How to Land Your First Software Testing Job
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In computer science, there’s an unsung hero in every software development project: the software testing engineer.

If you have a habit of finding bugs or problems in software, or you have strong opinions about how software could be better, a software testing job may be for you.

As with many technology fields, you don’t learn everything you need to know in college to become a software tester. You’ll learn the foundation you need to get started. But to achieve success in the field there are certifications, additional trainings, and many other topics you’ll need to become an expert in.

In this article we’ll cover the basic schooling and training you’ll need to position yourself for your first job. But we’ll also explore the areas to focus on in your training and certification efforts Learn With Coding Projects: 9 Udemy Courses for the Beginner Programmer Learn With Coding Projects: 9 Udemy Courses for the Beginner Programmer The real difficulty is finding good programming tutorials and courses that not only teach you the necessary skills, but do so with practical projects. That's where Udemy steps in. Read More to advance in your career.

What Does a Software Tester Do?

A quality engineer who specializes in software documents and executes test plans, and follows procedures for reporting software anomalies.

Software testers work closely with software engineers 10 Reasons Why Programmers Are More Fun to Date 10 Reasons Why Programmers Are More Fun to Date Forget the geek culture you see on TV -- developers make perfect dates. Here's why your next date should be a programmer, and why they're so fun to date! Read More who can apply the appropriate fix, utilizing the correct methodology. As a software tester, you’ll have training on software development methodologies, so you’ll know exactly what to do when you do find a software bug.

The key takeaway is that you’ll be building solid relationships with software engineers.

As a software tester, you’ll build the trust and respect of software engineers by helping them produce polished, professional code.

software tester skills for a job - couple sitting with devices

This kind of software development teamwork helps everyone look good. As a software tester, you’re an important part of the team.

Here are some of the core responsibilities you’ll find yourself doing when you take your first software testing job:

  • Writing test plans that align with the design documents software engineers wrote. You’ll be ensuring the software does everything that the design document promised it would.
  • Executing test plans against the newly developed software. As a software tester, you’re the first person to ever lay your hands on the software as a user.
  • Properly documenting test plans according to industry-specific documentation procedures. For example, GMP (good manufacturing practices) in the manufacturing industry strictly defines how to execute test plans.
  • Working with software engineers and project managers How to Become a Project Manager How to Become a Project Manager If productivity is your passion and initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing sound familiar, you may be a natural project manager. Let us show you how to kick off a career in project management. Read More in every phase of the software development life cycle (SDLC): design, develop, testing, release, and maintain.

Most of what you learn in college will be related to the SDLC software life cycle. It’ll also include how you develop and execute test plans, proper documentation procedures, and similar aspects of the job that are common across the field.

If you know what industry you want to get into, that could help you further specialize by learning procedures specific to manufacturing, aerospace, education, energy, and more.

Entry Level Skills for Software Testers

To break into this field, you’re going to need some basic training in the following areas:

Unfortunately there are no college degree programs for software testing. There are major degree programs that do cover most or all of the areas listed above. Your best choice would be Computer Science, or Electrical or Computer Engineering.

If you’re certain that you want to get into software testing as a career, then choose your courses in degree programs focused on the skills listed above.

If possible, seek out summer internship opportunities that involve some aspect of software testing. This way, when you graduate, you’ll not only have the right degree for the field, but you’ll already have a little bit of experience under your belt as well.

Career Development Skills for Software Testers

Once you have your first job, don’t stop your training. To become an expert in the software quality industry, you need to work toward gaining skills and certifications.

The following are core areas you should work toward gaining as much experience and certification as possible.

Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

Understanding the SDLC and the role or roles you play in it are critical to doing well in the field of software testing. This is because you serve as a core (and critical) transition between development and implementation or rollout of software.

software tester skills - SDLC diagram

If testing is done well, the rollout to users will go smoothly. If testing is shoddy or the team doesn’t give enough importance to the testing phase, the rollout could become a disaster when end users discover all of the company’s software bugs.

Improper testing can have major consequences to a company’s brand and reputation. You’ll learn a lot about SDLC at college and once you start working at your first job. However, it’s an area you really need to keep developing with additional training and certifications. The following are some of the leading, recognized certification programs in any industry.

