Software testing is an integral part of software or application development. No application is ready for release until it has been put through rigorous and comprehensive testing by competent software testers or QA experts, as they're sometimes known. The software tester performs a vital role in software development. It is her (or his) responsibility to ensure quality, efficacy, and security of the final product.
How many end users of applications or solutions that work without frequent glitches know that they have software testers to thank for their valuable, smooth and secure user experience? Testers work behind the scenes, identifying and addressing bugs, and interface and performance problems, and ensuring that the software performs as planned and the product is released on time.
Software testers usually work on development teams, many of which follow the DevOps approach, using Agile, Scrum, or Lean methodologies.
There are a range of job opportunities available for software testers. They can work in government organizations, corporates, technology companies, as well as in small and medium enterprises. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a QA tester is $58,200 per year. PayScale reports a slightly lower average salary for a software tester at $55,742.
A software tester is responsible for ensuring that an application works as specified in a production environment, fulfils user and business requirements, and complies with technical, regulatory, and security guidelines. He (or she) designs and performs various tests to assess whether:
- All functions and features of the application perform as expected.
- It is user-friendly.
- It is capable of handling higher than normal load.
- There are security issues that could pose a risk to clients' assets.
- It is scalable.
- The application works effectively as a whole.
Software testing is a collection of processes that include designing, developing, and executing various tests to evaluate performance, stress, functionality, user acceptance, and scalability, documenting and analyzing test results, and reporting on issues and variances.
A software tester or QA professional must be capable of employing different testing techniques, including unit and system testing, load and stress testing, black box testing, user acceptance testing (UAT), and scalability testing.
A software tester's responsibilities can include some or all of the following:
- Discussing user needs and concerns with end users
- Collaborating with developers and the project manager
- Designing appropriate application tests, both manual and automated
- Determining which tests to automate and which to perform manually
- Coding automated tests
- Performing various automated and manual tests
- Running tests in web, mobile, and other environments
- Implementing standards and processes to evaluate product quality
- Monitoring the development process
- Detecting bugs, and performance and user interface issues
- Identifying system flaws
- Identifying vulnerabilities that could lead to potential security issues
- Verifying that the application fulfils all business and operational requirements
- Tracking and documenting results of monitoring and testing
- Creating test reports and sending these to the development team
- Providing feedback to developers and managers
- Staying abreast of current tools, methods, and technologies
Staying ahead of the curve
Software development is a rapidly-evolving field. Hence, software testers need to be conversant with current testing approaches, techniques, and tools. They also need to be in touch with the latest scripts, programming languages, testing platforms, and developments in software development methodologies, such as Agile and Scrum, emerging technologies, and new paradigms.
ISTQB has launched a number of specialist certifications to address different aspects of testing, and plans to keep introducing new modules to cover new technologies, software development standards, and changing market needs.
Training and background
Most organizations require software testers to have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, information technology, or a related subject. There are software testers, however, who hold degrees in other subjects, but are hired because they have years of experience in the field and demonstrable knowledge and skills in software testing.
Though not the norm, an applicant with an associate's degree, or no degree at all, can find a software testing job. You'll be better off if you have as many years of relevant experience as possible, current skills, a good track record, and credible references.
On-the-job training is highly valued by recruiters. If you don't have any relevant experience, it's a good idea to take up a trainee position in software development at a corporate or other organization. This will help you develop an in-depth understanding of software testing methodologies, tools, and techniques, and gain knowledge of scripting, current programming languages, and SQL, the software development lifecycle, and related topics. Students intending to pursue a career in software testing can sign up for internships at companies.
There are several free and low-cost online training courses for beginners, offered by Microsoft Virtual Academy, ASTQB, and Udemy. The Association for Software Testing (AST) offers a number of paid courses as well as some useful resources. Lynda.com and other organizations also offer courses. LinkedIn groups, GitHub, and some online forums are valuable sources of information and provide an opportunity to expand your professional network.
Normally, software testers are part of software development teams and are active across the planning, development, testing, and delivery phases. In additional to relevant technical expertise, they need to have effective verbal and written communication, interpersonal, problem-solving, and time-management skills.
Recognized certifications demonstrate the holder's knowledge and skills in software testing. Certification programs also enable you to learn the latest techniques and methodologies and see how you measure up to industry standards. The right certification can give you an edge over other candidates with similar qualifications and experience.
Some in-demand certifications include:
Certified Software Tester (CSTE)
Managed by the International Software Testing Certification Board (ISTCB), the CSTE is a vendor-neutral credential that demonstrates professional knowledge of principles and methods of quality control in IT. The ISTCB's certification programs cover 3 domains Software QA, Software Business Analysis, and Software Testing.
CSTE is designed to set standards for qualification as a software tester and provide candidates with the skills required to perform software testing.
To earn the CSTE, an applicant must pass the exam and have either a 4-year degree and 2 years of experience in Information Services (IS), or a 3-year degree and 3 years of IS experience, or a 2-year degree and 4 years of IS experience, or 6 years of IS experience.
Additionally, an applicant must have worked in the field of software testing within the last 18 months. Applicants are also required to commit to abide by ISCB's Code of Ethics. Additional information is available online.
ISTQB Certified Tester
The International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) manages the vendor-neutral ISTQB Certified Tester certification program, which is structured like a matrix, enabling applicants to progress from one level to another, namely Foundation, Advanced, and Expert. Certifications are available in Core, Agile, and Specialist streams. The Foundation level certification is a prerequisite for all other ISTQB certifications.
The Core modules cover software testing in general and are relevant to any testing technology, approach, and application domain. The Agile modules cover testing principles and practices specific to the Agile SDLC. The Specialist modules address specialties, which could be test activities, test methodologies, quality characteristics, and so on. There are many Specialist modules.
Applicants in the US will need to register for the exam through the American Software Testing Qualification Board (ASTQB). Additional information from the ASQTB is available online. Additional information from ISTQB is also available online.
Software testers are in demand. This is also a very competitive profession. You need to keep improving your output. A competent software tester will focus on enhancing quality of testing and achieving better results, streamlining the testing process in order to make it more time- and cost-efficient, and ensuring optimum business outcomes and user experience.