Reasons to leave the testing or QA career

Summary - It appears to me that one has to be exceptionally good to get a QA job, but it is enough to be an average or even mediocre developer to get some job or at least an entry level job.

The details -

After talking to people at some small, medium and big name companies (ex. FAANG), it appears that there is a tendency to have fewer QA or Testers. You’ll often see QA to DEV ratios like 1:10 or lower, especially in FAANG like companies. I am not sure if this is the right move in every case, but it seems to be the trend.

I also see that the ratio of QA-DEV job postings is quite low. I haven’t done any rigorous comparisons, but it feels like there are 1 or 2 QA jobs for every 10 DEV jobs (at the same level) in cities with lots of tech companies. I don’t know if the pandemic has lowered that ratio or if there are other factors like a tendency to have lower QA to DEV ratios. There are many entry level DEV job postings though, some even with mentoring, but hardly any entry level QA jobs. Moreover, I am not sure if companies with very low QA-DEV ratios compensate their QAs enough, given the QAs bigger responsibilities. I have rarely heard of QAs making much more money than DEVs in the same company.

The interview process for QA is similar, if not at par with junior/intermediate level DEV interviews. Many companies (not all) have a screening round in which they ask you to solve problems in Data Structures and Algorithms in under 1 hour. They can ask such problems in later stages also. These problems are often difficult and might not always indicate if candidate is a good QA or not. In fact, one might not even need that kind of problem solving skill in most QA jobs, but that is a different story. If we need to bring ourselves to the level of a junior/intermediate DEV in algorithms and such, regardless of whether the job actually needs it, then why not learn more and become a DEV instead ? (unless your passion is QA only or you know for sure that you are exceptional in testing).

It appears to me that one has to be exceptionally good to get a QA job, but it is enough to be an average or even mediocre developer to get some job or at least an entry level job. It appears that COVID has exacerbated this. Remember that you also have to pay the bills.

So, I guess its time to switch careers. But, how do you decide whether you have the aptitude to be an exceptional tester ?. There are plenty of resources which give you a rough idea of your aptitude for software development or programming (Ex. Hacker Rank). But, I haven’t come across any such resources for QA. So, its hard to get the confidence to leave QA.

PS -
I see so many people from different professions getting into software development (mostly front end) jobs after taking a coding bootcamp or teaching themselves for a few months to a year or so. I am not sure about their long term job prospects & survival in the industry, but I have seen some promising cases of long term success online. For example at https://www.nocsdegree.com/ .

So many people from other professions have gotten jobs in software development recently. For example, engineers from non-CS, fast food workers, nurses, real estate agents, stay at home moms, political science majors, waiters…the list goes on.

But, I don’t see as many people getting into QA and as much interest in becoming QA or testers, unless they couldn’t pass a developer interview. Some people enter QA with their sights firmly on DEV positions. Looks like QA might end up becoming a niche job (and DEV might have excess supply of labor) eventually.

Hi,

I think in any industry you are expected to be at the top of your game, to keep up with the latest ways of working, tech updates and anything else that goes with the job.

To be honest, to me, you sound like you’re done being a tester and looking for validation for how you feel. I was once a tester and I felt the same. You see all the negatives in the space and see that as an out. You don’t have to love what you do, but you should have an interest in doing it. You should want to be good at what you’re doing. We all have funks along the way, where we get fed up and don’t want to do our day jobs anymore. I’ve found doing some training helps, getting involved with people and discussing topics helps, these things are harder during covid but still doable.

What you should consider is if this is a funk? Is it the impact of covid on your mental health? Are you ready for a change and want to move on from being a tester? These are answers you should be comfortable with. Maybe spend time assessing your career goals and where you see yourself in a few years. Maybe take some life coaching to give you some clarification.

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. All those people you mentioned that are getting jobs in development have likely worked their asses off to learn the skills to get the jobs. There are plenty of people getting QA jobs still and are still upskilling. I think all industries are hit by covid.

I’m basing all this on my own personal experience.

I don’t know of any resource that checks if you’ve an aptitude for being a tester. I think as with anything, you can learn, practice your skill and get better. Maybe pair up with other testers to improve your skills. Focus on an area and learn all you can about it.

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@mcgovernaine - Thank you for your reply. I don’t want validation for what I feel. On the contrary, I’d like the opposite, i.e. any kind of logic, anecdotes or evidence which shows errors in my thoughts & reasoning.

I agree that one must not compare one’s journey with others. Everyone has different challenges & circumstances. I do not think that those self-taught/bootcamp developers have not worked hard to get their jobs. Some of them might even be better devs and/or QA than me. But, it appears that their field has more opportunities than competitors, at least at the moment.

