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

Written by Coursera Staff • 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 the software development life cycle (SDLC). Without it, bugs and other challenges would riddle the digital world. Two primary types of testing exist in the realm of QA. One testing strategy is automated, facilitated mainly by computers. The other is manual, in which testing procedures are primarily executed by humans. Read on to explore the role of a QA manual tester, compare it to other QA roles, and learn about how to enter this career path.

What is a manual QA tester?

To test software, developers will script test cases that present step-by-step instructions on 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 and operating systems (OS).

Once a human plans and writes test cases, many tasks related to the testing portion of the software development process can be done and tracked with automation tools and software. However, there are still things that require human interaction and the expertise of a QA manual tester. We’ll discuss the differences in more detail over the next few sections.

Read more: How to Write Test Cases: A Step-by-Step QA Guide

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QA manual testing vs. QA automated testing

Who performs the test and what type of test is being performed are the most significant differences between QA manual testing and QA automated testing. Humans have roles in the configuration of both, but exploratory testing techniques and the types of tools being used may differ. Automated testing can be more time- and cost-efficient for certain tasks, especially aspects of testing that need to be executed at scale, such as repetitive testing. Still, product requirements may dictate the approach QA and development teams will take.

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. This approach to testing can be time-consuming but may be necessary to ensure compliance with user standards. The QA manual tester or testing engineer is directly involved in the testing, and you'll often use this method to catch and report bugs to resolve complex issues prior to a release.

Read more: How to Become a QA Automation Tester

What does a manual QA tester do?

A QA manual tester identifies problems and bugs in software throughout the development cycle and after it is released. Their role is to identify potential user issues and help developers find solutions.

The two main types of QA manual testing are white box and black box. Typically, in white box testing, you are part of the development team and know what the code should do. In black box testing, 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.

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

How to become a QA manual tester

In software testing, repetitive, high-frequency tests are easy to automate. It’s the more complicated testing requirements that call for manual tester roles. These circumstances can mean you’re signing on for a challenging role in software development. The sections below outline the educational requirements and previous experience you'll need to begin or advance your career in QA manual testing.

Manual QA tester education

Seventy-three percent of manual QA testers have a bachelor's degree, 18 percent have a master's degree, 4 percent have a high school diploma, and 3 percent have an associate degree [1]. Most commonly, QA manual testers pursue degrees in computer science, information technology, computer applications, or electrical engineering. If earning a degree is not part of your plans, you might consider attending a manual QA tester boot camp or earning career certificates or certifications to fill the gaps in your resume.

QA tester certifications and certificates

You can advance your prospects for a QA manual tester career by earning certification as an ISTQB Certified Tester or CSTE-certified software tester. ISTQB is an international provider of software testing certification and also offers advanced certifications in specialized areas such as AI or gaming for test analysts or test managers. You'll also find a variety of tech companies that offer career credentials in software testing techniques. For more information, check out Quality Assurance Certification: Options, Testing, and Careers.

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, $64,434 base pay per year [2]

  • Software QA tester, $77,621 base pay per year [3]

  • Test analyst, $88,450 base pay per year [4]

  • Test manager, $90,333 base pay per year [5]

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 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations [6].

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.

Start or advance your career in quality assurance today on Coursera

You can use an online course like Foundations of Software Testing and Validation from the University of Leeds to build the knowledge you need to land your first QA role. Or, consider earning a Six Sigma Yellow Belt Specialization, a popular quality management strategy. You'll explore testing tools used to define, measure, and analyze, as well as obtain an overview of the Six Sigma process and key principles you can apply in a quality assurance role.

Article sources


Zippia. "Manual Tester Education Requirements, https://www.zippia.com/manual-tester-jobs/education/?src=chatbot_popout_displayed." Accessed February 23, 2024.

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