Software Quality Journal
The skills that employers look for in software testers
Raluca Florea & Viktoria Stray
Department of Informatics, University of Oslo, Norway
Cite this article
Florea, R., Stray, V. The skills that employers look for in software testers. Software Qual J
27, 1449–1479 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11219-019-09462-5
This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Software Quality
Journal. The final authenticated version is available online at:
The Skills That Employers Look for in Software Testers
Raluca Florea✉1, Viktoria Stray1
1 University of Oslo, Gaustadalléen 23 B, 0373 Oslo, Norway
Software testing is an integral part of software development that provides
better quality products and user experiences and helps build the reputation
of software companies. Though software testers perform a role that requires
specific tasks and skills, in-depth studies of software testers lag behind re-
search studies of other roles within software development teams. In this
paper, we aim to create a profile of testers by presenting an empirical anal-
ysis of the skills the industry currently needs. We analysed data from 400
job ads in 33 countries. We mapped the skills on a taxonomy comprising
test-related, technical, and domain-specific skills. In addition, we looked at
the demand for educational attainment, relevant certifications, and previous
Our findings show that employers are mostly interested in skills
related to test planning and design, test automation, functional testing, per-
formance testing, and progress reporting. One third of the job advertisers
were interested in people with the skills to operate test execution tools. Se-
lenium was the testing tool most in demand. The testers must have strong
technical abilities, including programming skills in Java, C#, and SQL.
Also, they must handle project management tasks such as estimation, risk
management, and quality assurance.
Employers do not emphasise domain-specific knowledge, which
indicates that they consider testing skills portable across industries. One in
seven job ads asks for a software testing certification. Our study helps clar-
ify the complexity of the testing job and outlines the capabilities one needs
to fulfil a software tester’s responsibilities.
Keywords: software-testing skills, software-testing skill requirements,
software industry needs, empirical software engineering, human aspects of
The skills of the members of software development teams are crucial to the success of
software projects because they directly affect central aspects of software attributes such
as performance, reliability, and simplicity . Numerous studies have evaluated the
impact of team members’ skills on the quality of software produced, the performance
of the team, and the competitive market advantages those skills bring (see , , ).
Alternatively, as many researchers have shown, having a lack of skilled employees on
software development teams directly affects the software projects’ costs, their delivery
times, and even their completion . The consequences of badly done testing can creep
into software development, which often leads to low-quality software. As the tragic
series of events involving Boeing 737 Max airplanes demonstrated recently, insuffi-
cient software testing can damage products and companies , leading to the loss of
billions of dollars, logistical nightmares  rippling through dozens of large companies,
the disruption of business , and the loss of people’s jobs or even lives.
Analysing the skills of employees, particularly those trained in a specific work
environment, is important because the application of those skills enables managers to
control and adjust the work process . Skilled team members can also help create and
maintain an enriched professional environment that fosters responsibility, the identifi-
cation of problems and mitigating actions, the spectrum of task assignation, and partic-
ipative decision-making . Studying the skills expectations for testers is relevant for
understanding the nature of the tasks they need to carry out, the importance and the
extent of the technical tasks they have to accomplish, and the amount of specialised
domain knowledge they require to fulfil their jobs.
Over the years, software developers and their skills have gained attention from
both an industry perspective , ,  and an educational perspective , .
However, the same cannot be said about software testers: No earlier than ten years ago,
testing was seen as a side-activity, with testers sometimes regarded as second-class cit-
izens whose role was considered a junior- or entry-level position . A recent study
by Capretz et al.  showed an even more startling picture: Among the people work-
ing in software development, tester and maintainer are the least popular roles. They
found that the vast majority of engineers do not like testing and would not choose the
role of tester . Another study reported that testers in agile projects received less
attention than developers in daily meetings, mainly because the Scrum Master viewed
the information from the developers as more important . In consequence, for us to
look into the job, tasks, responsibilities, and demand for software testers becomes of
Currently, “software tester” is a frequently used term but lacks a concrete defi-
nition. While “software developer” is well-defined [16, 17], tester is recognised as a
specific role without further details. The software testing standard ISO-29119:1 
defines tester as “one who develops and tests deliverables and completes the processes
associated with the dynamic test process”. In the Standard Glossary of Terms, the In-
ternational Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) defines testers as “skilled
professionals involved in the testing of a component or a system” . None of the
most used lexicons [20-23] or the World Standards Cooperation [16, 18, 24, 25] pro-
vides definitions or side information on software testers, software testing, testing re-
quirements, testing tasks, testing skills, or testing responsibilities. However, by search-
ing for the same term not related to software, we derive the following: A tester is a
person or machine who assesses the quality or state of a thing by testing it [19, 23].
Mathur et al.  described testers as the ones responsible for carrying out test-
ing and building up test cases and test plans. Davidov et al.  described testers as
professionals who identify new defects from failed test cases, analyse defects, and re-
port them in a bug-tracking system. Some literature portrays testers as the development
team’s worst enemies because they check everything and bring news of defects .
However, in teams with high psychological safety, testers are not afraid that developers
are offended by the bugs discovered or mistakes they point out that developers have
done, but rather that developers are actually happy when the testers report bugs .
Even though the descriptions we found are useful, practice shows that testers do much
more than the literature describes.
Currently, testers are much better integrated into development teams than they
used to be. Software companies recognise them as an important part of the team, espe-
cially in Agile environments , and the consolidation of Agile teams merits careful
attention regarding learning, work, and performance .
Another reason to study testers is that we understand intuitively that they do
more than testing, and we aim to unveil what else is under testers’ responsibilities and
how important those responsibilities are for employers. As Dromey demonstrated 15
years ago , a preventative approach to software quality is more efficient than a cu-
rative one. But this approach entails a number of complex tasks, including design, pro-
cess management, and adherence to standards. This complexity requires skills to man-
age it and, in this context, analysing the skills testers need to succeed in their job be-
comes a necessity.
To increase the understanding of the software tester’s role, we extracted its com-
prehensive profile from the needs the industry currently expresses. In our analysis, we
focus on the software tester role instead of on the overall process of software testing.
We chose this approach because there is a significant difference between the skill re-
quirements at the whole team level and the skill requirements for the software testers,
and we aim to determine traits, discover gaps, follow trends, and make recommenda-
tions for the software testers.
Regarding skills, understanding the state of practice and checking whether the
testing practice meets the industry’s needs is a difficult process  that requires scru-
tinising many aspects. The current state of the industry requires a thorough and con-
sistent evaluated of one’s skills at hiring, including inspection of the education and
experience listed on the CV and follow-up with interviews and tests . We chose
this approach because in the hiring phase, employers need to formulate clear and direct
requests for employees’ skills that will allow the company to succeed in delivering
completed software projects.
