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You’re great at spotting issues. You love to focus on the finer details. You hate when tech breaks. Quality over quantity is your motto.

If any of these qualities resonate, you’re primed to become a quality assurance engineer. QA engineers are growing in popularityIs Quality Assurance a Good Career?: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that overall employment of QA testers, among other software developers, will grow 25% in the next 10 years.

You likely have a lot of questions. Is it difficult to become a QA engineer? How long does it take to become one? Don’t you need to learn how to code? Can you become one without a degree?

Don’t sweat — we’ll cover everything that you’ll find in a QA engineer job description to help you weigh a career change and start making moves.

What is a QA engineer?

A quality assurance engineer catches errors, or bugs, in code and prevents mistakes from happening in the future.

They might troubleshoot existing software that’s having problems or do code reviews to spot potential future challenges.

Their job is to oversee the entire software development process to ensure code is being deployed correctly in each stage, and work closely with other engineers when it’s not.

Alternatively, a software quality control engineer might come into play at the end of the production cycle but before software is shipped to users.

Why is quality assurance important?

Quality assurance in software development is important because when software products or services work well and consistently, customers are happy and will keep paying for them. On the flip side, when software is constantly breaking or glitching, customers are eventually going to leave for a competitor or tell others about their poor experience.

It’s also a time saver: When companies create checks throughout the development process, they avoid having to scrap the entire thing or creating worse issues for themselves later on. 

What does a QA engineer do?

Day to day, a QA engineerQA Engineer: A Quick and Easy Guide to the Job is running automated tests, writing code, documenting processes and changes, and sitting in on brainstorming sessions or stakeholder meetings.

They’re often putting themselves in the shoes of the user or the developer to predict worst-case scenarios that could arise and then putting guardrails in place to avoid them.

Testing can be manual — i.e., conducted by a human — when simpler functions need to be checked out. But when the software becomes more complex or when the scope of work is unrealistic for a human to handle, such as in load testing when thousands of requests need to be sent a second, a QA specialist will run automated tests. For these, tools or frameworks assist in catching human error and streamlining the process. You can test one specific piece of software, called unit testing, or how different software interacts, called integration testing. System and performance testing evaluates the entire product and how it functions under different scenarios, while regression and functional testing ensure specific functions work as they’re implemented or other functions are added.

Become a QA tester: A step-by-step guide

Take these steps to become a quality assurance engineer if you’re starting from scratch:

1. Figure out if it’s the job for you

Like with any career path, you’ll want to decide first and foremost if becoming a software QA engineer ignites that passion inside you, provides the kind of lifestyle you want, and is something you’re willing to commit the time, money, and energy to.

Networking with QA engineers and picking their brains about the pros and cons of the job is a good start. You might also consider taking an introductory course or attending a conference to get a feel for the field, who thrives in it, and what skills you’ll need to develop that you don’t already have.

2. Get relevant technical training

While many manual QA specialists never code, getting a solid understanding of the tech you’ll be checking out is nonetheless a boon to any QA career. You’ll find real benefit from knowing the basics of a programming language such as Python or JavaScript, as well as the theory of computer science. If you’re an engineer making a career change, you can skip a beginner coding course in favor of specialized training in QA testing or SQL.

In-person certifications, online bootcamps, internships, on-the-job training, or a part-time or full-time degree are several routes you can take to gain technical skills, depending on how you best learn, how deep your education needs to go, and what you can afford.

3. Hone your soft skills

QA engineers aren’t just technical experts — they also need a set of soft skills that allow them to, among other things, collaborate effectively with others and meet production schedules. 

Take a look at the below necessary skills for becoming a QA engineer and browse engineer job descriptions for clues. Think on your past experiences and how they relate to those prerequisites — then, highlight these qualities on a resume, in a cover letter, or during an interview. For example, maybe you can exemplify your time management skills by highlighting how you juggled deadlines while working as a news reporter. Or, you can prove you’re a problem solver by telling a story about how you accommodated for a rain delay as an events coordinator. 

If you lack in any area, consider practicing weaker soft skills in your current role, through a class, or by picking up books or podcasts that can give you more confidence in these areas.

4. Define your ideal job

When you’ve put all this work into making a career switch, you don’t want to blow it on the first job that comes your way but isn’t a great fit. Defining what you want in a job will put you in a position where you’re happy, motivated, and fulfilled long-term.

Consider: What kind of company or mission do you want to serve? Do you want to work in a big, legacy development team where protocols have already been established for you, or do you prefer a small startup where there’s room for innovation or new ideas? How important is work-life balance? Salary? Perks such as healthcare or vacation days?

