What Is a QA Manual Tester? Skills, Job, Salary, Career Path

Written by Coursera • Updated on

QA manual testers test software without the assistance of an automated process. Read on to find out what a manual tester does, along with the desired skills and salary for QA manual testers.

[Featured image] A QA manual tester in a blue shirt and glasses checks software for bugs.

Quality Assurance (QA) is a critical part of software testing. Without it, bugs and other challenges would riddle the digital world. There are two existing approaches to QA testing. One is automated and done by computers, and the other is manual, which is done by humans. Read on to explore the role of a QA manual tester and the career path to this essential role.

Why QA manual testing?

To test software, developers will script test cases that present step-by-step what needs to be done to check that a feature works. For example, a mobile app developer will craft a test case to see what happens when the user gets a phone call or text while in their app. They’ll also need to test this across different types of devices since users have many other brand loyalties.

Some testing can be done by test automation frameworks, along with other tools and software, once a human writes the test case. Yet there are still things that developers will want to be done by a QA manual tester. We’ll discuss the differences in more detail next.  

Read more: Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control: Choosing the Right Career Path

QA manual testing vs. QA automated testing

Who, or what, actually performs the test is the most significant difference between QA manual testing and QA automated testing. A human has a role in setting up the testing for both, but scripting takes over during the automated testing step.  The testing tools will execute the test without human help. This can make automated testing more efficient. It is also valuable when you need to run many test cases.

QA manual testing is done end-to-end by a human QA manual tester. It is a very hands-on approach, with each test run individually. The QA manual tester or testing engineer is directly involved in the testing, and you'll use this method often to catch bugs and address complex feature issues before the software goes live.

What does the QA manual tester job involve?

A QA manual tester looks for problems and bugs in new software before and after it is released. Your role is to identify issues and help developers find solutions. 

The two main types of QA manual testing are white box and black box. Typically, in white box, you are part of the development team and know what the code should do. In black box, you are outside experiencing the software as a new user would.

Either way, you could run many different types of test cases as a QA manual tester. Occasionally, you will ensure the software integrates smoothly with others or is compatible with many devices. Or to determine what type of experience the user will have with the software. 

It all means you need to be detail-oriented, pay attention to minor changes, and report your findings. We’ll talk more about the requirements of QA manual tester jobs next.

Requirements for the QA manual tester role

In software testing, repetitive, high-frequency tests are easy to automate. It’s the more complicated test cases that require a QA manual tester. That means you’re signing on for a challenging role in software development. Read on to learn the typical requirements for a career in QA manual testing.


Those in quality assurance and software development typically begin with a bachelor’s degree. Focusing on computer and information technology or a degree in engineering or mathematics will help. Some employers will prefer you to have a master’s degree in a related field as well. 

Read more: What Is a Master’s Degree?


You can advance your prospects for a QA manual tester career, earning certification as an ISTQB Certified Tester or CSTE-certified software tester. ISTQB, the international standards body for software testing certification, also offers advanced certifications for test analysts or test managers in specific areas such as AI or game testing. 

Experience and skills

To succeed as a QA manual tester, you’ll need, first and foremost, to understand the software development lifecycle (SDLC). After all, you will play a crucial part in the SDLC. 

Other essential qualities for a QA manual tester include excellent analytical skills and the ability to communicate effectively with others (written and verbal). You should also demonstrate an ability to think creatively and problem-solve. QA manual testing, after all, is all about finding ways to anticipate problems, test for them, and then resolve any issues found.

What each software developer is looking for will vary. You can encounter companies that want their QA manual testers to have years of experience. Others will be happy to take on motivated rookies. You can also start a QA manual testing career working as a freelancer. 

QA manual tester career path 

The QA manual tester job is a starting point in the quality assurance realm. You might begin as a QA junior tester before being entrusted with manual tests. Once you have proven yourself, you can move on to become a testing analyst or testing manager.

  • QA junior tester, $63,620 base pay per year [1]

  • Software QA tester, $67,136 base pay per year [2]

  • Test analyst, $81,087 base pay per year [3]

  • Test manager, $81,364 base pay per year [4]

Job outlook

The outlook for QA manual testers and other roles in software development and QA is strong. Employment in this area is projected to grow 25 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations [5].

Read more: How To Write a QA Tester Resume: Layout, Design, Examples

Is a QA manual tester job right for me?

QA manual testing is an analytical role in software development. You’ll be expected to:

  • Create test plans for new software

  • Identify project risks 

  • Recommend steps to address issues

  • Implement software testing and evaluate results

  • Document and report testing results regarding usability and functionality

If you are interested in being immersed in the software development process, a QA manual testing job could be the right fit for you.

Ready to start a career in Quality Assurance?

Start your QA testing career preparation with Learn to Program Quality Code from the University of Toronto on Coursera. Or learn more about the Software Development Lifecycle from the University of Minnesota. You can also find courses boosting your knowledge of Agile methodologies, such as Introduction to Agile Development and Scrum from IBM or Google’s Agile Project Management.



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Article sources


Glassdoor. "QA Junior Tester Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-qa-junior-tester-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,19.htm." Accessed March 8, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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