How to Become
a Quality Assurance Engineer
Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep
Are you an independent thinker who lives for details, enjoys solving puzzles, and loves working with computers? Then a career as a quality assurance engineer, also known as a QA engineer, may be a good option for you.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects job opportunities in QA engineering and other software-related fields to increase by 22 percent by 2029. This is significantly higher than the anticipated four percent growth across all occupations. If this sounds good to you, read on to learn how to become a quality assurance engineer.
What Is a Quality Assurance Engineer?
A QA engineer is someone who ensures that software products are released without bugs or issues. Their job is primarily to oversee software development and bring products up to standard.
In essence, they put themselves in the shoes of the end user and figure out any problems the user would encounter. This can help avoid future issues and make sure the software thrives as a product.
Quality Assurance Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
Like most tech careers, quality assurance engineering is a lucrative profession that commands an impressive salary. According to PayScale, most QA engineers earn between $52,000 and $98,000 annually. The national average in the United States is about $71,000.
A couple of factors affect how much you can earn as a QA engineer. Salaries vary depending on the company, the local cost of living, and how many years of experience you have. In terms of location, Glassdoor reports that an average QA engineer in Atlanta earns about $72,000 while the average QA engineer salary is over $95,000 in San Francisco.
The job outlook for quality assurance engineers is among the best globally, thanks to rapid technological advancement. BLS projects that 316,000 QA engineering and software development jobs will be created by 2029.
Entry-Level Quality Assurance Engineer Job Requirements
While basic qualifications vary from one company to another, a few commonalities apply across the board. In terms of education, you must either get a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or get intensive training in software development and testing at a coding bootcamp.
You also need technical skills. For instance, you must know how to code, develop test cases, use automation tools, and identify bugs.
How to Ace Your Quality Assurance Engineer Job Interview
To ace your interview, you should take time to learn more about the company you’re interviewing for and look for weaknesses in its software products. In the interview itself, you should be confident and professional. If the interview is over the phone or Zoom, choose a place with good reception, natural lighting, and total silence.
As an interviewee for a QA engineer position, you should prepare answers for a few common questions, which are laid out below.
Common Quality Assurance Engineer Job Interview Questions
- How does your education relate to working as a QA engineer?
- What process would you follow to resolve software production issues?
- What testing automation tools do you rely on?
- What verification techniques worked for you in your previous role?
What Degree Should I Get to Become a Quality Assurance Engineer?
To become a quality assurance engineer, you will need to get at least a bachelor’s degree. Most firms want their QA employees to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related discipline. You can also strengthen your resume with a certification from the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB).
However, you don’t have to stop there. Below is a rundown of the various degree options you could pursue.
Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science
Different companies have different requirements, but most hiring managers are looking for candidates who have at least a bachelor’s degree. This can be in computer science, information sciences, or software engineering. A bachelor’s or online bachelor’s in any of these disciplines will get you in the door for most entry-level QA jobs.
Master’s Degree in Quality Assurance Engineering
To be eligible for a QA engineering master’s degree program, you must have a bachelor’s degree. Most in-person and online master’s degrees are awarded after two to four years, depending on whether you are a part-time or full-time student.
These programs usually require research projects or master’s exams, so watch out for this. With a master’s, you are more likely to get a high-paying job.
Quality Assurance Engineer Doctoral Degree
Unfortunately, you are unlikely to find a PhD program dedicated solely to QA Engineering. However, you can specialize in quality assurance under Technology Management, Industry Engineering, or Computer Science. When studying, you will examine quality assurance systems, design experiments, and check the reliability of products.
With its emphasis on research methodology and management, a PhD usually prepares you for a career in research or academia. To qualify, you must have a bachelor’s and master’s degree. It typically takes three to four years of additional study beyond a master’s.
What Does a Quality Assurance Engineer Do?
Quality assurance engineering mainly entails improving products and ensuring there are no defects in production. To properly check on the software development team’s work, you need to be proficient at testing on four different levels.
Performs Test Analysis
Test analysis is the process of checking the test requirements for completeness and consistency. In other words, you check what a product is designed to do and what optimal performance would look like. Usually, you gather the statistical requirements, set test objectives, and then determine which tests to use for a given product.
Performs Test Design
Once you decide which test to use, you then create the test and plan how each test will be executed. You should ensure all test documents and anything else you need for the tests are ready.
Performs Test Execution
In carrying out the planned tests, you need to keep detailed records of bugs and other issues found while developing the software. Also, you must outline the steps the software developer needs to take to fix the problems.
