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How to Start as a QA Tester

The US software testing industry is worth $6.8 billion in 2022, and up to 56% of QA testers are self-taught. This implies two things; first, is software testing industry has huge growth potential. Second, if you want to build a career as a QA tester, you can start today and succeed in that.

This article highlights the role, requirements, career progression, and other important details of a successful software tester. If you want to start as a QA tester, this article might help. Read on the steps below to soar at it.

Understand the Role

Research and understand what a QA tester does. It’s essential to have a clear idea of the responsibilities, such as testing software, identifying and reporting bugs, communicating, and ensuring the overall quality of the product.

Example: Imagine you’re a new mobile app user, and you notice a bug where the app crashes when you try to access a specific feature. A QA tester must identify and report such issues before releasing the app.

You can use this Beginner’s Guide to Manual Testing as a starting point.

Educational Background

Having a formal degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field can be advantageous. This formal education can help you grasp the basic concepts of databases, software programming, SDLC, DevOps, etc. Since you will use these software concepts hands-on in your testing activities, they will prove helpful.

Even if you do not have a formal educational background, you can easily learn all these concepts using training and online courses. See details in the Certifications section below.

Learn the Software Testing Basics

Familiarize yourself with basic software development concepts, programming languages, and testing methodologies. Online courses, tutorials, and books can help you acquire this knowledge. Understand different types of testing by studying real-world examples. For manual testing, imagine you’re a tester for a video streaming app. Then you would manually test video playback on various devices and report any issues. Here is a manual testing cheat sheet for a glance.

Below are the basics you would want to learn about software testing before starting.

Testing Types

Familiarize yourself with different types of testing, such as manual, automated, regression, exploratory, and user acceptance (UAT). Each type has its own methods and tools. Read the differences between manual and automation testing here.

Testing Tools

Gain proficiency in popular testing tools and frameworks such as Selenium, JUnit, TestNG, Appium, and others. These tools are commonly used in the industry and can help you perform testing tasks efficiently. Traditional automation tools require programming proficiency as basic skill. You can start as a manual QA tester if you do not have programming knowledge. Gradually switch to intelligent test automation tools such as testRigor, which do not require scripting or programming knowledge to start automation. Here is a list of the top features of testRigor.

With testRigor, write test cases in plain English without using unstable CSS/XPath locators. Here is an example of an automated test case in testRigor:
enter "TV" into "Search"
enter enter
click "TV"
click "Add To Cart"
check that page contains "Item Added To Cart"

As you can notice, testRigor uses the UI text as a locator and not the complex CSS/XPath locators, which can change and cause flaky tests. Moreover, you can also use testRigor’s generative AI capabilities to generate the test steps automatically within seconds. Just provide the test case title in the description, and the intelligent generative AI engine will generate the test steps quickly. Read about applications of generative AI in software testing.

Practice Testing

Start practicing your testing skills by working on personal projects or open-source projects. You can also volunteer to test software for non-profit organizations to build your portfolio. Document your findings and contributions in your portfolio.

Example: Join a community-driven project on GitHub and offer to test new features or report bugs. You can also register and participate in testing activities on crowd-testing portals to practice, learn, and earn.

Build a Portfolio

Create a portfolio of your testing projects. Document your testing process, the bugs you’ve found, and how you resolved them. Having a portfolio demonstrates your skills to potential employers.

Example: Create a website or a document showcasing your testing projects. Include details like the project name, description, your role, the testing methods used, and the impact of your testing. For instance, show how your testing improved a website’s performance by reducing page load times.

Networking

Attend QA and testing conferences, meetups, and online forums to network with professionals in the field. Networking can help you learn about job opportunities and industry trends. Attend online/offline QA conferences or webinars and build network.

Example: Attend the Test Automation and Digital QA Summit 2023 virtual conference and participate in discussions. Connect with speakers and fellow attendees on LinkedIn.

See a list of testing conferences here.

Get Certifications

Consider obtaining certifications like ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) to enhance your credibility as a QA tester. When you add ISTQB Certified Tester to your profile it provides credibility and notify the employers about your skillset.

Example: Consider enrolling in online courses or watching tutorials on platforms like Coursera or Udemy. For example, you can take a course on Introduction to Software Testing to learn the fundamentals.

