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How can I negotiate for a better QA salary?

It's not all about the paycheck, but salary is important. Expert Amy Reichert offers firsthand advice to help you negotiate the salary of your dreams. Her secret? Always bargain.

Salary negotiation is a tense topic on a questionable, but defining, moment in your QA career. Negotiating successfully...

depends on your experience, need and nerves. After all, if you bargain for a job paying too low, you'll never likely reach your desired QA salary through standard raises. You might through a promotion, but in my experience, negotiating salary upfront is a safer bet on your success.

The first step is spending time researching salary values for your current QA level and the one above in your geographical area. QA salary levels vary widely among companies and fluctuate continuously. However, it's better to have a solid idea of a realistic salary range.

If you bargain for a job paying too low, you'll never likely reach your desired QA salary through standard raises.

Next, assess your skill level. Are you a good QA? Do you work toward improving your skills or do you want to? There's nothing wrong in either desiring to test at your current level for the rest of your career or using QA as a stepping stone to get to another level or position. It's up to you to determine where you want to go. For example, I prefer actively testing at a senior QA level. I don't desire a move to management, but I may consider a role with greater technical skill that still involves testing, pays more and increases my skill level. 

Search for salaries and determine the highest value you can expect. Measure that against your existing skills, or what you do as a QA on a daily basis. Know your minimum QA salary before an offer is extended.

Once you get an offer, what next? Do you take an amount being offered or bargain? Always bargain. A former QA co-worker of mine told me honestly that it was my fault I was not paid enough because I did not negotiate for a higher pay. She was right. I jumped at the first amount because it was higher than my current salary. I neither did research nor attempted to negotiate. I changed jobs to get paid what I should've been making.

Since then, I have updated my research and now negotiate high. At present, it depends if I'm employed, or if I'm really in need of a job. I suggest you start at your highest desired salary and also decide on the lowest you'd take. You'll likely end up somewhere in the middle. Remember, you won't get a higher salary without asking! Always negotiate your best deal.

Next Steps

More on the art of the negotiation

Are you paid too little?

Compare your salary to a developer's

This was last published in September 2016

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What advice would you give an underpaid tester?
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Be sure have all the essential skills well covered. Then start working on a additional skills. If you're a tester and no more, you won't get much a bump in your business trajectory. Step outside that small box and learn, learn, learn any and every way possible.
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First I'd help the person to assess the situation. Maybe the company pays the highest possible but it's low comparing with the market average in the area. Or maybe the person doesn't provide much value?
Nowadays, roles tend to converge, and so are the salaries/ rates. Testers can make as much as programmers and others.
Make sure to be valuable and flexible. And have good job search skills overall, including negotiation :)
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"Always bargain"? Yes, negotiation skills are important but I wouldn't call it the key secret. Being valuable (i.e. having strong skills and being helpful) and being known (i.e. having a strong resume and job search skills) are the key ingredients.
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