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Quality Assurance (QA) Tester Career Guide

What is a QA tester?

A quality assurance tester is someone who checks products, often software, to make sure they work well and don’t have problems. They’re the last ones to check everything before the product gets to the people who will use it. They try to find any mistakes or things that could be better, and then they tell the people who made the product so they can fix it. Their main goal is to stop products with problems from being sold and to ensure users get a product that they’re happy with.

Duties and responsibilities

QA testers have a few main jobs:

  • Creating test plans and trying out products, either by using them like a regular person or with special testing software.
  • Finding any bugs or issues and writing clear reports about them.
  • Sometimes, they try to make the problem happen again on purpose to figure out why it’s happening.
  • They also might give advice during the product design stage to make sure the product will be good from a quality standpoint.

Work environment

Where QA testers work depends on what industry they’re in:

  • In software or tech companies, they usually work in offices with the people who make the products. They might have special testing areas with lots of different gadgets to test products on.
  • In manufacturing, they might be on factory floors or in labs checking actual physical products.

Typical work hours

QA testers usually work 40 hours a week, like a regular job. But when there’s a big product launch coming up, they might need to work extra, maybe even on weekends. In places where new stuff comes out all the time, like in some software companies, they might have different work schedules to keep up with all the new releases.

How to become a QA tester

Becoming a QA tester involves a mix of learning about technology and getting practical experience. Here’s how you can get started:

Step 1: Graduate high school

Start with getting your high school diploma or GED. Pay extra attention to math and computer science; they’ll give you a good base for later.

Step 2: Earn a bachelor’s degree

While it’s not always required, having a degree in computer science, information technology, or something similar is a big plus. College will teach you about programming, managing data, and how software is made.

Step 3: Gain experience

Try to get a job in tech to see how things work from the inside. This could be in tech support, software development, or managing computer systems. This experience is super valuable for understanding how software is built and tested.

Step 4: Get certified

Getting a certification in quality assurance can make you stand out. Look for courses from places like the American Society for Quality or QAI Global Institute. You’ll probably need some experience first and have to pass a test.

Step 5: Craft a resume and cover letter

Make sure your resume and cover letter show off your education, any experience you have, and if you’ve got certifications, mention those too.

Step 6: Nail the job interview

For the job interview, prepare by practicing answers to common questions for QA testers. Also, ask your interviewer questions – it shows you’re interested and have done your homework about their company.

How much do QA testers make?

Quality assurance tester salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. The complexity of the software being tested, their familiarity with the software’s domain area, and their ability to design test cases and identify bugs can affect pay as well.

Highest paying industries

  • Pharmaceuticals and Medicine Manufacturing: $92,340
  • Software Publishers: $90,890
  • Data Processing and Hosting: $87,600
  • Scientific Research and Development Services: $85,890
  • Information Services: $84,230

Highest paying states

  • California: $96,890
  • Washington: $94,320
  • New Jersey: $91,760
  • Massachusetts: $89,280
  • New York: $87,540

Browse QA tester salary data by market

Types of QA testers

QA testers come in different types, each focusing on a specific area of software testing. Here are some of the main kinds:

  • Manual tester: These testers do everything by hand. They use the software just like a user would to find bugs that automated testing might miss.
  • Automated tester: These testers use tools and scripts to test software faster. They set up tests that run automatically, doing the same thing over and over to check for errors. 
  • Performance tester: Their job is all about how well the software works under pressure. They see how fast it is, how much it can handle, and how reliable it is when lots of people use it at the same time. 
  • Security tester: These testers are the protectors; their goal is to make the software as safe as possible. They look for ways someone might break into the software or cause problems. 
  • User experience tester: They focus on how easy and pleasant the software is to use. They check things like how easy it is to get around in the software, how it looks, and if it’s confusing or not. 

Top skills for QA testers

For those interested in becoming a QA tester, here are the key skills you need to succeed:

  • Analytical skills: You need to be good at looking closely at software and figuring out what’s good and what could be better. Spotting patterns and trends in software problems is a big part of the job.
  • Attention to detail: This job requires you to notice even the smallest things that could be wrong. Small mistakes can lead to big problems in software, so being very careful and thorough is essential.
  • Technical knowledge: Knowing about programming, how software is built, and the tools used for testing is crucial. Staying up-to-date with the latest technology and testing methods will help you do your job better.
  • Communication skills: You’ll need to be able to talk and write clearly about what you find, especially when explaining technical stuff to other people on your team. It’s all about making sure everyone understands the problems and how to fix them.
  • Problem-solving abilities: A big part of the job is not just finding problems but also thinking of ways to solve them. Being able to come up with practical solutions quickly is a really valuable skill.