I see very few QA jobs compared to DEV jobs. Moreover, there are many applicants for the limited number of QA jobs where I live. YMMV in UK. LinkedIn often shows the number of applicants for a job. Those numbers give a rough idea of the competition we are up against.

I have recently done two interviews in which the QA position was open because the QA was transitioning to a DEV job. Both of them did not have a CS or Science degree. In my previous job, two QAs with CS degrees transitioned to DEV positions. These few experiences don’t prove anything, but I see this pattern often. The QA to DEV switch is well known, but I wonder if this more common in the recent months or years.

If you have done job hunting well after covid started, then you might notice some of the changes which I mentioned. You might agree with some of them or you might not. I wish I could do some kind of formal study to see what are the numbers on QA jobs vs QA job seekers and compare it to the DEV numbers. But, right now, I need to focus on what to do & upskilling (without a job, which is harder) and not do some study which will achieve nothing of practical value for me other than brownie points. Sometimes, you can’t wait for data to make decisions. Anecdotes and gut feelings are all you’ve got.

I like testing because it makes me confident that my code works well. Its a pleasure to discover tests which reveal serious and interesting bugs in my code. But, I am not confident that a career in testing is a good choice and financially rewarding in the long term. In the jungle, the competition literally wipes you out and puts you out of your misery, often quite swiftly. Outside the jungle, the struggle can be much harder and longer, often with no exit in sight.

Anyway, back to programming. Lets see where it goes.

I question your premises.

Re the high dev to tester ratios, both form what you’ve heard as well as number of job postings, that’s only a fair comparison if you think the candidate pools are similar. From the interviewer side, I’d say we easily get two or three times as many applicants for developer positions than test positions, suggesting that the odds are worse for developers?

The other point seems to be that you’re seeing bootcamp grads get dev roles and that looks like a good path to you. If you’re focusing on the the actual bootcamp websites, of course they’re going to brag about their placement rates and what not - they’re for profit entities, and they get more customers (students) by making it look like they can get you a high paying job.

I live in a city that’s got at least 3 well known bootcamps, and there’s plenty of bootcamp grads floating around at meetups, many who are 6+ months out from finishing, and my LinkedIn network shows similar.

For something less anecdotal, you can see some numbers at https://cirr.org/data. I only looked at a half dozen or so, but a rough estimate suggests maybe 70-80% are finishing the bootcamps in 150% of the time, and of those who finish, 60-70% are employed within 6 months of finishing. Taking those two numbers together, only about half the people who start bootcamps have jobs within 6 months of finishing the bootcamps. If I look at the salary data for my city and the ones that have reports on that site, the bootcamp median salary data looks like about about 80% of what I’d expect an entry level software engineering to be making here.

From my understanding, most of the boot camp grads seem to end up doing mainly front end, agency work work. Nothing against that kind of work, but it’s generally not going to get you into the high figure software engineer salaries that people usually think of.

More broadly speaking, we’re seeing the same diversification of the test role as the dev role. Software developers range from folks who are glorified web designers to R&D type folks hacking on kernels or working with bleeding edge technologies. You see the same thing in test, with everything from manual testers making little more than minimum wage to folks who could have high end developer roles.

I don’t think you need to be particularly good to get a job as a tester; you definitely need to be good if you want to get a marquee position at a FAANG-like company or if you want to make those kind of dollars.

My personal experience suggests there’s more supply of skilled developers than skilled testers, so if you’re an above average tester, it’s actually much easier to get a job than an above average developer.

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@raghu here are my thoughts on your post

In my experience there are entry level QA Roles but it isn’t in the Job Title. It’s in the salary range whereas Developer jobs do tend to say Junior Developer.

I see entry level QA/Test roles being filled internally by people either from within the business or UAT Teams as they have extensive business knowledge that is invaluable.

Where the QA:Dev ratio is 1:5 and over I’d say that the system they are working on is relatively new tech using devops and MAY not be highly regulated and the developers will be testing too. Testers may be taking more of a coaching role.

Where the ratio is low e.g. 1:2 it may be older technology, that is difficult to automate. It may be highly regulated and complex with little tolerance for risk.

In my last 13 years as a tester the ratio of dev to test has steadily increased but it has been accompanied with moving to newer technology and devops and teams with blurred boundaries between responsibilities.

Re compensation it depends on the company. If the compensation is poor iI’d take it as a red flag. This applies equally to Dev roles. Its a good indication of how you will be treated.

