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Does a Software Tester Need to Know Programming?

Nowadays, many companies benefit from technological improvements in the form of software, which significantly relieves the burden on employees to perform various tasks. In order for a given application to work properly, it must be designed correctly. Both during its development and in the subsequent process of maintaining its high quality, a significant role is played by a software tester, whose task is to catch errors that negatively affect the operation of the program. Jobs of this nature have recently become very popular not only because of attractive salaries but also because of the very interesting tasks and projects in which the QA Engineer takes part. In Poland, practically every major IT-related company needs software testers, which makes this role very popular. Companies employing QA Engineers include Asseco, Atos, Nokia, Samsung, Fujitsu, Accenture, Euvic, and banks such as Millennium and mBank. Who is a QA Engineer, what tasks does he or she have and do you have to know how to program to become one? – That’s what you’ll find out by reading this article.

If you are interested in the topic of hiring IT professionals on a B2B contract, we recommend our article on this topic.

Who is a QA Engineer?

A QA Engineer (Quality Assurance Engineer) is a person who deals with the quality assurance of software by applying technical knowledge to it. A software tester is responsible for the proper operation of the software/system, selecting the appropriate, optimal technologies and test scripts for a specific project to ensure that it is of the highest possible quality at every stage of development.

To do this, it performs functionality tests and detects bugs, which it then reports to the developers, the people who wrote that particular part of the code.

What does a QA Engineer do?

The QA Engineer acts as a guardian of quality. He verifies that the software under test is ready for deployment and optimizes testing processes.

The task of the tester, who is part of the development team, is to check the correct operation of applications, and websites available on a computer or mobile device, but these can also be smart appliances like automatic washing machines or smart refrigerators. A software tester’s duties also include ensuring security, such as against a hacking attack or an unpredictable malfunction.

The testing process is very important before any software change or update. It can be said that it complements the work of the programmer, who finds it difficult to predict where bugs may appear in the software. Often several programmers work on the software, and it is all the more important to test their work for potential faults. The earlier an error is detected, the smaller the repercussions and the lower the cost of fixing such a bug. According to an analysis by the National Institute Standards and Technology, errors at the software development stage generate twice as much loss as failures detected at the product testing stage.

According to the Bulldogjob report, software testers are primarily concerned with:

  • Writing and maintaining test cases – 93%
  • Creating documentation – 58%
  • Maintaining test and development environments – 54%
  • Creating reports – 52%
  • Writing code – 40%
  • Analyzing data – 38%

What is the difference between manual and automation testing?

Manual testing – as the name suggests – is a type of software testing in which a person delegated to this type of task performs it manually and then creates reports from the work done. No special programming skills are required to carry out manual testing, but the possibility of human error is greater than with automated testing.

Automatic testing, on the other hand, is based on specially prepared tools for this purpose, or test scripts created in a specific programming language. In perspective, automatic testing is much less time-consuming than manual testing, because once designed and coded a test scenario can be used repeatedly and its operation does not require the tester’s constant participation.

The manual tester thus manually checks various scenarios, while the automation tester – after programming scripts – runs the test program, which performs further work.

What skills should a QA Engineer have?

Manual, as well as automation testers, work closely with programmers. The ability to write code is certainly useful for manipulating databases. An example of the use of code in software testing can be the formulation of SQL queries. Equally important is the ability to perform so-called SQL injections to detect security vulnerabilities related to form fields.

A manual tester is not required to know additional tools or databases. However, an automation tester must know the basics of programming. Most often, automated tests are prepared in Java, but also in JavaScript, Python or PHP.

Automated testers should also be familiar with numerous tools that automate work and make it more efficient. It is worth mentioning that most often it is not a single, all-in-one tool, but sets of programs, each of which tests a different aspect.

Thus, these can be not only tools for strictly detecting errors, but so measuring performance and indicating possible optimization problems or checking the correctness of the user interface. A separate group also includes tools for reporting bugs or working with documentation.

