How Do You Become a Software Test Engineer?

software testing engineer

A software test engineer develops applications and software. They analyze and test software to make sure it runs the way it should. As they carry out day-to-day tasks, software testing engineers need specialized training and skills. 

Are you interested in how to become a software tester or engineer? Want to know what a software testing engineer does? This article discusses the work of a software test engineer. We talk about the education you need to work in this career. We also discuss pay, job outlook, and the best software testing degree you can get. 

Read on for more information on what a software test engineer does.

What Software Testing Engineers Do

What is a test engineer? A software testing engineer plays a crucial role in application development. These experts are quality assurance professionals who test applications to root out interface issues, poor performance, and bugs. To do this they run many tests. Tests include:

  • Function
  • Interface
  • Performance
  • Scalability
  • Stress
  • User acceptance

A software test engineer runs different tests at different stages throughout the cycle of the software. Since software testing is important to the final product’s quality and usability, a software tester arrives at the design and planning stage.

They look at their test cases, run test reports and test scripts. They evaluate what the test software engineer staff does to better evaluate a product. A software tester also provides support for the product when and after released. 

Let’s look at some of the application and software testing performed by a software test engineer.

Interface Testing

All computer systems have sub-systems. Computers are part of larger operating systems. These larger systems must communicate with other operating systems to function. The communication occurs through interfaces.

An interface, like a docking port on the International Space Station, allows the connection and exchange of information. It is the job of a software tester to gather interface test results. 

Scalability Testing

Another test strategy or method is scalability. Since data grows at a rapid pace, computers must grow with it. This means software must adapt to new methods of input. It should also adapt to the changes a software test engineer or user makes to the program.

When we talk about scalability, we include size and volume. How well a program handles a volume of information speaks to its ability. That ability, when built into the software, is scalability. Software test engineers perform a scalability software test to ensure the product works. 

User Acceptance Tests

Software test engineers perform user acceptance testing to determine if the product meets user needs. These testing procedures take place after other tests. It is one of the last tests software testing engineers run. This test helps determine software quality assurance and if the product is user-friendly.

What Test Plans A Software Test Engineer Performs

The website says that all software tests fall into one of three categories. These categories include:

  • Black Box
  • White Box
  • Gray Box

The terms refer to the amount of knowledge the software test engineer has about the requirements of a product. This includes coding, information pathways, and other aspects that enable it to function. Let’s take a look at the three main categories of test plans. 

Black Box Testing

How Do You Become a Software Testing Engineer?
Software testing engineers use black box testing to examine functionality of an application without digging into its internal structures. They don’t spend time on inner workings. Their focus is on input and output. In software engineering, black box testing provides test reports on different levels including unit, system, integration, and more.  

So, what is an example of black box testing? 

A user can input the wrong password. When this occurs, the user should get an error message that prompts them to re-enter the username and password. When an error message doesn’t show up, a software test engineer knows there’s a problem in the output of the software. 

While there are many black box testing procedures, the goal is always the same. To assess whether software or applications perform according to expectation. 

Different Types of Black Box Testing

Here are a few types of black box testing methods used by software testing engineers.

Functional Testing

This black box test evaluates how software runs. A software test engineer examines function or how well the product does its job.

Maintenance or Regression Testing

Maintenance testing looks at what software changes have occurred when corrected. Regression testing examines if those changes caused mutations or problems in the rest of the system. It also looks at any changes not addressed or resolved. 

Non-Functional Testing

Non-functional testing looks different than functional testing. A software test engineer uses non-functional test reports to see what areas don’t get addressed by functional tests. This can include decreasing risk and cost of production or increasing usability. These areas aren’t measured with functional testing. 

To perform non-functional tests, software engineers design tests and software test engineers use them for security, reliability, and usability. They can also look at scalability and efficiency test results. The protocol for non-functional testing varies and depends on the method used. 

White Box Testing

How Do You Become a Software Testing Engineer?
In white box testing, a software testing engineer knows the coding of the software. While black box testing looks at input and output (how well the software does its job), white box testing assesses the internal workings of the software. It addresses how well it does the job.

Things white box testing addresses are:

  • Broken coding paths
  • Conditional loops
  • Expected output
  • How selected input flows through code
  • Internal security holes
  • Testing of individual units of code

Memory Leak Testing

This testing looks for unusable or inaccessible data that can clog or slow response in operating systems. It occurs when the software does not release outdated data.

Mutation Testing

While inputting test cases, the programmer makes intentional errors to see if the system identifies the problems. Small changes are intentional so they don’t corrupt the entire system. A mutation test performed by a software test engineer takes time. 

Penetration Test

Also called pen-testing, this is legal “hacking” of the system to identify where security gaps lie. It also looks for weak security code. Test results show where the weak links lie. 

Unit Testing

A unit in software analysis is the smallest part of an application to test. A software test engineer examines each part of the code to determine it functions the right way. Software developers, software test engineers, and software quality assurance engineer experts perform unit testing. 

A Disadvantage of White Box Testing

Test automation is possible in white box testing. But test automation is time-consuming. It also presents huge costs because of the time and knowledge it demands. To perform white box testing, you must have complete understanding and fluency in code. Processes are thorough and errors are possible. Most businesses cannot afford this type of testing. 

