Certainly, there is confusion.
Test Automation Engineers as well as Automation Test Engineers, QA Automation Engineers, Quality Engineers, Automation and Manual Testers, Test Development Engineers, Test Engineers, QA Engineers, Software Engineers in Test – these are only selected job offers regarding software testing found in one of the Polish IT recruitment sites.
As we can see, the "Testing" label is vast, and for that reason, many specializations within it are being mixed up quite often, in particular by people who don’t know too much about the IT area. Unfortunately, often these are external recruiters who don’t really know whom they are looking for, and what the differences are. Interestingly, even StackOverflow’s 2020 Developer Survey uses only one aggregate category called "QA or test developer".
But QA Engineers and Software Testers, of course, perform distinctive, although complementary, functions. However, we can see a shift within the testing area that makes both specializations closer than ever. Indeed, we may spot surprisingly many similarities between the two but still, also vital differences.
Software Testers and QA Engineers – common features and differences
Undoubtedly, Software Tester and QA Engineer are key IT quality assurance positions. Both are inherent parts of quality management, but aren’t synonymous, obviously.
QA Engineers, in general, are those specialists whose aim is to make the product flawless, and its quality – close to perfection. They work throughout the whole product development process, overseeing it and trying to make it produce effects that are close to perfection. Plus, software testing is one of the areas they supervise.
On the other hand, Software Testers check whether the produced software (e.g. websites, apps) works properly – usually towards the end of the development process. Looking for possible bugs, they examine parts of the software or particular code modules, inspecting whether they are compliant with technical documentation. Finding the best possible ways of checking the quality of the developers’ work outcome is also a part of their role.
Software Testers and QA Engineers are simply two different sides of the same coin called quality assurance.
QA Engineers’ role is making as few mistakes as possible, while the Testers’ task is to find the most bugs possible. This is an interesting kind of interdependency as the work of one side influences the duties of another.
As for remuneration, QA Engineers tend to earn more, in general, but the differences don’t seem to be significant. The nationwide Polish salary survey by Sedlak & Sedlak unveiled that median gross salary values for software testers account for 6,500 PLN, while for the position called IT Quality Assurance – 7,320 PLN. In turn, average gross values are 7,900 PLN for Software Testers and 8,400 PLN for QA Engineers, according to Pracuj.pl.
Software Testing – something special
But the Software Tester position stands out in a significant way: becoming a Software Tester is one of the easiest ways to get into the IT industry – along with landing a job as a Scrum Master or Technical Writer.
Software Tester is a specialization considered to be less demanding and easier to enter than QA Engineer. Software testing is, then, an opportunity for those programmers (or other people willing to pursue a career within the IT area) who find coding daily boring and tiresome. This may also be a good idea for those who want to retrain, even being in their 30s.
Software Testers – prerequisites
To land your first job as a Software Tester you don’t need to have such a solid theoretical background as you would for the QA Engineer role.
To become a Tester, you first and foremost have to be:
- eager to learn new technologies and updates.
Soft skills include being:
Other prerequisites include:
- analytical skills,
- eye for detail,
- problem-solving abilities,
You should also be self-confident enough to speak out about what tests and procedures should be performed even if developers say everything is fine.
Many ways to make it
Online courses, webinars, or workshops, paired with hours spent on reading traditional books or ebooks, may turn out to be sufficient for you to gather the basic information needed to start as a Software Tester.
Of course, the most profound and recommended way is computer science studies but there are many different or complementary ways. Some of them include becoming an intern at a software company and learning from more experienced employees. Also, you may find a company offering remote training or one that is looking for somebody to test its website.
It’s also good to attend industry meetings and conferences such as TestDive, TestCamp, and test:fest – for existing and prospective testers, the academic community, and business representatives. There are also such initiatives as KRAQA and WarszawQA organizing meetups, workshops, and presentations but also enabling networking where anyone interested in the field may come and find out what are the similarities and differences between Testers and QA Engineers.
Software testing industry – a shift
Do you disagree with the notion that it’s not so difficult to start a career as a Software Tester?
Well, the common belief that it’s easy to become one turns more and more untrue. A few years back, perhaps, there was a gap in the market worth taking advantage of. Due to a significant lack of Software Testers, the requirements were not that high.
Of course, Software Testers always had to develop their skills but currently, they also need to be much more all-embracing than a few years back.
Being more versatile
Testing process automation, continuous integration (CI), and DevOps are what influence the fast changes within the Testing area the most. For this reason, employees responsible for quality assurance and testing are supposed to be more and more versatile, first and foremost know CI/CD tools well. And Software Testers are to be active throughout the whole development process, not only towards its end, and so they have to understand it better.
Other interesting trends
Also, the pandemic year of 2020 brought a rise in the number of requirements for Testers – from 6 to 7 per job offer, as well as a decrease in the number of job offers for juniors, and a rise of those addressed to mids and seniors, according to the NoFluffJobs’ 2020 report. The report also shows that must-have technologies for Testing specialists taken together are: Selenium, Java, and SQL, and additionally Rest, Jira, and GIT, and we can see an upward trend regarding Python, Rest, and Postman.
Have you experienced the growing expectations towards Testers these days? Can you spot any other similarities between Software Testers and QA Engineers? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.