Student’s Guide to Jump-Starting a Software QA Engineer Career
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- Inquisitive, creative problem-solvers make excellent quality assurance engineers.
- Software quality assurance engineers can launch their careers with a bachelor's degree.
- Quality assurance engineers enjoy salaries over $110,000 and 22% job growth.
- Professionals can advance toward upper-management careers with experience.
Quality assurance (QA) engineers ensure that software products meet the highest industry standards and customer expectations. While QA engineers do not design software, they play a critical role in creating consumer-friendly products that function as intended.
Quality assurance engineers identify and resolve issues throughout the production phase of software development.
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What Is a Quality Assurance Engineer?
A quality assurance engineer works with software developers and quality control engineers to prepare software products for launch. They design and implement tests to check the software for performance issues and security risks, document any findings, and report the results to software developers for revisions.
Technology enthusiasts with a penchant for problem-solving, creativity, and detail orientation make the best quality assurance engineers. Though QA engineers do not rely solely on technical skills for this position, coding knowledge is helpful during the testing process.
Software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers earned a median annual salary of $109,020 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Positions for these professionals are projected to grow 25% from 2021-2031. This is a much faster rate of growth than the 15% rate for all computer and IT occupations during this period, according to the BLS.
Quality Assurance Engineer Duties
- Create Testing Plans: QA engineers must develop detailed plans for methods of testing a particular piece of software and documenting the results.
- Review Design Specs: Quality assurance engineers are responsible for reviewing and giving feedback on technical design specs for new software.
- Coordinate Tests: Software quality assurance professionals draft schedules for testing, including estimated completion times and priority products.
- Execute Automated Tests: Software quality assurance engineers utilize open source tools to design and run automated scripts.
- Take Detailed Notes: Quality assurance engineers must identify and track bugs and keep thorough documentation of every occurrence of an issue.
- Incorporate Feedback: QA engineers may need to revise their testing methods according to a client's input and evolving needs.
- Perform Repeat Tests: The nature of the job requires software quality assurance experts to perform multiple regression tests after issues are resolved.
- Monitor Metrics: Software quality assurance engineers track benchmarks, including derivative and defect-related metrics, to detect bugs.
- Communicate with Colleagues: QA engineers stay in step with developers and product managers to maintain the product-launch schedule.
- Stay Current: Employers expect quality assurance engineers to know and use the latest and most effective testing methods.
Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control: What's the Difference?
The difference in quality assurance vs. quality control lies in the details of the development and inspection processes. Quality assurance describes the process of evaluating and preventing potential performance issues. Quality control involves inspecting software products to verify they comply with industry standards. Process checklists vs. product inspections are an example of quality assurance vs. quality control in real life.
How to Become a Quality Assurance Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide
Earn a Relevant Degree
Most entry-level software quality assurance jobs require a bachelor's degree. Some employers prefer a master's degree for advanced roles in quality assurance management, while others may accept candidates educated through a QA bootcamp instead of a formal degree program.
Bachelor's degree programs in computer science teach technical skills in software testing, scripting, and systems auditing with IT project management and critical thinking expertise. Since bootcamps focus on making students employment-ready as quickly as possible, they may lack the depth of degree programs. Employers generally prefer candidates with a bachelor's, especially with ABET accreditation.
Common college degrees for QA engineers are:
- Bachelor's in Computer Science
- Bachelor's in Computer Engineering
- Bachelor's in Information Technology
Gain Practical Experience
Practical experience in software quality assurance and testing is critical for aspiring professionals. Employers may accept candidates with significant field experience and a passion for computer science over competitors with only a formal degree. Understanding the daily responsibilities of a quality assurance engineer is key to qualifying for full-time employment.
Internships are recommended for students looking to launch a career in quality assurance. Students can ask IT faculty about internships at their college or university and seek help to apply. A college's career services staff may also recommend mentorships and networking opportunities. Students can also reach out to IT companies directly about internships.
