Starting & growing a QA Testing career
Amy E Reichert
Posted On: October 13, 2022
10 Min Read
The QA testing career includes following an often long, winding road filled with fun, chaos, challenges, and complexity. Financially, the spectrum is broad and influenced by location, company type, company size, and the QA tester’s experience level. QA testing is a profitable, enjoyable, and thriving career choice.
The most confusing part is how to get started. College course-level training still only exists at a few universities and is generally taught as a foundational or informational course associated with a computer programming degree.
A person can find effective career education outside of a traditional college or university. QA testing courses are popular with coding Bootcamp courses, as well as a variety of online courses and professional certification opportunities. In short, there are no shortages of QA testing educational opportunities but which path to choose?
As an experienced QA tester, how do you grow your career? It’s essential to keep pace with current trends and tools on an ongoing basis but which tools and trends?
This guide provides information and tips for starting a new QA testing career as well as how to grow one, what educational options exist, and how to choose the best path and change paths as needed.
- Why choose QA testing as a career?
- Find out about a day in the life of a QA tester. Is it for you?
- Learn the typical personality traits needed for success as a QA tester.
- How to get started as a QA tester?
- Learn various educational options for gaining knowledge and experience.
- Discover what software development tools to understand or become familiar with.
- How to grow an existing QA tester career?
- Find out the optional career paths associated with a QA testing career.
Why choose QA testing as a career?
Software application development is a strong business field that is forever growing and changing. Software testing is part of software development and is both necessary and in some cases, required.
There’s no shortage of web and mobile applications that need testing especially with the current impact of customer experience on a business. Customer experience controls a software application’s business success. Today, more than ever before, customers can easily switch applications, with lesser impact than in the past.
Positive customer experience scores demand that the quality of software functionality and the user’s overall experience take center stage. The need for software application development organizations to please the actual users has increased and is forcing businesses to spend time and effort on ensuring application quality. Essentially, testing software in some method will always require a human to judge an application as a potential customer. Whatever new forms software testing takes, there will always be a need for software testers.
A typical day in the life of a QA tester
The typical day in the life of a QA software tester depends on the software development methodology used by the software development team. When a team uses the Agile methodology the software tester’s workday includes:
- Daily standup meeting with the development team(s).
- Daily standup with QA team, lead, and/or manager.
- Assigned user story review followed by test planning, test case development, and test execution.
- Ensuring test servers are updated to required code build levels. QA testers may deploy code builds to test servers or request new builds get applied.
- Test execution based on assigned user stories, and defect entry or writeup.
- Regression test execution often occurs continuously when testers complete their assigned user stories. Test teams often divide regression suites by functions and execute them as time allows.
- Attend sprint grooming meetings once a sprint is completed.
- Test management tasks include updating test cases to reflect changed functionality.
When other software development methodologies are used, the daily software testing tasks typically include the same general tasks but on a different type of schedule. For example, instead of daily standups, you’ll attend weekly or daily status meetings. Test case planning involves formal documentation and sign-off by management before test execution begins. The tasks performed by the QA tester are similar but occur at different time intervals.
Keep in mind, that the work tasks listed above vary based on the software organization, the size of the team, and what business processes are defined.
Personality traits for QA tester career success
Most successful QA software testers are curious and adventurous. Many QA testers enjoy putting together puzzles with no pictures and missing pieces. Professionalism abounds with exceptional skills in emotional intelligence. Testers are patient but assertive. QA testers enjoy learning new technology and enjoy researching and asking questions.
Software QA testers need creativity and imagination. The ability to develop creative and investigative testing is essential for finding defects outside of the visual UI. Testers are comfortable with competition, and a global workforce, and are inclusive and aware of their own bias.
Other common software tester personality traits include:
- Skilled in team dynamics or working with varied personalities
- Self-secure, calm, but professionally assertive
- Willing to share ideas and ask questions
- Looking to build a positive working reputation based on skill and results
- Always willing to learn and explore new technology skills, tools, or methods.
- Exceptional skills in understanding customers and their tendencies.
Where to start?
You’ve decided to become a QA software tester, now where to start? In good news, there are several options at varying price points for consideration. First establish your career goals, financial limits, and the time available for research and education. Start by searching through technology job sites online.
Read through the entry-level job descriptions as well as those requiring significant prior experience. The job descriptions include relevant information for choosing which tools to learn, and what type of software testing you’re interested in. For example, job openings in medical device software testing often require significant prior experience and a specific understanding of government medical device regulatory requirements. Job openings for testing a healthcare management app on a mobile device simply require an understanding of the customer’s use of the application and specific company-supplied tools.
