If you are like many students who are interested in a career in STEM, then you may have thought about doing something related to software engineering. Within this field, there is a wide range of options to choose from. For instance, you may have thought of becoming a software developer or perhaps a video game programmer.
There is one career that often flies under the radar that can be an excellent fit for many STEM-minded students: quality assurance. Could a career in quality assurance be the right choice for you? Explore this guide to learn more about quality assurance careers and how to pursue them.
What Does a Career in Quality Assurance Look Like?
In the software engineering field, a career in quality assurance (QA) refers to a QA analyst, also known as a QA tester. This is a professional who specializes in ensuring that the products created by software developers meet high standards of quality, functionality and security. In other words, QA analysts ensure that a company’s products are free from bugs, work correctly and can be used on multiple types of devices.
QA testing has exciting implications for a broad range of industries. Take a minute to consider all of the fields and products that rely on functioning software. Waiters at restaurants use software to enter each customer’s order into a system; a car’s navigation system relies on software to provide directions; your smartwatch uses software to display the weather in your location — the list goes on. A QA analyst can work on all of those and other types of products.
Although a QA analyst can work on a wide range of products, their tasks are more or less the same regardless of their specific industry or application. As a QA professional, you can expect to perform the following tasks:
- Develop testing plans and procedures for new software
- Identify potential risks that may affect each project and develop recommendations to avoid or mitigate those risks
- Use manual or automated programs to test each line of code for bugs
- Document the results and report errors or other problems to the software development team
- Re-test the software once the development team has corrected the errors and document new errors, if applicable
- Provide reports on the functionality of the software and whether it is usable on multiple types of devices
Even after a new software program is published and available for public use, software developers will routinely create upgrades and maintenance for the program. Each one of these upgrades requires the attention of a QA tester before it can be made available to the customer.
How To Become a Quality Control Analyst
If you decide that becoming a QA analyst is the right career choice for you, you should speak with a counselor or academic advising professional. They will be able to help you set up your class schedule to gear your studies toward your degree interests.
You will also need to search for a relevant degree program. QA analysts are typically expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as software engineering. To further enhance your qualifications, it is also a good idea to look for additional academic credentials, such as a Java programming certificate program.
Progress Your Career and Earn a Relevant Undergraduate Degree
The first step in the process of pursuing a career in QA is to earn a bachelor’s degree in software engineering or a closely related subject. Although the curriculum will depend on your institution and the specific degree you choose, you can generally expect to study topics such as the following:
- Software development, analysis, testing and use
- Algorithm writing
- Embedded systems and system testing
- FPGA design and use
- The Software Development Life Cycle
- IT design
- Large data stores
- Cloud-based systems
You may have one or more capstone courses. A capstone course is typically completed during the senior year as a culmination of everything that students have learned. It is your opportunity to put your new skills to work solving real-world problems.
Earn Your Undergraduate Java Programming Certificate
It is possible to begin pursuing entry-level work in the field after earning a bachelor’s degree. However, it is a smart idea to look for ways to set yourself apart from other job candidates. One way to do this is to earn an undergraduate certificate in your area of expertise.
A Java programming certificate can take less than one year to complete. It is an excellent option for QA analysts, as many of them rely heavily on their knowledge of the Java programming language. Note that an undergraduate certificate program is not the same thing as a certification, but it does build advanced skills and knowledge that employers will look for.
Alternatively, you could earn your Java programming certificate before you enroll as an undergrad student. This would allow you to build fundamental knowledge and skills in the field, which can help you prepare to ace your four-year degree.
While working toward your certificate, you will study topics such as the following:
- Java object-oriented programming techniques
- Full-stack application development
- The use of Agile and team coding tools
- Version control software
- Licensing constraints
- Scripting languages
Are QA Careers in Demand?
It is a great time to consider pursuing a career in QA. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of September 2021, the job growth rate for QA analysts, software developers and testers is expected to be about 22% between 2020 and 2030, faster than average. This will account for an estimated increase of 409,500 jobs in the field.1
One major reason for this significant growth rate is the increasing reliance on software for everyday objects, from consumer electronics to electric vehicles to internet-connected devices (internet of things). QA testers and software developers are needed to develop and test these products. There is also expected to be significant demand for QA testers in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
Essential Skills and Characteristics for Quality Standards
QA testers spend their days poring over countless lines of code looking for possible errors that could affect the functionality or usability of the software. As a result, one of the most important characteristics of these professionals is strong attention to detail. Beyond a detail-oriented mindset, the following skills and traits are helpful:
- Analytical reasoning
- Creative problem solving
- Communication skills
- Collaborative teamwork
You can pursue your passion for STEM by applying to Grand Canyon University. In addition to our Undergraduate Certificate of Completion in Java Programming program, you can choose from a range of bachelor’s degrees, such as the Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering degree.
1 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers.
Approved by an assistant professor for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology on Jan. 12, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.