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Whether you are looking to advance up the quality assurance (QA) ladder or simply prefer a challenging, multi-dimensional role that encompasses quality control (QC) and testing, there are numerous reasons to consider becoming a QA tester.

For one thing, you won’t be just a cog in a wheel. A true QA tester goes way beyond executing tests: They play an integral role in ensuring that a newly developed software program or app meets expectations for performance, usability, security and functionality.

For another, your skills will be in demand. Thanks to a rapidly growing and evolving need for software by businesses, the demand for QA professionals and testers is projected to grow 25 percent between 2021 and 2031.

Finally, there’s the money. The average salary range for an entry-level QA position falls between $57,444 and $71,731—not too shabby. In this guide, we’ll explain what a QA specialist does and how to acquire the skills and experience you need to land a position.

Assess Your Strengths and Interest

Newcomers who have certain, well-established traits are more likely to succeed as QA testers. First and foremost, QA testers need an eye for detail and passion for quality, noted Jason Boog, a QA project manager.

If errors, bugs or bad interface designs frustrate you when you play games or engage with websites, then you are probably well-suited for a career in QA, he added.

Also, people who are detail-oriented tend to be observant and show a lot of proactivity when it comes to fixing problems. Those behaviors and tendencies are especially advantageous in this role. That’s because most QA specialists are not only responsible for planning, building and executing a variety of tests through every phase of the development lifecycle, but also ensuring that the products they test delight end users and drive business outcomes.

They begin the journey by looking for gaps, contradictions and ambiguities in the requirements and certifying that the design is error-free. They also ensure that the requirements are implemented in accordance with the client’s wishes, explained Ruslan Desyatnikov, a software quality assurance expert and founder of QA Mentor.        

 

Performing this part of the job requires ongoing communication with stakeholders, the Scrum team, architects, and business analysts; being unafraid to ask questions; and sharing feedback with UI/UX specialists. Desyatnikov admits that sometimes you have to be a pain in the neck to get the information you need—in other words, persistence pays off.

It also takes organization, patience and discipline to perform retesting and regression testing every time there’s a small change in the code, he cautioned. Some people find regression testing dull and boring. If that’s the case, this maybe isn’t the right job for you.

Acquire Fundamental Knowledge and Experience

While you don’t need a specific degree to enter the QA field (or programming knowledge for that matter), if you don’t have experience testing large enterprise software, start by learning the basics.

Since it’s important to know testing concepts before engaging in test automation, Desyatnikov suggests that you complete courses in manual software testing (including security/penetration testing). And because you will be required to ensure compliance with procedures and standards, you should also complete coursework in software quality control and assurance processes and practices.

Once you start working as a manual tester, junior QA analyst or testing/QA intern, seize opportunities to engage in discussions with the development team, especially software engineers. These meetings will give you exposure to the project goals and the business needs that serve as the purpose for building the product, and insight into how the team may adapt the testing plan based on changes in the schedule or environment.

As an example, Mitra Ahi started out as a technical support engineer in a software company. Working closely with developers and QA engineers exposed her to the QA discipline and gave her testing experience. She requested learning assignments in QA forums, landed a contract job, and now works as a QA specialist at Giving Data.

Ideally, you want to observe and understand how QA is prevalent in every phase of the development process, including analysis, requirements gathering, solution design, development, testing and deployment. As Ahi notes, QA specialists can’t work in isolation if they want to make a positive impact on the final product. 

Build Your Skills On-the-Job

Once you have mastered executing test cases provided in a written test plan, start honing your coding skills, particularly JavaScript and SQL for scripting, so you can learn automation and how to create detailed software testing plans from scratch.

If you really want to grow, you need to learn coding so you can share your observations with the development team more efficiently. You may also want to learn how to perform backend or API testing. After all, QA testers and developers communicate better when they speak the same language.