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Navigating A Career Path In Software Testing


Career Path Ahead for QA Engineers

Navigating A Career Path In Software Testing


When Testers have started on a career path, many have commented on various surveys that they “fell into testing”. It’s important to understand that a majority of Testers did not plan on pursuing a career in software testing. They often come with backgrounds other than Computer Science.


The typical paths for Testers often lead into Management, Program or Project Management (or PM/PO), Business Analyst, or even Development. These are typical growth paths in a lot of companies that want to make sure they keep on solid employees doing great work.


These days, the Tester’s role is changing and to stay relevant, you have to be willing to focus on more than the functional aspects of the application. To see an example of how the role of a Tester is changing, you only have to look at the Modern Testing Principles as one example. Testers will need to develop more specialized skills and knowledge about software development to keep up with the ever growing changes introduced by technology, business practices, and customer desires.


The key to working through this, if your company doesn’t have a career path for you, or one that you like, is to come up with your own. A career path can take on many aspects of the current job, like learning more about the application’s domain. When you want to take your career to the next level, you’ll want to figure out what skills you can learn to keep yourself relevant and take you to the next level in your career. An example might be learning how to use the command line more effectively, or learning how to read and write SQL queries. If you look for the “gaps”, basically places in the application which are not well known or tested, you’re likely to find a skill you can learn and use.


Coming up with your own career path in testing requires you to be creative and adaptable. There are a lot of options out there if you look. This requires learning about tools, code, techniques, and different kinds of testing. If you are looking at other types of testing besides functional testing (or manual testing as it’s sometimes called), then you are already on the right path for career growth.


Most Common Career Paths For Testers


Most companies struggle with how to develop career paths for Testers in their organizations. They even struggle with what to name them. Testers could be QA Analysts, or Quality Engineers, or Test Analysts. Even those that have more automation skill sets are referred to as Test Automation Engineers, Software Developers In Test, Automation Testers, Quality Automation Engineers. The variety of names speaks to the confusion companies and organizations have about the role Testers play in software development. It’s understandable then that businesses might not have a good idea about how to help an individual contributor grow in their Tester role. Often what happens is a gentle nudge or an outright push onto another career path, if the Tester stays with the same company long enough.


Below are descriptions of common career paths for Testers and how Testers can arrive at them. These are not bad places to end up but are often the only ways offered in some companies for Testers to grow their careers and make monetary gains. It’s unfortunate at times, especially if someone would like to grow their testing career and skill sets, that companies don’t help Testers continue to be Testers.


From Customer Service To Tester

This is usually one of the first places companies look for technical specialists to promote into testing. This is a great career step for folks that are looking to use their customer knowledge to prevent defects before they get to customers. There are careers in customer services as well, but for someone looking to extend their technical knowledge, this a great career opportunity. For Development Directors, looking at your Customer Service folks, along with others in Marketing, Business Analyst, or even Sales might be a good way to get fresh eyes and perspectives onto a development team. Having folks from more diverse backgrounds and with different perspectives can always help a team.


If you are a Tester recently recruited from one of these areas, you’ll likely start with manual or functional testing to learn the ropes. Once you’ve become comfortable with this skill, branch out quickly into other skills. Start learning coding basics. Understand the tech stack. Reach out for more training and opportunities to work with other roles on your team. This is only the start of your career, there is so much more out there to learn.


Tester To Developer

While sometimes there is a midway point of Automation Specialist or SDET, some people enter into a Tester’s role hoping to move onto a Developer role. It’s often a recruiting point for companies to find people that have the potential to be Developers and offer them a role as a Tester. If a candidate is serious about learning testing as a profession and then moving into development, often those candidates make some of the best Developers.


Tester To Manager

When a Tester does a lot of “glue work” and proves they are fairly decent with communicating, they can be quickly put on a management path. They become “leads” or even assistant managers, who are then given more project coordinating and people management tasks than technical work. It can be a day-to-day struggle to maintain skills and also manage a project and/or people.


Tester To Business Analyst/Program Manager/Scrum Master

This is a natural fit for many testers because most of the job testers do already leans fairly heavily into these roles by doing analysis on various business problems related to feature work, managing stories, and sometimes managing the overall work of the project. These roles are natural extensions of testing, especially the role of analyst, where workflows, usability, and communication are essential. If you are getting certifications in these areas while continuing to do testing, it’s a good idea to explore these roles further. Leverage lessons from each of these roles to help expand your understanding of how the development cycle works. While this information can help you as a tester, it can also help you transition into one of these roles fairly quickly.


Tester To Automation Specialist

While getting into automation could be part of your Tester role already, it could become the sole focus of your job. There are several flavors of this job available for those testers wanting to engage more with code on a regular basis. To really be successful in this position, you’ll need to keep your testing skills sharp and branch out beyond writing tests for automation fram