We researched two subsets of skills in two previous studies , : soft skills
demands for testers and the overall testing and tool requirements for testers. The previ-
ous studies show that testers need to have good communication, analysis, and problem-
solving skills. At the same time, the need for adaptability, openness, and independent-
working and team-playing skills has increased significantly. New demands have
emerged in the areas of work ethics, customer focus, and the ability to work under
pressure. Our current study extends to a large degree the context of the analysis beyond
these two skill categories by focusing on an in-depth look at test-related and technical
skills and requirements for educational attainment and previous experience, for which
we created taxonomies to categorise and analyse the demand.
In our current study, we make a thorough analysis of three kinds of skill require-
ments for testers: First, we study the testing-related skills demand; then, we study the
technical skills that testers need to have; and last, we analyse the domain-specific
knowledge that testers need to possess for their skills to be portable when they switch
jobs. We also examine testers’ required level of experience and educational attainment
and other training and certifications necessary to prove their skills.
In this light, we aim to answer three research questions:
RQ1: What skills do software testers need to have according to industrial demand?
RQ2: Are there any correlated skills shaping the profile of the software tester?
RQ3: What educational attainment, certified qualifications, and previous experience do
hiring companies ask of software testers?
The remainder of the paper is organised as follows: Section 2 describes the ap-
proach we undertook to obtain the skills requirements for a software tester. Section 3
reports the results of our analysis. Section 4 discusses the findings and provides our
interpretation of the results. Section 5 presents the implications of the analysis for dif-
ferent categories of audience. Section 6 approaches the limitations of our study. Section
7 draws the conclusions of our findings and suggests future development of the current
2 Research method
The current study is an empirical analysis of industrial needs for various skills for soft-
ware testers from the employers’ perspective. To analyse the software tester role, we
created a taxonomy for the software testers’ requested skills. We chose to create a tax-
onomy to map the skills required for software testers, as it is a common way to organise
knowledge systematically in a domain of interest in which there is little knowledge on
a topic  and one needs to identify categories, topics, and constructs.
Our analysis is based on a collection of job ads that we processed to allow us to
perform both quantitative and qualitative data analyses. The number of job ads we stud-
ied gives us a 95% confidence level and a 5% confidence interval for the quantitative
analysis. The approach is relevant in that it complements the theory of skill with a
hands-on analysis of concrete skill requirements. Additionally, the quantitative and
qualitative analysis combination enables us, on one hand, to discover which kinds of
skills are in most demand, the level of the demand, and the average number of relevant
skills employers are seeking and, on the other hand, to substantiate our findings, mining
information to reveal specific traits of the skills as demanded by employers. As we
found no significant differences in the number or kind of demands between the ads for
the different names of the role, we analysed the entire set of job ads as one.
The structure we used for the testing-related skill analysis is based on the struc-
ture of the ISTQB Foundation Level Syllabus , and we created a structure for ana-
lysing the technical skills. We understand technical skills to refer to any programming,
software engineering, project management, or other skills needed in the area of software
development that are not typically the responsibility of software testers: the skills that
the programmers, software designers, software architects, team leaders, auditors, etc.,
are more likely to need.
2.1 Data collection
To get an overview of the skill requirements for testers, we collected and analysed 400
job ads published online for 33 countries between December 2016 and February 2017.
We chose to use online job-search engines to collect the raw job advertisements instead
of going to specific hiring companies. This approach is an efficient way of including in
our analysis a large number of employers, a good diversity of job profiles, and large
visibility to job seekers.
We investigated the most significant job-search engines through two dimen-
sions: the number of users and the number of jobs posted. According to commercial
Web traffic data and analytics services provided by Alexa (Amazon)
we chose the five most popular job-search engines [39-42].
We collected the job ads from the following countries: USA (96), Canada (65),
Norway (22), UK (20), Argentina (17), France (17), Mexico (15), South Africa (14),
China (14), Vietnam (13), Greece (13), India (12), Sweden (10), Portugal (10), Aus-
tralia (10), and others (52).
One of the amenities job search engines offer that we used is that they interpret
the search criteria and give relevant results for a range of jobs related to the search term.
Therefore, we input the search string “software tester”, and we obtained as results job
ads for software testers, technical testers, functional testers, QAs, usability testers, per-
formance testers, mobile testers, Web testers, security testers, automated software test-
ers, financial-systems testers, game testers, and so on. Using this tool helps avoid data-
collection bias related to the name of the jobs advertised for software testers.
2.2 Data analysis
We collected all the information we found on the job descriptions, responsibilities, re-
quirements for all the analysed ads. We chose this approach, as not all advertisers use
the same format for the ads: We found skill requirements for the advertised position in
almost all the fields we studied. Next, we cleaned, categorised, and coded the collected
information to group it and then analysed it quantitatively and qualitatively. We created
the structure for the demands as shown in Fig. 1 and used it for grouping the information
Fig. 1 Overview of the software industry’s demands for software testers
To examine the software testing-related skills, we created a separate taxonomy
using the structure of the information in the ISTQB Foundation Level Syllabus 2011
 as a basis. We chose this syllabus as a reference for our research since it is a rep-
resentative tool for structuring software testing knowledge. The ISTQB uses is as the
theoretical foundation of examining and providing a standardised qualification for soft-
ware testers. Currently, the organisation has issued over 640,000 certifications in 120
countries . By following its table of contents and selecting from it the parts related
to skills, we obtained a subset of the original table of contents that forms the taxonomy
of test-related skills, as shown in Fig. 2.
We calculated the percentage of ads and the mean number of skills demanded
for each category and subcategory in our testing-skills taxonomy, and where it was
useful, we performed a free-text analysis of the frequency of terms to obtain infor-
mation of interest regarding specific demands. For the free-text analysis, we used an
that analyses the frequency of words in large strings and offers options such
as inspecting the roots of words, grouping variations together, and excluding insignifi-
cant strings, which we used on the collection of coded information that we obtained as
a result of the job ad processing. By looking at the categories of software testing-skills
demands, we got an overall picture of the skills the industry currently seeks. By looking
at the ranked list of subcategories, we determined the popularity and the spread of the
Fig. 2 Taxonomy of the software-testing skills for testers
Through a qualitative analysis, we created a separate taxonomy for mapping the
technical skills by labelling and bracketing all the demands related to the technical as-
pects of development (see Fig. 3, depicting the areas of demand for testers’ technical
Fig. 3 Taxonomy of the technical skills for testers
We did not create a taxonomy related to domain-specific skills. Instead, created
a ranking of these skills, in which we used domain specificity to perform a free-text
analysis of the information we collected, and we extracted the most frequent terms. We
manually went through the results and sorted them again by grouping demands logically
belonging together. We proceeded in the same manner for the educational attainment,
relevant certification, and seniority requirements. We also performed a quantitative
analysis for the minimum number of years of prior experience that employers re-
For the quantitative assessment, we used SPSS to perform a statistical analysis
of the numerical parameters of our data. We obtained the percentage of ads asking for
each category of skills, the mean number of skills per category, the maximum number
of skills per category, and the number of skills demanded in the lower and the upper
quartiles of the ads. The data file available online for access and download  pro-
vides the details regarding the techniques we used to analyse each category and subcat-
egory of skills.
