How to Become a Software Quality Assurance Engineer

How to Become a Software Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer

Although there are other paths for breaking into this profession, here is an outline of the common steps for becoming a software QA engineer:


1. Excel at calculus, algebra, physics, computer science and programming in high school

2. Determine if this field is suited to your interests, qualities and traits

3. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in software engineering/design

4. Work in a school-facilitated internship while you're a student 

5. Get an entry-level role after graduation

6. Advance your career as you gain experience and expand your skill set


Continue reading below to get a good idea of what you'll need to begin your career as a software quality assurance engineer. We've also included helpful information for this profession, such as an overview of what you'd be doing on a day-to-day basis, a list of possible employers, actual job postings, and much more!



What Education Will I Need?

Most employers will prefer that you have a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, or a closely related field such as computer science/engineering. This will help prove to them that you’ve acquired many of the necessary foundational skills to work in this field. As a bonus, your school may help introduce you to employers via internship opportunities they facilitate. 


High School: To prepare for this career while you’re a high school student, be sure to excel at calculus, algebra, physics, computer science and programming. This will serve as excellent preparation for work in this field, and help you qualify for university programs in computer science/software engineering. 




What Experience Will I Need?

If you have a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, computer engineering, computer science or a related field, you likely won’t require any work experience to land an entry-level role. Moving up to senior-level roles may require experience in junior-level positions, or a graduate degree, and in some cases both.


If you don't have a bachelor's degree, not to worry, many employers will accept a few years worth of work experience in a relevant field in place of education. Relevant fields could be virtually anything within the realm of computer science, particularly software development, design, engineering or quality assurance.


Success Tip: Working in your college or university’s software engineering department, or getting an internship that’s facilitated by your school are great ways to get relevant experience while you’re a student.



What is a Software QA Engineer?

The purpose of a software QA engineer is to explore all possible problems with the software they are working on. QA engineers accomplish this by doing everything a consumer or end user might reasonably do within the confines of the software, to pinpoint areas where problems could arise.



What Does a Software QA Engineer Do?

Software quality assurance engineers are responsible for developing, publishing and implementing test plans for complex software applications, for the purpose of improving the software product before it hits the market. Another key responsibility is to develop quality assurance standards and tracking metrics.



What Are Their Typical Job Duties?

Although the specific duties of a software QA engineer can vary, they are generally responsible for the following:


• Creating automated test plans using a variety of tool sets

• Performing black box testing as required

• Developing automated testing systems using commercial tools, scripts and data sets

• Liaising with developers to ensure the software development process incorporates an appropriate level of testing

• Resolving issues that impede testing efforts

• Establishing the purpose and deliverables of testing efforts

• Providing consulting to other departments as necessary



Is this Profession Right for Me? 

If you have the following personal traits, you'll be well-suited for work as a software quality assurance engineer.


• You enjoy being involved in the entire lifecycle of a project, from inception to completion

• You’re passionate about computing and programming 

• You thoroughly enjoy isolating individual problem areas to solve problems

• You enjoy performing tasks that require precision and attention to detail

• You have a keen interest in making sure that products are of top quality before they hit the market 

• You’re interested in a well-paying career that involves working indoors 

• You’re willing to work on complex problems everyday 

• You’re keen on advancing your knowledge of databases and client-side frameworks



What is the Salary of a Software Quality Assurance Engineer?

The median annual wage of software engineers (which includes QA engineers) is around $100,690 per year in the United States. Their salary can vary based on factors such as their level of experience and education, the amount of responsibility inherent in their job, the size and type of their employer, the region in which they work, and other factors. 



More About Salary Levels

As mentioned above, the salary level you could earn as a software quality assurance engineer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education and certification

• Your level of experience

• The level of responsibility inherent in your position

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The industry in which you work

• Many other factors


Software QA Engineer Salary - Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the overall average salary of Albertans working in the “Software Engineers & Designers” occupational group is $104,555 per year.


Software QA Engineer Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary level of Americans working in the “Software Developers” occupational group (which includes software quality assurance engineers) is $100,690 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries are below $57,340, and the highest 10% of salaries are above $153,710. 



Who Creates Jobs for Software QA Engineers?

Common types of employers for software QA engineers include:


• Companies that devise embedded software for inclusion in other products

• Companies that develop industrial instrumentation and process control products

• Consulting companies that provide software related services 

• Manufacturing companies

• Oil, gas and other energy companies

• Colleges and universities

• Government agencies

• Public and private research institutions

• Software development, quality assurance and testing companies

• Software marketing and distribution companies

• Internet-based businesses



Software QA Engineer Jobs

Our job board below has "Software QA Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. 

What are the Working Conditions Like?

Working Hours: Software QA engineers usually work a normal, weekday working week. Overtime, including evenings, weekends and holidays, may be required in order to perform various tasks, or to complete a project before a deadline.


Work Environment: QA engineers are often members of teams when working on particular projects, and often work closely with design engineers. They work in offices or laboratories in comfortable surroundings.


Work Hazards: Like other workers who spend long periods of time in front of a computer, software QA engineers are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome or cumulative trauma disorder.



What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

With more experience and the development of additional technical and leadership skills, you could eventually be promoted to roles with greater pay and responsibility, including supervisory positions such as Senior Software Quality Engineer and Software Managers.


Further down the road you could move into executive roles with your company or an outside company, or you could move into self-employment through consulting work, or by opening your own software design, development, testing or distribution company. 



What Careers Are Similar to “Software Quality Assurance Engineer”?

Listed below are careers in our database that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Software Quality Assurance Engineer”:


• Game Tester

• Industrial Engineer

• ISO Auditor

• Software Designer

• Software Engineer

• Software Sales Representative

• Test Engineer



What Are Scholarships for Getting Into This Field? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a Software Quality Assurance Engineer. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our “Scholarships Organized by Field of Study” page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a software quality assurance engineer:


• Occupational Profile: “Software Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 14, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Software Developers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 14, 2017.

• Job Profiles: “Software Developers.” (December 22, 2016). National Careers Service. Retrieved February 14, 2017.

• Math & Computer Science Careers: “Software Quality Assurance Engineer & Tester.” (n.d.). Science Buddies. Retrieved February 14, 2017.



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a software quality assurance engineer. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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