If the QA has bigger responsibilities than the rest of the team members there is a problem with the culture and potentially the way the team is working.

I personally have never had a coding challenge in an interview. I have had to draw many systems diagrams and explain the testing of them.

I don’t agree at all with the exceptional tester/mediocre developer statements there are different levels for both professions as we develop. Both on par with each other.

I also don’t think you have to cling to a role. I was an Analyst for 3 years. I’ve been a tester for 13 years. I have been learning a lot in the Dev skills area for the last 4 years. At the moment I don’t think the number of directions I could go in could be wider. I could dive into Agile, product, go back to analyst, go down the dev route or Principal Tester and I now work with analytics and so that space opens up.

I just try to be useful in the team I am in.

I don’t think that many people are aware of the QA/Tester role. Its why I get what do testers do a lot :slight_smile:

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I assume the question is related to your career prospects. If so, run for the hills. Many testers choose careers in test automation or API testing, because there are better prospects. There is also no need to get attached to a career as a tester. Start looking for options. In addition to automation, you can work in a domain which allows you to develop expertise, like banking.

I don’t agree with some of your reasoning. QA jobs are difficult, not because of the interview process, but there is an imbalance between quality supply and demand. There are too many testers competing for a job.

There is a lot of confusion related to QA in the industry. That will impact your prospects.

  • There are fewer jobs for software testers. There are more jobs for developers.
  • Quality is not necessarily a priority or a low amount of testing is enough in most cases.
  • There are fewer people interviewing for the position of a software tester. There are more people interviewing for the position of the developer.
  • There are plenty of really bad testers. There are plenty of bad developers as well.
    It’s easier for lots of managers / the market as a whole to generalize that testers should be paid less, are doing an easier job, doing basic tasks and their job is less intellectual than others within a company.
  • The choices for a company to hire a developer are higher. The chances to get a better developer are hire. A good developer, in a few companies I know, takes about 9-12 months to find. Companies are willing to wait.
  • Even when there are bad developers hired, it’s easier to say that there are better developers available in general, which are deserving a good salary.
  • Changing an IT job when getting fired, being let go, or quitting is a 6-12 months journey here. Unless you’re willing to accept anything, which would then decrease maybe to 3-6 months.
  • Salaries in my area are about 15-30% higher for senior developers than testers.
  • In my view excellent testing, if recognized, should be paid more than most average development;
  • 90% of the jobs in my area for testing are consultancy related; probably 60-70% of development as well; The amount asked by the consultancy companies to the companies they consult for a tester or a dev. is within 5% diff. Consultancy pays worse in general as well and you can’t get much of an increase in salary.
    Note: all the above is based on my current experiences in a small country in the middle of Europe.

My questions to you?

  • do you want a job or a career in the IT domain? or maybe you don’t even like IT that much?
  • how much do you care about the money? do you want to have a stable low/medium income or increase it over time by a lot based on your growth?
  • how flexible are you in learning new things in testing, technology, switching domains?
  • given an opportunity would you switch the city/country/continent you’re in? great work places have to be followed either by moving or by waiting many years
  • what do you like and where would like to spend on in the next many years the 40 hours/week at work, + overtime, + extra home specialization time? Testing, QA, Automation engineering, development, Analysis?
  • What will be your strong/base domain that will be the base of your growth/development as a person?
  • What makes you happy/motivated to work on, learn, improve, help others, and where could you work endless hours and not noticing sometimes the passing of time?
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@ipstefan - Thank you for your answer. Here are my answers to the questions you asked. Great questions BTW.

  • do you want a job or a career in the IT domain? or maybe you don’t even like IT that much?
    I am not sure if IT is best for me. I do like QA though & I am leaning towards QA+SDET at the moment. But, I don’t know for sure how good I am at QA compared to my peers/competition.

  • how much do you care about the money? do you want to have a stable low/medium income or increase it over time by a lot based on your growth?
    I care a lot about the money. I want higher income based on growth, but not at the cost of sacrificing work-life balance or by spending too much time learning outside of work (a little time is ok though).

  • how flexible are you in learning new things in testing, technology, switching domains?
    I love to learn new things provided there are good learning resources & not under undue pressure. Switching domains is okay, as long as they are not boring domains like insurance.

  • given an opportunity would you switch the city/country/continent you’re in? great work places have to be followed either by moving or by waiting many years ?
    I would like to stay in the same city, but open to moving if that is the only choice.

