QA Career Development

Have you experienced a QA career development that has worked for you? What made it work? What would you encourage others to do?

I held a Quality Engineering LEAN COFFEE session where this topic came up. Our findings were here. I’m really interested in furthering this conversation and hearing how others have managed this space?

My overview is here, but I feel its only the start of the conversation,

can others have some advice to give?


Thanks for posting this - I have followed your postings and talks over the years and appreciate your insights.

I relocated to a new area having lost a role in management. This new area did not have as many technology companies. I was willing to essentially start over with an individual contributor role so that I could maintain continuity in my CV/resume. I also could return to a more hands-on testing effort instead of doing the usual management thing.

One company responded to my indication of interest. It took 30 emails back and forth to convince this organization that I was being truthful and that (at least) I was worth having visit for an interview. It was a 10 person start-up, and I was exactly what they needed.

The role took many twists and turns, and ultimately I did not end up in a management role. But, I was in a very enjoyable technical role with a strong team that valued the testing discipline. I eventually moved on but my takeaway was that I was able to reset my career and think about what was truly valuable to me in seeking an employer.

Thanks again for the opportunity to share.

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For me is: Learning, learning, learning… Read, attend trainings and conferences, discuss, participate in chats, etc.

It’s the easiest (and probably the only) way but it takes long. It’s up to you.


I agree a lot of testers go on to become developers however I feel there is still the options to branch into other roles and specific areas of testing.
I personally am focusing on automation suite coverage where my goal is to be able to walk into any business and show them the best types of automation for their setup.
Another area to consider is pen testing - I considered it due to my fascination of hackers. To learn all about application security is a mammoth job but there is roles there for specialist - probably a lot more roles around now then 5 years ago too.
Accessibility is also another option for a tester to branch out in the UX space.
BA roles is another option which leads onto PM roles.

I believe my best advice to develop your career is simple - testing gives you a large range of skills and before you consider any career development - stop and consider what interests you the most.
Once you know what branch interests you - learn all about it. Read books, chat to others and simply learn the trade - time is the best teacher after all.


Accessibility is also another option for a tester to branch out in the UX space.

This is a growing area of testing as more court cases mean the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines level AA will be the minimum any site or app should be compliant with. And of course there’s the obvious… it’s the right thing to do!


I see many of my colleagues to jump into PO (Product Owner - Product Managers , depends if it Agile or something else, it is just a name :smiley: ) I don’t now if this is a natural thing, but in my “bubble” I see it a lot.

There are also others that go into Test Managers , Developers …

But, like was already written, there are a lot os areas that QA/Testers can involve, especially in other field of testing - like accessibility.


Thanks all for your comments. It seems to me, there’s plenty of room to use your skills in other roles and you can specialise in some areas. Not a sound about climbing the food chain within an org as a tester or quality coach though? Does that mean testers hit a glass ceiling after x many years? :thinking:

I wonder if people would be content with that? I guess you would have to have a salary commensurate with your experience. I mean if you worked in a company for 7 years as a usability tester, would your salary be equivalent to that of a leadership role? It would be great a company recognised the value, its not something I hear of a lot though.

Similar to any career - if someone keeps doing the same thing, then yes, they’ll plateau out. If the “testers” are strictly manual, follow detailed test cases, record results, etc, then of course they’ll hit a glass ceiling.

This strikes me as an odd question - if I worked in the proverbial mailroom for 7 years, I wouldn’t expect to make leadership salaries, even if I became an expert at sorting, filing, and delivering mail.

I think with the idea of embedded testers/SDET/SEiT/etc, there are many folks with a quality focus that are making salaries equivalent to developers (at least where I am in the US), but I will acknowledge that these are folks who generally could be developers if they wanted to. At least with my recent history, the lines are definitely blurred with agile practices, and folks are expected to have a mix of dev/ops/test/etc skills. I’m generally seeing less stratification between and among roles.

In Australia, both specialist testers and developers have a senior role after 5 years of doing that role.
E.g. Senior automation tester.
This generally means that because you have a comprehensive skill set backed by experience that you can get paid about 10-15% more for that job.

In terms of staying in one role for 7 years - it would be hard to justify a pay rise unless the role expanded. E.g. I have been a developer for 7 years so I should be paid senior developer wages would not work. You would need to apply for a senior developer role.
Ultimately with any job - you get paid for what you do.

If you want to dedicate your life to testing as a career path and want to grow your career - that is great. However, do not expect to stay in the same job for 7 years and just get pay rises. Instead, take on new roles and grow your testing skill set and experience. There is a lot of career paths a tester can take that pay the equivalent or higher than that of management/leadership/developer roles. Find what you enjoy and grow in it - the money will grow with you.

I have a mental model on how I can contribute that branches out into three pillars:

1 - Technical contributions: Basic stuff => testing itself and code quality, etc.

2 - Team contributions: Do some Scrum_Masterish work, but without limiting to the Scrum framework =>From mentoring interns to helping the team members and people on the boarders of the project to understand how to continuously improve and using leading indicators over lagging indicators.

3 - Teaching: Project-agnostic endeavors to enhance other’s skills.

(1) is apparently the easiest one to hit a ceiling, even considering new technologies coming every year, as more diverse checking architectures and AI, because they often come with people who can contribute better than you in the technical sense. But I see (2) and (3) as having never-ending possibilities: They will always be space for teams to improve and people to learn things.


I am finding myself at a cross roads today after been in testing career for over a decade. The path to take appears either to lean left(Developer), Move to BA/PM roles by somehow justifying employers I can do it, explore UX field , Look at Scrum Master Certification to upskill etc…
But this shift means we have reached a stage for real where there’s no actual Software QA position anymore the way it was understood in the past decade or justified by experts like Cem Kaner, Rex Black, Michael Bolton, James Bach etc…

Hi @amcharrett

To me there’s a couple of angles to this topic.

  1. Career progressions of testing professionals, see an an example here Career paths for testing specialists
  2. Is there a ceiling? Not to me, I have managed testing for 10+ years, but it’s recently more about the testing and not the testers. Test management is around the Expectations around Testing
  3. Areas/domains that we can develop - sure. We look into testing in other IT domains (See Innovation in Testing and Broaden the scope of the SUT )

The manual test case work is under pressure though, especially in software development contexts where Modern Testing Principles are applied. See Ask Me Anything: Modern Testing

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The problem as I see it is that there are only 2 career levels as a tester - Junior or Senior. And the only criteria for becoming a Senior tester is x years of experience.
In the latest episode (#109) of the AB Testing podcast, Brent Jensen presented 5 career levels which I think could be applied to pretty much any role. To enter a certain level you have to demonstrate the capability of that level’s criteria and to leave it you have to demonstrate that you can master the criteria.

Criteria: Independent learning

Criteria: Getting stuff done

Criteria: Independently lead (not manage)

Criteria: Independently investing in the business

Mastering the Principal criteria would be grounds for a promotion to Partner.

So, to move from Intermediate to Senior you would have to demonstrate mastery of getting stuff done and the capability to lead.