Is Quality Assurance a Good Career Path?

If you are new to the industry making a choice about quality assurance could be daunting. Is it really worth pursuing? could you earn well? Let me explain…

Is quality assurance a good career path? Yes, it has many different high paying roles with great prospects. It is also something that you can feel proud about when asked “What do you do?” by a family member.

Now you know its worth it, what kind of roles are there, how do you get in, what is the typical salary, and what qualifications do you need? Let me explain…

What is quality assurance?

Quality assurance is a formalized process to prove that system requirements have been delivered and that the system is fit for purpose.

It is actually twofold, firstly it focuses on confirming to the management and project team that the system has delivered as per the requirements.

And also it there is a quality gate to make sure that customers receive the highest possible quality software.

Why do companies even need quality assurance?

Quality assurance is important to companies for a number of different reasons. In this section, I’m going to break down a number of reasons why it is necessary:

Reduces cost

This may seem like a funny thing to say because quality assurance in itself has costs. Such as paying for testers salaries, costs to draught up requirements by BAs and test planning, etc.

However, after many years of experience of software production, the industry has been proven time and time again that it is cheaper to spend the money upfront to get the best quality rather than trying to clean up the mess after the software has been delivered.

Once the software is live and in production it is very hard to control the costs and clear up the mess.

Maintaining customer expectations and Brand loyalty

Apart from the actual costs of cleaning up errors once the system is live, there is also the potential damage to a companies reputation to consider.

Once a customer gets frustrated with software they never really give it a second chance. They typically move onto the competitor as soon as possible.

Therefore to avoid this happening in the first instance quality assurance is important to mitigate this risk.

Improving team motivation

If your team respects the software that they’re working with they will work harder to maintain quality, simple!

Think of it logically, if you were working in a restaurant and you know deep down the food that you’re serving is low-quality,  will you feel embarrassed to serve the food? Of course!

Let’s be honest, you may not even want to continue working there, right?

It is the same concept as software. If your employees and team are passionate about the software, because it actually delivers, and is quality, then it will improve their morale and motivation. This is why quality assurance is important.

So, what career paths are actually available in quality assurance?

Quality assurance has two major routes that you can take in your career:

  • Managerial angle
  • Technical angle

Personally, in my career, I have taken the managerial angle. And I have done this for a number of years. but let me explain these two different routes right now:

Managerial angle

The managerial angle is not just dedicated to being a test manager, in fact, there are a few different roles in this direction such as:

  • Test manager
  • Test lead
  • Project manager
  • Business analyst (BA)
  • Programme Manager

Technical angle

Similar to the managerial roles, there are quite a few technical roles, such as:

  • Technical tester (Mainly advanced SQL, large migrations, etc)
  • Performance tester (e..g Load Runner)
  • Automation Tester (e.g. Selenium)
  • Senior Tester (e.g. Manual testing expert)

What kind of salary can you expect to make in quality assurance?

According to cwjobs, software testing professionals in quality assurance earn the following salaries:

  • Permanent quality assurance professionals £47k
  • Contract quality assurance professionals £91k

These are broad averages and be mindful that there are a number of different roles in these areas which could earn significantly more or even significantly less.

For example, an entry-level permanent tester may start off at £25-30k and a test manager could earn £70k+.

The purpose of this is to give you a rough average. Also, be mindful that these costs are based on the United Kingdom. Depending on where you live in the world the earnings will be different depending on your economy.

Why do contractors earn more than salaried employees?

You may have noticed from the averages above the contract workers earn significantly more than the salaried employees, but why is this (Click here to see my full article why contractors earn so much)?

In summary, this is because a salaried employee has additional benefits in their pay package that is not reflected in their net salary, for example:

  • Holidays
  • Healthcare benefits
  • Paid sick leave
  • Company cars

So, as you can see there are a lot of hidden bonuses as a permanent employee that are not reflected in this net salary.

However, depending on your circumstances, either of these is great. It all depends on your risk tolerance and your confidence levels.

As a contractor, you run the risk of being out of contract for periods of time. Some people do not have the confidence or appetite for risk to take this on. Especially if they have families to feed.

How do you become a QA professional?

To become a QA professional, from the beginning, you will usually need a degree and this is preferred in computing or computer science.

However, there are other qualifications that are accepted such as a BTECH, GNVQ and other related qualifications.

Depending on what level you wish to join you will usually be expected to have real-life experience in the industry that you want to work for.

Especially if you want to pursue a contract position. For contractors experience is critical. To be honest, the experience is more important than any vocational qualification in this instance.

In addition to this, a professional qualification such as an ISTQB foundation in software testing (click here to see 11 benefits of the ISTQB certification)  is usually required.

You will usually find that recruiters will not even contact or shortlist you for a role unless you have a professional qualification such as an ISTQB.

Other routes into quality assurance can be working your way up, through a career ladder within a company. For example, you could start off by working in a call center in a telecoms company. And then gradually working your way into a support role, and then into a UAT role. Then into an entry level system testing role, etc.

This route may seem long-winded and maybe unbelievable but this is based on my own personal experience of working with people that have taken that exact same route!

Bear in mind that this is not limited to this route. It is just one example of many different ways of doing it.

Related questions:

What is the difference between QA and QC? QA (or quality assurance) and QC (or quality control) are two different things which are closely related.

QA is a proactive methodology to find issues in software products before they hit the market. Whereas QC is a reactive process to ensure the quality of a product that has already been released.

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