Other resources:

Prepare for Interviews

Practice common interview questions related to QA testing, testing methodologies, and problem-solving scenarios. Here is an article about Testing Methodologies Uncovered: Propel Your QA Forward. Be prepared to discuss your testing experiences and your approach to testing.

Practice answering questions like- Can you explain the difference between black-box and white-box testing? Get a holistic view of black-box vs gray-box vs white-box testing. Use real-life examples from your portfolio to illustrate your skills.

Apply for Entry-Level Jobs

Look for entry-level QA tester positions. These might have titles like QA Analyst, QA Engineer, or Software Tester. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your skills and portfolio.

Continuous Learning

The field of software testing is constantly evolving. Stay updated with the latest industry trends, tools, and best practices through blogs,books, courses, and industry publications. Stay updated by reading industry blogs and books.

Example: Read book The Art of Software Testing by Glenford J. Myers to deepen your testing knowledge. Follow testRigor blog for latest articles on software testing, AI, and test automation.

Soft Skills

Develop soft skills such as communication, problem solving, attention to detail, critical thinking, and teamwork. These are essential for effective QA testing during team meetings, bug reporting, defect triages, etc.

Testing Initiatives

Be proactive in identifying issues, suggesting improvements, and collaborating with developers and other team members. This can help you stand out as a valuable QA tester.

Example: While testing a mobile app, and you discover a usability issue where buttons are too small for users with large fingers. Instead of just reporting it, you could also suggest a redesign to improve user experience.

Career Progression

As you gain experience, consider specializing in areas like automation testing, performance testing, security testing, or becoming a QA lead or manager. See a general outline of the career progression or different role you may embark in software testing journey below:

  • Junior QA Tester / QA Analyst: This is usually the entry-level position. Junior testers work closely with senior testers and follow predefined test cases to identify and report defects. They gain hands-on experience in manual testing and basic test case creation.
  • QA Tester / QA Engineer: After gaining some experience as a junior tester, individuals can move into a QA Tester or QA Engineer role. In this position, they are responsible for designing test cases, executing test plans, and documenting defects.
  • Senior QA Engineer / Senior QA Analyst: They have extensive experience and take on more challenging testing tasks. They often play a role in mentoring junior team members, leading test efforts, and creating comprehensive test strategies. Senior testers are expected to have in-depth knowledge of testing techniques and tools.
  • Automation Tester / Test Automation Engineer: Many testers choose to specialize in automation where they use scripting languages and testing frameworks to automate repetitive test cases. They design, develop, and maintain test scripts and frameworks to increase testing efficiency.
  • Performance Tester / Load Tester: They focus on assessing the performance, scalability, and reliability of software applications. They design and execute tests to simulate various loads and conditions to identify bottlenecks and areas for optimization. Tools like JMeter and LoadRunner are commonly used.
  • Security Tester / Ethical Hacker: They conduct penetration testing and security assessments to ensure that applications are secure against cyber threats. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification can be valuable in this role.
  • Test Lead / QA Lead: They oversee test planning, coordinate testing efforts, manage team, and communicate with stakeholders. Test Leads also play a crucial role in quality assurance process improvements and may participate in high-level decision-making.
  • Test Manager / QA Manager: They are responsible for the overall testing strategy, budget, and resource allocation. They collaborate with project managers, development teams, and business stakeholders to ensure that testing aligns with project goals and timelines.
  • Director of Quality Assurance / Head of Testing: At the highest levels of QA leadership, individuals may take on roles such as Director of Quality Assurance or Head of Testing. They provide strategic direction for quality assurance across the organization, oversee multiple projects, and manage large QA teams.
  • Quality Assurance Consultant / Subject Matter Expert: Experienced testers can transition into consulting or freelance roles, offering their expertise to various organizations. They may provide guidance on best practices, conduct assessments, and help implement quality improvement initiatives.

Here are few resources for career progression towards Director or Manager of QA.

Conclusion

“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”Hal Borland.

Remember that breaking into the QA testing field may take time and patience. Be persistent in your job search and continue to improve your skills. Networking and gaining practical experience will be key factors in launching a successful career as a QA tester.

Though the job market is competitive, demand for skilled QA professionals continues to grow. With perseverance, continuous learning, and a proactive attitude, individuals can overcome these hurdles and build successful careers in ensuring software quality. Software testers play a crucial role in delivering reliable and user-friendly software to the world, making their contributions invaluable to the tech industry.

Join the next wave of functional testing now.
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