job roles of quality assurance and quality control professionals along with their skills, qualifications, salaries, and job outlooks to help you decide between the two career paths.

What is quality assurance?

Quality assurance (QA) is a set of activities and procedures, called quality standards, during and after product development or project management. It helps ensure you're creating a high-quality product or have a successful project outcome and seeks to solve problems experienced by consumers after a product or service hits the market. QA involves ensuring a project or product is advancing toward delivery and that an organization or team is adhering to standards or guidelines.

What is quality control?

Quality control (QC) monitors results after a product is developed and produced. That means checking product development or project outcomes to meet the previously defined quality standards. QC is a reactive process that responds to problems and aims to detect errors, such as software defects, glitches, or imperfections. This helps ensure you are producing a high-quality product before it reaches consumers. Organizations typically have a systematic approach to QCing products. 

How is quality assurance different from quality control?

Quality assurance is the guidelines, policies, and procedures to make a high-quality product and avoid defects. In contrast, quality control is the product’s actual review during production to ensure it is created to the highest standards. While quality assurance occurs during the entire process, from planning to maintenance of a product or project, quality control happens during the inspection phase.

Another difference between QA and QC is that QA is proactive, while QC is reactive to any glitches or problems found. QA focuses on the processes during development, and QC is more about the product. Lastly, QA is an organization-wide responsibility, while smaller teams handle QC work testing the product. 

Why is QA important?

QA is important because it benefits an organization to have set guidelines and standards, such as those for training, documentation, monitoring, and audits during production. It’s a continuous effort to improve and ensure quality. QA guidelines also keep projects in scope and on track by aligning team members on collaboration practices and methods, such as code reviews in software development.

Why is QC important?

QC is important because it identifies and corrects problems and defects as they occur to make sure that the final product is the highest quality possible. QC can involve software testing and beta or canary testing, which provide lessons applicable to future projects and products. Without QC, the organization can’t be sure that the product works as intended and suits the customers’ needs. A proper QC process leads to happier customers who have more incentive to be loyal to the company. 

Getting started in quality management

Quality management is the process of monitoring and managing the quality of a company’s services and products to ensure that they fulfill requirements and meet customers' needs. Quality standards are the guidelines for that process, and quality planning establishes its process and procedures. Whether you want to work in QA, QC, or another aspect of quality management, you can get started by enrolling in the education and training you need. 

Earn a bachelor’s degree

Your first step to your quality management career is to obtain your bachelor’s degree in a field related to quality control, such as business administration or quality control management. You will take coursework in mathematics, systems management, measurements, and business management, among others. You can also consider an associate degree in quality management as a step to earning your bachelor's. Examples of bachelor's degrees you can pursue include:

  • Bachelor of Manufacturing Management in Quality Management for when you are interested in manufacturing or processing environments and want to work on a management team in business or industrial fields.

  • Bachelor of Science in Quality Systems and Improvement Management to learn how to analyze business practices and ensure businesses create effective plans to realize a substantial return on investment in any industry, including health care, education, manufacturing, hospitality, and government.

  • Bachelor of Science in Business Quality Management to learn the fundamentals of quality management, including teamwork, negotiations, conflict resolution, data analysis, and change management in any industry.

  • Bachelor of Science in Quality Assurance to prepare for or enhance your current career in quality assurance principles and practices.

Read more: What Is a Bachelor’s Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More

Earn a master's degree (optional)

A master's degree is optional but enhances your resume, and managerial positions typically don’t require an advanced degree. Still, they can make you a stronger candidate when you’re searching for a QA or QC position and help you gain added skills and knowledge to excel in your field. Some master's degrees to consider include the following:

  • Master of Science in Quality Management to help prepare you for or enhance your role as a quality manager or quality specialist in any industry.

  • Master of Business Administration to understand business management principles, which can be applied to any field you are working in or want to pursue.

Read more: What Is a Master’s Degree?

Earn relevant certifications

Most quality management positions don’t require certifications, but they often help you stand out in the job market. Many relevant certifications for QA and QC roles are American Society for Quality (ASQ) and Six Sigma certifications:

American Society for Quality (ASQ) certifications

The American Society for Quality offers training and certification in quality management. Some certificates are role- or industry-specific, so you can gain targeted training and certification in your field of interest. Some of the many certifications ASQ offers include:

  • Quality Process Analyst (CQPA) for paraprofessionals whose work supports quality engineers and supervisors.

  • Manager of Quality Organizational Excellence (CMQ/OE) for management professionals who lead initiatives to improve processes in small to multinational businesses.

  • Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) for individuals working in quality control systems.

  • Certified Calibration Technician (CCT) for technicians who calibrate, maintain, and repair instruments and equipment

  • Food Safety and Quality Auditor (CFSQA) for professionals responsible for auditing food safety and process safety systems.

  • Software Quality Engineer (CSQE) for professionals who work in software development and ensure its quality through inspection, testing, and verification.

Six Sigma certifications

Six Sigma certifications validate your expertise in process improvement. You can pursue five levels of Six Sigma and five levels of Lean Six Sigma certification. The latter is based on Lean project management principles, which focus on eliminating waste, increasing customer satisfaction, and elevating a company's profit margin.

