How Do You Become a Software Testing Engineer?

software testing engineer

Did you know that 40 percent of the world has Internet access? That is an amazing statistic since in 1984 only eight percent of Americans had personal computers. According to the website, one in every five of us are absolutely dependent upon our cell phones. Additionally, of the avalanche of data that surrounds us and is stored in the cloud, 90 percent was created in just the last two years.
Computers are found in virtually every aspect of society today. They keep track of finances, allow us to communicate socially and at work, and even help surgeons perform delicate operations. None of that would be possible, however, without software to tell the computers what to do and how to do it. Employment in technology fields is growing at an exponential rate. If you are detail-oriented and enjoy solving problems, you might be the perfect candidate for a job as a software testing engineer.

A software testing engineer plays a crucial role in application development. These experts are quality assurance professionals who test applications in order to root out funky interface issues, poor performance, and bugs. To accomplish this, they run a variety of tests, including user acceptance, scalability, functional, performance, and stress tests, at different stages throughout the life cycle of the software. Since software testing is critical to the usability and quality of the final product, testers are brought in at the design and planning stage, and they may continue to provide support after the product is released.

Defining Terms

While you may feel comfortable speaking “computerese,” it might be helpful to define some of these terms.


All computer systems have sub-systems. Plus, they themselves are part of a larger system. These larger systems have to communicate with other systems to function. That communication is done through interfaces. Simply put, an interface, like a docking port on the International Space Station, allows ships to connect and exchange information ( and in that case, personnel and supplies).


Since data is growing so rapidly, computers have to grow with it. That means software must be adaptable to new methods of input and changes the user makes to the program. It also must be able to handle greater volumes of information. That ability, which is built into software, is called scalability.

User Acceptance

This is testing done by software users to determine if it meets user needs, and it is the last of several tests performed and evaluated by software testing engineers.

What Kind of Tests are Used?

How Do You Become a Software Testing Engineer?
The website says that all software tests fall into one of three categories. These are: Black Box, White Box and Gray Box. The terms refer to the amount of knowledge the tester has about the requirements and coding, information pathways and other attributes of the software that enables it to function, and function well.

Black Box Testing

How Do You Become a Software Testing Engineer?
Engineers testing using this method know what the requirements of the system are but not the paths the coding has created for it to perform. In other words, the tester knows what the program is supposed to do, but not how it does it. This testing looks at what performance is required, what prompts the user inputs to allow the software to run and then, finally, output. The testing is not concerned with the inner workings of the software. It only examines input and output.

Functional Testing

This black box test evaluates how well the software runs in light of the expectation of its function ( how well it does its job).

Non-Functional Testing

While functional testing looks at how well the software works in relation to what is expected of it through user prompts, etc., non-functional testing covers areas not addressed by the functional tests. Some of the goals of this type of test, according to, are to increase the usability of the software, decrease risk and cost of production and make setup and monitoring easier. The parameters of this protocol are security, reliability, survivability-or how well the system recovers in case of a failure, availability, usability, scalability, interoperability (the interface ability we discussed earlier), efficiency, flexibility, portability ( or how it would function out of its “current hardware or software environment) and reusability, or how much of the software could be reused in another application.

Maintenance or Regression Testing

Maintenance testing looks at what changes have been made in the software because of correction of the system or whether the system has been affected by over-extension. Regression testing concerns whether the changes have caused mutations or problems in the rest of the system not addressed by the changes.

Example of Black Box Testing

While there are many techniques of black box testing, the goal is always the same: to assess whether software performs according to expectation. For instance, a user might input the wrong password. Regardless of what is involved in processing the password, the output of the system should be that access is granted to the system. The user should get an error message that prompts him to re-enter the username or password. If he or she doesn’t receive that message, there is a problem in the output of the software.

White Box Testing

How Do You Become a Software Testing Engineer?
In white box testing, the software testing engineer knows the coding of the software. While black box testing looks solely at input and output (how well the software does its job), white box testing assesses the internal workings of the software. In other words, how it does its job well. Some of the things white box testing addresses are:
• Internal security holes
• Broken coding paths
• How selected input flows through the code
• Expected output
• Conditional loops
• Testing of individual units of code

Unit Testing

A unit in software analysis is the smallest part of an application it is feasible to test. Each part of the code is segregated and examined to determine if it is functioning well. This type of testing is usually done by software developers.

Memory Leak Testing

This is testing that looks for unusable or inaccessible data that may be clogging the system and slowing the response. It occurs when the software does not release outdated data.