Moreover, we aimed to discover any patterns in the subcategories of skills being
asked for together in the same ad. A strong correlation of skills would have pointed to
the existence of various tester profiles that employers are looking for. Inversely, a lack
of patterns would have indicated that there no clear software tester profiles emerged
from the employers’ demands at hiring. To study this aspect of our research, we took
into account all of the subcategories of skills in the advertisements and checked how
often they appear together in the same ad, two by two. Therefore, we used SPSS to
generate a correlation matrix for the identified skills. We looked at the Spearman cor-
relation coefficient, which indicates if there are correlations between pairs of variables.
The coefficient’s value indicates the nature (direct or inverse) and strength of the cor-
We searched for significant differences in the requirements for various cate-
gories of testers, such as testers and test analysts, and we searched for particular re-
quirements for test managers.
3.1 The profiles of software testing jobs
A first finding in the landscape of software testing regards the diversity of names used
for the software testing role. Out of all the ads, the top ranked requests were for software
testers (77 ads), QA testers (41 ads), automation testers (9 ads), test engineers (7 ads),
test analysts (7 ads), manual testers (4 ads), penetration testers (4 ads), and business
analysts (4 ads). Out of the 400 job ads, only three asked for test leaders and three asked
for test managers. From the remaining ads, more than half (213) used unique names for
the software tester role. Examples include “IT tester”, “cybersecurity testing”, “MS dy-
namics CRM tester”, “senior ETL tester”, “testing specialist with HIX/HBX experi-
ence”, “senior testing automation for network management”, “digital validation engi-
neer”, “linguistic tester”, “QC staff”, “algorithms for driver assistance tester”, “content
producer tester”, “technical junior”, etc.
Focusing on the skills demand, Table 1 displays the industry’s level of demand
for all software testers, divided into the four skill categories (Fig. 1). With more than
97% of advertisers and an average of more than 10 skills per ad, the overwhelming
majority of employers asked for testing-related competence from testers, followed
closely by technical skills. Two thirds of the ads asked for soft skills, and only one third
of the ads sought domain-specific skills.
Table 1. Skills demand for testers
Type of skill
Percentage of ads
Software Testing skills
3.2 Software-testing skills demand for testers
Table 2 and Fig. 4 describe the industry’s need for software-testing skills, from com-
plementary viewpoints. Table 2 features a ranking of the categories of software-testing
skills and the percentage of the ads asking for them, while Fig. 4 shows the interquartile
ranges for the number of software-testing skills in each category.
Most of the hiring ads asked for skills related to the testing process (see Table
2) and, moreover, at least four skills of this kind (see Fig. 4). Three out of four ads
asked for test management skills, and testers had to have mastered at least three aspects
of it. The ability to perform at least two different types of testing, such as functional,
performance, was asked for by more than half of the advertisers. The test tools were
another sought-after category of skills, with more than half of the ads asking for testing-
tool skills. Most of the ads sought software testers who had mastered about two tools
and a little below half of the ads asked for specific test tools. Only one fourth of the ads
asking for testing tools asked for competency in five or more tools.
We observed that the request for specific levels of testing was on the lower
side, with less than one in three advertisements asking for it and with less than two
skills to master.
Table 2. Categories of testing skills demand for testers
Reviews and static analysis
* 42.0% of the ads asked for specific test tools.
Fig. 4 Interquartile range and means of the software testing skills demand for
Going into the details of the skill request, our findings show that most of the advertisers
asked for specific skills belonging to the category of test process (T1): planning, design,
and execution of tests, whether assisted or not by tools (see Table 3). Next in the ranking
is the request that the testers track their own testing through progress reports, bug re-
ports, and follow-up of the bug fixes. The industry is interested in testers with skills in
test strategies and methodologies to a smaller extent. Similarly, marginal requests were
for the software testers to manage their test environments, write test-related documen-
tation, manage testing risks, handle test data, and handle exit criteria and their corre-
sponding test-related metrics.
Table 3. The hierarchy of subcategories of testing skills demand for testers
Subcategory of skill requested
Percentage of ads
Test design (T1)
Automated test execution (T1)
Manual test execution (T1)
Test planning (T1)
Automated test execution tools (T4)
Test progress reporting (T2)
Follow-up of bug fixes (T2)
Bug reporting (T2)
Functional testing (T3)
Performance testing (T3)
Test management tools (T4)
Web applications testing (T6)
Regression testing (T3)
Test implementation (T1)
Bug identification (T1)
Mobile applications testing (T6)
Testing methodologies (T2)
Test strategies (T2)
Acceptance-level testing (T5)
Test techniques (T3)
System-level testing (T5)
Test environments-related activities (T2)
Integration-level testing (T5)
Documentation writing (T2)
Risk management in testing (T2)
Interface (API) testing (T3)
Bug-tracking tools (T4)
Test data management (T2)
Unit-level testing (T5)
Test-related metrics (T2)
Performance-testing tools (T4)
Black-box/grey-box testing (T3)
Exit-related criteria (T2)
White-box testing (T3)
Maintenance testing (T3)
Test effort estimation (T2)
Desktop applications testing (T6)
Large-scale applications testing (T6)
Client-server architecture testing (T6)
Test closure activities (T1)
The results show that testing the functionality of software products was the most
sought-after type of testing skill (T3), followed by the requirement for performance
testing skills. A relatively small number of advertisers from the industry asked explic-
itly for regression testing or maintenance testing.
Regarding software testing on different levels, the industry seems to focus on
high-level testing, with acceptance testing and system testing occupying the first two
positions in the ranking of test-levels skills. The employers asked one in ten testers to
perform integration testing. Unit testing was not in high demand for testers.
Most of the ads did not ask for skills in testing specific structures of software,
such as distributed applications. Less than one in five ads asked for skills in testing Web
systems, and one in seven ads asked for skills in testing mobile systems. About half of
these ads asked for both mobile and Web competency. Besides these requests, other
demands were rare, with very few advertisers needing skills for testing large-scale sys-
tems, client-server architecture, multi-interface systems, or database systems.
The job advertisers were interested in hiring people with the skills to operate
tools in the category of automated test execution. The tools in the category of test man-
agement tools were demanded to a slightly smaller extent than the test execution tools,
with one in four employers looking specifically for them. One in twelve advertisers
asked for competencies in using tools in the category of performance-testing.
