How to Become a QA Engineer: Skills, Requirements, and Career Guide
QA stands for "Quality Assurance" and in the product and tech space refers to making sure everything is working as expected. This covers things like product functionality, feature releases, and experience launches. Every company has a QA process-- some better than others-- to make sure everything is always working as expected.
Curious what we mean when we say "product?" Read this.
What is a QA Engineer?
In short, QA engineers test and maintain the performance of software applications, specifically in the pre-launch and pre-update phases of development.
QA engineers support engineering teams by actively testing and breaking new software releases. These roles need to have comprehensive understandings of their company's code and software architecture to do their job most effectively. They usually support multiple product teams and developers, and are the final step of the development lifecycle. They are usually the only blocker between major bugs and primary end-users of a product, and therefore need to be extremely thorough with their testing.
Though testing is the primary function of their role, QA Engineers also interpret and write technical documentation for their companies. If the company is particularly small, a QA engineer may also find themselves assisting with frontend development work even though their primary role is testing.
QA Engineers need to be creative in designing various test cases based on individualized products. They also need to constantly be searching for inputs or patterns that could potentially cause an application or software to malfunction.
Ultimately, the theme of the QA engineer role is diagnosing how to fix products in the most cost-effective and efficient ways.
Not interested in qa engineering? Check out our other job guides below for more traditional engineering roles that require programming experience.
View Frontend Engineer Job Guide | View Backend Engineer Job Guide
Responsibilities of a QA Engineer
What does a QA Engineer do?
QA engineers spend a majority of their workday collecting and analyzing data from their own experiences with a product. This is known as "debugging." Work is assigned to a QA engineer usually in a structured way, after the code has been completed by the primary developer.
QA engineers also spend time reviewing bug reports from customer service teams or individual users. They take this information and isolate code sections to be debugged by themselves or development teams.
They also write and run test cases to ensure code functionality for all users, even users who complete abnormal activities with their product.
Sometimes if a QA engineer or employer is more senior and mature, they will build and monitor automatic testing engines to administer tests to a software and analyze the results
Do I need a degree to be a QA Engineer?
None required for an associate/entry level QA engineering position. While this role seems more technical, QA engineers can come from all backgrounds, and do not normally require a degree. This is also a great role to break into the tech industry with limited experience.
We've seen these people be incredibly successful QA engineers:
- Data entry and receptionist professionals
- Restaurant servers and managers
- Accounting and budgeting roles
- Basically any role where you can prove attention to detail and creativity
If you're new here to bridged, we're glad to meet you! We are huge fans of alternate forms of education, and recommend specific certifications to target skills. Check out our skills-based curriculum here.
Do QA Engineers need to know code?
While very company-dependent, QA engineers typically need to have a basic understanding of coding. While it's not always required, having coding knowledge can be extremely helpful for QA engineers in their day-to-day work.
Having coding knowledge enables QA engineers to read and understand potentially buggy code, which is important when conducting code reviews and identifying potential issues. It also allows them to write automated tests, which can help to save time and increase the efficiency of the testing process. It also allows them to communicate more clearly with the development teams around technical product requirements.
We recommend pursuing a basic / beginner level of coding understanding to pursue a role as a QA engineer.
Our Favorite QA Engineering Certifications
There are not many QA engineering certifications out there because the role does not have too many hard skills. The most relevant course is the specialization from Minnesota, hosted by Coursera, which focused on fundamentals of QA and how to use some of the more relevant tools.
Software Testing & Automation Specialization
This class touches on software testing and validations for beginners. It's created by the University of Minnesota and hosted on Coursera.
This class is part of the java & software engineering fundamentals program from Duke University, hosted on Coursera. This is also a little more developer-heavy, but Duke is a premium name, and the certificate from completion will shine on resumes.
Salary and Career Potential
Entry Level QA Engineer Salary
We've aggregated thousands of salaries across glassdoor and linkedin, and QA Engineers can make anywhere between 45k - 65k, depending on their location and skillsets.
Career Path of a QA Engineer
We included two paths here to show the versatility in starting out as a QA engineer. Usually these users transition to become developers or engineering managers, but we've known several who've transferred into project management or even UX research (truly!). So while these paths are common, the #1 thing to keep in mind is this is a great path to get your foot in the door at a tech company.
- QA Engineer, or Jr QA Engineer: Spend about 2-4 years at either level here.
- Senior QA Engineer / Project Manager: Spend about 3-5 years here.
- QA Manager / Senior Project Manager: Spend about 5-10 years here.
- Engineering Manager / Product Manager: This one is tricky, but most folks spend roughly 4-6 years here.
Job Requirements and Skills
Popular Job Description of a QA Engineer
We've used AI to aggregate the top job descriptions used by hiring managers looking for QA engineers. When putting your resume together, try to mimic these listings. To learn more about this process, check out our partner Jobscan for a comprehensive resume review.
- Design and implement test plans and test cases for software products
- Execute test plans and scripts to identify bugs and issues
- Collaborate with development and product teams to resolve bugs and improve software quality
- Develop and maintain automated test suites to improve testing efficiency
- Communicate test results and quality metrics to stakeholders
- Participate in code reviews and contribute to the overall improvement of software development processes
- Stay up-to-date with the latest testing methodologies and technologies
Top Skills of a QA Engineer
We've compiled thousands of job descriptions for QA engineers to record the most common requirements to save you time. While preparing for interviews, keep in mind specific times you've demonstrated these skills.
