Learn about QA tester skills, certifications, salaries, and jobs in this 2023 guide.
A website crash can be chaotic. Software glitches can drive users away. You have probably experienced firsthand the frustration of flawed technology. As a quality assurance (QA) tester, you can ensure websites and applications run smoothly. Learn more about what a QA tester does and earns in the following article.
A QA tester is someone who works with software or a website to ensure it runs properly. They try to prevent faulty apps or other technology from getting to the customer. QA testers accomplish this by running a variety of manual and automated tests while the product is in development. The goal is to try and break the product or force it to malfunction. This empowers developers with the knowledge they need to make product adjustments before it goes to market.
QA testing is an essential part of the software development life cycle. It ensures that an organization's product is as high-quality as possible. The list below outlines a few ways QA testers contribute to the organizations they work for:
QA saves time and increases efficiency. QA testing throughout the development process can help you can identify issues early on. It can be much less complicated to fix bugs and other issues early in a product’s life cycle. It is also easier for developers to adjust code they have worked on recently.
QA testers help protect brand reputation. QA testers use their skills to anticipate what might go wrong and prevent those things from happening. This saves a business from releasing a product that glitches, crashes when too many people use it at once, or otherwise provides a negative user experience (UX).
QA testing makes it possible for products to grow safely. Scalability is important to QA testers. A key part of their role is to ensure added features won't compromise security or UX. With effective testing, you'll have a product that can be launched now and scaled later.
QA is essential to product safety. QA testers not only ensure user expectations are met but also government and industry guidelines too. They follow specific procedures to test, document, evaluate, and report their findings.
QA testing is typically done in cycles throughout the product’s development. Your job as a tester involves several responsibilities. First, whether you're doing manual or automated testing, you’ll need to know how to plan to test, develop and execute test cases, and evaluate and document test results. Along with reviewing procedures for tests and developing scripts, you’ll research new technologies, tools, and testing procedures. Working closely with the product and development team and other stakeholders in QA processes, you'll ensure a product is of excellent quality and low risk.
With all industries developing products and providing services online, the QA tester has an important role. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts job growth of 25 percent between 2021 and 2023, a sizable increase from the 8 percent median growth rate for all occupations. This figure translates into about 411,400 new jobs .
The average total yearly wage for QA testers in the US is $72,662 . This number includes an average base salary of $66,955 per year combined with the median reported additional pay of $5,707 annually. Additional pay may include commissions, profit sharing, or bonuses.
Within the QA testing field, you can take on various job roles. Some, along with their expected annual salary, include:
Note: All salary information below includes the average base salary and median reported additional pay from Glassdoor in January 2023.
QA engineer: $82,591
Test manager: $149,969
Test engineer: $86,211
Test analyst: $92,276
Test automation engineer: $104,656
There are seven different types of QA testing:
The QA tester often starts with unit testing, where you test individual software functions or unique testable product parts. By breaking up the testing into small, manageable parts, you can better identify what needs to be fixed. After you test individual units, you can move on to component testing, which connects many units of code.
Next, you’ll have to check that the various code components work together. QA testing combines different units of code and tests them concurrently. Developers need to do more work if they don’t work when integrated.
Also known as end-to-end testing, this testing stage looks at functionality more holistically. System testing aims to mimic what users experience with the product in real life.
A small team works with the software or website when in development. Yet, when the asset launches to the world, it may have to handle hundreds of users at once. Performance testing confirms that the code can keep up. It compares performance on different user systems and puts the application under pressure to identify any bottlenecks or other concerns.
In this stage, you check what happens to the product after changes are made. It’s making sure that fixing one problem doesn’t create new ones.
Performed near the end of development, user acceptance testing (UAT) verifies the product or application does what its developers meant it to do, as expected.
Acknowledging that many users are on mobile devices, this testing checks that the product or application can function on these devices. For example, mobile testing considers smaller screens, less memory, battery usage, and what happens if someone gets a call while in that app.
Sixty-six percent of QA testers have a bachelor's degree, 16 percent have a master's, and 10 percent have an associate degree . Most commonly, they study computer science, business, computer applications, or information technology. You can also become a QA tester without a degree by meeting other employer qualifications, like industry certifications or hands-on experience.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of London
Master of Computer and Information Technology from the University of Pennsylvania
Graduate Certificate of Global Business Practice by Macquarie University
Read more: What Is a Bachelor’s Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More
Even if you already have a degree, pursuing certifications for QA testers will help you expand your knowledge and prepare you for more advanced job opportunities. You can use the list below to identify certifications in your desired industry, area of expertise, and experience level.
For beginner QA testers (little to no experience with coding or testing):
Continuous Delivery & DevOps by the University of Virginia
The International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) offers several related certifications, including Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL), Test Analyst, Test Manager, AI Testing, Game Testing, Agile Tester, Strategic Test Management, and more.
For intermediate QA testers (those with some coding experience or a relevant two- to four-year degree):
Software Testing and Automation Specialization by the University of Minnesota
Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST)
For advanced QA testers (those with a four-year degree or a two-year degree and a few years of experience
Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST) for a foundational understanding of QA testing
Certified Test Engineer (CSTE) to establish your competence in QA practices and principles
Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA) to show you know bug database software and version control and different client and server architectures
Certified Manager of Software Quality (CMSQ) demonstrates a professional level of competence in QA
Read more: How To Write a QA Tester Resume: Layout, Design, Examples
QA testers are often analytical thinkers who can think flexibly and creatively. Your job is to discover errors and find bugs and glitches, so critical thinking is crucial. You’ll also need solid written and verbal communication skills so that you can efficiently track, troubleshoot, and report defects and errors. There are four main software testing models QA testers should be familiar with.
Read more: How to Write Test Cases: Types, Benefits, and Template
The four main software testing models include:
Waterfall: In the Waterfall model, the classic Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) model, one phase is completed before the next. This lifecycle begins with a feasibility study. Requirement analysis and specification determination follow. Then, there’s design, coding, and unit testing, followed by integration and system testing. This model ends with maintenance.
Iterative Development: A variation on the SDLC, the Iterative Development model, takes a more cyclical approach. The planning and requirement, analysis and design, implementation, testing, and evaluation stages are repeated over and over in an incremental fashion. This is thought to help improve the next iteration faster.
Agile: Agile is a team-focused approach to QA that prioritizes customer value. This concept typically leverages the incremental, iterative approach. Everyone works in short sprints to adapt to changes in software development and collaborates to figure out the best strategies to meet the project goals.
Extreme Programming: As a QA tester, you may work in an Extreme Programming environment. An iteration of Agile, this approach also stresses customer satisfaction. Instead of being driven by a deadline or pre-determined stages in a model, this QA testing model identifies ways to solve problems as efficiently as possible to get software to the user sooner. Testing starts as early as possible in an Extreme Programming model.
Read more: 9 QA Interview Questions + How To Answer Them
If you’re interested in the QA tester career path, you can build the essential skills on Coursera. Consider enrolling in an online introductory course like the Software Product Management Specialization. Or, if you're ready for more advanced concepts, hone your skills with a Software Development Lifecycle Specialization.
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US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm." Accessed January 12, 2023.
Glassdoor. “What does a QA Engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/qa-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,11.htm." Accessed January 12, 2023.
Zippia. "QA Tester Education Requirements, https://www.zippia.com/quality-assurance-tester-jobs/education/." Accessed January 12, 2023.
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.