  • ISTQB: The leading organization for software testing certifications should be your first stop.
  • iSQI: Internationally recognized quality certifications.
  • IIST: Offers software testing certifications, courses, and even free training.
  • UC Berkeley: A Certificate program in software development and programming.
  • ASPE: Training and cetification for testing, development frameworks, and project management.
  • Project Management Institute: Certifications for project management across multiple software development frameworks.
  • Netcom: Several certification programs for Agile project management.

Try to tailor your certifications and training around the organizations that your particular industry uses. Ask around in your company to find anyone else who became certified and find out what board or organization they worked with.

Documentation Best Practices

In highly regulated industries like healthcare or military, following software testing documentation best practices is critical. Documentation tells regulators that you’ve done the testing on software that your project plan promises, and that testing was executed successfully against the final design documents.

Testing needs to be executed in the proper order, and by properly trained individuals. Your documentation proves all of this took place. This is called Quality Assurance.

Not following the right documentation best practices can lead to audit finds by government regulators. Government findings lead to a significant impact on brand reputation. It even hurts overall company revenue.

It’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders as a software tester, but it’s also a responsibility that’s easy to meet if you get properly trained on the best practices and follow all of the rules. No exceptions.

This is why it’s important to regularly brush up on your quality control documentation skills, no matter where you are in your career.

  • MasterControl: Offers free videos detailing proper documentation and change control practices.
  • Agile Modeling: Provides extensive documentation on Agile documentation best practices.
  • StrongQA: Offers testing document templates for everything from test cases all the way through the traceability matrix.

Becoming a Software Tester

While the idea of dealing with government regulations and so much documentation can feel daunting, don’t worry. It’s not that bad. Most companies have already established entire systems complete with document templates that you can use. So you aren’t writing everything from scratch.

Most of your time as a software tester will be working with the actual developed software, performing the tasks defined in the test plans, and documenting results. If you have a natural eye for spotting design or performance problems with software you’ve used in the past, you may be a natural for this kind of job.

Have you ever considered becoming a software tester as a career Did You Know You Can Earn Money Testing Mobile & Web Apps? Did You Know You Can Earn Money Testing Mobile & Web Apps? There are thousands of ways to make money on the Internet, but one of the most overlooked is mobile and web app testing. Read More ?

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  1. Mike
    April 2, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    Well, as articles about testing go you did a credible job. I did testing starting before it was a "discipline" all the way from tester to management to consulting.

    I remember the old IBM "black gang." Before this time, a programmer didn't really get a "review" of his code much less any testing beyond the programmer checking his code. Reviews were about hand holding and back slapping then..

    Needless to say when testing got more formal and technical implemented it was rough on early programmers. The one thing you glossed over was that QA people on all levels need to know much more about everything, but especially people. QA touches all facets of a company, because once QA finds a "show stopper" "bug" everyone from marketing and management to the dev. department show up at their QA department door and shrewd people management has made the difference in more situations than I can recount in this type of tense situation.

    Beyond the nuts and bolts of development tools and philosophies; when a catastrophic bug occurs (and they do more often than most people realize) that is going to cost huge amounts of resources to fix, how the people are managed is the most critical issue from management and marketing to the tester that just got hired. So, to add to your list new testers need to start learning about people skills right off the bat. In parting here is an example (one of many I have encountered) that may give your readers pause for thought:

    I was working at Microsoft as one of their "pool" testers and a request came down from a specific programmer for help and all the more experienced testers began rolling their eyes and complain. Well, by this time in my life I had lived in many foreign countries, survived battlefields, and back alleys in distant lands so I was intrigued and frankly not intimidated by the prospects of working with this individual so I offered to be his "personal" tester to the gasping amazement of my cohorts.

    I discovered after some investigation and working with this guy that he was from a foreign country and had a very tender ego. So I never confronted him, but just positioned any "bug" I found as a lack of understanding on my part and asked him to "help" me with my "misunderstanding." Evidently previous testers had positioned themselves in a more forceful stance both offending his cultural or social grounding and his technical expertise. We got along swimmingly and he touted my "skills" to all and sundry to the amazement of the QA department. So, you can see how important people skills are even in the day to day.