Remember: there are not many hard-skills required for QA engineering, and these skills reflect that. Familiarity with programming and language frameworks is recommended to get ahead of other applicants, but not required to. be successful in the role.
- Create test cases that make sure the product is consumer ready
- Demonstrate excellent problem-solving skills pertaining to a product malfunction, and exercise creative ways to ‘break’ a product
- Contribute meaningfully to a team-based environment deeply rooted in continuous learning, teaching, and sharing information
- Write automated end-to-end tests via Testcafe and Cypress
- Be an active, curious participant and listener in daily meetings and discussions
- API testing, Karate and/or Java familiarity
Top Tools of a QA Engineer
We've also compiled the most common tools listed in job description. If you're serious about becoming an QA engineer, get familiar with these and be ready to talk about them.
For Testing Management
For Automated Testing
For Code Review
Key Traits of a Successful QA Engineer
Problem Solving- A QA engineer needs to have strong problem-solving skills to identify issues with the software being developed and find effective solutions. They should be able to think creatively and approach problems from different angles to ensure the highest quality of the product.
Communication - A QA engineer needs to have strong communication skills to effectively communicate with the development team and other stakeholders. They should be able to clearly explain any issues or bugs they find, and provide detailed instructions on how to reproduce them.
Technical Writing - A QA engineer needs to have excellent technical writing skills to create clear and concise documentation on bugs, test cases, and other testing requirements. They should be able to communicate complex technical information in a way that is easy to understand for non-technical stakeholders.
Detail Oriented- A QA engineer needs to have a strong attention to detail to ensure that all possible scenarios are covered in the testing process. They should be able to identify even the smallest issues and ensure that they are addressed before the product is released.
Programming - While not all QA engineers need to have programming skills, having a basic understanding of coding languages can be extremely helpful in their work. This knowledge can help them to identify issues in the code and write automated tests to streamline the testing process.
Patience - QA can be a challenging and often frustrating role, as it requires a lot of attention to detail and meticulous testing. A QA engineer needs to have patience and persistence to ensure that all issues are identified and addressed before the product is released to the market.
Get QA Engineering Experience
Difference between QA Engineers and Software Engineers
Traditional software engineers differ from QA engineers in that they are the ones actively building the products that need the QA testing.
Software Engineers: the builders
QA Engineers: the testers & bug catchers
Both roles are integral for a functioning engineering team.
More Recommended QA Programs & Courses
Compared to other engineering programs, there is not much out there on QA. A lot of this is because there are not many hard skills, so a lot of the roles are filled through referrals rather than resume reviews and experiences.
Take a few of these certs and take your learnings to target your resume towards QA positions & verbiage. Showcase how detail oriented you can be. Review the products and platforms you apply for, and mention any bugs or experience hiccups you can find to show you've done your research.
For the complete beginners: The Complete Quality Assurance Course - Learn QA from Scratch
We loved this comprehensive, 10-hour program hosted on Udemy. It focuses on the fundamentals of QA, and how to QA with both manual and automated means. The primary goal of the course is to jumpstart a career in tech, so we're all for that too.
For the software-language-agnostic: The Complete Software Testing Bootcamp
This "bootcamp" is only $40 and includes almost 30 hours of great content. Our favorite segment, and probably the most relevant to QA engineering, was the part on test case & bug report writing. This Udemy class is a best-seller, with more than a hundred-thousand students and a rating of 4.6.
This Udemy course by Academind is extremely highly rated with more than ten thousand students. It covered the same principles as the Minnesota specialization course 1 (fundamentals), but in a much more cohesive way.
For role-explorers: Programming Foundations- Software Testing + QA
We say this all the time, but still mean it. Linkedin Learning is fabulous for learning high-level concepts for lots of roles in one place. If you're still looking for a role that's relevant to you, we recommend exploring several options with a platform like Linkedin. It's free for 7 days, so give it a try!
My Experience with QA Engineering
I say this to all my friends and family: QA Engineering is absolutely one of the best ways to break into a technical field. Unfortunately, others, and specifically expensive bootcamps know this too, and will try and prey on newbies who are trying to learn about the field. We recommend using a combination of free resources and affordable certifications to get a feel for the space before paying to "break in."
We've built a system for you to learn on your own. Check it out here.
Get Started with a Bridged Recommendation
Review: Software Testing Specialization with University of Minnesota
QA Engineering is a great role to catapult yourself into the tech industry. After doing 2 years of QA, the world is your oyster for engineering and product roles. This is actually one of our favorite roles to recommend for users to break into tech without any hard skills.
Here at Bridged we are huge fans of stacking micro-certifications to achieve desired career results. We're building a product to make your career planning fun and affordable, and we'd love to talk to YOU! Was this article helpful? Did you land an interview for a QA engineering role?
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Check out our sources!
Glassdoor Team. “Salary: QA Engineer (March, 2023) | Glassdoor.” Glassdoor, Glassdoor, 1 Feb. 2023, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/product-analyst-salary-SRCH_KO0,15.html