Not all software resting roles require coding and you won’t need to know how to code to land a career as a QA engineer. Software testers have a lot of responsibility resting squarely upon their shoulders and it is an important part of the software development lifecycle.
Developers are the folks responsible for the heavy lifting of writing and producing code for software – but without testers making sure that code is picture-perfect and working the way it’s been designed. Pieces of software might never ship in a stable state without the use of QA engineers and software testers.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a career in this software testing, but aren’t sure of whether or not you need to have a lot of coding and programming skills under your belt already, our detailed guide will clear things up for you.
By the time you’re done with the inside info below, you’ll have a much better understanding of whether or not software testers need to have a solid coding base, the kind of skills the best software testers have, and what the career outlook for software testers looks like right now.
Let’s jump right in!
Does Software Testing Require Coding?
Because software testers are responsible for putting the software through its paces, looking for ways to intentionally break the system (so that end users don’t end up making the same stakes), it’s useful for them to have at least a little bit of coding knowledge already.
Testers might not need to have a complete, top to a bottom comprehensive knowledge of specific coding languages. But it helps (especially when they are writing reports and relaying bug information) if they know how to speak the lingo at least a little bit.
Software testers aren’t going to be responsible for fixing any of the bugs or errors they discover but understanding why they may have occurred is helpful. They don’t need to understand the way specific functions are written but having an overview is incredibly helpful.
If a tester can provide more detailed information about why a bug or error is occurring, they’ll be able to speed up the iterative software development process significantly. That’s a huge win for the entire software development team (testers included).
Many development teams now automated a lot of the testing process so the need to code has decreased even further. However, QA remains an incredibly important part of any big project and the need for good testers will only increase.
What Skills Do Software Testers Require?
There are some specific skills the best software testers all have developed, skills that folks serious about pursuing this kind of career are going to want to develop for themselves.
Let’s break them down right now.
Programming Language Proficiencies
As highlighted above, you don’t necessarily need to know how to code or program software from scratch to be a successful software tester – but it doesn’t hurt to know will little bit about the lay of the land in software development, so to speak.
The more knowledge you have of the programming and coding languages your software development team uses the better you’re going to be able to utilize automated and manual testing tools.
On top of that, you’ll be able to better communicate with the development team so they can fix any of the issues that you’ve uncovered.
Baseline proficiency and a general understanding of how coding and programming languages work are a big piece of the success puzzle if you’re going to be a software tester for the long haul.
Intimate Knowledge of Testing Tools
It’s also critically important that you have an intimate knowledge of the testing tools you are going to be leveraging to put the software you are responsible for through its paces.
Different test management tools allow you to create your own test cases, tinker with test requirements, manipulate resource management, and so much more. The more you know your testing tools the more you’ll be able to get out of those tools – and the better tested your software will be.
With so many different testing tool options available on the market today it can be almost overwhelming to learn the nuances of all of them, which is why it’s such a good idea to specialize in just two or three.
Learn them inside out, leverage them to create complete test environments for your software, and keep up with any new tools, features, or developments they have implemented.
Familiarity with the Software Dev Life Cycle
One of the most important skills software testers can develop for themselves is a complete understanding of the software development lifecycle (sometimes abbreviated as SDLC).
The SDLC specifics will differ from development team to development team, but the “broad strokes” are pretty universal across the board. You’ll want to work closely with your developers to understand exactly how the SDLC unfolds in this particular “shop” so that you can create useful testing cycles that link up with where the software is in the development pipeline.
Some development teams like to work with a “scrum” SDLC. This is a lightweight kind of framework as far as team organization is concerned, giving developers a lot of freedom and a lot of collaborative space to problem solve on-the-fly.
Other development teams move forward with kanban-style frameworks, waterfall-style frameworks, or custom SDLC frameworks that they’ve found work best for their team members.
At the end of the day, the actual SDLC matters a lot less to a software tester than learning the ins and outs of that SDLC. When you understand this framework front to back you’re able to anticipate the development team a little, boosting the effectiveness of your test cycles but also saving time, money, and energy along the way.