Table 4. The hierarchy of specific testing tools demands for testers
Automated test execution
Test management, bug tracking
HP Quality Center
Test management, bug tracking
Automated test execution
Automated test execution
Automated test execution, API testing
Automated test execution, unit testing
Microsoft Test Manager
Automated test execution, Test management
Automated test execution
Looking into the details of the demand for tools, the most asked for was Sele-
nium, a tool in the category of automated test execution. The second most requested
tool, Jira, is one of the most commonly used tools for test management  and comes
with comprehensive bug-tracking systems and a myriad of add-ons for project manage-
ment, time tracking, and integration. HP Quality Center, the third of the ranked tools
requested, is a test execution tool that is part of the Application Lifecycle Management
solution offered by Hewlett-Packard. QTP, the fourth most requested tool, is also a
popular automated test execution tool for functional testing . JMeter and LoadRun-
ner are both performance-measurement tools that used to be the exclusive responsibility
of developers  but are currently widely used by testers as well .
3.3 Technical skills demand for testers
Table 5 and Fig. 5 describe the industry’s need for technical skills from complementary
perspectives. Table 5 ranks the categories of technical skills demand for testers and the
percentage of the ads asking for them, while Fig. 5 shows the interquartile ranges for
the number of technical skills in each category.
Two thirds of the ads want testers with programming and software engineering
skills, while almost half of the ads need the testers to master specific programming or
scripting languages (Table 5). However, our results show that testers are asked to be
proficient in no more than two programming languages (see Fig. 5).
One third of the ads asks for something related to the management of software
development, and another third of the ads asks for a specific development life cycle to
One in seven employers is interested in testers with specialised knowledge on a
particular operating system (OS; Table 5). Requirements to master more than one OS
are rare (Fig. 5). One in four employers ask the testers to use specific development
environments or tools. When the testers are asked to use these, in the majority of cases,
they have to use just one development tool or development environment.
Table 5. Categories of technical skills demand for testers
Percentage of ads
Programming & Engineering
Programming Languages or Technologies
Development Tools and Systems
Fig. 5 Interquartile range and means of the technical skills demand for testers
As Table 6 shows, most of the demand is for programming languages or frameworks,
but a significant number of ads ask for the following software engineering skills as
well: continuous integration, deployment, web services, or networks. The only devel-
opment technique that is specifically asked for is test-driven development (TDD), but
this request is made in rather low proportions (3%).
From the programming languages in demand, SQL takes first place with one in
five ads asking for it. The second most demanded language is Java. Third place is taken
by C#, which has half of the demand that Java does. We observe, therefore, that the
testers are currently being asked mostly for compiled languages. The next two lan-
HTML, XML, Ruby, C, CSS, and Perl are close and rather low in demand.
In software management, the competency with the most demand is the quality
assurance (QA) of software systems and the processes implementing it. Next in demand
is the request for skills in project management and requirements management. While
there is some demand, testers are not necessarily asked to be business analysts at the
same time, with only over 1% of ads demanding such skills.
Regarding various software development life cycles that software companies
adopt, the most demand is by far for Agile. Only a fraction of employers asks for their
testers to master Waterfall, Kanban, or V-model.
With focus on the specific development tools or environments, most of the de-
mand is around deployment tools, such as Jenkins or TeamCity. Build tools, such as
Maven, are also demanded, as are classic source-control systems, such as GIT or TFS.
SharePoint was one of the few online collaboration frameworks specifically asked for
and had rather low but notable demand. Only a limited number of jobs require testers
to have skills in the use of specific tools or systems with regards to software develop-
ment. The top request, with one in twenty ads asking, is for Jenkins, a tool used for
continuous integration and continuous delivery.
Related to operating systems, most in demand seems to be desktop OSs and
Unix/Linux OS. The third in the ranked requests is Windows. Last are mobile OSs,
Android being most demanded and iOS following it. No other mobile OS was specifi-
cally asked for.
Table 6. Sub-categories of technical skills demand for testers
Technical skills requested
Percentage of ads
Programming & Engineering
§ Programming tasks
§ Various technologies
§ Continuous integration
§ Various frameworks
§ Web Services
§ Continuous delivery
Programming Languages or Technologies
§ QA processes
§ Project management
§ Requirements management
§ Business analysis
Development Tools and Systems
3.4 Domain-specific skills demand for testers
The demand for domain-specific knowledge covers a wide variety of industries. Out of
the one third of the ads that ask for domain-specific competencies, most of the demand
is around financial services (4.7%) and banking systems (3.2%) (see Table 7). Most of
the other notable requests are in financially connected areas, such as payment, e-com-
merce, and accounting. Next are requests for the telecom industry (4.5%) and logistics
(1.2%). The request for skills in gaming software is at around 2% among all job ads,
while the other ads (30.7%) cover a large spectrum of other kinds of software.
Table 7. Domain-specific skills demand for testers
Domain-specific skills requested
Percentage of ads
Financial services systems
3.5 Correlated skills
To identify patterns in the profiles of software testers that emerge from the employers’
ads, we checked for correlations between the different skills asked for in the advertise-
ments. Our sample size of n = 400, where we included all the testing-related, technical,
and soft-skill requirements for testers, was grouped by using the taxonomy in Fig. 2,
Fig. 3, and study . We split the data in two sets to look for correlations among the
high level of skills (the first level of nodes in our taxonomies) and to look for correla-
tions in the details of the skills (the leaf nodes of the taxonomies).
We used the Spearman correlation coefficient (ρ) for each pair of skills, as it
shows correlations between variables linked by any monotonic function, not just by a
linear relationship. At the same time, the Spearman coefficient is appropriate for ordinal
variables, the form in which our skills-related data are stored. The resulting Spearman
coefficients can be downloaded on the Web:  (high-level skill analysis) and 
(low-level skill analysis). We used the interpretation of the Spearman correlation coef-
ficient in psychology given by Dancey & Reidy .
a) Correlation analysis on the high level of skills
In the analysis of skills at a high level, we found a set of relevant correlations, which
are presented in Table 8.
Table 8. The correlation of skills analysis, high level
Technical & programming
Testing & testing process
Testing & test management
Test management & test process
Testing & specific types of testing
Technical & software management
Testing & test tools
Min. years of experience & other test-management activities
Technical & operating system knowledge
Technical & domain specific
Testing & test levels
Testing & software management
No. of responsibilities & min. years of experience
Testing & soft skills
Testing tools & specific software development life cycle
Min. years of experience & education attainment
Min. years of experience & soft skills
Test tools & domain specific
When the employers have technical demands for testers, they will most likely
be related to programming and then related to using various OSs. But there is also a
significant connection between the technical skills that the employers look for in testers
and software management skills and domain-specific skills. Part of the technical testers
are likely needed to take responsibilities from the project management area and to hold
domain-specific knowledge. However, it is likely that they will not be involved in re-
quirement analysis and manual testing.
A second result is the strong connection between the testing skills and testing
progress and test management skills. The data show us that employers strongly opt for
testers with a grip on the entire testing process, and the ability to manage testing. Many
employers seem to ask together for bug-tracking skills and testing related to changes.
Part of the domain-specific testers are asked to have the ability to operate test-
ing tools, but they are not likely to be asked to design automated tests, to do white-box
testing, or to have performance-testing skills.
