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Software Testing Career Path, Part 1

Businesses invest billions of dollars annually in software - and when it doesn't perform as expected, the repercussions can be far-reaching. Software testing jobs fulfill an important quality assurance function, supporting customers' productivity and a product's profitability. Professionals interested in a software testing career will find many promising prospects, although the best opportunities typically go to those with advanced training and International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB®) certification. A software testing certificate program can be a great way to attain the necessary knowledge and credentials.

Software Testing Job Duties

Software testing provides validation that a software application or product meets the technical requirement of a business, according to the specifications outlined during its design and development. Testing also verifies that the software will work as expected and can be implemented across all approved platforms with the same results.

Another important aspect of a software testing career involves assessing whether a software product is useful and adaptable by its intended users - whether they are industrial engineers, accountants or video game enthusiasts.

IT professionals at all levels - including test engineers, consultants, analysts and managers, as well as user acceptance and quality assurance testers - perform various aspects of software testing. Collectively, they apply software testing principles to reduce software defects, improve return on investment and increase profitability for companies of all sizes.

Entry- to mid-level software testing jobs - such as user acceptance testers - often involve assisting senior-level testers in creating test strategies and plans; developing detailed test conditions, cases and scripts; mapping requirements; and assisting in test execution. These specialists are often required to document test results, defects and issues, and help with developing solutions.

Senior-level software testing jobs - such as software test engineers - usually require advanced training and certification. Job duties typically include writing test conditions and scripts based on specification documents, as well as performing test plan development and ad hoc, Web and application testing. Many software test engineers work with vendor engineering and support teams to investigate bugs reported by customers. This involves reproducing each error, determining a solution and prioritizing the required fixes. Senior software testers may also lead troubleshooting meetings with internal and external partners.

The next step on a software testing career path could be a job as senior software test quality assurance engineer. These highly qualified professionals have a greater level of responsibility; they often collaborate with product managers and application developers to thoroughly understand new software product and user goals, software architecture and design, and internal and external interfaces. They then take the lead in driving product quality so their company can reach its sales, customer retention and profitability objectives.

With additional work experience, training and certification, professionals can transition from a mid-level software testing career into a higher-paying senior-level or managerial role. In this type of position, supervisory and analytical skills increasingly come into play. Advanced training will ensure success at this level, as individuals in these roles are often expected to contribute to Lean Six Sigma and ISO 9001/ISO 14001 certification processes and other cost reduction efforts.

Complexity

Many senior quality assurance and software test engineers are considered expert advisors in their companies. Senior-level software testing jobs generally require proficiency in writing automated tests in a variety of programming languages, as well as solid experience in a broad range of operating systems. A demonstrated commitment to continuous education is expected by most employers.

Interface

A senior-level software testing career usually means interfacing with professionals at all levels of an organization. Individuals in these types of roles often work with support staff, product engineers, software developers, release management and external customers to resolve issues. Some may function as the customer's liaison or an advisor to executive management.

Software Testing Career Salary Potential

Salaries in this field can vary by role, industry, employer and geographic region. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for computer systems analysts - a category that includes software testers - was $80,430 as of May 2009. However, specialized training and certification can lead to substantially higher salaries.

BLS findings showed that professionals in the top earning bracket of this field made upwards of $119,170 per year. Bonuses and profit-sharing can drive earnings even higher. Salary data compiled by GlassDoor.com indicated that software development test engineers earned as much as $169,000 in total compensation as of November 2010.

When professionals obtain the training and certification required for a senior-level role, they generally enjoy a corresponding bump in pay. National salary data from Indeed.com revealed that the average salaries of senior software test engineers were at least 10% higher than those of lower-level test engineers in November 2010.

Most often, the best and highest-paying software testing jobs go to professionals with a combination of experience, industry certification and specialized training.

Education and Training

While software testing jobs have different education requirements, employers often expect candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering or related field. Senior-level positions usually require advanced training in programming, developing, and executing automated testing tools and processes.

In addition, many employers prefer to hire candidates who have attained certification, such as the ISTQB® Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL) credential. Industry-specific experience or knowledge in fields such as finance, investing, accounting, video gaming or manufacturing can also enhance marketability.

While the path to a software testing career often begins with a bachelor's degree, professionals who seek advancement frequently pursue specialized software testing training through continuing education programs, such as the 100% online master certificate program offered by Villanova University.

Villanova's Master Certificate in Software Testing helps students develop the critical skills required for such positions as test analysts, test engineers, test consultants, test managers, user acceptance testers and software developers. Those who complete the three-course program have the advanced knowledge and abilities needed to:

  • Develop and execute manual and automated test suites.
  • Exhibit fluency with bug tracking systems and quality assurance tools and techniques.
  • Demonstrate mastery of regression testing and impact analysis in testing.
  • Apply different phases of testing to real-world business software problems.
  • Sit for the ISTQB® CTFL exam, with the benefit of practice tests covering each module's important terms and standards.
  • Successfully compete for the most sought-after software testing jobs.

Students receive a handsomely framed certificate of achievement from Villanova University upon completion of each course and the entire master certificate program. They also have the opportunity to earn valuable professional development units (PDUs) and continuing education units (CEUs).

Are You Ready to Advance Your Software Testing Career?

Whether you're looking to land a job as a software tester or get promoted to a senior-level role, continuing professional education can take your software testing career to the next level. With advanced training and industry certification, you can move up the ranks: from an entry-level role, to senior software testing engineer, to a managerial position - or even director of software quality assurance. Villanova's 100% online Master Certificate in Software Testing program will prepare you for ISTQB® CTFL certification and distinguish you as an expert software tester who is capable of reducing software defects, improving product quality and enhancing business success.

Part 2 - Software Tester Salary