Gray Box Testing

How Do You Become a Software Testing Engineer?
As the name implies, gray box testing is a combination of black box and white box testing. It addresses:

  • Input
  • Output
  • Internal functionality

To perform gray box test procedures, a software test engineer must understand the coding and internal processes of the product. It helps to know the source code for the application. You need an advanced knowledge in computer science to conduct this software test. You also need a thorough understanding of algorithms and computer architecture. 

How to Become a Software Tester

Now that you know more about what a testing engineer does, you might want to know how to become a software test engineer. 

For most software test engineer jobs, employers want candidates with strong technical skills and a bachelor’s degree in:

  • Computer science
  • Engineering
  • Math

These are the top majors for software test engineer jobs. But if you can showcase your technical skills and experience, you can major in any subject. It is important to have strong math and engineering skills. 

Now, how do you get experience if you’re still in school? Internships are the #1 way for college students to gain experience in the software test field. Internships give you insight into the industry and provide hands-on experience working with field experts. As an intern, you get to work alongside other software engineer experts. You might work with a team of software test engineers or receive mentorship from a software quality assurance engineer. 

Your software test engineer internship can provide networking opportunities for future employment. The management team you work with can provide letters of recommendation and evaluations to show potential employers. Your software engineer internship can also lead to full-time employment. 

Alternative Degrees for Software Test Engineer Jobs

Today’s youth know technology, inside and out. From video games to the latest apps. Did you know some software test engineer jobs seek candidates right out of high school? This isn’t the norm, but with advanced knowledge and technical skills, you can get a job without a bachelor’s degree.

To become a software test engineer, you need an associate’s degree in computer science or information technology. With this type of degree you can land an entry-level job running test reports or assisting with testing procedures. You might work alongside software engineers or as part of a development team. 

But to advance in your career, or become a software test engineer, you need more education. A bachelor’s degree in computer science, IT, or software engineering is the degree to get. With a bachelor’s degree, you can qualify for entry-level and mid-level software test engineer jobs. Your bachelor’s degree can also get you an internship after college. And as stated above, your internship can lead to a permanent position. 

A degree and training can land you a job in:

  • Development
  • Product management
  • Software engineering

Graduate Degrees for Software Test Engineer Jobs

After you earn a bachelor’s degree, you can go to graduate school. By earning a master’s degree in software engineering you can qualify for management roles. 

You need an advanced degree to work as a leader of a development team. Employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree to work as a:

  • Quality assurance analyst
  • Software development engineer manager
  • Software engineer
  • Software test engineer team leader
  • Software tester

How Do You Become a Software Testing Engineer?

Other Paths to Become a Software Test Engineer

If you don’t have a degree, you can study on your own. Even middle school students can study programming. The earlier you start learning how to test data and run manual tests, the more experience you will have when you look for a job. 

You can also take programming courses online to improve your technical skills. But keep track of each course you take. Have a portfolio of skills to show a future employer. 

One example of a successful software engineer without a degree is James Marcus Bach. He is a self-taught software test engineer who dropped out of high school. His skills and training came from self-study. 

While most employers prefer candidates with degrees, others might hire you if you can provide a portfolio of work and skills. A software test engineer should have the right training, but where that training comes from isn’t the point.

Skills Every Software Tester Should Have

No matter which career path you take in software engineering, there are certain skills a successful software tester should have. For starters, you must understand technology and computers. You should also have knowledge in different operating systems. Learn everything you can about software engineering and software testing.

Since you will come up with test plans and test methodologies, you should be fluent in different programming languages and coding. From UNIX to LINUX and various scripting tools, it is important to understand the technology behind the software testing you will do. Knowledge of programming languages helps. These include:

  • C#
  • C++
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • PHP 
  • Python
  • Ruby on Rails

Other skills are less technical. You should have excellent customer service skills and be able to organize schedules and teams. Product management, operations, and development are just some of the skills you need to work as a successful software test engineer. 

Top Certifications for a Software Development Engineer

Once you have a degree and developed the skills needed to become a software tester, you can consider getting a certification. A certification can give your resumé a boost. Potential employers look for candidates who are certified in different areas of software testing. 

Two popular certifications include:

  • Certified Software Tester
  • ISTQB Certified Tester

Pay and Job Outlook for Software Test Engineer Jobs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the average pay for software quality assurance analysts and testers is $98,220/year. The highest 10% of earners in this occupation make over $168,000/year. 

The job outlook for this profession is also good. The BLS projects a 25% growth in jobs for software test engineer jobs testers and analysts. What’s causing the growth? Continued expansion in software development and operating systems in businesses. Testing procedures and plans will surge in areas like artificial intelligence, robotics, and product management. 

For the best wages and employment opportunities, software engineer testers should have degrees, certifications, and training. With the right technical skills and experience, you can qualify for management roles. 

As technology evolves, the need for skilled software testers grows. If you have an interest in computer systems and want to enter a field where you can put your skills and knowledge to good use, consider a career as a software test engineer. 

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