Performs Test Management
Finally, you are in charge of ensuring all deadlines are met, work schedules are followed, and tasks are assigned to the team. You must also keep track of what resources are needed for testing and communicate with the stakeholders throughout the process.
Essential Quality Assurance Engineer Skills
As part of your job, you must know how the software works, where it fails, and whether there are any glitches. You must be able to quickly determine the cause of an error and know how to fix it. To do these things effectively, you must possess the following technical skills.
While a QA engineering job doesn’t involve developing code, you will test the code written by programmers and developers. You need to know at least one or two programming languages, preferably the one used in your line of work.
Test Case Development
You must be able to create test cases for different applications and plan how to execute those tests. A test case refers to a single requirement or group of requirements written by a QA engineer to show how an application functions.
While you don’t need to carry out the software tests by yourself, you need to be familiar with various automation tools such as CircleCI and also be able to create automation scripts. This can make your job as a quality assurance engineer much faster.
You must identify and record any bugs during testing and report them to the software development team for fixing. This is one of the most important skills that a QA engineer can have.
How to Become a Quality
Assurance Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide
The first step to becoming a QA engineer is clarifying if it's the right career for you. You must love working with computers and have the will to learn and adapt. As soon as you’re sure that quality assurance engineering is the field for you, follow the steps below.
Get an Education
To attain the skills required to be a QA analyst, you can either go to college for any of the degrees mentioned above or sign up for a bootcamp to get more intensive training.
Whichever route you take, just know that most companies will ask for some kind of credential. This is to prove that you are trained in the field. Many companies require a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field.
As with many tech careers, experience is more valuable than education. You should therefore consider applying for internships while you are still in school. Most students have time to take up internships during their summer breaks. Many bootcamps also offer students the chance to gain real-world software development experience in actual companies.
If you can demonstrate ample experience and know-how in the field, you have more leverage than someone who has a degree only.
Earn a Professional Certification
Besides requiring a degree or diploma, most companies favor people who have gone a step further and have attained professional certifications like Certified Software Quality Engineer (CSQE) from the American Society of Quality (ASQ).
The most important certification, though, is the International Software Testing Qualification Board (ISTQB) certification. ISTQB focuses on practical software testing and covers everything from security testing to Agile testing. It’s also the global standard for QA engineers. Luckily, you can study on your own and acquire it.
Write a Technical Resume
Putting together an impressive technical resume with your education and experience is crucial to getting a job. Keep the resume short, neat, and informative. This clearly demonstrates to the hiring manager what you can offer.
Start Applying for Jobs
Once you have enough experience and credentials, you can get a job in the field. You can do your own research and decide which industry you want to work in. You can find open positions in game development, software development, and more.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Quality Assurance Engineer?
The time it takes to become a QA engineer depends on your diligence, technical expertise, and certifications. A bootcamp usually takes around eight to 12 weeks, but a degree will take you four years. Ideally, you will start as a junior analyst or test automation engineer and continue gaining experience until you are a full-fledged QA tester.
Should You Become a Quality Assurance Engineer in 2021?
Absolutely. Software QA engineering has come a long way in recent years. Today, QA engineering is not only one of the best paying jobs, but it also has one of the best growth rates globally. Going by BLS statistics, the career will see massive growth in the future, in large part thanks to technology.
Quality Assurance Engineer FAQ
Is quality assurance easier than becoming a developer?
Although there is an industry myth that developers are better than QA engineers, these claims are unsubstantiated. The two need each other and work as a team. Developers write code, and then QAs detect bugs and problems. It’s easy to switch from one to another, so you can choose one career path now and change your mind later.
Are software quality assurance engineers happy with their careers?
Besides their lucrative salary, QA engineers generally have high job satisfaction. While testing and finding bugs isn’t easy, it’s relatively fun for curious-minded problem solvers. However, how happy you are at work will also depend on your relationship with your coworkers and bosses, as well as how well you connect with the company culture.
What makes a good QA engineer?
A good QA engineer puts quality ahead of everything. You must look at each area of quality and ensure you keep the user in mind at all times. You must also be able to use automation while still using manual testing for high-stakes releases. You must work hard to develop new ways of testing that each team member can understand.
Is QA engineering a good career?
We live in a tech-driven world, which means companies are in constant need of QA engineers to test their products before they are released. QA engineers fetch a decent income, and BLS projects that job opportunities will only increase over the next decade.