I'm in a dilemma I'm sure most of you were at some point at the beginning of your careers. I'm about to start my Junior year in college this fall and I major in Information Systems. I currently work at a hotel doing administrative work and have been lucky to make contacts in the software industry.

The people I met have encouraged me to get my feet "wet" in QA before attempting to land a developer/programmer role at their company. My college professors have recommended I do the same.

I feel misled.

As I search job sites for QA Engineers, the requirements present a host of technologies you must be familiar with, none of which I have even heard of, on top of 3-5 years of experience. Software Quality Assurance does not seem like an entry-level role at all - it seems it is its own monster.

With that said, I can program intermediately in JavaSE and Oracle's SQL, have experience with PHP, XML, and MySQL for web development, and have very strong HTML and CSS skills, albeit all skills were obtained through school projects.

None of the above is in the list of requirements for an SQA engineer at any level on the job sites I have found. Why have my professors and peers in the software industry recommended I pursue this? It seems clear I am a much better fit for Web Development.

My Question:

If anyone out there did start in SQA, without the familiarity of the plethora of software suites to do debugging, what were the fundamental requirements you did have to have to get the job?

  • 5
    Hi Java Bean, and welcome to the site. You're right that SQA is its own monster, and a career path in its own right. I'm not surprised your profs gave you duff advice, my CS profs tended to be rather clueless about testing as it's actually done in the real world too. And it's also frequently misunderstood by non-testers. Your industry contacts may be referring to much more junior "warm body" type roles, rather than professional testing - I doubt you'd see many of those on job sites, they often get filled internally.
    – testerab
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 8:30
  • 3
    However, going back to your question - you've actually got a lot of different questions in the background, and I think you could do with getting clear on what your most important question is here before we start trying to answer it. Do you actually want to know how to get a job in SQA, or do you want to know more about what SQA experience might be helpful to get you a job in your original desired web developer role? While testing is a good skill for a developer to have in their toolbox, it's important we understand what your end goal actually is.
    – testerab
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 8:38
  • 1
    Overall hint: searching public online job boards (Workopolis, Monster, etc) for entry level software positions can be a very frustrating experience, because 1) entry level jobs are the minority of jobs posted there and 2) public online job boards are the last resort for companies looking to hire. I would recommend looking elsewhere :) Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 13:20
  • @testerab - Thanks for the thoughtful response. To clarify, where I want to ultimately end up is in a developer role. I want to be a programmer, not necessarily a tester. If SQA experience will help me become a better programmer/developer, then I'd love to spend some time in that arena and take on the learning curve. My professors and peers made it seem as if this was a "stepping stone" into developing so I was a little confused when reading the requirements on job sites. It was immediately clear to me this was not something you just start in without experience or background knowledge. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 21:53
  • @joshin4colours - I'm coming to that hurtful realization. Which really is difficult for me to take in as I work full time outside the industry and cannot afford to quit to take on internships that would greatly increase my chances of getting hired. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 21:58

6 Answers 6


Java Bean,

I think you may want to ask yourself a few questions first:

  • do you want to be involved in the testing or in programming? In my experience, colleges are usually less than stellar in the QA domain and tend to assume that testing is "any warm body" and useful to familiarize someone with an application before they start coding with it.
  • do you like problem-solving, problem-finding, problem-defining? Which aspects appeal to you most? As a general rule, programmer-mindset is quite different than tester-mindset: programmers focus on solving problems, where testers focus on finding and defining problems (these are rarely the same problems - testers tend to look for the gaps in the solution, and ways to work around any gaps they do find). Another way to conceptualize the difference is that the programmer focus tends to be more "building it right" where the tester focus tends to be more "did we build the right it" (the designer is the one who tries to define which it gets built - and yes, there's a lot of overlap there).

That said, there are generalities I'd consider for entry-level SQA positions:

  • Familiarity with software development processes: not necessarily able to code, but having a pretty good idea of how it fits together and how it works. Not all testing needs insight into the application code.
  • Ability to communicate and prioritize - QA people will need to create bug reports and convince others that the problems they report need to be fixed. They'll also need to evaluate the severity of any problems they run into.
  • Fast learner - no matter what level or domain of software QA someone starts at, there's a large learning curve (where I work, we call it a learning cliff. With overhang).

Any kind of programming skill is a bonus because it allows for automating some tests (be wary - if you don't like this but are good at it you could easily get trapped there - one of the rarest skillsets in the SQA domain is the mix of good automation and good test design)

That said, I'd look at why your college people are suggesting starting with QA. It seems a bit odd to me, not least because my experience is that a developer who's in QA until a "real" programming position comes along is bad for both the developer and the QA group.

