Career Prospects In Software Testing

A. What Is Software Testing

Software Testing is a process of verifying a computer system/program to decide whether it meets the specified requirements and produces the desired results. As a result, you identify bugs in software products/projects. Software Testing is indispensable to provide a quality product without any bugs or issues. Although a low-profile career is often overlooked, Software testing is a highly sought-after position in the tech industry. Software testers’ primary job is to continually run software to find defects, called bugs, and report any defects they find into a tracking system. Every piece of software must pass through several rounds of rigorous testing to ensure that the product works as designed before it’s released.

B. Software Testing As A Career Option

If you have ever used a piece of software, including apps, and have been incredibly frustrated by the number of problems it has, you can probably guess how important a software tester’s job is. Having a degree in computer science and technology is not compulsory—you need to be very knowledgeable about working with different types of software and have a detail-oriented mind. The career requires a large pile of documentation, which can be intimidating for people without an engineering background. The results of a software testing job are tracked in a database for engineers to review so they can fix the defect. There are times when the position can seem monotonous, but the focus of your work will constantly change to different aspects of the program, alleviating some of the repetition. You also get an early look at the latest in technology and have a hand in ensuring that a program is as defect-free as possible. Finally, with software being an area that will always grow, software testers have one of the most secure jobs in the tech industry.

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C. Career Levels Of Software Testing

1. Entry Level:

Also called Junior Level Software Testers, most people begin at the entry level. A degree is not required, but those with a BS in computers are given preference, and recent college graduates make up the majority of employees at this level. An associate degree or certification can give a candidate an advantage.

However, in this field, experience tends to be as important as any kind of degree. It is not entirely uncommon for technical writers to be used in a software testing capacity as documentation is vital to both positions. With a degree, you are more likely to progress to the next level significantly faster, as the primary objective for an entry-level position is to familiarize with the process (no matter how good the education is, there is nothing that can prepare a student for how things work in reality over theory). In an entry-level position, software testers primarily focus on executing basic, established tests on software. Typically, this means running tests that have been developed for specific stages of the product. For example, all of the functionality of the software must be tested prior to its release, even for areas that should not have been affected by the changes. Entry-level positions typically run these tests because there is a low risk that there will be critical bugs that will push the release date back. Many of their regular tasks will be to work with automated testing to ensure it runs from start to finish, then reports if any bugs were encountered during the automated tests. As a tester, you will also learn about the bug tracking software and how to properly document defects you find. Depending on your education and experience, you may be paired with a test analyst to learn the more in-depth testing procedures. Over time, you will learn to work with the testing analysts and developers to write test plans, test new functionality, and start learning some of the code behind the programs. This last one can serve as a bridge to becoming a developer because typically it helps the engineers if testers can identify what part of the code is the real problem. Software testers with the ability to help troubleshoot and solve problems become indispensable relatively quickly within software companies. Entry-level software tester salary is approximately $48.5k – 57k yearly.

2. Test Analyst and Senior Test Analyst:

To be qualified as a test analyst, companies look primarily at experience, and then education. Certifications may help for some of the more technical testing areas, such as ASP.NET, but are not typically required for these positions. Many companies do not make a distinction between these two positions, and there is no standard for who is qualified as a senior or advanced test analyst. There are also a number of different designations for people in this position, such as QA tester and QA analyst. Regardless of what the position is called, the functionalities are all relatively similar. The primary difference between an entry-level tester and a senior-level tester is typically experience and specialization. The amount of experience that distinguishes one from the other varies by company and division. A tester who understands the code and can help problem solve is more likely to be considered on a senior level, even though there may not be a clear definition for the position.

Analysts work on more complex, less established programs and functionality. They are frequently requested to attend meetings with the engineering staff once development has started so that they understand the purpose of the changes, new functionality, and future direction. As a professional in these roles, you will work closely with developers, frequently testing software at different stages to ensure there are no major bugs created during the process. Their work is largely manual, meaning they create the test plan (usually a coordinated effort with the engineers) for each new, updated, and deprecated change. Mentoring of junior-level testers is common at this stage. Senior level test analyst salary is approximate $90k – $110k per year.