The more experienced the testers are, the more likely they will be asked to
perform other miscellaneous activities related to test management. In addition, the more
experience is required from the testers, the more responsibilities and tasks it is likely
that they will get. Our results show that experienced testers are not likely to be asked
for education attainment nor for specific certifications. A surprising result shows that it
is not likely that experienced testers are asked for soft skills.
b) Correlation analysis on the low level of skills
In the analysis of skills at a low level, we found a relevant set of correlations, which is
presented in Table 9.
Table 9. The correlation of skills analysis, low level
Automated test design & automated test execution
Black-box testing skills & white-box testing
Specific testing tools & automated testing tool
Specific testing tools & test management tools
Manual test design & manual test execution
Organisational & analytical and problem-solving
Fast learning & interpersonal
Organisational & ability to work independently
Communication & organisational skills
Non-functional & functional testing
Ability to work independently & problem-solving
Fast learning & openness and adaptability
Openness & organisation
Automated test design skills & automated test tools
Bug racking & testing related to changes
Analytical & team player
Team player & test metrics
Programming language & requirements analysis
Domain specific & performance testing
Programming tools & manual testing
Development tools & manual testing
Test techniques & fast learning
Domain specific & automated test design
Domain specific & white-box testing
Openness & adaptability & test strategies
Testing tools & manual testing
The correlation analysis results show the following: the employers ask for test-
ers who can perform both the design and execution of tests. Part of the employers ask
the testers who perform white-box testing to perform black-box testing too. In addition,
the correlation analysis confirms the quantitative analysis that when the employers ask
for testing tools, they will most likely ask for automated test execution tools, test man-
agement tools, and some other specific testing tools. They are less likely to ask for
specific bug-tracking tools.
The domain-experts are not likely to be asked for performance testing, design
of automated tests or white-box testing. The more technical skills the employers look
for in software testers, the more likely they will not ask for abilities with manual testing.
Regarding soft skills, we observe a tendency among the employers to ask test-
ers to have the ability to work independently while having problem-solving and organ-
isation skills. These employers associate fast-learning skills with interpersonal skills
and the openness and adaptability skills in their demands. Employers also seem to as-
sociate fast-learning skills with mastering various test techniques, such as exploratory
testing, use-case testing, or boundary-values testing.
Another notable result is the correlation that the employers make between the
team-playing skills and the ability to define and use test metrics.
3.6 Education attainment and certifications
The greatest number of ads (85%) ask for completed bachelor studies. Only one-tenth
of the ads ask for more, such as completion of master-level studies. While there is a
request, the number of ads asking for PhD studies is negligible (0.5%).
Most employers do not require specific certifications related to testing. From the
14% who ask for such certification, the majority of the requests are for ISTQB Foun-
dations-level Tester (9%) and ISTQB Advanced-level Tester certifications (1%). A
negligible number of ads (<1%) ask for Application Life Cycle Management (ALM)
certifications, information systems security-related certifications (CISSP), and network
penetration testing certifications (GPEN).
3.7 Previous experience
About half of the ads (54%) ask for previous experience. The calculated average of
years required from these ads is 3.4. With less than 1%, only a few exceptional ads ask
for 10+ years of prior experience. After removing the exceptional cases, the majority
of ads ask for two to three years of previous relevant experience. Most of the job ads
(83%) do not ask for specific seniority; only 10% of the ads ask for senior testers, and
5% of the ads ask for juniors.
We found that test managers are asked for nine skills on average per advertise-
ment. Looking into the details of the demand, the first request is for test managers to
perform software testing. Second comes the demand for test management skills, test
planning skills, and skills with automated testing tools. Only two out of the six ads ask
the test leaders to manage testers, to preform test estimations, and to monitor the test’s
progress. The specific requests in the area of tools is varied, and there is no strong
request for a particular tool.
Our results show that software testers need to be highly skilled in their job and that they
need to master a wide range of skills. By looking at the spread of the demand, testers
are not asked to be specialised in one certain activity, such as performance, automation,
or test management; instead, they are asked to master many and various aspects of test-
ing. We infer that most testers are asked to play an active role throughout the testing
process. By analysing the landscape of job names used for the role of software testers,
we conclude that the employers place the skills essential to them in the title of the job
they advertise for, such as the knowledge of a tool (Jira, Selenium, CRM) or a class of
testing skills (functional, network, penetration).
Aside from this, most employers ask testers for a wide span of technical skills.
In regards to testing, the technical requests are not specialised on narrow aspects; they
vary from programming skills to development environments and tools, as well as inte-
gration skills, deployment, project management, development models, and many oth-
ers. This finding is in line with an observation from 2010 , which found that com-
panies see the technical knowledge of testers as important and more significant than
domain knowledge. The finding is also supported by , stating that the best approach
in software development would be extensive consultation with domain experts.
In a previous study in which we included developers , we found that only
half of developers need to master anything related to testing and that they are asked to
have an average of 2.5 testing skills; the result denotes that testers need to master de-
velopment better than developers need to master testing. Therefore, developers remain
highly focused on programming and software building, while testers are asked to ac-
quire more technical skills and fulfil more programming, software engineering-related,
or software management tasks.
4.1 Testing skills, technical skills, and domain-specific skills
In this section, we will discuss our first research question: “What skills do software
testers need to have according to industrial demand?”
a) Designing tests is the main demand
The most important software-testing skills for the industry seem to include the ability
to design tests. The result reveals that employers want testers to be able to extract the
testable parts of software and design corresponding high-level and low-level test cases
from the product documentation or other available sources. The requirement to design
tests offers a side benefit: a way to evaluate the testability of software, in which the
goal is to have a more testable software. Also, through designing tests, testers give
flexibility and structure to the testing initiatives: tests are grouped in families, are given
ranks and criticality levels, and are categorised as main-stream, edge-scenario, or fail-
ure cases. This makes the testing process capable of changing with regards to deadlines,
prioritisation, and stakeholders’ feedback. The survey  finds that design quality is
vital if software is to be maintainable and finds a relationship between design quality
and testing practices. Therefore, our results support this survey through the employer’s
demand foremost for design skills, which also encompasses the need for maintainable
software, good design, and good testing practices.
b) Automated testing is more asked for than manual testing
The advertisers put more focus on automated tests than on manual tests, and we assume
that the higher level of request for automated execution of tests involves more com-
plexity  and therefore requires more skills than the manual execution of tests. Moe
et al.  report that automated testing, an important enabler for Agile development,
heavily depends on the knowledge of the testers. They found that most testers still do
manual testing, and they consider that it takes too long to update the automated tests.
Our finding confirms the continuing need for skills in writing automated tests, reflect-
ing the persistence of this industry gap.
The high request level for test automation tools can be explained by the popu-
larity of Agile development, where working in iterations and regression testing is es-
sential; hence, a significant part of regression tests is automatized. Automating regres-
sion tests is the leading approach for maintaining and consolidating the quality of soft-
ware systems. It is an ongoing process that requires knowledge on automated testing
and corresponding tools ; consequently, we expect to see a constant rise in this type
of demand in the future.
