Quality assurance testing is infrequently taught in college courses for computer engineering. However, an explosion of online vendors providing courses or bootcamps for QA software testing has dramatically increased the available resources for aspiring, beginning and seasoned testers. Additionally, numerous online tutorials and a vast array of useful books can help testers advance in their careers.
So, which one to choose? Self-education is a cost-effective option, but other resources might offer stronger job or career services post-graduation. Self-education is an especially promising option through on-the-job learning books, and an investment in a foundation-level certification.
In this blog, we’ll examine several software testing education and certification options. Choose the path that works best for your learning needs.
QA testing bootcamp courses aren’t cheap. These courses can cost thousands of dollars. Are they worth the money, and can you get the education exposure you need to land a good software testing position?
With a variety of QA bootcamp options available, the most important thing is to do your research. Consider where these bootcamps get their information from and their level of qualification. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to grasp the quality of a training program until you’ve already paid to complete it. Even if a bootcamp provider allowed you to preview the content, how would you know it’s applicable and relevant if you’re just getting started?
Online searches and reviews can shed some light into the validity of the bootcamp. But, how accurate are these reviews? Who wrote them? How do you know they’re credible? Use your skeptical tester brain to avoid wasting money on an unhelpful program. Still, others can serve as a helpful start in software testing.
Some QA testing bootcamps spawn from job reskilling efforts or special job training efforts for laid-off or RIF’d employees, which may be free depending on your area. Check for these at your local unemployment center.
Some online resources like Course Report and Bootcamp Rankings collect bootcamp information or reviews to help readers make a decision. Consider multiple sources when gathering information — you never know when a bias or advertising might skew the results in a particular direction.
Online software testing courses
Online college course or certification providers provide another opportunity to grow and demonstrate your software testing knowledge. However, the same issues apply. How do you know if these courses will teach what you need to know to get a job in software testing?
I prefer self-education courses, which allow you to set your own pace. The costs are often minimal, as some online courses are free or less than $100, plus the occasional cost of books. Some organizations like AT*SQA (Association for Testing & Software Quality Assurance) even offer programs for around $8 per month that lets you take all the courses you want.
Self-education options enable you to learn at your own pace. This provides more freedom from time limitations and unnecessary stress. Additionally, there are no tests, no arbitrary grades or, worse, reviews performed by someone you only hope is qualified.
Both ASTQB/ISTQB (American Software Testing Qualifications Board and International Software Testing Qualifications Board) and AT*SQA offer courses as well as certifications for QA testers at a reasonable fee, providing a mix of both approaches that testers might find beneficial.
Some free or low-cost online learning options include:
Software testing books
In software testing, there are so many experts and thought leaders helping to advance digital quality initiatives every year. However, some of the best reading materials are ones that have been around for several years, including:
How to Break Software; How to Break Software Security; How to Break Web Software; and Exploratory Software Testing; all by James Whittaker
The Art of Software Testing, by Glenford J. Myers
Testing Computer Software, by Cem Kaner, Jack Falk and Hung Q Nguyen
Software Testing in the Real World, by Edward Kit
Most of these books are considered old, but they are classics full of useful and valid software testing information. Save money and find most of them at thrift stores online for less than $9, or search other online retailers.
On-the-job training offers a simple option to try if you’re just starting out. Find an entry or junior-level QA testing position and learn while you earn. Not only will you actively learn by doing, but you will also have access to experienced teammates, leaders and managers.
Many employers offer to pay for related coursework and certifications after you’ve met a minimum employment period. This is an exceptional option if you can land a QA testing position up front. If you don’t have any experience, don’t be discouraged. Many employers love hiring without direct experience for several reasons:
It’s more cost-effective for the company;
They can train you to fit their mold or QA testing operation;
Investment in long-term employees can pay significant dividends.
Granted entry-level positions might not offer high salaries — testers with 2-3 years of experience typically see a pay bump — but these jobs are a great way to enter the field.
Get started by crafting an honest resume documenting your experience. Include hobbies that may require use of specialized websites or mobile apps. For example, several apps track kids’ sporting events and activities. For that reason, an experienced youth sports coach might make a great fit to represent a real customer as a tester. The same goes if you work part-time for a tax service; check for QA testing jobs or crowdtesting gigs for tax applications. Specialized apps also exist for investors, programmers, gardeners and even medical patients — and they all require testing. You might find an opportunity that complements your interests perfectly.
Next, sign up on Indeed, Dice and ZipRecruiter or the job search platform of your choosing and follow these steps.
First, set up job alerts for common software testing job titles, such as:
Software quality assurance
Search for part-time, entry- or junior-level positions. Additionally, check out testing service or crowdtesting companies. uTest, for example, offers paid opportunities to sign up and test apps with the devices you already own, and its uTest Academy provides an opportunity to improve within and outside of the platform. Temporary or freelance positions might provide another avenue for growth.
Remember the goal is to get through the door with an interview and gain experience. If you’re learning and gaining valuable experience, stay. QA testers work in entry-level or junior testing positions for 2-4 years on average.
However, that timeline shouldn’t stop you from continuing to search or apply for higher-level positions when you have the experience to accomplish the required tasks.
Software testing certifications
One way to help get your foot in the door as a QA tester is certification. Software testing certifications are similar to a college or master’s degree. They show you’ve completed a specific level of education, which might make you more job-ready than other candidates. Software testing certifications simply get a potential employer’s attention, and increase confidence that you have the skills they want.
The most notable certification boards for QA software testing are:
Is software testing certification necessary? No. However, getting a certification includes access to extensive online training material. A certification essentially confirms to employers that you know the basics of QA software testing. For example, the ASTQB/ISTQB Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL) certification assures potential employers that you understand:
Test planning and organization
Standard testing techniques
Start with a CTFL and then move up through the more advanced certification options if you need them. AT*SQA also offers micro-credential courses with certification in a variety of specialty areas like Agile, APIs, mobile, IoT, DevOps and cybersecurity, which might help you gain more skills in those areas.
QA testing education resources are more ubiquitous than ever, with bootcamps, online courses, tutorials, certifications and do-it-yourself education options all giving new and experienced testers a leg up.
Everyone learns differently. Select the mix of options that best work for you. But remember that testing experience is a must, which makes entry-level or crowdtesting opportunities very valuable for beginners. Good luck on your journey!