Other skills and requirements for quality management roles

Quality management requires specific skills, including attention to detail, communication, organization, leadership, and tech skills. You should also understand the legal standards in the various fields, especially the one in which you want to work. Data analysis skills are also beneficial.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is important in quality management because it is a business management strategy that aims to improve the quality of processes by minimizing and eventually removing errors and variations. Six Sigma enables quality assurance and control and helps ensure a superior product. 


It is beneficial to have experience and knowledge of Minitab, which is a statistical software used in quality management is beneficial. This software discovers and predicts patterns, uncovers hidden relationships between variables, and creates visualizations, which can help make processes more efficient.

Lean management

Another essential concept in quality management is lean management, a system of techniques that aims to eliminate all non-value-adding activities and waste from a business. As both QA and QC intend to reduce or eliminate waste, knowledge of Lean manufacturing would improve your skills.

Theory of constraints

The theory of constraints (TOC) methodology identifies bottlenecks and constraints. This is key in QA and QC processes because both aim to make development more efficient. TOC allows rapid improvement, less inventory, and higher profit.

Why pursue a career in quality management?

As a quality assurance or control professional, you’ll be sought after by companies who want to keep their customers happy and businesses efficiently running while producing the best possible products and services. Other reasons to pursue a career in quality:

Take organizations from good to great

Your overall goal as a quality management professional is to improve the organization’s work. You will have the opportunity to help it improve from good to great. The customers will be happier creating better products, and the organization will be more satisfied with their work. 

Move from sector to sector

Opportunities open up in various sectors when you pursue a career in quality management. You can work in software development, customer service, hospitality, product testing, marketing, and many other industries. Your quality management skills will translate if you decide to switch fields. 

Find out what makes organizations tick (or stop ticking)

As a quality assurance professional, you help keep an organization working toward its mission. You will look for ways to improve constantly, thus making the outcomes more favorable. You can also see what keeps an organization from working to its full potential.

Set up your own business

Another option for you if you go into quality assurance or quality control is to own your own business. You can work as a consultant or quality assurance, or control contractor. You can also sell your quality management training or services online or in person. This would allow you to work with various companies of all sizes. 

Job outlook and career prospects for QA and QC professionals

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for software quality assurance analysts and testers is $97,710 [1].  

The BLS also reports that the median annual wage for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers is $109,020 The job outlook is expected to grow 25 percent from 2021 to 2031 [2]. 

As of May 2021, the median annual salary for quality control inspectors is $38,580 [3]. This includes QC professionals in various industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, professional services, and scientific services.

How much do quality assurance managers make?

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for a quality assurance manager is $81,651 [4]. The base salary increases to over $143,596 when you become a director of quality for a company [5]. If you advance to vice president of quality, you could make an average base salary of $175,120 per year, according to Glassdoor [6].

Where can quality assurance or quality control professionals work?

You can work in virtually any industry as a quality assurance or quality control professional. Here are some examples:

  • Manufacturing: Test goods and products to ensure they meet quality standards

  • Foodservice: Ensure products meet FDA and other legal requirements and food safety standards

  • Health care: Ensure the best patient outcomes by designing policies and procedures

  • Corporate retail: Prevent defective products from making it into the market

  • Information technology: Test software and other technology and catch problems and collaborate with developers to fix them

  • Engineering: Monitoring contractors and builders to ensure performance and safety during a job

  • Transportation: Ensure quality in the building and maintenance of roadways, curbs, sidewalks, bridges, and other structures and transportation methods

  • Education: Monitoring quality in academics, administration, and related services 

Job titles in quality management with salaries

Salaries can vary significantly in quality management roles. The following are the average base annual salaries for additional positions within the quality management field, according to Glassdoor:

  • Quality technician: $41,658 [7

  • Quality auditor: $41,658 [8]

  • Quality coordinator: $53,772 [9]

  • Quality assurance tester: $63,453 [10]

  • Quality control supervisor:$50,073 [11]

  • Quality analyst: $56,464 [12]

  • Quality engineer: $75,710[13]

Which should I choose? Quality assurance vs. quality control

To choose between quality assurance or quality control, consider which part of the process you want to participate in, either preventing defects by improving the process or inspecting the product. You can find rewarding careers in each, and both are vital in quality management.

Start your journey to a QA or QC role

If you're ready to pursue a career in quality assurance and quality control, you can start your journey to your quality management job. First, you'll need education and training.

Research which program you are interested in based on your goals. On Coursera, you can take courses from the University of Georgia on Six Sigma, including the Six Sigma Principles.



Six Sigma Principles

This course is for you if you are looking to learn more about Six Sigma or refresh your knowledge of the basic components of Six Sigma and Lean. Six Sigma ...


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Average time: 1 month(s)

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Lean Six Sigma, Process Improvement, Six Sigma, Lean Methods

Learn about quality management in the information systems industry with The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's Information Systems Auditing, Controls, and Assurance course. Rutgers has a course geared toward working in the health care industry, Quality Improvement in Healthcare Organizations. You can also get started on your MBA through degree programs on Coursera. One such program is the iMBA from the University of Illinois.


Master of Business Administration (iMBA)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, 15-1253 Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151253.htm." Accessed February 23, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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