More than once, your friends and family have accused you of being “nitpicky.” You’re known for your eye for detail — some might even call it perfectionism — and you never do anything without making sure all of the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. If that sounds familiar, then a career in quality assurance might be perfect for you.

What Is Quality Assurance?

Quality assurance roles are found in every industry. In almost every situation, quality assurance analysts are charged with inspecting or reviewing a product or service to ensure that it meets quality standards. Depending on the product, those standards could be determined by the company itself, or via a regulatory agency.

In the pharmaceutical and health care industries, quality assurance analysts fulfill two important roles: First, they ensure that all processes and products comply with government regulations, and second, ensure that the manufacturing or delivery process is safe, and that the products are both safe and work as they should. This usually includes overseeing inspections, managing reporting to relevant agencies, and staying abreast of new developments and regulations to educate others within the company to ensure compliance.

In some cases, QA analysts conduct inspections themselves, looking for defects in products or identifying lapses in procedure. For example, a quality assurance analyst in a hospital may review a selection of patient records to identify issues that are leading to long lengths of stay or patient falls, and then work with a team to develop corrective actions. In a pharmaceutical company, a QA analyst might inspect records related to the development of a new drug to ensure that the documentation being sent to the FDA for approval is correct and complete.

Becoming a Quality Assurance Analyst

The most important trait for a QA analyst is an attention to detail. The typical application for approval for a new drug consists of thousands of pages of documentation, all of which must be submitted in the proper format and free of any errors. However, even those analysts not involved with regulatory compliance must have the ability to spot issues quickly, and have a thorough knowledge of standards.

Within the pharmaceutical industry, the top quality assurance professionals (directors, etc.) generally have at least a decade of experience working in the pharmaceuticals industry as well as a master’s degree or higher in a related field. However, there are a growing number of graduate-level programs in health care quality, given the increased emphasis on quality brought about by health care reform. These programs are training individuals with experience in business and health care in the fundamentals of health care quality, including research methods and reporting. That experience often paves the way to positions in the pharmaceutical industry.

While certification isn’t necessarily required to land a job in quality assurance, the American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers a number of certification programs to formally recognize proficiency in quality assurance. Many QA professionals opt to seek certification in Six Sigma and LEAN methodology, while other options for certification in quality improvement and analysis are also available. The requirements for each type of certification vary, but usually include minimum levels of experience and education.

Job Outlook and Salaries

Recently, there’s been some speculation that the number of quality assurance roles in the pharmaceutical industry would decline, as fewer companies are developing new drugs for FDA approval. While there may have been a slight dip, QA analysts do more than manage regulatory affairs, and there will always be a need for them. Not to mention, with a greater emphasis on improved health care quality overall, there is a growing need for individuals with knowledge and experience in this arena.

Salaries for quality assurance analysts and managers tend to be competitive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a director of quality assurance or quality control for a pharmaceutical company averages between $120,000 and $130,000 annually. A hospital quality assurance manager can expect to earn a median wage of about $118,000 annually; even the lowest 10 percent of hospital quality managers earn about $96,000 a year. In most cases there is potential for growth.

Quality assurance is an important role in the health care industry, whether in the world of pharmaceuticals or in a direct patient care setting. If you are known for your attention to detail and have an interest in ensuring safe and effective health care options, then pursuing this career may be right for you.

Author's Bio: 

Cher Zavala has worked extensively in the Health Industry, and has written many helpful articles on how to find options for treatment and targets health related issues. She loves sharing her experience and knowledge with the blogging community, and knows firsthand the complex issues facing addicts in recovery.