We also expect a clearer allocation for various test automation tasks, such as a
behavioural consequence of not having it be shift blame between developers and testers,
as reported by Wiklund et al. in their systematic literature review . We find it sur-
prising that only one in five job advertisers asks for test management tools. This mis-
balance may indicate a tacit requirement for test management tools skills.
The high request for Selenium does not come as a surprise, given that it does not
require very technical skills to operate it, it is open-source, and it is portable through all
major OSs and web browsers . The high request for other specific test tools con-
firms the employers’ need for testers to perform tool-assisted work and that there is
already a tool structure in place and waiting to be used, while the performance-testing
tool demand also confirms the technical component sought in the profile of software
c) A common demand is test planning and implementation
The requirement for skills in test planning signals that a significant number of testers
are needed to actively contribute to high-level testing. Test planning means determining
the scope and the objectives of testing; establishing the test approach; determining the
test resources needs (human and logistic); determining the test schedule; establishing
test metrics; identifying the potential risk; and mitigating actions, start/stop, and exit
criteria. We infer that the testers are needed to manage this aspect of testing as well, as
should do so above the typical testing tasks of creating and executing tests.
Test implementation assumes the ability to group the test cases into execution
suites and sequence their execution for both manual and automated tests. Babinet and
Ramanathan identify three major challenges in large-scale development: the unpredict-
ability in feature development, conflicting priorities, and overlapping release cycles
. In this light, we consider that our findings confirm and show the industrial need
for a clear prioritisation of tests.
d) It is not common to ask for bug identification, test documentation, test data,
or test closure activities
We obtained two surprising results for the two least-demanded skills: bug identification
and test closure. Even though one of the most important aspects of a tester’s job is to
find bugs, few advertisers explicitly ask for it. An explanation is that it is a tacit require-
ment and is therefore not explicitly set in job advertisements. The other surprising result
is that only 1% of the ads ask testers for test-closure activities. This activity assumes
checking what deliverables have been delivered, archiving the test ware and documen-
tation, checking that all the project issues and bugs are either closed or deferred, ensur-
ing test-related information is handed over to other departments, and analysing lessons
learned for the future. A possible explanation for the lack of demand is that hiring com-
panies do not focus on the activity itself. This result is also confirmed by Kassab et al.
in a report on the state of practice in software testing, where closing the test process is
not listed as a method or practice in testing . It is also likely that employers assume
that it is only the responsibility of project managers, as assumed in a study from 2014
We expected the industry to give higher importance to test documentation, test
data, and test metrics. These three aspects of testing need to be mastered by all the
testers within a team. It is not sufficient that only one tester in ten writes test documen-
tation and one in twelve creates and maintains test data. We state this because team
members see documentation as a useful and important communication tool , even
if it is outdated , while the lack of test documentation can generate issues around
the understanding of undergoing testing or the reproducibility of tests.
Improper test data can be costly because it can either break laws and regulations,
such as GDPR , while oversimplified test data can hide serious product issues, es-
pecially in the performance area. The test metrics are closely related to test management
and the predictability of testing; therefore, the lack of requests for it can flag a potential
shortcoming in the employer’s skills demand.
Even though there is a low demand for risk management and exit criteria, these
may be aspects that fall mostly under either the test manager or the project manager’s
responsibility. Hence, there is no explicit need for testers to master this area.
e) The software testers need to follow-up on bugs to reach a resolution, but the
tools to use in bug tracking are unimportant
The high request for following-up on bug reports is likely to be generated by conse-
quences to the testing budget in case the follow-up is not done. The explicit request for
bug reports can be an efficient way to formalise the testing process so that all the work
around bugs is visible and budgeted. A reason for the request could also be that most
software development implies managing a large number of bugs on a daily basis, and
fixing them is one of the most common and time-consuming activities for developers
; therefore, this activity needs to be measured and planned in detail.
Another surprising result is the low request for bug-tracking tools. The fact that
only one in twelve job ads ask for it does not mean that one in twelve testers should use
bug-tracking tools: it most likely means that testers use these tools and workflows with
standard users’ rights, much like they use their email client. The result can be explained
by the fact that a significant number of companies have bug-tracking tools that are set-
up and maintained by a separate team-handling infrastructure. It is also likely that team
members use the same bug-tracking tools as end users who report bugs, which indicates
that learning how to operate these tools should be straightforward so that no or very
few special skills are required.
f) There is a high interest in acceptance testing and a lower interest in integra-
We expected that employers would ask the testers to have more skills in API testing,
especially since our previous study  shows that 9% of the developers are asked to
have this skill. We expected that transitioning software towards micro-services and
cloud-architectures and the emergence of software supporting the Internet of Things
(IoT) would have a greater footprint regarding the demand for all three kinds of testing,
especially since the IoT exhibits a large number of resources, connectivity, and interop-
erability issues .
The most significant industrial demand seems to be placed on high-level test-
ing, with acceptance testing and system testing occupying the first two positions in the
ranking of skills for test levels. The result concerning acceptance testing is in line with
our previous finding on soft skills , where there is a tendency towards asking testers
for more customer focus. It is also in line with the fact that the lack of user acceptance
has long been a major impediment for the success of new software systems ; hence,
employers currently put more focus on it. Both these levels of testing assume that testers
have a good grasp on the overall purpose and functionality of the software being tested.
We expected, however, to see more requirements for distributed software be-
cause testing web systems assumes testing different characteristics and doing so with
different tools than mobile systems or desktop systems . Therefore, the lack of
specificity in this area is most likely a lack in the industry’s demand.
Given that review skills rank the last in the testing-related demand formulated
by the industry, we consider that testers are still not involved enough in the review
process. A significant part of the cost issues and defect sources are found in the design
phase. Our result confirms Lee’s finding that, of all testing activities, designing tests is
practiced by the fewest companies . The fact that only one in eight testers is asked
to perform reviews is concerning.
It is natural for testers not to be asked to have static analysis skills. Even
though it is a form of testing, static analysis is performed with dedicated tools directly
on code by developers and architects; it is done mainly to treat symptoms in the code
that would facilitate defects and failures.
g) The software testers have to undertake software development and perfor-
An interesting result is the demand for testers to have performance test tools. Perfor-
mance checking, which used to pertain exclusively to developers, is now asked of test-
ers, too. If we compare this with the same requirement for developers, it appears that
the demand for these skills is slightly higher for testers than for developers . The
finding indicates a shift in responsibilities for performance testing towards testers, di-
vergent from the common practice two decades ago .