  • 3
    Thanks for the great reply. I definitely enjoy problem-solving and problem-finding as they're coupled in the development process, though if I had to choose one I'd go with problem-solving. I want to be a developer/programmer and by misguidance thought SQA was my "foot in the door," if you will. Thank you for clarifying my misconceptions, and thank you for the advice on what fundamental skill set would be needed to become an SQA engineer. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 22:09
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    As a tester, nothing irritates me more than people that think QA is a stepping stone to development. Why this advice persists confuses me.
    – user2136
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 23:47
  • Java Bean - I'm glad I could help clarify this for you. Knowing something about the SQA domain is always helpful for a developer, but that's something that can easily come from working with testers rather than working AS a tester
    – Kate Paulk
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 10:47
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    Ry - YES! In my experience that idea is common among people who don't understand that QA is a different field with quite separate demands: it's a misconception born of lack of knowledge. Which of course makes it even more irritating when you see it coming from the people training developers.
    – Kate Paulk
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 10:50
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    I recently had a new hire to my team who had been given similar advice from a professor. A difference I often note between developer and SDET is that a developer (often) will get a lot of depth into one or a few area(s) where an SDET (often) will get a lot of breadth in many areas. Also important to note, most large companies (Microsoft, Facebook, Google) require all of their QA resources to write code now days. It is definitely it's own track with opportunities to rise as an individual without going into management, whereas historically it may have been less so.
    – Sam Woods
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 18:02

In my experience people that started as SQA, as an entry point for being a developer, has failed. The best SQA I ever met were people that started their careers as developers and then moved to SQA for several reasons...and I am one of them. When I was a developer, also a senior one, I was always limited to take part to specific and limited part of the software under development and I was losing the visibility of the entire picture, only switching to QA I started to be involved in high level decisions and I finally reached the management floors. If you ae passionate about software development it does matter where you start, you'll be successful.


Getting your 'feet wet' with QA

Yeah, let's do that. Because every team wants to hire someone who doesn't want to be there? (Sarcasm not directed towards you) This is a growing pandemic in the QA world. As an SDET/Automation/QA I have to justify at every interview why I am still in QA and not a developer. The bottom line is that I LOVE my job. QA is fun! It is a lot faster-paced, more critical and a lot more freedom than Development. Why get your 'feet wet' for development when you can just be in QA and love your job?

What do you need to be good at QA

  • Pride in your work
  • Analytic mindset
  • Curiosity
  • Ability to research
  • Ability to multitask and adapt to a constantly changing environment
  • Communication Verbal and Written
  • Planning
  • Diplomacy
  • Documentation
  • Thoroughness
  • Thick skin (Ability to accept that it's your fault for everything)
  • Thorough understanding of the SDLC
  • Ability to communicate Technical Details in layman's terms
  • Many many more (please feel free to edit to add more)

Why do you need so much?

Because regardless of what many people outside of the QA world might think, this job is not just a gatekeeper position. The people who excel in QA tend to be the people who ultimately run the show at their company. They fix the requirements, they explain the defects, they find the root causes of issues, they advise the developers on how to fix them and they advise the business on whether or not to release. They (should) know every part of their system better than anyone else.


As a beginner, you most importantly should have the desire to excel as a tester. You should be self motivated. You should be mad about testing. You should not feel discouraged with one or two (or more) failures in the beginning because you and only you can do this, nobody can drag or force you into it, if you start disliking it after say wetting your feet….

As far as skills go I believe that basic skills like familiarity with software (which I think you have as you have written that you can be a good web developer), some basic SQL skills…some testing concepts etc.. as in the beginning (as a fresher) you should start testing the application by fully understanding it…once you start like this I believe that with the right attitude you can go a long way…


Unless you can bring a lot of experience or a portfolio of projects to the table you may be out of luck for a development or QA job. Perhaps an internship.

Square one is probably tech support. I know it is not the dream, but there is a great need for them in tech companies. Once you are there you can show your chops and desires for working in another part of the company. Support is the farm that all other departments draw from. It is a relatively easy entry point to get in a tech company and prove yourself.


Coming from 10 years of experience in the QA industry, my advice to you is to understand that to be a good and even great Quality Assurance analyst you do not need to have a college or even high school degree. With that in mind what every training you are getting in college only and i repeat ONLY will help you find a job in QA.

The number 1 thing that interviewers look for is willingness to learn new things and to have genuine passion about finding, documenting, and fixing bugs.

If you realize that QA is truly something you want to do, keep in mind developers on average make more money than QA analysts at least in the beginning then i suggest to you to find a good QA school that is practical and hands on and to go for your dreams.

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