A Quality Assurance (QA) specialist evaluates products and their performance throughout the production cycle. He or she performs a variety of established procedures as a product is produced and is typically responsible for any problems or potential problems that arise during testing. Depending on the types of products the specialist works with, he or she may be expected to use various types of specialized equipment during testing. Those interested in a quality assurance specialist career must typically get a lot of on-the-job training, although those who perform highly specialized types of tests may be expected to hold an academic degree in a relevant field. In addition, some professional organizations for those who work in the area of quality assurance offer different types of specialist certifications to experienced quality control workers.
When products are developed, they must typically be tested for safety and functionality. In many companies, this is an ongoing process, as errors and problems in manufacturing can crop up at any time. As such, even products that are part of the company's line for a significant period of time must pass through a quality assurance process. It is possible for people to get their start in the area of quality control by performing simple tests on products. Eventually, these workers may be able to progress in their careers by learning how to perform more elaborate tests using laboratory equipment or other tools and skills.
Employers typically want documentation of testing, so a quality assurance specialist is usually responsible for writing up reports on the performance of products that he or she tests. Each employer may have its own standards for writing these reports, however, though in some cases the specialist may need to learn how to properly complete government-issued forms in order to remain in compliance with various health and safety codes. The specialist is responsible for ensuring that information in this documentation accurately describes any problems discovered. In addition, the specialist must also be able to work well with other employees, such as manufacturing supervisors, to ensure that problems are recognized and addressed.
The type of education necessary to become a quality assurance specialist varies by field and employer. Many entry-level quality control jobs can be taught in house, while others may require special skills on the part of the quality control employee. If working in a highly specialized or technical field, a quality assurance specialist may choose to obtain industry certification in that field in order to maximize career opportunities and chances for promotion.