Among the most commonly used tools are:

  • Selenium –one of the most widely used tools for automated testing of web applications, free and available on Windows, Linux, and macOS, compatible with all the most popular browsers. It’s not about the need to write scripts, but there is an option to write them in Selense language. In addition to testing for failures, it allows UI or regression testing, among other things. It is possible to test applications written in JavaScript, Java, C#, Python, Ruby, and PHP.
  • Apache JMeter – written in Java, a free and freeware program for performance testing. It will work especially well for browser-based applications, which determine, so to speak, the aspects that can be tested. Thus, thanks to JMeter, we will check the performance of connections and queries to JDBC APIs, FTP servers, the HTTP protocol or individual web services. Importantly, Apache JMeter supports integration with the already mentioned Selenium.
  • FoneMonkey –a platform from TestMatick, one of the largest providers of tools used for software testing, for testing mobile applications targeting Android and iOS. It uses the so-called monkey testing approach, in which more or less random software interactions are tested and failures are detected on that basis.
  • Bugzillafor many years the most important tool for reporting and describing bugs, a core competency of the tester. Developed in-house by Mozilla, the platform is still used today by numerous teams as a place for developers and testers to exchange information, although the proprietary Jira, or even GitLab or GitHub, are increasingly being used for this purpose.

Who can become a software tester?

To become a tester you need, first of all, the ability to think logically, cause and effect, and combine facts. It is also important to be meticulous so that we can carefully plan and conduct tests and catch various errors or inaccuracies. Curiosity and inquisitiveness will prove invaluable in finding the source of a given problem. Patience and steadfastness when encountering further problems are also critical. Good communication and interpersonal skills will come in handy in the team in which we are most likely to work.

Certification

Certification may prove to be an important issue in the development of a tester’s career. Indeed, for this specialty, the industry has developed very specific certification programs that some employers expect candidates to complete. These are primarily the ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) exams. They represent an international standard. The program is divided into a number of independent modules that vary in level, each of which is separately paid. Currently, the exams are conducted both at the basic level – Agile Tester, Acceptance Tester – and at the advanced level.

QA Engineers Salaries

The earnings of a software tester depend on several factors – the skills acquired, as well as the level of experience. According to Pawel Bylina – CTO at BugBug.io, the testing segment shows a clear upward trend, which is driven by the growing IT segment, all sorts of automation around, as well as an increase in the quality of software being developed. Comparing the data with those from earlier years, we can also see an upward trend in earnings.

According to our report “Prepare for the IT Recruitment Process in 2022“, Quality Assurance Engineer salaries were as follows:

There are a lot of job offers on the market for the position of software tester:

Career development paths

There are many opportunities for growth in the QA sector. One can become a manual tester and excel at that, gradually advancing to Test Leader and Test Manager. You can also specialize in some specific area of testing, such as security testing, or take the path of a test analyst. Another obvious option is to become an automation tester. Here, too, we have the option of promotions as in the case of manual testers, as well as one can be tempted to specialize.

Going forward, we can jump to the developer. However, let’s not treat this as the next level and goal of every tester. This is just one parallel path, not necessarily the most desirable ones. We can go the way of SysOps, managing environments, or DevOps, being someone intermediate between the developer and environment administrator.

Finally, any managerial positions such as Product Owner or Project Manager will open up to us. Often they come precisely from among testers, due to their comprehensive knowledge of the entire project and their knowledge of the customer’s needs.

Summary

Does every tester need to program? Not everyone. Is programming a valuable skill in testing? As much as possible! The IT industry is looking for informed, productive professionals. Software testers with programming skills can look forward to better prospects. Knowledge of relevant programming languages and knowledge of databases can give you a big advantage over other testers. With the aforementioned skills, you can play an important role in complex projects, take part in security testing or performance testing.

IT job market in Poland

Hiring the right QA Engineer can be a difficult task, so it can be good practice to outsource the process of finding the right tester, to professional IT recruiters. What to look for when choosing this type of company? We wrote about this topic in an article with tips on how to choose the best IT recruitment agency in Poland.


If you are looking for specialized QA Engineers, contact us and tell us about your needs!