Moving our focus towards technical skills demand, the advertisers’ ned soft-
ware testers to write their own SQL queries when performing testing, therefore, the
highest request for this skill. The result is can be explained by two essential aspects of
testing: the test data and the verification of the results for the execution of tests. It is a
common practice to store data in databases ; therefore, the test oracles and the test
execution results are to be found in such structures. Nonetheless, databases are heavily
used in automated testing, reflecting the need for testers to have query-language-related
Not surprisingly, the demand for testers to manage parts of project development
comes as an extension for the test-management request. We observe that, apart from
the industrial request for a technical profile, testers also have to possess strong mana-
gerial skills. Project management is a step up from test management, but it has many
similar traits with , such as prioritisation, estimation, resource allocation, risk man-
agement, defining and following-up metrics, starting, stopping, and resumption criteria.
Therefore, it is natural to ask testers to take responsibility for aspects of managing the
project, given that their skills in test management are transposable to project manage-
h) The software testers need to be quality assurers and project managers and act
as customer support
In addition to the classic testing-related requirements corresponding to their role, a sig-
nificant proportion of employers ask testers to master knowledge in either the QA field;
business requirements elicitation and handling; customer support; or project manage-
ment, such as risk, release, and resource management. Most of the demand is towards
QA, and it is not coincidental that even though the nature of the two job profiles is
different , many companies merge the roles of testers and quality assurers into one
profile. While testers need to check the conformity of the developed software with the
software’s requirements, determine fit for use, and aim to discover bugs, the main re-
sponsibility for QAs is to establish, control, and maintain quality criteria for the soft-
ware under development and to make sure that the internal and external quality stand-
ards are being followed and implemented.
Also, it is natural to involve software testers in the incipient phase of require-
ments management. As Nuseibeh and Easterbrook report , better modelling of
problem domains, as opposed to the behaviour of software, is a key factor for the de-
velopment of successful software systems. Testers play an important role in understand-
ing the business side of the software that is to be built and following it up through the
software-development process. Requirements management is also an extension of the
tester’s job to analyse the testable parts of system requirements, to group them, and to
prioritise them. Therefore, asking testers to handle the elicitation and design of business
requirements, transform them into system requirements, and follow them up with rele-
vant stakeholders is another case of early defect prevention in which the testers’ skills
are reused at the project level.
However, testers are not asked for too much on the business side of the compa-
nies. They are not asked to assess or handle the business model of the hiring companies
nor to recommend software solutions to meet the business’s needs. The lack of require-
ments in this area is understandable in that no test-related skills can be reused in the
area of business processes.
Regarding development models for software, a recent study  states that 70%
of all development projects follow the Agile development model. Combining it with
our results, it seems that Agile has become such a widespread practice that the need to
specifically ask for it is no longer relevant. Therefore, employers do not frequently ask
for Agile-related skills; instead, they just assume testers have them. At the same time,
the low request for sequential development models signals that Agile has become the
principal state of practice across industries.
i) There is a strong preference for technical testers
With two out of three ads asking for technical skills, we can state that there is a clear
preference for testers with technical abilities. Programming and scripting languages are
a very common request, along with the request that the testers be familiar with the var-
ious approaches in the development and deployment of software. These kinds of re-
quests add a significant dimension of complexity to the profile of software tester.
Moving our attention to software development tools, we note that Jenkins and
similar tools for continuous integration are commonly asked for. The most likely reason
for this is that these tools are not tailored solely for developers but are part of operating
a continuous integration model , common in Agile and used across multiple roles.
We observe, therefore, an industrial preference for testers with competencies in the
technical areas of integration, deployment, source-control management, and build man-
agement. These requests for skills are currently a rather common demand within devel-
opment teams . On top of this, a common practice is that testers use the same tools
as developers to trigger new builds or to deploy builds in the testing environment. Ide-
ally, all these activities need to be done without developer assistance, resulting in the
demand for such skills. Still, the level of the demand is not high, and an explanation for
it is that these tools are easy to operate for standard usage; therefore, specific skills are
It is natural to ask more competencies for Unix/Linux-based OSs than for other
OSs, as they are highly configurable, exposing several thousand configurable features
on over two dozen architectures . It is unclear why the low demand for mobile OSs
exists. It would have been reasonable to see more demand in this area, as testing on
mobile devices with different user profiles, performance measurements, access rights,
and security settings are all common. A possible explanation is that testing is done on
preinstalled OSs with standard settings, with the possibly of only minor changes being
made to it. It is unclear whether the lack of testing of software with various configura-
tions of OSs is not being done because of a lack of time, lack of resources, or lack of
specifications or needs in customer contracts or user agreements.
j) Domain-specific knowledge is a less important request
With one in three ads needing testers who have knowledge in domains other than soft-
ware, this request is not negligible. However, reading the result in reverse, we notice
that two thirds of employers do not ask for domain-specific skills. We can thus state
that the employers search for testers with testing skills more than personnel who are
specialised in their industrial profile. Most ads asking for domain-specific knowledge
pertain to the area of financial services software (online transactions, banking systems,
payments). The request can be explained by the high number of rules and regulations
that financial services , including software, have to be compliant with, therefore
assuming testers need the skills related to testing it. Seldom do the telecommunication,
software, gaming, and other industries ask for domain-specific skills. There were no
significant requests from other branches of these industries, such as infrastructure, gov-
ernance, IT, health care, tourism, agriculture, and defence. From this point of view, we
attain the result that software testing is a role considered to be portable across industries
4.2 There is no set profile of the software tester, but there are
correlated skills in the employers’ demands
In this section, we discuss our second research question: “Are there any correlated skills
shaping the profile of the software tester?” The two correlation matrixes show that there
are no set and clear patterns in the software tester profile emerging from employers’
hiring ads. However, we discovered four interesting correlations.
Looking into the details of the request for skills, the result implies that em-
ployers prefer software testers who master the testing process in its entirety from con-
ception to completion, not fragments of it. The connection between bug-tracking skills
and testing related to changes is most likely due to the following: the more software
changes, the more likely is to find a more bugs and, therefore, to have a formal way to
follow-up on them from find to fix.
The correlation between technical competencies and software management
tasks is important, as it signals that even though employers prefer technical testers, they
do not ask for purely technical testers, for which it would be sufficient to have the
ability to program and manage tools.
Regarding the domain expertise, our findings point to a profile of a domain
specialist who is in touch with the technical aspects of development, but will most likely
not work with programming, debugging, or carry load and stress tests.
Regarding the accomplished testers, experience plays an important role during
hiring, especially as a replacement of formal education and other certifications. How-
ever, it remains unclear why employers tend to ask for fewer soft skills from more
Focusing on the soft skills, we observe that the employers who need their soft-
ware to be tested in multiple ways ask for fast learners. This suggests that the various
techniques of testing, such as code analysis, use-case testing, boundary values, dry runs,
and so on, are time consuming and require significant amounts of effort to master.