Make a list of your must-haves (or “must-avoids”), then prioritize applying to the jobs that meet some, if not all, of these requirements.

5. Take the leap

Once you’re skilled up and confident in the type of work environment for you, it’s time to actually apply, network, and put yourself in front of recruiters. 

Practice patience and compassion with yourself during your job search and career journey. It may take a bit, and some heartache, but the right QA role is out there for you.

Key skills to become a QA engineer

Despite what you may think, QA engineers need both hard and soft skills to get the job done. 

Hard skills might include:
  • Programming languages such as JavaScript, Ruby, or Python
  • Automation testing tools such as Selenium, Puppeteer, or WebdriverIO
  • SQL or a knowledge of databases
  • API platforms, testing, frameworks, and use cases
  • DevOps or DevOps tools
  • Project management tools such as Jira, Asana, or YouTrack
  • Other tools such as Android Studio, Figma, or DevTools
  • Technical writing

Soft skills relevant to become a software QA tester, meanwhile, might be:
  • Problem solving and critical thinking
  • Creativity and innovation
  • An eye for detail
  • Time management and organization
  • Change management
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Emotional intelligence and people skills
  • Resilience and patience
  • Self-motivation

Qualifications for becoming a QA engineer

The qualifications for becoming a QA engineer depend on the level of role you’re applying to and the company’s needs. Some entry-level jobs, for example, require some years of experience testing or coding, or a bachelor’s in computer science or similar major — meaning that if you’ve never worked in software development, you may need an internship or bootcamp under your belt. Other jobs that are more junior may be more inclined to take students right out of school or a certification course.

If you’re switching from software engineering to QA engineering, you’ll want to first hone those relevant hard skills before applying for entry- or mid-level positions. An internal transfer could be a great way to test the waters without leaving a company you enjoy working for.

What quality assurance roles can I apply to?

Quality assurance careers3 Lucrative Careers Within the Quality Assurance Industry come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common onesQA Specialist: Career Opportunities and Salary Potential you might encounter are:

1. QA manual tester

Average salary: $68,330 per year, according to Glassdoor

Manual testers do exactly what their job title suggests: They manually test software for defects. This is a great place to start as a QA engineer to get a feel for the job and QA process.

2. QA automation engineer

Average salary: $85,431 per year, according to Glassdoor

Once you’ve mastered testing on your own, you can venture into writing test scripts for evaluating code automatically or with less involvement. This is where some programming skills come in handy, or you might become more familiar with automation tools.

3. QA analyst

Average salary: $84,734 per year, according to Glassdoor

QA analysts combine software testing with data analysis and research. They might have a less technical background than a QA engineer, but they apply analytical skills to make a test plan to preempt any software issues.

4. Cloud QA engineer

Average salary: $99,712 per year, according to Glassdoor

Cloud QA engineers solve for bugs specifically in the cloud. They might specialize in cloud computing, or a specific cloud platform such as AWS.

5. QA engineering manager or lead 

Average salary: $106,336 per year, according to Glassdoor

QA managers or team leads oversee the day-to-day operations of a QA team, hire and support talent, and act as liaisons between engineering and clients, senior leaders, or other internal teams. They usually have some engineering and QA experience, along with people management experience, under their belt.

QA engineer success stories from our students

Pedro FierrosRefashioning a Career in IT: Pedro Fierros’s TripleTen Story was an IT technician before he signed up for TripleTen’s QA Engineering Bootcamp. His friends encouraged him to consider the field because he was already a whiz at solving technical problems. “One of the reasons that I took the bootcamp for QA is because I am not very strong when it comes to coding or programming,” he said. After joining, he was grateful to have a community to learn alongside when coding became a challenge. “We all just kind of got together and said to each other, ‘I’m struggling in this area, I'm struggling with these concepts here,’ and although we couldn’t solve each other’s difficulties, there was that extra sense of community there.”

As he pursues a QA engineer job post-graduation, he’s found that a lot of the lessons he picked up in the bootcamp apply to his current role.

There's plenty of skills that I learned in the bootcamp that have improved my ability to be a better technician. Pedro Fierros, TripleTen grad

Explore the world of QA engineering today with TripleTen. With regular one-on-one tutoring, externships to put your skills to use in real-world situations, and job search support upon completion, TripleTen ensures you’re not just confident in your QA abilities, but make it a long-lasting career.

IT career tips

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Is a bootcamp right for you?

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