Make a note of the most common tool names and skills mentioned in the job openings. You’ll have a long list, but it’s important to narrow down the list of tools to become familiar with.
Next, determine your educational options. Are you looking to attend a 4-year university program and major in computer science? It’s still unfortunately rare to find dedicated courses in software testing, but some universities offer at least one course associated with a computer science degree.
If you’re not interested in a long-term program, consider various options that coding bootcamps offer. By investing in a coding bootcamp program you’ll programming and coding skills along with dedicated education specifically in software testing. Coding bootcamps such as DEVMOUNTAIN provide education in both coding and QA software testing in a shortened time frame for a lower cost than a 4-year degree. Research options by searching online.
Additionally, there are free and low-cost online courses in software testing from professional organizations of various types. For example, certification groups like AT*SQA offer a variety of educational courses relevant to software testing in addition to their certification options. Courses are offered in specific areas and can be taken at will. Search online for a wide variety of software online education options.
Finally, perhaps self-study works best for your needs. Consider reading books and attending testing conferences in your local area. Many major cities have QA testing groups that sponsor testing conferences that include discussion panels, educational opportunities, and networking events.
The following books are personal favorites combining real-world experiences with valid technical topics that remain relevant to both Agile and non-Agile development practices:
- James A Whittaker:
- Exploratory Software Testing
- How to Break Software
- How to Break Web Software
- How to Break Software Security
- Cem Kaner, Jack Falk, and Hung Nguyen
The Whittaker books are timeless, but Testing Computer Software although dated for Agile testing, does give the learner a great deal of useful and valid information on testing techniques and practical applications of various testing techniques. Pair these selections with more specific types of testing like Agile, security, and automated test development.
How to grow a QA Testing career
QA software testing involves tools used to support testing. From test management tools that organized manual or automated test scripts and assist in tracking test execution from database viewers, and task management tools. Throughout a QA software testing career, new tool use and education become essential.
As a software tester, there are types of tools you’ll need to be familiar with. Most tools offer free trials that allow you to open it up and gain some idea of how it works. Frequently, one can’t get all the experience required from a free trial but understanding the basics gets you started. Avoid the temptation to become an expert in a single tool. Over time, it’s natural to gain expert understanding but typically tools don’t last long before they get replaced by the next latest and greatest tool. Plan to keep learning tools throughout your career.
Rather than focusing on specific tools, gain a general understanding by using a free trial, or reading through online documentation, blogs, or user group materials. A QA tester picks up a great deal of information from documentation.
Practice learning by documentation by reading about tools that perform the following functions:
- Task management (user story planning, task planning, and work assignments)
- Database query or data viewers (access to view and manipulate database records)
- API connection testing (checking connectivity for API endpoints)
- Automated test tools (developing scripted automated tests)
- Performance/Load testing tools (testing application speed and load handling)
- Defect management (inputting and managing defect records)
- Security testing (executing basic security tests using automation or manual testing)
- OWASP is an organization focused on security, all day every day. It’s worth reading over and incorporating into testing suites.
- Development tools (coding and code management)
- Device Testing Farms
Aside from tool changes, a QA tester grows by learning both the depth and breadth of the applications they test. Gaining an understanding of the front and backend functionality, connectivity details, and how the entire, integrated application functions is critical for growth. The more experience in all layers of an application, the greater a tester’s understanding develops on how and where to find defects.
Resources for growing a QA career include acquiring certifications or further education. Certifications carry weight, especially when hiring into a new organization. Certifications often set a tester apart when employers are wading through hundreds of applications.
Gaining knowledge as a QA tester comes with time spent testing, and using the educational resources the same as a new tester. Learn about testing that isn’t typically performed in your organization. Propose new testing techniques or additions to typical testing to improve application quality and be prepared to train teammates.
As a QA tester, if you’re interested in becoming a developer, volunteer to learn automated test scripting. It’s a good start in the world of development where you’ll gain skills on the job. Take online or other education for programming in the code languages currently used for developing on the web, mobile, or network depending on your interest.
QA testing is a solid career choice where duties vary and are rarely stagnant. Granted, a professional QA tester often performs repetitive tasks with the constant goal of finding application defects. However, how testing is performed, what types of testing are executed, and test design concepts and tools are continuously evolving.
The QA testing career is sustainable on its own or can be a way to open doors for career moves into development, product management, project management, technical documentation, or technical support. Additionally, in larger software development organizations there are multiple management roles within the QA group. Good luck!
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