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How to Become a QA Engineer

By Emma Philo

Published:

In the dynamic world of software development, the role of a Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer is pivotal. As technology becomes more intertwined with our lives, ensuring impeccable software experiences is essential. QA engineers are the unsung heroes behind the scenes, meticulously testing, predicting user interactions, and guaranteeing exceptional digital products. This article unveils the journey to becoming a QA engineer – exploring steps, skills, challenges, and triumphs in this thriving field.

Career Summary

What is a QA Engineer?

QA Engineer Salary

A QA (Quality Assurance) engineer is a professional responsible for ensuring that software products meet established standards of quality, including functionality, usability, and performance. They design and execute test plans, identify software defects, and collaborate with development teams to ensure a product’s reliability and user satisfaction.

Quality Assurance Engineer Salary

The salary of a Quality Assurance engineer can vary, with the approximate wage ranges as follows, according to Glassdoor.com:

  • Entry Salary (US$72k)
  • Median Salary (US$91k)
  • Executive Salary (US$124k)

This median salary for QA engineers exceeds the national average income of U.S. citizens, which was approximately $61,900 per year as of 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

QA Engineer Career Progression

The career progression of a Quality Assurance Engineer can be diverse, encompassing a range of roles and responsibilities as they gain experience and expertise.

Here’s a typical career path:

  • QA Engineer: Start by learning testing methodologies, executing test cases, and identifying defects.
  • Senior QA Engineer: Take on more complex projects, mentor junior team members, and contribute to test strategy development.
  • QA Lead or Team Lead: Lead a team of QA engineers and oversee testing strategies for projects, ensuring that testing objectives are met.
  • QA Manager: Manage multiple QA teams or the entire QA department, define quality standards, and work with other managers to ensure products meet desired quality levels.
  • QA Director or Head of QA: At this level, you’ll set the overall direction for quality assurance across the organization, coordinate with executive leadership, and ensure alignment of QA strategies with business objectives.
QA Engineer Career Progression

Pros:

  • Contributing to Quality
  • Continuous Learning
  • Variety of Industries
  • Problem Solving
  • Automation Mastery
  • User-Centric Focus

Cons:

  • Repetitive Tasks
  • Tight Deadlines
  • Frequent Changes
  • Unpredictable Workload
  • High Expectations
  • Balancing Detail and Time

Useful Skills to Have as a QA Engineer

  • Analytical and Problem-Solving Skills
  • Attention to Detail
  • Technical Proficiency
  • Effective Communication Skills
  • Knowledge of Testing Tools and Methodologies

Popular QA Engineer Specialties

QA engineers have the opportunity to specialize in various domains within the quality assurance field. These specialties allow professionals to focus on specific aspects of software testing and quality.

Here are some popular QA engineer specialties:

  • Automation Testing Specialist
  • Performance Testing Specialist
  • Security Testing Specialist
  • Mobile App Testing Specialist
  • Usability Testing Specialist
  • API Testing Specialist
  • Accessibility Testing Specialist

How to become a QA Engineer

QA Engineer 5 Steps to Career

Embarking on a career as a Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer entails a structured pathway of learning, skill development, and practical experience. This section outlines the common steps to becoming a QA engineer, providing valuable insights into the journey that awaits those seeking to excel in this dynamic and pivotal field.

Education

Do I need a degree to become a QA engineer?

No, you do not necessarily need a degree to become a Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer.  While a degree can provide a structured educational foundation, the QA field often places more emphasis on practical skills and experience. Employers may prioritize your ability to effectively test software and collaborate with development teams. Be prepared to showcase your skills, portfolio of work, and willingness to learn and adapt as the software industry evolves.

You can build a successful career in QA by gaining relevant experience, acquiring certifications (such as ISTQB), and continually learning about testing techniques and tools. Ultimately, the decision to pursue a degree should align with your career goals and the specific requirements of the QA roles you’re interested in.

What are the benefits of getting a degree in software engineering?

While a degree in software engineering is not always a strict requirement to become a Quality Assurance Engineer, having such a degree can provide several benefits that can be valuable in a QA role.