  • what do you like and where would like to spend on in the next many years the 40 hours/week at work, + overtime, + extra home specialization time? Testing, QA, Automation engineering, development, Analysis?
    Development, Testing, QA and Teaching. I’d love to teach. So, I’d like to become good enough to teach.

  • What will be your strong/base domain that will be the base of your growth/development as a person?
    Sorry, I did not understand this question.

  • What makes you happy/motivated to work on, learn, improve, help others, and where could you work endless hours and not noticing sometimes the passing of time?
    Teaching & mentoring others !

It seems a bit that you are still a bit unsure about where you want to go in life. I suppose it also depends on where you live of course but if you are into QA, there are loads of different directions you can go to: automation, performance, security, manual, coordination, test management, … if you are aptitude for the job, I’ll leave that up to you but you have to think about what you want to do the next 40 years. If you love QA it will instantly increase you aptitude for the job. Just make sure the people who are taking your interview know that.

As ipstefan said , there are fewer jobs for QA that’s completly normal because many companies still think they don’t need any QA in our to build an app. So it might be a bit rough to find a job.

From experience: Don’t get scared applying to a job with millions of years of experience, just explain what you can do and are willing to learn because I would rather hire a guy with less experience but with interests in learning new things. Then a experienced guy who think he knows it all.

I wish you goodluck and hope you find something in QA! :slight_smile:

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You can do QA in other domains as well: industrial machines building, embedded systems, tires, factory, …although I have no experience if that still exists as an individual role someone can have there and how much those persons are sought.
By QA I understand Quality Assurance(of a product or someone’s work).
In terms of Quality Assurance of a product, you have to be a product manager, IT manager. There are almost 0 jobs as QA for products in IT.
A Quality Assurer in terms of product code will be someone that’s probably better at coding that the developer that wrote the code, is able to review, inspect, optimize, find gaps, find bugs and fix them, and other tasks.
Other jobs you could check out related to quality: Quality Engineering.
An overview to see what generally a big company expects from one:

You will not gain a lot of money in Quality. In the IT domain it would be difficult in general as well: you would move around a lot, get into a position at a big IT firm, or create something of your own.

What would be your one domain or specialization you’d want to excel at. This has to be very specific.

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You’ll often see QA to DEV ratios like 1:10 or lower, especially in FAANG like companies. I am not sure if this is the right move in every case, but it seems to be the trend.

This is definitely true. There is a trend for smaller QA teams. Instead the is a preference of using automated checks and sophisticated automated tools (think something like static/dynamic analysis tools).
This allows to QAs to best use their skills, instead of writing documentation and following test cases. For example, modern software development methodologies, such as Trunk Based Development, has a development cycle that is too quick for traditional manual QA. Code can be written, tested and deployed to production all in a few hours. Check out The State of Devops reports for the last few years. Here is the one from 2019. It’s fascinating reading.

I interviewed for a FAANG company last year, for a QA position. There were a few coding tests. During the process I asked them if all QAs code. Their reply was that all QA’s they hire have to be able to code to some degree. They said that part of the role of a QA was to build automated test tools. There was no UI testing involved. A friend of mine also interviewed for a QA position at a FAANG company this year, and he too had to do a coding test.

Back to your point about “exceptional testers”. There is definitely no such thing. You don’t have to be able to smash Hackerank or Leetcode questions daily to be a good Tester. As a Tester it means that you have to be curious and willing to learn and explore, and show this.h For example, have side projects where you code. It doesn’t have to be good code, but you should of course be able to explain it. Also read books about testing, building and releasing software, refactoring software, understand different types of manual and automated testing and why they’re used. You need to have a good understanding of the industry you work in. Manual Testing won’t disappear completely but the role of a Tester is changing.

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That depends.
I know many people hired as testers who use ~70% of their time, on a constant basis, to maintain and improve automation frameworks and flakiness.
Their product learning/evaluation abilities are low. So out of the 30% time left, they might still write some sort of test-cases and only check the acceptance criteria/explicit requirements match.
Once every few months I go into features released by teams where those testers work. I’m not surprised when I find dozens of issues that they haven’t looked for.

Ethic
Are you in the job of a tester for helping in the making of better products? If so, how do you strive for that with each thing you do? Are you critically and with skepticism analyzing your tasks and how they can help achieve that goal?
Or are you a tester that just needs a job, a place where you can hide your interest and knowledge because it’s hard for other people to know what you do and recognize good testing, or are you only there to follow trendy things, have fun, do whatever the manager tells you to(because he saw X company does it), get more money…

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Uhm: https://www.satisfice.com/download/elements-of-excellent-testing
Excellent/exceptional testing has to be adapting/evolving constantly for each context that you’re into.

