QA engineers have a vital task: ensuring that software not only meets end users’ needs, but also complies with any standards and regulations (depending on the nature of the product). QA engineers don’t just appear at the very end of the software development process; depending on the company, they might provide input at every stage, doing their best to ensure that the product is built as right as possible from the outset.
If you’re interested in QA engineering as a career, keep in mind that the definition of the role can vary wildly between companies. For example, a smaller software-development firm might ask a QA engineer to touch pretty much every aspect of a piece of software during development, while their professional colleague at a huge enterprise might only work on a single feature. Whatever the specific job and company, QA engineering is a great opportunity for tech professionals to poke and prod codebases, and work closely with a development team to fix things.
But do you actually need a formal degree to break into QA engineering? While not all our experts agree a degree is a must-have for QA engineering, they offer some salient advice on which degrees can land you a job as a QA engineer—as well as how to stay upskilled long after you land a job in quality assurance.
Do you need a degree to get a job as a QA engineer?
Let’s get right to it: Dmitrii Bormotov, Head of QA at Ottofeller, says a degree may not be essential. “In my experience, most of the information I received from university courses was outdated. Passion and continuous learning are more important than a degree.”
That opinion certainly makes sense given the current demand for tech professionals. Despite widespread fears of an economic recession, organizations throughout the economy are hungry for all kinds of tech talent, and willing to pay sizable amounts of money to secure it. Hiring managers and recruiters are increasingly happy to overlook formal degrees and certifications if tech pros can prove they have the skills and experience necessary for a particular job.
Roman Tyshchenko, Head of QA at MacPaw, tells Dice: “You can find a job even without a degree, [but an] education in the field of computer science or information technologies will provide a strong basis to shape the understanding of what future engineers will work with.”
A computer science or engineering degree will give QA engineers the foundation to engage in thorough testing. For example, many CS and engineering courses focus on how different systems work; once you learn that, you have a better sense of how those systems can go wrong. More advanced coursework will cover the tools and programming languages necessary to fix systems.
“We've hired QA engineers with degrees in entirely different spheres and saw no difference in performance compared to the ones with a CS degree,” says Konstantin Klyagin, CEO and founder of QAwerk. “For example, we have a senior tester who was a journalist and worked her way up from technical support to a QA engineer in a Danish product company before joining us. Another case in point is our game tester, who used to be a chef. So, you need experience and motivation, not a degree.”
Professional courses can help you grasp the lingo and prepare for a junior position, Klyagin added, “but an ISTQB certificate alone is not enough. You'll also need great English to communicate with stakeholders and superb soft skills. We'd rather hire someone who's inquisitive, attentive to detail, responsive, and understands the value of timely software testing than a super technical but grumpy person.”
For companies mandating a degree, Krishna Rungta, CEO and founder of learning platform Guru99, says: “A bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field is generally the minimum requirement for starting a career as a QA engineer. However, some companies also consider candidates with degrees in mathematics, information systems, or electrical engineering. A strong foundation in programming, software development methodologies, and testing principles is essential for success in this role.”
Should you seek out certifications?
“It depends. Certifications are important and useful for structuring knowledge in your head. They help shape general approaches and understand what you are working with,” Tyshchenko says. “On the other hand, certifications may depend on the place of work and field you are in. If it is medicine, military, or other spheres, I would advise both companies and engineers to pay attention to certifications. Which of them is the best depends on the market a company is targeting. If it is the European market, then it is worth relying on the certifications recognized in the region. If it is the US, there are other organizations that issue certificates.”
A company may also pay for your certifications; during the job interview process, always make sure to ask about a training or education stipend. “A certificate may be a must-have for some fields or companies, but it is definitely not for everyone,” Tyshchenko adds. “You can obtain a certificate at the request of the product or company you work for or receive it for common development. And without a certificate, you still can find a job and be a good engineer and specialist.”
Rungta notes: “Industry-specific certifications can help QA engineers strengthen their skill set and stand out in the job market. Some popular certifications include the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) certification, Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA), and Certified Software Tester (CSTE).”
ISTQB is industry-standard for QA engineering certifications, with many of our experts agreeing the foundational testing certification (CTFL), Agile testing certification (CTFL-AT), and advanced testing certification (CTAL-TA) are all great options. ISTQB has 15 unique certifications you can obtain.
How can you keep your skillset up-to-date as a QA engineer?
“When you work on a single project for a long time, you tend to use a specific tech stack,” notes Bormotov. “To keep your skillset up-to-date, you can try out new tools and technologies and participate in QA communities to help others with their problems. This allows you to learn from others and stay updated with industry trends.”
Tyshchenko says: “Keep your finger on the pulse of the evolution of the environment you work in. For example, if you are testing Android applications, you should pay attention to each release of the Android system, follow the development of devices that use this operating system, and understand the new features and options for these devices. Being a part of the community and the industry overall is also very important for professional growth.”
You can apply the same advice to programming languages you choose to focus on. QA engineers often work in Java, Python, and C#. Staying up-to-date on new information, and staying active in communities and on GitHub repositories for those languages (whether they apply to your work or not), is a great way to stay upskilled.