A software tester is involved in the quality assurance stage of software development and deployment. They conduct automated and manual tests to ensure the software created by developers is fit for purpose. Software testing involves the analysis of software, and systems, to avert risk and prevent software issues.

The role of a software tester is integral to the creation of software systems and technical products including vehicles, electronic goods, defence, and healthcare.

Ultimately software testers are employed to find bugs and issues within a product before it gets deployed to everyday users. They can work on bespoke individual projects or multinational projects spanning the globe and costing billions of pounds. Many software testers will be familiar with programming and using coding languages. Assessing code is one part of the role of a software tester.

Responsibilities

The role of a software tester can vary depending on project requirements. They may join a project at the initial implementation stages to assess potential risks, or be brought on to a project midway through, when testing becomes a key requirement.

Large organisations may have software testers dedicated to one project; whereas smaller organisations may have a central team working on multiple projects.

However, typical work activities can include:

  • meeting with system users to understand the scope of projects;
  • working with software developers and project support teams;
  • identifying business requirements;
  • project planning;
  • monitoring applications and software systems;
  • stress testing;
  • performance testing;
  • functional testing;
  • scalability testing;
  • writing and executing test scripts;
  • running manual and automated tests;
  • testing in different environments including web and mobile;
  • writing bug reports;
  • resource planning;
  • reviewing documentation;
  • working towards departmental and project deadlines;
  • quality assurance;
  • providing objective feedback to software development project teams;
  • problem solving;
  • designing tests to mitigate risk;
  • presenting findings to software development and business user teams;
  • travelling to different project sites;
  • working on multiple projects at one time;
  • document analysis;
  • liaising with project teams in other parts of the world;
  • communicating findings to technical and non-technical colleagues.

Salary

  • Typical starting salaries for graduate level software testing positions start at around £18,000 to £24,000 (depending on location and company size). Salaries can rise considerably with 3 to 5 years' experience where software testers earn on average £35,000 to £50,000.
  • Salaries vary according to location, technical knowledge and the sector. The City of London and financial services currently pay the highest salaries to software testers. Some companies also offer bonus schemes, benefits and overtime payments for unsociable hours.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Typically software testers will work a standard office day of 8 or 9 hours, between 8am and 6pm. However, due to the nature of project work it is sometimes a requirement to work outside these times. On occasion this may mean working shifts and weekend work. This would be most likely to occur during periods of software deployment or if a project happens to be taking place across a variety of locations and time zones.

What to expect

  • The role of a software tester can be stressful at times, particularly around the time of project completion.
  • The work is mainly office based with the majority of time being spent at a computer.
  • Many graduate software testers progress into the freelance and contracting market once they have gained adequate experience. This can offer the opportunity to select specific projects and work more flexibly. However, working as a contractor may not provide the same benefits and job security in comparison to a permanent employee.
  • The IT sector has a higher ratio of male to female workers. According to the British Computing Society, only 23% of the IT workforce is female, which conflicts with the 45% of females working in the UK across all sectors. The male to female ratio is equally true for the role of a software tester. However, statistics show there is a higher ratio of female to male software testers when compared with other IT jobs (such as software development). Organisations working to encourage more females into software testing roles and IT careers include Women in Technology and the BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT).
  • Software testers are required by companies in many locations within the UK. The highest concentration is in large cities including London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham. There are a variety of software testing jobs at other geographical locations most notably in the USA and India, where a large number of off-shore software testing companies are based.

Qualifications

A number of software testers will have a degree in computer science or IT. However, the role of a software tester is open to graduates from a variety of degree disciplines including:

  • mathematics;
  • physics;
  • chemistry;
  • electrical engineering.

Entry into the software testing profession is possible with a HND or foundation degree. A software, IT, or engineering diploma may be most highly regarded by companies.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • strong verbal and written communication skills with the ability to liaise with a variety of stakeholders;
  • problem solving skills;
  • the ability to work under pressure;
  • attention to detail;
  • competent technical skills;
  • the ability to work in a team and individually;
  • organisational skills with the capability of working towards tight deadlines;
  • a passion for technology.

Work experience

Professional software testing experience gained through summer placements and internships would be beneficial as candidates would gain exposure to the full development lifecycle. Experience of working in a team and using both written and verbal communication skills would also be advantageous.

A number of large graduate employers offer summer internships and year-in-industry placements, which provide the opportunity to gain relevant work experience. Additionally, some companies run work shadow schemes to give an insight into the software testing profession.

Your university may also have a computing society. Joining relevant university societies will help you demonstrate your passion for technology and may provide other opportunities to meet with companies and industry professionals.

Employers

Recent research from High Fliers indicates that IT roles with the leading graduate employers will have risen by 11.6% during 2014. The rise in IT roles will reflect across a variety of opportunities, including software testing.

Software testers are required in a variety of organisations and sectors. Large employers with sophisticated software and IT systems will have the most opportunities, with other technology companies and smaller organisations also requiring the skills and knowledge of software testers.

Software testers can find opportunities in a variety of sectors including:

  • media;
  • retail;
  • telecommunications;
  • financial services;
  • professional services;
  • public sector;
  • healthcare;
  • manufacturing;
  • transport.

Large graduate employers may include the role of software testing within their rotational IT graduate programmes. This would provide the opportunity to gain experience in software testing as well as other IT roles (including project management, application support and software development).

Employers with less traditional rotational graduate schemes may offer software testing as a direct entry role where candidates start work as a software tester from day one.

Look for vacancies at:

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Training will depend on the company you join and can vary from structured training and development programmes organised via a graduate scheme, to on-the-job training and short courses as required.

As the IT sector is ever changing, it is important to keep up to date with developments and specific software testing trends. On-the-job training is an ideal way for students and recent graduates to gain an understanding of the software development lifecycle.

Additionally, joining a professional association, such as the BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) may help to expand your awareness of the IT sector and provide you with the opportunity to meet with a variety of professionals. The BCS also run a number of software testing courses and professional qualifications.

Relevant professional qualifications include:

  • ISTQB;
  • BCS Certified Agile Tester;
  • TMMi® Foundation Certificate;
  • PRINCE2;
  • BCS Agile Foundation.

At the present time there are no specific software testing postgraduate degrees offered by UK institutions. However, it is not uncommon for software testing professionals to decide to study a postgraduate IT qualification at some point during their career.

Career prospects

Software testing professionals may start their career on a graduate scheme or via an entry-level software testing position. Career progression can be rapid within software testing. The speed at which you progress will often depend on your experience, your exposure to different systems, and awareness of testing methods. Professional qualifications and technical skills will aid the speed of your progression.

As software testers gain exposure to the full development lifecycle, this can assist with career progression. Some software testers progress into senior software testing roles including:

  • senior software tester;
  • software test team lead;
  • test manager.

Some software testers choose to specialise by gaining experience within a specific sector e.g. financial services or media. Other software testers may decide to diversify their experience during their career and develop an understanding of many sectors.

Additionally, as software testers are required to work with business and project teams, a number move into business facing roles such as business analysis and project management.

Progression into software development roles is another possible route.