What Is a QA Tester? Types, Skills, Degrees, Jobs, and QA Careers

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Start building a successful career as a QA tester with this article exploring the variety of QA tester skills, QA tester salary, and types of QA tester jobs available.

[Featured image] Quality assurance tester reviews units of code on a computer screen in a darkened room

Quality assurance (QA) testers play a key role in our increasingly digital world. A job as a QA tester can be a rewarding way to help ensure software and websites run well and do what users expect. 

A website crash can be chaotic. Software glitches can drive users away. You have probably experienced firsthand the frustration of digital technology, doing what you want when you want it. As a QA tester, you can make sure quality websites and applications run consistently. Explore QA tester skills, degrees, and salary, and learn more about QA tester jobs.

What is a QA tester?

A QA tester is someone who works with software or a website to ensure it runs properly. A QA tester tries to prevent faulty apps or other technology from getting to the customer. They do so by first running a variety of tests while the product is in development. The QA tester runs manual and automated tests to try and break the product or force it to malfunction. This lets developers make the necessary fixes before that product goes to market.

Importance of QA testing for business

QA tester jobs are on the rise because of the importance of QA testing for business. Here’s a closer look at some of the benefits of QA testing.

It saves time and money

QA testing is an ongoing part of the development process. By testing along the way, you can identify issues early on. It can be much easier to fix something earlier in the product’s life cycle. Otherwise, you may have to go back and make changes in many areas. It is more economical to make changes while developers have that code fresh in their minds. 

Protects business reputation and image

Users have many digital options. Their patience is limited. 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 when users try to use it. QA testing skills can also prevent a website from crashing when too many people simultaneously try to put an item in their cart.

Ensures competitiveness of product or service

QA testing also supports scalability. Involving a QA tester from the outset help ensure added features won’t compromise security or user experience. With effective testing, you end up with a product that can be safely launched and scaled later.

Enhances product safety

QA testers follow specific procedures to test, document, and report their findings. Typically these testers are outside the development team, providing an objective view of the product. Their impartiality supports the delivery of a safe and secure product. QA testers not only ensure user expectations are met but also government and industry guidelines too.

Essential types of QA testing

As a QA tester, you'll need to develop technical expertise. To bolster your QA tester skills, you’ll want exposure to each of these essential types of QA testing aptitudes: 

Unit 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.

Integration testing

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.

System testing

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. 

Performance testing

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.

Regression testing

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. 

User Acceptance Testing

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.

Mobile testing

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. 

Key characteristics of QA tester jobs

QA testing is typically done in cycles throughout the product’s development. Your job as a tester involves several responsibilities. For one, whether 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. 

QA testers are often analytical thinkers who are flexible and able to think creatively. After all, your job is to discover errors and find bugs and glitches. You’ll need to track and report any defects and help troubleshoot errors. 

Along with reviewing procedures for tests and developing scripts, you’ll research new technologies, tools, and testing procedures too. Working closely with the product and development team and other stakeholders in QA processes, you make sure a product is of excellent quality and reduces risk.   

QA tester job requirements

Building a successful QA tester career typically begins with a bachelor’s degree. Employers could look for other skills and qualifications, including industry certifications and awareness of crucial software testing models. 

Read more: What Is a Bachelor’s Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More

Skills and qualifications

Becoming a QA tester typically begins with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, information technology, or a related field. Employers also look for test management software proficiency and good working knowledge of programming languages. At least one year of experience in QA testing will usually help. Potential employers may also ask about your experience in Agile frameworks and regression testing.

With your understanding of computers and testing, employers often look for QA testers with solid analytical skills and great attention to detail. You’ll need to pay close attention to find issues that could challenge users. 

Strong written and verbal communication skills will help as well. You’ll need to write and sometimes verbally report your findings to the development team. Concisely stating what you found will improve overall productivity.

QA tester certifications

Pursuing certifications for QA testers helps you expand your knowledge and generally sets you up to qualify for more job opportunities. The best certificates for you align with the industry or niche you're working in. QA tester certifications are available for those with different experience levels.

  • Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST) for a foundational understanding of QA testing

  • Certified Manager of Software Quality (CMSQ) demonstrates a professional level of competence in QA 

  • Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA) to show you know bug database software and version control and different client and server architectures

  • 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.

  • Certified Test Engineer (CSTE) to establish your competence in QA practices and principles

Important software testing models

You can approach software testing in many different ways. The main models include Waterfall, Iterative Development, Agile, and Extreme Programming.

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.

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 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.

You may also work in an Extreme Programming environment as a QA tester. An iteration of Agile, this approach also stresses customer satisfaction. Instead of being driven by a deadline or predetermined stages in a model, this QA testing looks for ways to solve problems efficiently and get the software in the hands of the user sooner. Testing starts as early as possible.

Read more: What Is Programming? And How To Get Started

Job outlook and career prospects for QA testers

The digital world needs QA testers. With all industries developing products and providing services online, the QA tester has an important role.

How much does a QA Tester make in a year?

QA testers, QA analysts, and software developers earn a median pay of $109,020 per year as of 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [1]. The job outlook is rosy too. The BLS predicts 25 percent growth, which is much faster than average.

Career Roles

Within the QA testing field, you can take on various job roles. Some, along with their expected annual salary, include: 

  • QA engineer: $75,749 [2]

  • Test manager: $114,068  [3]

  • Test engineer: $80,471 [4]

  • Test analyst: $81,686 [5]

  • Test automation engineer: $96,711 [6]

Ready to learn more about QA

If you’re interested in the QA tester career path, you can build your QA tester skills on Coursera. You might start with a Software Product Management Specialization. Or, if you already have the basics down, develop your skills with a Software Development Lifecycle Specialization



Software Product Management

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Software Requirements, Product Management, Scrum, agile, Project Management, Agile Software Development, Software Product Management, Software Project Management, Lean Software Development, Software Development Process, Scrum (Software Development), User Story, Use Case, Software Development, Agile Management, Program Evaluation And Review Technique (PERT), Software Metric, Software Metrics



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Article sources


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 June 29, 2022.

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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