Here’s why a software engineering degree can be important for becoming a QA engineer:

  • Technical Knowledge: A degree in software engineering provides you with a deep understanding of programming languages, software development methodologies, and technical concepts. This knowledge is directly relevant to understanding the software being tested and identifying potential defects or issues.
  • Testing Automation: As QA practices increasingly involve test automation, a software engineering background can help you develop and maintain automated test scripts. This requires a strong foundation in coding and software architecture, skills that are often taught in a software engineering degree program.
  • Communication with Developers: QA engineers often work closely with software developers to communicate issues and collaborate on solutions. A software engineering degree can help you bridge the communication gap, as you’ll have a shared understanding of development processes and terminology.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Software engineering education emphasizes problem-solving skills and critical thinking. These skills are crucial when identifying the root causes of defects and suggesting improvements to the development process.
  • Understanding Software Lifecycle: Software engineering programs often cover the entire software development lifecycle, from requirements gathering to deployment. This knowledge is helpful for understanding where QA fits in the process and how to ensure software quality at every stage.

How long does it take to get a degree in software engineering?

The duration of time it takes to complete a degree in software engineering can vary depending on several factors, including the type of degree program, the educational institution, your enrollment status (full-time or part-time), and any transfer credits you might have. Here are the general timelines for different types of software engineering degree programs:

  • Associate’s Degree: An associate’s degree in software engineering typically takes around 2 years of full-time study to complete. This degree provides a basic foundation in software development concepts and can be a good starting point for entry-level roles or further education.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in software engineering usually takes around 4 years of full-time study to complete. This degree provides a comprehensive education in software development, algorithms, data structures, software engineering principles, and more.
  • Master’s Degree: A master’s degree in software engineering or a related field typically takes 1 to 2 years to complete, depending on whether you’re enrolled full-time or part-time. This degree is more specialized and often focuses on advanced topics in software engineering, software architecture, and research.
  • Ph.D. Degree: A Ph.D. in software engineering can take around 3 to 5 years or more to complete, depending on the research project and individual progress. A Ph.D. program is research-intensive and is usually pursued by those interested in academia, research, or highly specialized roles.

How much does it cost to study software engineering at university?

The cost of studying software engineering at a university in the United States can vary significantly depending on various factors, including the type of institution (public or private), its location, the specific program, and whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student. Tuition fees also tend to increase each year. It’s important to note that the following figures are general estimates and can change over time. Here is an overview of the approximate costs:

  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fee: An undergraduate degree will cost around $10,606 USD in-state and $30,541 out-of-state.
  • Graduate Tuition & Fee: A graduate degree will cost around $11,841 in-state and $25,441 out-of-state.

It’s important for prospective students to factor in these considerations as they plan their educational journey in the field of software engineering.

Can I become a QA engineer through online education?

Yes, it is possible to become a QA engineer through online education. With numerous online courses, certifications, and resources available, you can learn testing methodologies, tools, and best practices. Whether through dedicated QA courses, coding bootcamps, online degree programs, or self-study, you can gain the skills needed for QA roles. Practical projects, networking within online communities, and staying updated with industry trends will help you succeed in this field.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become a QA engineer?

Many resources are available online to learn about QA practices, testing tools, and methodologies. You can take online courses, watch tutorials, read books, and participate in online QA communities to gain knowledge and skills.

If you’re seeking a community-driven approach, explore Software Testing Help for comprehensive articles and resources. Engage with the interactive Ministry of Testing community, which hosts forums, webinars, and conferences dedicated to software testing.

For hands-on learning, Test Automation University provides free courses, including Selenium WebDriver and API testing. Visit GitHub to find open-source QA projects that offer real-world examples of test automation and quality assurance practices.

Stay up-to-date with the latest tools and methodologies through resources like the Cypress.io blog, where you can learn about test automation using the Cypress framework. ISTQB offers materials to help you prepare for certification exams and solidify your understanding of software testing concepts.

For structured courses, platforms like Udemy and Coursera offer a range of QA-related options, covering software testing, automation, and more. edX collaborates with universities to provide quality courses on software testing and QA practices.

Remember to immerse yourself in these resources, practice actively, and contribute to real projects to truly excel as a QA engineer.

Practical Experience

Practical experience is highly valued in the QA field. You can build experience through internships, entry-level positions, freelance work, personal projects, or open-source contributions.