Solid Analytical Skills
Top software testers always possess elite-level analytic skills.
Software testers must be able to break down complex systems like software projects into bite-sized chunks, identifying the trouble spots but also understanding how those trouble spots are impacting the piece of software as a whole.
The number one responsibility for software testers, after all, is to both identify the root cause issue plaguing the software project and to identify effective strategies to remedy the situation without causing a cascade effect of new problems to bubble up later down the line.
The good news is that analytic thinking can be learned, can be trained, and can be systemized to help software testers “build this muscle”, so to speak.
Crystal Clear Communication (Especially in Writing)
Clarity is king when you are a software tester, particularly in writing the reports you give to the development team about your findings.
Software testers are going to have to communicate with multiple different people in different positions and potentially even in different departments – all of them looking for different bits and pieces of information to tackle the problem at hand.
Being able to effectively communicate in writing is a huge advantage as a software tester and a skill that needs to be developed.
Do software testers need to know programming?
Software testers do not need to know programming but it can be great for their careers. The basis of the QA role means that they don’t need to write code to be successful. However, knowing how to write some code or why code is functioning in a certain way is incredibly beneficial. It is helpful for:
- Test Automation: A major part of software testing is test automation, which involves writing scripts or code to automate tests. Test automation helps to save time, reduce errors, and improve test coverage. Having programming knowledge allows testers to create and maintain automated tests more effectively.
- Bug Analysis: When a tester finds a bug, they need to provide detailed information to the developers who will fix it. An understanding of the programming code, database queries, and system architecture means they can communicate more effectively with developers and provide more accurate and detailed bug reports.
- Test Design: Testers need to design test cases that are comprehensive, effective, and efficient. This involves understanding the requirements, the system being tested, and the various environments. Testers who understand how to code can write test cases that cover more scenarios and edge cases.
- Collaboration: Testers work closely with developers, project managers, and other stakeholders. Understanding programming concepts and terminology can help testers to communicate effectively with their colleagues and provide valuable feedback.
So, having some programming knowledge can be a valuable asset for software testers. However, it is not necessary, and testers can still be effective without it and make good money.
Is Coding Necessary For Testing?
The reality is that coding is not necessary for a career in testing. The vast majority of testing is now automated via code created by developers and the rest is manually tested via QA Engineers and testers.
The role of a software tester has changed significantly in recent years. It has moved on from checking that things work the way they should and moved towards creating entire testing strategies and approaches for teams. QA Engineers are now more involved in the development process than they have ever been. There is a huge desire to “shift left” and get testers involved before writing code even begins.
In a well-functioning team software testers give input on the approach they think should be taken and the things that should be tested. So no, coding is not necessary to have a successful career as a software tester, you aren’t going to be asked any HackerRank-style questions anytime soon.
Software Tester Career Outlook
There’s never been a better time than now to become a professional software tester.
The job outlook in this career path is almost supernova bright, with experts anticipating the demand for these positions to grow by 25% – 25%! – over the next ten years alone. That means there’s a ton of opportunity for folks that are looking to break in and build their career as software testers today.
To get started, new software testers will want to pursue a bachelor’s degree (at minimum). Companies today are also looking for testers that have a least two years of relevant experience in the field as well, but that’s often seen as a bit of a bonus.
As far as pay is concerned, the salary packages for testers often start around $90,000 a year or more – but six-figure salaries aren’t out of the question, not by any stretch.
In fact, as of 2022, the median salary for a software tester in the United States sits at $109,020 per year.
Not too shabby!
So, does software testing require coding experience and a lot of programming in a tester’s background?
Not necessarily. There are a lot of successful testers that got their start in this career field with only the most rudimentary understanding of coding and programming languages.
Of course, it certainly won’t hurt your career prospects to have a better understanding of the kinds of coding and programming languages that your development team is using to build the software you’re testing.
That knowledge will make you a better tester, to be sure, but it will also help you work more closely with developers to make sure that the development process moves swiftly, smoothly, and efficiently – even through the bug-fixing process!
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.