How to Become a Product Tester
Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Getting the First Crack at New Products
Good news first: plenty of companies are willing to ship their products right to your house for free. The bad news? You won't make much money, if any, doing it. Being a product tester is typically an unpaid gig. You get free stuff and, in exchange, the company that makes that stuff gets your feedback. But if you're detail-oriented and a great problem solver, finding a job in quality control might be just as satisfying.
The title "product tester" means very different things to different companies. In many cases, product testers are ordinary people who receive things like food, cleaning products and makeup from the companies that make them. Testers usually get these things for free in exchange for their feedback, which companies use to fine-tune their products before releasing them to the public.
Product testers are sometimes paid a small fee for participating in the testing phase, but usually not. You may not even get to keep the things you test; participants in Columbia Sportswear's product testing program, for example, have to return shoes and apparel when the testing phase is complete. Marketing firms are often responsible for finding testers. Becoming one is usually as simple as filling out an online application. If you want to test specific products, do an online search for your favorite brands + "product tester" to find specific guidelines.
If you're looking for a paying job, the closest equivalent is quality control or quality assurance work. Many companies, especially those in the manufacturing and tech sectors, employ full-time quality assurance managers or quality control inspectors. But these workers don't just try out products all day; their work involves things like designing tests for computer systems, making sure that safety measures are being met and verifying that everything coming off the assembly line meets certain criteria.
To test a company's products, you need only meet its specific requirements. Those requirements typically depend on who the audience for the product is. If you're a young mom, a company that makes dentures won't want you as a tester – but a company that makes toys or laundry detergent will. Companies that make products for kids look for parents who have children of specific ages.
To work in quality assurance, the requirements again vary by a company's needs. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in an IT field to work for a software company, for example. Some of these jobs, like those in manufacturing, are open to applicants who have only high school diplomas.
About the Industry
Product testing isn't tied to one geographical location. Companies ship their products to volunteer testers. Quality assurance jobs are found anywhere that factories, tech companies and other types of industries are located – basically, throughout the United States. Working in quality assurance is typically a full-time job and not one that can be done remotely.
Years of Experience
How long you've been testing products for companies probably won't play a role in determining what products you're asked to test in the future. Your experience level matters only in full-time jobs like that of a quality assurance inspector. The median pay for this job is $36,780 per year, or $17.68 per hour, meaning that half the people in this job earn more than that and half earn less. The average salary for an entry-level quality control worker is around $30,532. The average salary jumps to around $34,544 at five years and $39,911 at 15 years.
Job Growth Trend
Because product testing isn't a viable full-time job, no data exists about its future growth. Quality control jobs are expected to decline by 11 percent in the near future as more jobs in the manufacturing industry are automated.
Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.