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I've been working in various helpdesk/software support positions for several years now, but my goal has always been to work in the field of QA. I enjoy problem solving and I'm always trying to learn about what causes bugs when I encounter them.

I haven't had any luck yet finding a position since I haven't finished my degree and I also don't live in a very large city, so job opportunities are slim.

I've decided that I want to do everything I can to teach myself about QA in order to better my chances of finding an entry level position. I don't know much about programming but I am comfortable with html/css/javascript. Is there any advice to how I could better get into the field?

I've been researching entry level QA positions and it seems like there's a ton of software that employers desire. Some of the ones listed that I've seen include RequisitePro, ClearQuest, Rational Test Suite, Caliber, Quality Center, QTP, Selenium, Load Runner and more. Is it necessary to learn all of these?

Also, is there an easy way for me to start using these applications? Many of them aren't free it seems like. Can I learn how to create automated tests just by writing simple ones for common web applications like Gmail and Youtube? Or should I look into testing open source web applications?

I've already found a thread on here about books for novice software testers, so I'm going to be reading some of those soon. Thanks for any help or suggestions!

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8 Answers 8

I agree with many of the other answers but thought that I have 2 important enough points to warrant a separate answer.

1) I don't have a degree and was able to find an entry level QA position about 15 years ago. I found my position mostly because I knew some people that helped me get into it, but there are many ways to get into them. One would be to try to move into a QA position at the company you are already working for in support, this is a pretty common thing. 2) You can volunteer your time to help QA open source projects. There are tons of open source projects out there that need QA love. A great way to learn can be to help out on those projects, help them create a test plan, execute tests, find defects and possibly automate tests. This can give you some concrete experience that you can speak to on your resume and in interviews.

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I would never go for learning the tools before I know the philosophy behind them. The first thing you need to know for getting in to the QA field is to know what is quality and how it is perceived in software world.

SQA is not just limited to finding and logging defects. It takes a lot of understanding of how a software system is supposed to work. This will enable you to create test cases and test suites. Create automation scripts that contribute towards the goal of the software system itself.

You will need strong analytic and communication skills. Given that you have worked in Help desk roles before, communications skills won't be a problem.

Never be dependent on tools, learn techniques.

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I'm late to this discussion, so any suggestions I have may have already been covered before, but here are some ideas:

1) Make sure you have a degree in SOMETHING. I have a B.A. in English, which has nothing to do with working in QA, and I got a diploma from a programming school, which again isn't QA related. But having them on my resume means that I'm already ahead about half the people looking for the same job I am.

2) Learn at least some basic programming. Personally, I don't like programming that much - I tend to use it as a means to an end. Having said that, it's become inescapable that quite a bit of QA work is being able to write in a test program. One language you can try learning is Ruby. Besides being able to write programs, it'll also come in very handy if you decide to use Cucumber, a tool that can be used by numerous people, not just in QA. Learning how to do programming can also come in handy when trying to debug a testing tool such as Selenium (and in fact doing a quick google search brought up Selenium Ruby, a cross between the two).

3) As other people have said, try studying some books on testing. One place you can start is also a book that is popular in Holland, TMap. This is by no means the first and last place you should look, but the website does have some good white papers on testing.

4) Try getting yourself certified. This is more of a long-term goal, but there are some organizations such as ISTQB that offer a certification that will also enhance your resume (incidentally, Sogeti, the company who made the TMap book, also has a certification test, but this is mainly for QA professionals in Holland; last I heard, they're trying to make inroads into America, so who knows).

5) Be aware of what you're getting into. Being a QA tester often means you're the 'bearer of bad news' (you're the guy who tells the programmers that they have bugs in their software that need fixing before it can ship), and you're often one of the last people to get to work on a project (in some companies, they use a so-called 'waterfall' system, where everything flows in one direction - this usually means you get hit with the task of testing stuff JUST before the deadline; try finding a job where you can work in a so-called 'Agile' environment, where you can get and give feedback during the whole process and where you can prepare tests in advance).

6) But also keep in mind that a QA Tester needs to learn to be diplomatic while being firm. Your say matters - you're going to be the one determining if there are bugs serious enough to warrant stopping everything (think of being the guy in a newspaper who has to yell "Hold the presses!"). But you also want to maintain a good working relationship with your colleagues. So make sure you can work on your interpersonal skills.

Good luck!

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I've been at companies where someone transitioned from another dept into a Testing / QA position and it was done intra-company. They found a position open, called the department manager and impressed him/her enough to get hired - without much experience. Does your current company provide that opportunity for you? It might be an easy way in.

Like Phil K says it's a good idea to learn how to test before jumping into an automation role. Automated testing is one aspect of testing but the more you know about the discipline the better you will be. You can learn more through:

Software Testing is a huge field with many aspects beyond knowing technology. In a previous post I talk about the 9 areas in James Bach's (a testing expert) Testing Syllabus which is definitely worth looking at. Finishing your degree may also be worth it, depending on what your degree is in, how much time it will take you and whether, as Joe suggests, you think it will hold your career back.

Good luck.

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Welcome to the field! I've got a few suggestions to get started. Its not easy getting a entry level position because often they won't be listed(at least from my experience in my area). Many entry level jobs can be filled by internal employees that show testing promise.

Learn:

Extend what you are doing now. If you are totally new, look at possibly purchasing a book with the testing basics. I like Testing Computer Software, 2nd Edition as a starters guide for a complete greenhorn. You don't really need to purchase a book if that's not how you learn, you can easily use the internet as your guild. Finishing school would also be a good idea in general, even if you don't end up being a tester.

Test:

Get testing! Take a look at Weekend Testing see if there is a chapter in your area or join a weekend test. You could also join utest, there are no requirements there, and you are paid per defect. The pay is small, but the experience is priceless. You could also volunteer to test for an open source project.

Read and Interact:

Find testers you like, read blog posts, follow them on twitter, and get involved in forums like this one!

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Have you considered finishing your degree? At least where I am, a 4-year degree is pretty much always a requirement (and it is certainly a requirement when I'm the hiring Manager).

Have you considered taking programming courses? Not always required, but always helpful.

There are several sites devoted to testing and QA like SQAForums.com and SoftwareTestingClub.com - you may wish to visit those.

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Could I suggest learning to test before diving into tools to automate tests and tools to manage them ? Read the books you have got, surf this site (and others such as Software Testing Club and SQA forums ) to get an idea of what people in the industry are doing and what problems they are facing.

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This is incredibly valuable advice. In a past life as a musician/composer, I knew people who bought expensive notation software so they could "compose" - even though they knew nothing about composition. The tools are completely useless unless you know what you want to do with them. –  Alan Oct 1 '12 at 1:56
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I would say that you should begin with the application / tool that suites your interest. If you begin with any Automation tests you will see that the most common tools are a lot like each other or the reminds about each other.

Since Web is kind of huge now perhaps that is a good path to start at. You can always begin simple with something like navigate to google.com and search for something then open a link from the search results, perhaps check if the link is what you expected etc.

And since you don't seem to have any desired tool to use, I would suggest to pick a tool where you can understand the programming language that it uses, a lot of the tools has multiple languages. Even if you pick a language you can’t there usually is good guides how/where to start with examples etc. There is also programs that will give you the chance of recording the test directly in the browser / application then generate to code for you. Point and click.. =)

So the main line is choose something that you are comfortable with. Then after a while when you get the hang of it, then you can expand.

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