3. Software Test Lead and Manager:

Experience is essentially the only thing companies look for, for this position. For example, roughly two-thirds of all software test managers in the US are only hired after they had reached 10 years of experience. This is primarily because of how much a manager needs to know to properly run the department. Some companies have Test Lead positions, which can be a stepping stone to becoming a manager. A Test Lead provides the same services for a single group instead of an entire department. In many companies, there is only a manager, so the two are combined for simplicity’s sake. While other testers may specialize, managers must have practical knowledge of all required testing to deploy the product like unit testing, system testing, integration testing, acceptance testing, regression testing, and functional and non-functional testing. 

Most analysts will have experience with the majority of these, but a manager must be able to understand each testing type to meet tight release deadlines. Managers are responsible not only for ensuring their teams have the time required to thoroughly test software, but also have to ensuring their teams have the necessary equipment and hardware requirements to successfully test the software. They also discuss current issues with other members of management, raise requests for new equipment, handle administrative functions (such as hiring and approving contract employees’ time), and work to make the process seamless between development and testing. Test lead/ Manager salary is approximate $146 – $160k per year.

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D. Essential Skills Required To Have A Successful Career In Software Testing

Technical Skills: 

  • Basic knowledge of Database/ SQL: Software Systems have a large amount of data in the background. This data is stored in different types of databases like Oracle, MySQL, etc. in the backend. So, there will be situations when this data needs to be validated. In that case, simple/complex SQL queries can be used to check whether proper data is stored in the backend databases.
  • Basic knowledge of Linux: Most software applications like Web-Services, Databases, and Application Servers are deployed on Linux machines. So it is crucial for testers to have knowledge about Linux.
  • Knowledge and hands-on experience of a Test Management Tool: Test management is an important aspect of Software testing. Without proper test management techniques, the software testing process will fail. Test management is nothing but managing your testing-related artifacts. There are tools available that can be utilized for Test Management. So, it is important to have knowledge and working experience with such tools because they are used in most companies.
  • Knowledge and hands-on experience of any Defect Tracking tool: Defect Tracking Defect Life Cycle is a key aspect of software testing. It is extremely critical to manage defects properly and track them in a systematic manner. Defect tracking becomes necessary because the entire team should know about the defect including managers, developers, and testers. 
  • Knowledge and hands-on experience of Automation tools: If you see yourself as an “Automation tester” after a couple of years of working on manual testing, then you must master a tool and get in-depth, hands-on knowledge of automation tools.
  • Knowledge of any scripting language like VBScript, JavaScript, and C# is always helpful as a tester if you are looking for a job in automation. Again, it will depend on the company and which tools are used by that company.

Non-Technical Skills: 

  • Analytical skills: A good software tester should have sharp analytical skills. Analytical skills will help break up a complex software system into smaller units to gain a better understanding and create test cases.
  • Communication skills: A good software tester must have good verbal and written communication skills. Testing artifacts (like test cases/plans, test strategies, bug reports, etc.) created by the software tester should be easy to read and comprehend. Dealing with developers (in the event of bugs or any other issue) will require a shade of discreetness and diplomacy.
  • Time Management & Organization Skills: Testing at times could be a demanding job, especially during the release of code. A software tester must efficiently manage workload, have high productivity, exhibit optimal time management, and organization skills
  • Attitude: To be a good software tester you must have a great attitude. An attitude to ‘test to break’, detail orientation, willingness to learn, and suggest process improvements. In the software industry, technologies evolve with an overwhelming speed, and a good software tester should upgrade his/her technical Software testing skills with the changing technologies. Your attitude must reflect a certain degree of independence where you take ownership of the task allocated and complete it without much direct supervision.
  • Passion: To Excel in any profession or job, one must have a significant degree of passion for it. A software tester must have a passion for his / her field. BUT how do you determine whether you have a passion for software testing if you have never tested before? Simple TRY it out and if software testing does not excite you switch to something else that holds your interest.