Apply to Quality Assurance Engineer Positions
Students with education and experience in software quality assurance can explore college career services and job fairs to find a position aligned with their goals. Candidates might also consider joining a professional organization for quality assurance engineers, many of which offer exclusive employment and networking opportunities to members.
Candidates can also search for open quality assurance engineer positions on job sites like Indeed or LinkedIn. Job-seekers should consider what their ideal work environment looks like since factors like the size and reputation of a company can affect its staffing opportunities.
Seek Higher Levels of Education
Some candidates choose to pursue higher education in software quality assurance. While not required of most QA engineering jobs, a master's degree may help candidates qualify for advanced positions such as QA specialist, computer scientist, or top technology executive.
Though quality assurance master's degrees are rare, schools offer master's degrees in computer science or software engineering. Professionals looking to switch careers may pursue a doctorate in computer science to perform scholarly research or teach quality assurance to college students.
Become a Certified Quality Engineer
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers optional certification to professionals in various industry sectors, including software quality assurance. Professionals can seek certification based on their level of education, years of experience in quality assurance, and years of experience in a decision-making position.
Certification is not required but preferred by many employers in the technology industry. Job-seekers can set themselves apart from competitors by obtaining certification, which may also lead to senior positions in quality assurance and higher income potential.
Is Quality Assurance a Good Career?
Quality assurance engineers enjoy high-paying jobs with longevity in the tech industry. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $109,020 in May 2021, according to the BLS. However, they can earn more in top industries like software publishing and manufacturing. The top 10% of quality assurance engineers earned more than $168,579 during the same period, according to the BLS.
Software quality assurance occupations suit professionals who can resolve technical problems with creative solutions. The BLS projects job growth of 25% from 2021-2031 for quality assurance engineers. Professionals should build experience through an internship or entry-level position. Many QA engineers pursue professional certification to enhance their job prospects.
Students considering a career in software quality assurance can choose various paths. QA engineers can launch their careers with a bachelor's degree, though some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree for senior roles. Aspiring quality assurance professionals can also pursue a bootcamp or online degree program, which may offer accelerated completion times and set tuition rates.
QA engineers are uniquely qualified for a variety of computer and IT occupations. Some quality assurance specialists require an advanced degree. Others apply their quality assurance skills in related positions like product manager, DevOps technician, IT manager, or UX/UI designer.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Software QA Engineer
What bachelor's degree do I need to be a QA engineer?
Students commonly pursue a bachelor's in computer science to become QA engineers. They may also study software engineering as an undergraduate major. While most schools do not offer bachelor's degrees concentrated in software quality assurance, many offer classes designed to develop the skills needed for this profession.
Students should consider a top bachelor's program in computer science or software engineering that offers internship and networking opportunities. Programs may also prepare students for software quality assurance engineer certifications. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with an ABET-accredited bachelor's degree.
Do I need to know how to code?
While coding is not a primary function of a quality assurance engineer, basic coding skills are necessary for professionals to seek and identify issues in software. Most bachelor's programs and bootcamps focused on quality assurance touch on popular programming languages such as Java, C++, and Python.
Software quality assurance engineers also need to understand basic programming to work closely with software developers to resolve any issues they find during the testing process.
What does a QA engineer do?
QA engineers create systematic methods of testing new software to ensure it meets technological requirements and users' expectations. They make testing plans, execute tests, document their findings in detail, and report the results to software developers with whom they collaborate to resolve issues.
These professionals may also continue testing a product after its launch to the public to troubleshoot any new issues in post-production. QA engineers are also sometimes called QA analysts. Software quality assurance jobs include entry-level "junior" positions and specialist roles, which may require an advanced degree.
How much do QA engineers make?
Quality assurance analysts and testers earned a median annual salary of $109,020 in May 2021 as of May 2021, according to the BLS.
Quality assurance engineers in senior roles can potentially earn higher salaries. While not all advanced positions require a master's degree, some professionals including top executives and high-level quality assurance managers can benefit from an IT-related MBA. Students who hold a master's in computer science can become computer and information research scientists and earn over $130,000 a year, according to the BLS.