Software QA (quality assurance) engineers are individuals who monitor every phase of the software development process so as to ensure design quality, making sure that the software adheres to the standards set by the development company.
Sometimes software QA engineers are confused with software testers, which is a mistake. Software testers test parts of the software at different stages of development, whereas a software QA engineer oversees the entire development process, which includes software testing, from start to finish. The monetary success of the software product is largely due in part to the quality of the product as well as the product’s ability to hit the market on time. Both are the responsibility of the software QA engineer.
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A software QA engineer is involved in tasks that include software design, writing source code, control of source code, reviewing code, configuration management, change management, program testing, integration of the software, and release management process.
A software quality assurance engineer will typically break up the entire process into goals such as verifications, activities, measurements, abilities, and commitments. By doing this they can not only keep the task from becoming overwhelming but maintain complete control over the entire project as well.
Software QA engineers must also be able to see to it that the final product not only meets with company and governmental guidelines but also reaches the consumer market at the time appointed by the company. Delays can be very costly for the company, so the software QA engineer must work closely with all departments to make sure the software project is not only on time but on budget as well.
A good software quality assurance engineer must be creative in their thought process. The ability of the QA engineer to think outside the box is crucial to the job. They must be able to come up with solutions to coding problems that not only fixes the problem but doesn’t affect the overall purpose of the program.
A good software QA engineer is also intellectually proactive. This means that they must be able to see potential problems before they happen and have solutions for those problems. They must also be able to come up with all the potential problems that a user might encounter when running the software and develop solutions for those problems before the software is released.
Excellent communication skills are also in the job description of a software QA engineer. Being able to convey the entire vision of the project to the various departments involved is important in order to get the desired end product.
Also, being able to explain why one programming solution works over another is needed when working with programmers of different personalities. Software QA engineers are often the middleman between the customers and the developer, so they must be able to blend both points of view in order to achieve the goal.
A software QA engineer must also be very detailed-oriented and good at documenting their work. Software programs can have hundreds of lines of code, and if the software QA engineer is not detailed and diligent at all stages of software development, programming errors are likely to slip through.
A good software QA engineer must work well under pressure. As deadlines get closer there can be tremendous pressure from upper management to get the job completed on time. The software QA engineer must be able to keep a level head while dealing with upper management and the software engineering team. Keeping detailed records of what was done at what stage helps prevent redundancy of certain errors.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a similar degree is required by most companies. Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, and Stanford University are just some of the schools that offer excellent programs in computer science or computer engineering.
Software QA engineers usually work in the comfortable surroundings of an office or lab for about 40+ hours per week, with some nights and weekends depending on deadline requirements, or group meeting times.
Software QA engineers can spend very long periods sitting in front of a computer typing or looking at programming code, which can lead to eye strain and back discomfort. Some software companies like Electronic Arts often have basketball courts, gyms, and even nap areas in an attempt to keep their staff focused and efficient. By offering these services, the employees get a chance to break away from their computers at much needed times.
The road for a software quality assurance engineer starts off as either a testing engineer or a developer. The more proficient the testing engineer or developer becomes at debugging complex programming code, the more complex assignments they will be offered. As this happens, they will eventually move from entry level, to intermediate, to eventually senior software QA engineer.
For an entry-level QA engineer, expect to make anywhere from $46,000 to $57,000 a year. An intermediate level QA engineer can expect to make from $54,000 to $64,000 a year, and a Senior software QA engineer can expect to make between $63,000 to $77,000 per year. Salaries will vary depending on country and company of employment.