While a bachelor's degree in computers is typically required for a job in software QA, some employers may look favorably on a software QA specialist with a computer-based master's degree. Additionally, employers often require these specialists to have experience in software quality assurance. They may also require experience in a particular area, such as web applications. Some of the most common majors for software QA specialists include computer science and computer engineering. Students gain software quality assurance training by participating in lectures and hands-on labs. Online programs are sometimes available, and a high school diploma is required for admission to these degree programs.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Computer science programs provide students interested in software QA with training in computer systems, data structures, software engineering and database management. These software QA training programs also instruct students in theoretical math, programming languages, security features and Internet technology. Some common coursework might include:
- Intro to computer organization
- Programming fundamentals
- Information and database systems
- Operating systems
- Applications of discrete structures
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
Students enrolled in a computer engineering program learn a combination of statistical mathematics, computer programming and electronics engineering principles. They also learn about computer hardware and software structures and networks. Some coursework topics might include:
- Principles of general chemistry
- Differential equations
- Applied algorithms for engineering
- Engineering mechanics
Often, 3-5 years of related experience is required to work in software QA roles. Initial experience can be gained through college internship opportunities. Upon graduation, some cooperating agencies may hire interns full-time. Depending on the skill level and training required, quality assurance specialists can work in roles such as software QA designers, software QA engineers, software QA testers, software QA analysts and software QA project managers.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developers make a median annual wage of $100,690 as of May 2015. From 2014-2024, the job outlook for software developers is expected to grow 17%, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.
Software QA specialists may become certified by individual software vendors. More commonly, though, QA specialists earn general certifications, such as Certified Software Quality Analyst or Certified Associate in Software Quality (www.softwarecertifications.org). In order to qualify for this credential, applicants must meet minimum education and/or experience requirements and pass an exam. The exam must be taken at a proctored center and, depending on the certification, may consist of essay, fill-in and multiple-choice questions.
A number of computer organizations offer software QA-related conferences, which often last 2-4 days. Central topics may include system security, software engineering or emerging technology. Other times, associations and colleges may provide 1-2 day software QA seminars. Students interested in software QA training must be willing to take additional courses throughout their career in order to keep up with emerging technology. Furthermore, software QA specialists can search the Internet for related articles, blogs and discussion forums.
Both bachelor's and master's degree programs are available for those seeking a career as a software QA specialist. This field offers a variety of job opportunities, including software QA designers, engineers, and many others.