QA tester career path options

As a QA tester, you have several exciting career paths to consider. Your choice depends on what you like and where your skills are strongest:

  • Senior tester: If you love testing and have good leadership qualities, becoming a senior tester might be for you. You’ll lead a testing team, guide them technically, and manage testing activities.
  • Business analyst: Great for those who are good at communicating and solving problems. As a business snalyst, you’ll work with different teams to understand what they need and make sure the software meets those needs.
  • Software developer: If you’re into the technical side and like creating things, consider becoming a software developer. Your testing experience will help a lot here because you’ll know what kinds of problems to avoid when making software.
  • Project manager: This role is about overseeing entire projects. You’ll need to know a lot about how software gets made and be good at organizing things and keeping projects on track.
  • Quality assurance manager: Perfect if you want to stay in testing but on a bigger scale. As a QA manager, you’ll manage a larger team and be in charge of setting the quality standards for your company’s products.
  • Consultant: If you like giving advice and solving big-picture problems, being a consultant might be right for you. You’ll help businesses figure out how to make their processes and systems better and more efficient.

The field of quality assurance testing is evolving with several key trends, and it’s expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Here’s an overview:

  • Agile testing: Agile methodologies, which focus on quick, iterative development and testing cycles, are becoming more common. This approach requires QA testers to adapt to changing project scopes and deliver results faster.
  • Automation in testing: With the complexity of software on the rise, manual testing alone is becoming less feasible. There’s a growing trend toward integrating advanced automated testing tools. 
  • Focus on security: As online security threats increase, testers are now crucial in ensuring software is secure against cyber attacks. This adds an extra layer to the QA role, where understanding and testing for security vulnerabilities is becoming increasingly important.

Employment projections

The future looks bright for QA testers; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a job growth of about 25 percent through 2031 for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers. This growth suggests strong demand and plenty of opportunities for those entering or advancing in the field of quality assurance testing.

QA tester career tips

Understand the product inside out

Knowing your product well is essential. Learn what it does, why it’s useful, and who it’s for. Talk to people from different teams, like product managers, developers, and marketers. The more you understand the product, its market, and its users, the better you’ll be at finding issues that matter.

Master test automation tools

With agile methods being popular, knowing how to use automated testing tools is a must. Learn tools like Selenium, JUnit, and TestNG. These tools help make testing more accurate and less time-consuming, especially for repetitive tasks.

Build your professional network

Joining groups related to QA testing can keep you in the loop with what’s new and what’s changing in your field. It’s also a great way to meet and learn from other testers. Consider associations like the Association for Software Testing (AST), the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB), and the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Stay committed to continuous learning

The tech world is always evolving, and so is QA testing. Keep learning to stay on top of new tools, methods, and industry best practices. Look for online courses, seminars, and workshops on QA topics. Also, think about getting certifications like Certified Software Tester (CSTE), Certified Agile Tester (CAT), or ISTQB Certified Tester to show your expertise and dedication.

Where the QA tester jobs are

Top employers

  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • Facebook

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • New York
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • SimplyHired


What educational background is typically required for a quality assurance tester?

While it isn’t a strict requirement across all industries, most hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field like computer science or information technology. An understanding of programming languages and systems is typically desired. Experience can sometimes replace formal education, particularly in tech-focused industries where practical know-how is highly valued.

What soft skills are beneficial for a quality assurance tester to possess?

They must have strong analytical skills and excellent attention to detail. Good communication skills are also important as you need to provide feedback to the development team and explain technical issues in a manner everyone can understand.

What types of tools does a quality assurance tester typically use in their daily work?

They frequently use specialized software for tracking bugs and documenting issues. Applications like JIRA and Trello are commonly used. In testing software, they might use automated testing tools, performance testing tools, and debugging software. The specific tools used can vary depending on the industry and company.

What challenges does a quality assurance tester typically face?

One of the primary challenges is keeping up with changing technologies and constantly learning new software and tools. They also often face pressure and time constraints to identify and report problems before a product’s release. Another challenge can be communicating about technical issues with team members who may not have the same level of technical understanding.

What is the work environment typically like for a quality assurance tester?

Most work in an office environment as part of an in-house team or within a specialized testing firm. Depending on the company, they may work alone or in small teams.

Do quality assurance testers require any certifications?

While not universally required, certifications can enhance their credentials. The International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) offers several certification levels that are globally recognized. Certifications show a commitment to professional development and provide a level of expertise.

What is a typical day like for a quality assurance tester?

The morning might start with a check-in meeting with the team. Then, most of the day can be dedicated to testing parts of the product, identifying bugs or errors, and documenting them accurately. They might also run automated testing tools. Part of their time may be spent collaborating with the development team to prioritize and resolve issues.

What kind of companies hire quality assurance testers?

They are needed in virtually any industry where products or software are developed, including tech companies, video game studios, web development agencies, and manufacturing companies. They can also find work in government agencies and non-profit organizations. Some testers also work as freelancers or consultants.

What is the most rewarding part of being a quality assurance tester?

The most rewarding part often comes from knowing that their work directly impacts the quality of a product. Their attention to detail might be the difference between a product’s success and failure. Finding and solving problems before they reach the consumer can be very satisfying.