What Quality Assurance Engineers Do
In the IT sector, there are two main types of employees who perform quality checks, though the terms are often used interchangeably, adding to the confusion about what each does. On the one hand, there are quality assurance engineers, often referred to as software quality assurance engineers, QA engineers, SQA Engineers, and other similar titles. These individuals test software before it hits the market. They’re involved throughout the development process, helping the development team pinpoint problems as something is built, ensuring objectives will be met, and that guidelines are being adhered to. They generally test individual processes within an application or framework, versus examining the finished product, and focus on preventing problems from occurring.
There are also quality control professionals and software testers. Their goal is to make sure no bugs or problems are included in the finished product. For more information on the differences in the two fields, see: “Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control.” This page focuses on careers in assurance versus control.
Who would enjoy a career in Quality Assurance (Product / Engineering)?
QA requires a very analytical mindset and the ability to compartmentalize complex tasks into smaller components. People in the career not only need to be adept coders, but also very familiar with processes, best practices, and regulations. Effective communication skills are essential too, as those in QA must be able to explain what issues they’ve uncovered and often propose solutions to correct them. Overall, the career offers steady work and decent work/ life balance, so it can be a good field for someone who seeks stable employment.
Who mightn't like the career?
Although some large QA firms, like Electronic Arts, offer their employees perks like gyms, sports equipment, and napping areas, these jobs are few and far between, and unfortunately, the work can be somewhat tedious. This means it’s not a good fit for someone who doesn’t want to sit at their desk for long periods of time and those who need constant stimulation.
Extra hours are sometimes required as a product hits developmental milestones as well, in order to make sure it continues to meet its deadlines. For this reason, it may not be a good career for someone who needs to work a standard set of hours each week.
It is possible to get into QA without a degree, though most have at least bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field or training related to quality assurance. Knowing different programming languages, being familiar with various frameworks, and having experience with different types of automation tools are also helpful. For more information, see: “List of Software Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer Skills.”
QA firms expect job candidates to be well-versed in the QA processes and tools used, and many also have a keen interest in selecting employees who are a good culture fit for their company. For example, one Glassdoor poster was asked, “How would you handle a situation where you may be on the phone with a client, while a co-worker shoots you in the head with a Nerf gun?”
Although not every company operates in exactly the same manner, most expect candidates to be able to blend into their work environments. For this reason, it’s helpful to brush up on the material that will be used daily in the job as well as the company culture before interviewing.
Software Quality Assurance Interview Questions (Glassdoor)
Moving into Quality Assurance (Product / Engineering) from another career
Virtually anyone can transition into an QA career, provided they learn the essential skills and languages. It’s a very popular transition for various professionals in IT. For more information, see: “How can I transition into QA and what software tools should I learn?” and “Why did you choose a career in Software Quality Assurance?”
Software testing, quality control and software development are career fields which transition well into QA engineering roles.
Role: Most companies consider junior analysts to be their entry-level position, though positions are not standardized by any means. Depending on experience and abilities, some may also begin their careers as a senior analyst. In this position, analysts complete testing tasks assigned by their leads and managers.
They’re required to understand business information, as well as how it relates to the project they’re completing, and communicate any issues they uncover to the team. At a senior level, QA analysts are expected to be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of processes and guidelines, as well as why each exists, and have no issue clarifying any ambiguous issues.
Role: Once an individual is proficient at carrying out QA checks, he or she may be promoted to lead. In this position, an individual may be responsible for defining goals and should be comfortable auditing complex technical designs. Collaboration with other professionals, in addition to independent work, becomes more involved at this level.
Role: Those who progress beyond lead typically become project managers or quality assurance managers. QA Managers work more in strategy. They identify goals and create timelines and benchmarks, then follow up to ensure they’re met. They also research potential process improvements and industry best practices to identify if new techniques should be applied. In addition, they may research or evaluate vendors to determine if tools and applications should continue to be used or if new ones should be integrated. People management duties of QA Engineers and QA Leads may also commence at the QA Manager point.
Role: Directors are responsible for understanding the business aspect of things, as well as all the duties carried out by the QA staff. They make sure the staffing levels and expertise is adequate to carry out tasks, establish budgets, and coordinate efforts between various departments.
They not only understand how any given product should perform, but also know what types of testing needs to be done and how to establish developmental milestones to ensure the finished project meets all objectives. They work closely with QA Managers to identify and implement improvements as well.
QA professionals rarely travel for work, but they often have the ability to work remotely or telecommute. Their skills readily transfer as well, making it possible to relocate with relative ease.
Analyst: According to data from PayScale, QA analysts have salaries of approximately USD$60,000 in the United States, £27,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$56,000 in Canada, and AU$64,000 in Australia.
Lead: USD$84,000, £41,423, CAD$74,420, AU$96,823.
Manager: USD$107,000, £52,500, CAD$92,369, AU$100,000.
Director: USD$118,000, £78,149, CAD$98,118, AU$148,304.
Bonuses and profit sharing are not always a big part of a quality assurance engineer’s pay, but can sometimes add a few thousand dollars annually. At executive levels, individuals may bring in an as much as an additional 50% of their salaries in bonuses and profit sharing.
Why Quality Assurance Engineers move on
Quality assurance tends to be more of a stepping stone for those getting into tech, rather than a career objective, though some do remain in the position for life. This is simply because the focus is typically on “breaking things,” rather than implementing strategies to correct problems.
For some, the job doesn’t involve challenging enough work, and they move into senior roles with management responsibility or development roles that allow them to correct the issues found and/or build new products. For further reading, see: “What are the career paths for software QA engineers?” and “6 career ideas for software QA professionals.”