What are internship opportunities for a QA engineer?

Internship opportunities for a Quality Assurance Engineer can provide valuable hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of the QA process within a professional setting.

Here are some common types of internship opportunities available for aspiring QA engineers:

  • QA Intern: Traditional QA internships involve working closely with the QA team to learn testing methodologies, execute test cases, identify defects, and contribute to the quality assurance process. This can provide a solid foundation in software testing principles and tools.
  • Automation Testing Intern: Interning as an automation tester involves learning to create and maintain automated test scripts using tools like Selenium, Appium, or Cypress. You’ll gain skills in test automation frameworks and learn how to make testing processes more efficient.
  • Performance Testing Intern: Performance testing internships focus on understanding and testing software scalability, load handling, and responsiveness. You might work with tools like JMeter or Gatling to simulate various user scenarios and assess system performance.
  • Security Testing Intern: Security testing internships involve learning about software vulnerabilities, ethical hacking, and penetration testing. You’ll identify security weaknesses in applications and contribute to enhancing the overall security posture.
  • Mobile App Testing Intern: Interning in mobile app testing allows you to specialize in testing applications on different mobile platforms (iOS, Android). You’ll learn about device fragmentation, usability testing, and mobile-specific challenges.
  • Game Testing Intern: For those interested in the gaming industry, game testing internships involve testing video games for functionality, performance, and user experience. You’ll work with various gaming platforms and learn about game development cycles.

When seeking QA engineering internships, look for opportunities at software development companies, technology startups, tech giants, healthcare organizations, finance institutions, and more. Research company websites, job boards, internship platforms, and network within professional QA communities to find relevant opportunities. An internship is a fantastic opportunity to learn, gain practical experience, and make connections that can help kick-start your career in QA engineering.

What Skills will I learn as a QA engineer?

As a Quality Assurance Engineer, you will develop a wide range of skills that are essential for ensuring the quality and reliability of software products.

Here are some of the key skills you will learn and develop in this role:

  • Testing Methodologies: You’ll learn various testing methodologies such as manual testing, automated testing, functional testing, regression testing, performance testing, security testing, and more. Understanding when and how to apply different testing techniques is crucial.
  • Test Planning and Documentation: You’ll learn to create comprehensive test plans, test cases, and test scripts that outline the testing process, expected outcomes, and steps to reproduce defects.
  • Bug Tracking and Reporting: You’ll gain skills in identifying defects, documenting issues effectively, and using bug tracking tools to report and monitor the progress of defects throughout their lifecycle.
  • Test Automation: Learning to write and maintain automated test scripts using tools like Selenium, Appium, or JUnit will make you proficient in automated testing, improving efficiency and repeatability.
  • Programming Languages: Depending on the testing tools and frameworks you use, you might learn programming languages like Java, Python, JavaScript, or others.
  • Tools and Frameworks: Familiarity with a variety of testing tools and frameworks, such as testing libraries, version control systems, continuous integration tools, and defect tracking systems.
  • Usability and User Experience (UX) Testing: Evaluating software from a user’s perspective to ensure it’s intuitive, user-friendly, and meets the desired user experience.

Remember that as the software industry evolves, you’ll need to continuously update and expand your skill set to stay current and effective in your role as a QA engineer.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a QA engineer?

The work-life balance of a Quality Assurance Engineer can vary based on factors such as the company culture, industry, project deadlines, team dynamics, and individual preferences. In general, the work-life balance for QA engineers can be positive, especially when compared to some other roles in the technology sector.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Predictable Hours: Most QA engineers have set working hours, avoiding erratic schedules.
  • Stable Workflow: Tasks are usually planned and distributed evenly to prevent overwhelming workloads.
  • Collaborative Environment: QA engineers work closely with developers, product managers, and other team members, fostering open communication.
  • Agile Practices: Many teams adopt Agile methodologies, which emphasize iterative work and frequent feedback, affecting the workload distribution for QA engineers.
  • Remote Work: Opportunities for QA engineers to work from home or other locations can enhance work-life balance.
  • Testing Cycles: During product release phases, QA engineers may experience intense work periods.
  • Personal Boundaries: Individual preferences and limits play a role in defining a QA engineer’s balance between work and personal time.

