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01.09.2017

What Does a QA Analyst Do?


Have you ever wanted to start freelancing, but felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of job titles on the market? Our Career Insights series takes a look at some of the most dynamic and exciting roles open to the freelance market. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look in the role of a QA Analyst and what exactly that entails.

Welcome to a new addition to our fresh article series “Career Insights”. Here, we’ll be talking about the most dynamic and exciting freelancer markets. You can learn what they’re all about, what skills they require and how you might acquire them.


What does a QA analyst do?

This week, we’re looking at the roles of quality assurance analysts.

What are those, you might ask? If you’re not aware of that job, it’s because the people doing it are usually “backstage” – if they do their job correctly, nobody on the user end will have to interact with them. But they are vital to any software product or website. QA analysts are the people who test everything, often before it goes public.

They make sure there are no bugs, that the sites are user-friendly and that everything works as intended. They do that with different testing and scripting tools, but they’re rarely also the people who implement the changes needed. That is why soft skills, like efficient communication is also key to the QA analyst profession.


What are the key skills of a QA expert?

Let’s dive into the skills in-depth:

1. Technical skills

Bug tracking: Identifying what’s wrong with a website is not always as easy as it sounds. QA analysts go beyond just looking at a piece of software and clicking their way through all the shiny buttons until something breaks. There are a lot of tools you will need. For bug tracking, there is a ton you can choose from. The Mantis Bug Tracker, for example, is a simple, open source tool that allows for collaboration and can notify you per mail whenever something occurs. JIRA and PivotalTracker are two other really popular ones, you will want to know at least one of these three.

Automated Browser Testing: You won’t be doing the majority of the heavy lifting by yourself when it comes down to testing. A lot of it is automated, but has to be tweaked and put in place by the QA analyst in order to work correctly. Popular ones here include Selenium, Watir and Sahi. They all have some similar functions, so once you get used to one of those, you will be able to work with one of the others.

Unit Testing: Once you start testing individual piece of code, you will need unit testing. With it, you will be able to check whether the code is functioning properly. What tool you’ll use here depends mainly on what language the code your piece of software is written in. To give you three examples – JUnit is a unit testing tool for Java, NUnit is one for .Net and PHPUnit works with PHP. Overall, there are a bunch of technical skills required for QA analysts. Additionally, knowing how to code can be useful but it’s not necessary. You won’t have to know all of the tools listed above, their usage will vary from job to job. You can choose a certain area to specialize in, but QA analysts is one of the few fields where being a bit of jack of all trades helps more than mastering just one.

Last but not least, don’t underestimate the soft skills:


2. Soft skills

One of your main jobs as a QA analyst, next to doing the analysis itself, will be communicating the results with software developers. There are two main things you’ll have to be good at to do this effectively:

Giving short and clear feedback: No beating around the bush, no unclear sentences. As a tester, it is be your responsibility to make a good argument of why something is a problem (and often suggesting a fix). A lot of your communication probably won’t be face-to-face, that’s just not how QA analysis works nowadays. So learn to express yourself in short emails, leave out the unnecessary stuff, but still remain professional. But most importantly – directly state what the problem is, as early in the email or conversation as possible. I know it sounds like a handful, but these are just basic rules for communicating clearly. And as a QA analyst, this is possibly the most vital skill you will have to learn.

Criticizing constructively: Your job goes beyond just stating the problem. You will also need to learn the art of constructive criticism. Conversations shouldn’t be about what the front-end developers did wrong or what this or that guy messed up. They should be aimed at identifying the problem as a group and then working towards a way to solve it. So don’t go all guns blazing in your next feedback round and keep your eyes on the end goal – collaborating with everyone to create a good user experience.

As you can see, QA analysts need to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers to succeed in their profession.


 

Browse for QA opportunities all over the world    Projects for QA analysts


Educational background

Although it might not be a must for all companies looking for an QA analyst for their team, development companies usually require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering or a related information technology discipline. Manufacturing companies might prefer professionals who hold a degree in business administration and experience in quality control. Generally, new analysts spend a few weeks learning about the particular company and its procedures.


Salaries for QA analysts

According to PayScale, QA analysts get 53,403 USD on average in the USA, but Glassdoor puts the early salary number significantly higher at 63,000 USD. But there is a huge variance due to the absolutely huge variety of clients you can work for as a QA analyst and also the different responsibilities you might be taking. Additionally, depending on which country your clients are from, there will be vast differences as well.


Freelancer Suitability – Excellent!

Freelancing as a QA analyst is definitely possible and might even be more viable than having a traditional 9-to-5 job with that very same description. The fact is, not all companies do QA analysis all the time, they will mostly do it in chunks. Additionally, web and software development are both field full of, and pretty open to, freelancers. Put all of that together and you’ve got yourself a field where freelancers can thrive. That is, of course, provided they have the right toolset.


Real insights from a QA Engineer

We asked one ouf our freelancers if he wouldn't mind to share his experiences as Quality Assurance engineer with us. Volodymyr Stasiuk is a QA engineer from the Ukraine who jumped into the freelance world this year.

Feel free to check his profile and get in touch with him if you are in need of a QA analyst.
 

- What drove you to choose your career path?

I'd been an amateur sporter for 6 years and I was doing good. Unfortunately, during the time I suffered some injuries that didn't allow me to continue living that dream, so I needed a plan B. I had finished my degree in computer science some years ago but I had to brush my skills. I started looking on the Internet for interesting courses that would refresh my knowledge and fortunately found some great ones for free. I was ready to start working as a QA engineer!

- What misconceptions do people often have about your job?

People often don't understand what part of the software development life cycle is taken by a QA analyst or what a QA analyst actually does. I often hear: "Oh, you are a programmer".

- What's the most enjoyable part of the job?

I really enjoy finding out issues and resolving them while learning new things. It's always very grateful to see the results on something you have been working on.

- What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?

I think the most important thing is to know if you love what you are doing. Ask yourself at the beginning: "Do I love this job?". If the answer is yes, the rest will come with the time.

- What advice would you give to those aspiring to be QA analysts?

Keep on learning and educating yourself and never give up if you can't find a full-time job on-site. Go freelancing and check websites such as www.freelancermap.com to get some experience.

 - Would you say Quality Assurance is a great niche for freelancers? 

Definitely. There is a lot of work, both for profiles with junior experience and more experienced ones. Besides, for many companies, it's not convenient to hire a full-time employee and they prefer to outsource this task per project.

Are you sold on becoming a freelance QA analyst? We will be happy to welcome you to our IT network then!

Check out our Career Insights Series every month for an in-depth look at a new freelance role on the market!
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