To do excellent testing is very hard. To be an exceptional tester you have to strive for excellent testing.
99% ? of the testers will just stop at just doing shallow, decent, average testing.

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@amillionbugs - Side note. There are plenty of job and interview prep resources for developers, but hardly any for QA. Want to practice data structures and algorithms problem solving, also need good solutions ? There are plenty of text books, and platforms like leet code, hacker rank etc. Need to practice mock interviews with real developers and willing to pay for it ? Try pramp, career cup etc. I don’t know any similar resources for QA job or interview prep. There is no leet code of testing problems. This forum has some posts on how would you test xyz, but honestly they are not very useful.

So, how do you prepare to interview for a QA role at FAANG or such ? How do you exercise your testing muscles, especially if your previous jobs might not have exercised them well ? You need challenging testing examples to become better. How do you get those examples (with others solutions) outside of work ?

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I think that this might be true for majority of the testers, but much less than 99.9% of them. How do people get better at testing outside of a job ? I think there are almost zero resources to exercise your testing muscles. Even fewer resources with problems and good solutions which help you to compare yourself with others. Developers OTOH have plenty of resources to get good at skills and interview prep. There is literally no paid, mock interview service for testers.

Doing a 100 courses on MOT or any other platform will not make one better. Reading random posts on how to test xyz won’t make one better. IMO one needs practice and lots of examples to build those skills. This is true for any skill, besides testing. If you cannot make it to companies that can offer good testing experience, then you are out of luck. How do you get that experience outside of a job ?

Oh, thanks for that @ipstefan . I never knew this about this. Reading through it I get what you mean with your comments. But to me that is just someone that is good at QA, not exceptional. Like in my career so far, I have never met anyone I’d call exceptional at Testing. But I’ve met good-at-their-job Testers who tick most of those boxes on The Elements Of Excellent Testing. And as for your metric of 99.9% - I’d say in my experience it’s less, although a lot of testers I’ve worked with do the bare minimum work (shallow testing, hardly document, barely want to interact with the rest of the team, collect their salary at the end of the month and then just repeat, with no aim to get better at what they’re doing professionally).

@raghu you make some good points. There are no resources for QAs like Hacker Rank, etc. It might be a good thing to start. And you’re right - studying 100 courses on a platform won’t help much. Some sort of quick feedback, with answering QA problems maybe based on The Elements Of Excellent Testing sounds like it will be pretty challenging. And maybe get users to submit their own challenges and questions.

The way I prepared for the FAANG interview was to study code katas (like HR, LC, Code Wars). I consider myself confident enough in QA and answering most questions about Modern Day QA (I say Modern Day QA, as I have found that courses like ISTQB offer hardly any relevance to QA practices in 2020). But that only came with years of experience and reading. I could get a lot of those samples by reading - for example things like The Phoenix Project and The Unicorn Project and DORA reports and whitepapers from big companies regarding their experiences with Testing.

I think this has been touched on already and I’m only really commenting on a small aspect of your post, but i truly believe that there are less testing roles out there because people/businesses don’t know about it and the benefits of having a strong QA team/department.

As I understand it there are very few (if any) university degree courses in software testing, and I dont know - not having ever done one - how much of a computer science degree focuses on testing skills outside of “developer testing activities” like unit testing and technical testing but from what I have heard not many.

I think there is a viscious circle here. If there isn’t understanding in all businesses of the value and need of testing there won’t be requirements for it. But of the same accord, if there isn’t demand for ‘wanting to be a tester’ or a large proportion of testers in the workforce there may not be the demand and knowledge in the industry. The same applies in education, when people are wanting to get into IT but see courses on development and creating they wont necessarily know that there are other options. (I know there are many other roles/courses in the IT world but I’ve never seen one specifically for quality etc.)

For me, this has been a really big thing, if I had known software testing was something that existed I am sure I would have actively persued it out of school. It’s a role I found purely by chance but with many of the skills I value in myself and aspects I really enjoy. From what I’ve heard many people have also ‘fallen’ into it rather than actively pursuing it.

I think a lot of what it sounds like you feel is lacking could be helped by the career being more mainstream which software development has. I have no idea how or if it would be a good thing, but i know I would have loved to have found testing 10 years ago.

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@marissa - In some companies, people are hiring a few more testers because of lack of sufficient testers. Some are reducing or ending the dependence on outsourced or offshore testers. But, I think these companies are a minority. Majority of them are moving towards fewer QA. I wish I could find out how that strategy is working out in the short term and how it will be in the long term.