Penetration Test

Also called pen-testing, this is essentially legal “hacking” of the system to identify where there are security gaps or weak security code.

Mutation Testing

While inputting test cases, the programmer makes intentional errors to see if the system identifies the problems. The changes are intentionally small so that they don’t corrupt the entire system, and so this test is very time-consuming.

The Disadvantage of White Box Testing

While it can be automated, it is complex and takes a lot of time. Because it involves a complete understanding and fluency in code, it takes a level of professional involvement that can be very costly. It must be done before production, and then at every modification. Additionally, if it is not done in a thorough manner, it can lead to production errors that most businesses cannot afford.

Gray Box Testing

How Do You Become a Software Testing Engineer?
As the name infers, this is a combination of black box and white box testing. The operator is partially aware of the coding and internal processes. He or she does not need to know the source code for the application, but must understand algorithms and computer architecture, or possess other advanced knowledge of computer science. Gray box testing addresses input and output as well as internal functionality.

How to Become a Software Tester

Many employers prefer candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering, math, or computer science, although a degree in these fields isn’t always required. If you have solid letters of recommendation or references, a stable work history, and years of experience, you could potentially land a job without earning a college degree. An intermediate-level software testing position usually requires at least three to six years of software testing experience or a combination of experience and education.

Alternative Degrees

Young people today often grow up playing video games and being literate in technology. Some companies hire people like this directly out of high school. To be a software testing technician, an associate degree in
computer science or information technology may suffice. Keep in mind that these are entry-level positions. Advancing in the career will probably require more education, certification, or years of experience. Bachelor’s degrees in software engineering, computer science, information technology or other related degrees also lead to entry-level jobs, but many employers offer internships that allow undergraduates to work in the field just before or after graduation and to make the contacts that could result in a permanent position.

Another option is to use your degree in another discipline to get into graduate school to earn a master’s degree in software engineering.

Managerial positions, as in other professions, usually require advanced degrees. Additionally, as in many other professions, experience plays a big part in getting a position and advancing in it.

Other Paths to Becoming a Software Testing Engineer

If you don’t have a degree, begin studying on your own. Even grade school students can study programming. You can also take programming courses online to add to your knowledge bank. One key is to create a portfolio of your computer projects on websites such as Github so that you can demonstrate proficiency to a prospective employer.

An example of someone whose success as a software engineer wasn’t born out of a degree is James Marcus Bach. He is well-known and respected in the profession, yet he is entirely self-taught, having dropped out of high school. That isn’t to say most people don’t need degrees. It is only a note that it is possible with drive, determination and discipline. If you do not have a degree, but you want a career in this field, you should realize that it takes a disciplined, organized, detail-oriented person to go the self-taught road. Most sources say that a career as a software testing engineer is not for people with an artistic, social bent. This is definitely a profession for structured personalities who have an investigative mind.

Managerial positions, as in other professions, usually require advanced degrees. Additionally, as in many other professions, experience plays a big part in getting a position and advancing in it.

Skills Required in Software Testing

Regardless of the career path you take, there are certain skills that are critical if you are considering becoming a software tester. You should have thorough knowledge of several testing tools, be a multi-tasker, and be fluent in Windows, Linux, and/or UNIX as well as command-line and scripting tools. Excellent communication skills are a must, particularly in terms of customer service, product management, operations, and development. You should be able to understand environments or platforms as well as different development methodologies such as Scrum and Agile, and you will need to perform software testing in all phases of the software life cycle. Finally, knowledge of programming languages such as Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python, SQL, C# or C++, JavaScript, and Java is important for success in this career.


Once you have earned a degree and developed the skills necessary to become a software tester, you may consider earning one or more certifications to boost your resume. Most software tester certifications are vendor-neutral, and many recognize the skills and knowledge that apply throughout the entire testing process. Two of the most popular certifications include the Certified Software Tester (CSTE) designation and the ISTQB Certified Tester certification.


According to PayScale, an entry-level software tester can expect an average annual salary of around $47,500 per year. The highest-paying skills associated with this career are C# programming language and the Selenium automated test tool. However, a software tester’s salary will largely depend on the city in which he or she works as well as the specific company with whom he or she is employed. In addition, obtaining a bachelor’s degree, having experience with certain tools as well as general experience within the industry, and voluntary certification can also increase one’s salary in this field.

With technology ever-increasing, the need for skilled software testers is also growing. If you have an interest in computer systems and you are looking to enter a field in which your skills and knowledge can be put to use to help in the development and release of a new and exciting product, a career as a software testing engineer could be for you.

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