How to become a software development engineer in test: A guide

Updated 7 July 2023

Working as a software development engineer puts you at the heart of application development and deployment. You're responsible for testing and measuring software to make sure that it's fit for its purpose and performs well in different environments. This type of work spans multiple sectors, so it could see you working in healthcare, the automotive industry or even government projects, among others. In this article, we discuss how to become a software development engineer in test, average salaries and the typical career path for this type of position.

Related: Complete guide: What is software development?

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How to become a software development engineer in test

There are a few different steps that you can take if you want to know how to become a software development engineer in test. Here are some steps you can follow for this profession:

1. Obtain a degree in computer science or IT

The most common route of entry for software development engineers is through an undergraduate degree in a related field. There is some flexibility here, but your degree is ideally in one of the following disciplines:

  • computer science

  • electrical engineering

  • mathematics

  • physics

There are other instances where an HND course or a diploma in IT might be enough to secure a position as a software development engineer, but it is a less common route. The key is to find a relevant course that provides you with the foundational knowledge of software development, software engineering, physics or mathematics.

Related: IT skills: Definitions and examples

2. Get involved in an internship

Whether you have completed a degree or are still in the process of pursuing one, it's a great idea to find a suitable internship opportunity to prepare you for a career as a software development engineer. This gives you practical, hands-on experience in the type of work involved in software testing. By doing internships, you expand your knowledge and increase your appeal to potential employers in future.

In some instances, internships can morph into career paths. Many companies use internships as a form of recruitment, as it gives them a chance to see potential employees work in a related work environment for a period of time. If you do well, an employer may offer you a full-time position or another opportunity that helps you to become a software development engineer.

Related: What is an internship?

3. Expand your expertise with industry certifications

Obtaining a degree and work experience are both excellent ways to get noticed if you are looking to become a software development engineer. If you want to make your profile stand out further, consider additional industry certifications. There are international bodies, such as the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB), who collaborate with third parties to offer certification courses in software test engineering.

Although not an essential part of becoming a software development engineer, certifications can give you an edge over the competition and a greater chance of finding a position. Certifications in software testing can bolster your expertise and show employers your commitment to the industry. You may be eligible for more senior and responsible roles when you have achieved the certifications.

Related: Types of degrees and how they can influence your career

4. Apply for relevant roles as a software development engineer

With sufficient experience and education supporting your application, it's time to start applying for jobs as a software development engineer. Ensure that you find suitable roles by carefully looking over job descriptions, paying close attention to any keywords that are relevant to you. Be sure to highlight any relevant experience, accreditations or internships that you have been a part of, as this helps to improve your chances of getting an interview.

The main areas you can look for jobs in are the technology and IT industries. Many software companies are looking to hire talented software development engineers, so start here. Other industries outside of technology might also be in need of a software development engineer, so don't be afraid to look beyond that sector. For example, large corporations that maintain their own IT departments often employ software development engineers to improve their connectivity and security.

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What is software development engineering?

Software development engineering involves rigorous testing and analysis of software and applications to make sure they are bug-free and run without issues. The process can take weeks or months, depending on the size and type of software. Software development engineers work across the software development process, particularly at the planning and design stages. As a software development engineer in test, you're responsible for identifying and fixing bugs before launching new software. You may be expected to work as part of a team to ensure that the rollout of new programs and applications are successful in terms of performance and optimisation.

Related: Analytical skills: Definitions and examples

What are the duties of a software development engineer in test?

Software development engineers in test are responsible for a number of duties related to evaluating, assessing and troubleshooting software. They work as part of a larger team that is responsible for the development and deployment of new software that is bug-free, optimised and ready to use. As a software development engineer in test, you're responsible for:

  • Understanding, writing and executing test scripts for software.

  • Working as part of a team that includes software developers, engineers and support.

  • Assessing and identifying software and business requirements.

  • Performing performance, stress and functional testing and scalability assessments.

  • Testing software across multiple environments, such as for mobiles and tablets.

  • Resource planning and documentation reviews.

  • Working to multiple deadlines across departments.

  • Offering feedback, quality assurance and bug reports for software developers and teams.

  • Creating and providing presentations to clients and members of the team.

  • Working with technical and non-technical individuals to discuss any findings.

Related: How to develop your skill set for career success

What is the expected salary for software development engineers?

Software development engineers are always in high demand as businesses are always creating new applications. The average salary for a software development engineer is £44,000 per year. Experience and location also affect salaries, with London software development engineers receiving a salary of around £62,000 per year on average, which is the highest figure nationally.

In terms of job prospects, software development engineers have a lot of options as many companies are looking to employ these individuals at all levels of experience. Graduates looking to enter the field may find this role particularly appealing due to its relative ease of entry, high salary and excellent opportunity for growth.

Useful skills for a software development engineer in test

Software development engineers often work across teams and departments to make sure that applications are working as intended. Due to the nature of the role, a range of hard and soft skills are useful in this type of job. Useful skills include:

Analytical skills

Being able to evaluate applications and analyse where a problem has developed is crucial to the success of a software development engineer. Enhancing your analytical skills is a huge benefit in this regard, as it helps you understand what is going wrong in a complex piece of coding. Moreover, a strong analytical skill set allows you to identify the issue, address it and ensure your solution meets all the needs without compromising the application.

Good communication

Software development engineers work as part of a team, often discussing challenges across departments. It's important for you to have strong communication skills as a software development engineer. For example, you may work closely with colleagues during the design phase, and it's beneficial to ensure any instructions you leave are very clear to ensure the testing is adequate. A good software development engineer can clearly communicate any findings or issues that have developed with colleagues, across the team and to colleagues who do not share your technical knowledge.

Technical proficiency

Working with applications and programming requires a certain level of technical proficiency, so you need this skill to succeed as a software development engineer. Being able to inspect testing methodologies and understanding a variety of programming languages makes the work easier and allows for more in-depth problem solving if something isn't working. There are countless programming languages that could be useful for software development engineers, but some of the most common are JavaScript, JSON, Python and C++. If you've already learnt programming languages, make sure you have an understanding of bespoke software packages, automation tools and database platforms.

Salaries figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related: How to become a software engineer (Plus key skills)

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