Careers Related to QA Engineers

The career outlook for QA engineers, based on recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is promising. Overall employment for roles including software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers is anticipated to grow by 25 percent from 2021 to 2031, a rate considerably faster than the average growth for all professions. Furthermore, an average of 162,900 job openings in these categories is projected annually over the next decade.

Industries Hiring QA Engineers

QA engineers are sought after in many industries as software and quality assurance become integral to business operations.

Here are some of the top industries hiring QA engineers:

  • Information Technology and Software Development: This is the most evident industry, with companies producing software applications, databases, and other tools.
  • E-commerce: Online retailers and e-commerce platforms need QA engineers to ensure their websites and applications run smoothly, securely, and provide a good user experience.
  • Financial Services: Banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions are increasingly relying on software for their operations and customer services, requiring thorough testing.
  • Healthcare: With the rise of electronic health records, telemedicine, and health-related apps, the healthcare sector needs QA engineers to ensure patient data safety and software reliability.
  • Gaming: The gaming industry hires QA engineers to test games for bugs, performance issues, and user experience.
  • Telecommunications: Companies in this sector need QA engineers for testing software used in communication devices, servers, and user applications.
  • Automotive: As vehicles become more technologically advanced with features like autonomous driving, the demand for QA testing increases.
  • Aerospace and Defense: This industry requires rigorous quality assurance for its software due to the critical nature of aerospace applications.
  • Consumer Electronics: Manufacturers of devices such as smartphones, smart TVs, and other smart devices hire QA engineers to test their software interfaces and functions.
  • Education and EdTech: With the growth of digital learning platforms and tools, the education sector is also on the lookout for QA professionals to ensure software quality.
QA Engineer Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a QA engineer?

A QA engineer has various job opportunities in the realm of software testing and quality assurance. The responsibilities and roles can range from entry-level positions to more advanced, specialized roles.

Here are some of the job opportunities available to QA engineers:

  • Manual Tester: Focuses on manually executing test cases without the aid of automation tools, ensuring the software behaves as expected.
  • Automated Test Developer: Uses tools and scripts to automate repetitive testing tasks and create test suites.
  • Performance Tester: Specializes in evaluating the scalability, stability, and overall performance of applications under various conditions.
  • Security Tester: Focuses on identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses in software that might expose it to security breaches.
  • Usability Tester: Concentrates on the user-friendliness and overall user experience of the software.
  • QA Analyst: Typically involved in requirement analysis, identifying testing scenarios, and creating detailed test plans.
  • QA Lead/Manager: Manages the QA team, oversees testing processes, and is responsible for ensuring quality deliverables.
  • Test Architect: Designs the testing strategies and ensures that the testing tools and processes are optimized.
  • Mobile App Tester: Specializes in testing applications specifically designed for mobile devices.
  • Database Tester: Focuses on testing databases, ensuring data consistency, integrity, and performance.
  • DevOps QA Engineer: Integrates QA processes into continuous development and deployment pipelines.
  • Business Analyst with QA Focus: Works closely with business teams and developers to ensure that software meets business requirements.
  • QA Consultant/Specialist: Offers expert advice on QA processes and methodologies, often working with different companies on a project-by-project basis.
  • Load Tester: Assesses how software behaves under heavy loads or large numbers of users.
  • QA Engineer in Compliance and Regulation: Works in industries like healthcare or finance, ensuring software meets specific regulatory standards.

Furthermore, with experience, a QA engineer can progress into broader roles like project management, product management, or even higher executive roles in technology companies.

Should I become a QA Engineer?

In the realm of software innovation, the role of a Quality Assurance Engineer shines as a beacon of reliability and excellence. As technology continues to transform industries and shape our daily interactions, the significance of QA engineers cannot be overstated. With a blend of technical acumen, critical thinking, and a passion for precision, QA engineers are at the forefront of ensuring software quality that elevates user experiences.

Embarking on the path to becoming a QA engineer is not just a career choice, but a commitment to shaping the digital landscape for a world that demands nothing less than exceptional. Through continuous learning, hands-on experience, and a dedication to excellence, those who embrace this journey contribute to the seamless fusion of technology and human interactions, driving innovation forward.

Careers Related to QA Engineer


Emma Philo

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