An interesting result is the link that the employers make between team-playing
skills and the ability to define and use test metrics. More precisely, by looking into the
ads, we found that employers need the testers to define metrics, to collect them, and to
follow-up on the metrics and the test coverage. Our finding confirms the point in paper
, which depicts communication as a mandatory part of the metrics life cycle. Em-
ployers need to educate the testing team about which information has to be captured to
process the metric. Therefore, this is a likely explanation for the correlation that
emerged from the employers’ hiring advertisements.
The values of the Spearman correlation index signify that there are no clear
predetermined career paths that software testers can take. Moreover, there is no pre-
dominant or strongly correlated skills demand that depends on the job title being ad-
vertised (tester, test analyst, test manager), nor on the seniority of the position (junior,
middle, senior). We can infer that the job description and, consequently, the skills de-
mand is determined by the everyday needs of a company or the immediate needs of a
project rather than a standard distribution of responsibilities in software testing. As pa-
per  shows, there is no one practice in software testing, and the same seems to be
true when hiring software testers.
4.3 Seniority, previous experience, educational attainment, and
Regarding our third research question, “What education attainment, certified qualifica-
tions, and previous experience do hiring companies ask from software testers?”, formal
education does not seem to be a focus of employers when they hire software testers.
We notice only a moderate demand for testers to have graduated from a certain educa-
tion program; only half of the ads explicitly ask for a degree from this program. A
negligible number of ads ask for the completion of high school studies. The vast ma-
jority of the ads asking for education attainment request a bachelor’s degree in com-
puter science or a related domain. Very few of these ads ask for a completed master’s,
and even fewer ask for PhD studies. By comparing the level of request, we can affirm
that skills are in more demand than educational attainment.
Certifications are a common way to complement formal education. However,
the industrial demand for such documents is still on the low side compared to classic
university diplomas; one in seven hiring ads asks for certain certifications within soft-
ware testing. By one order of magnitude, the most popular demand is for the ISTQB
Foundation Level Tester certification, followed by the ISTQB Advanced Level Tester
certification . Very few ads ask for certified knowledge in security, penetration
testing, or application life cycle management. It seems that the employers usually want
the testers to have general knowledge of the testing field. A small number of specialised
jobs ask for other software testing certificates. The certifications are demanded in ad-
dition to the requirements for completed studies. However, we expect an increase in the
demand for training and testing-related certifications. The study  performed by Ga-
rousi and Junji in 2016 points in the same direction by showing an increasing attention
given in Canada to certifications and training on software testing.
Seniority-related requests do not seem to be a focus of employers. This finding
supports a study from 2010 , which finds that the software development experience
cannot replace the demand for a systemic identification methodology and that experi-
enced testers were not necessarily better than inexperienced testers in every aspect.
This paper contributes to the broader field of skills study with the profile of the software
tester as currently asked for by the industry. For this specific profile, we distinctly show
the type and level of demand for test-related, technical, and domain-related skills. In
addition, we show the principal requirements that the employers have for test managers
in terms of skills. We also provide insight regarding the type of education required, the
certifications needed, and the level of experience sought after by the employers. To
provide this information, we have developed and used two taxonomies to group the
testing skills and to group the technical skills demanded of testers.
In line with the study by Capretz et al. , which notes that software testers
need to choose from an immense range of possibilities and that they need to maintain a
high level of attention to detail, our results show that the testers need both broad views
and attention to detail. Therefore, it is likely that this multitude of requests is vast in
nature and requires the expertise of many different kinds, which can be a reason that
there are few people, indifferent of the personality type, who prefer to work as software
Our study can be used by employers to calibrate their requests for testers when
hiring. In case the job advertisement does not attract testers with exactly the set of skills
requested, the employers could either request less or split the responsibilities in other
ways. Additionally, our study can serve as a mapping tool for employers to identify
skill gaps in the development team. Dependency on key people is reported by Wiklund
et al. as the most dominating issue in Agile organisations in need of improvement .
Therefore, employers can use our results to examine the spectrum of skills in their de-
velopment teams and identify how those skills are spread among the team members,
compare them with the skills currently in demand in the industry, and either train the
existing personnel to gain more skills or hire more skilled testers to the teams.
Our study shows that some of the most in-demand skills focus on the process of
test automation. Automation does not mean that the testing happens automatically with-
out the testers having to put work into it; automation is used to improve the effective-
ness of testing , reduce human errors , and improve the reliability of testing,
but it is not a human labour replacement. To write, execute, and follow-up on automated
tests, a tester must have time and invest a good amount of effort into the process. There-
fore, employers need to check whether the testers have the time and skills to develop
and maintain a good automation process. This aspect is important, as Karlström et al.
report that the main impediments to adopting software test automation are of a mana-
gerial and not a technical nature . Also, employers can give more time and the effort
needed to maintain the testing infrastructure, as poor-quality infrastructure can be a
hindrance for testing and a significant source of loss in software projects .
Because there are no clear career paths to follow, software testers can at least
gain a better understanding of the skills that are currently important for employers dur-
ing the hiring process. They can work towards increasing their own skills by taking on
tertiary education or certifications or by practicing their skills, especially in the area of
test design  and test planning , test management, performance testing, or ac-
ceptance testing. These areas have been confirmed by our study to be important and in-
demand in the industry. They can also catch up with their technical side by practicing
their programming skills with SQL queries, Java, or C#. They can reflect on how their
skills can be transferred to the project management level, especially in the areas of es-
timation, risk management, planning, reporting, and control.
Our findings show that test managers have to have about as many test-related
skills as the testers, and they are asked to have a strong technical profile. The fact that
there is a much stronger request for managers to master testing – particularly automated
testing – than to manage people, shows the substantial need for qualified leaders who
can drive the test automation process. Our previous finding  on the demand for
independent testers leads to the conclusion that, for the employers in software testing,
people management less important compared to the technical qualification of test man-
The reflection of industrial needs in academic courses and practice has been a
long-standing issue. As Garousi et al. state in a recent report , even though the
software development industry and computer science tertiary education providers are
two large communities, the number of joint activities is low. Therefore, an important
improvement step towards for the current situation would be for the tertiary education
providers to update and expand their curriculum to include the industrial needs, as the
results of our current study show. We find the demand for a strong technical profile of
the tester particularly interesting. Our results are in line with report , highlighting
that, with a large margin, the two biggest issues in the industry that are reflected directly
in requests for academia are test management and test automation. Therefore, education
providers can check whether they offer enough on the side of test automation: from
writing to executing tests and setting up automated testing frameworks, preparing data
and test oracles, reading logs, following-up on execution results, and so on. It is also
important to give the students the chance to practice the continuous integration and
deployment of code. In case there are course offerings in software testing, it is important
to provide the students the chance to practice high-level test approaches in addition to
writing tests. The results of our study show that planning tests, allocating resources,
prioritising tests, and designing tests from requirements are highly desirable skills
which require practice.
Obtaining the software tester profile with an industry perspective at hiring is a useful
finding in determining what the employers need for the tester role. We made the re-
search data, the protocol we used to create the skill taxonomy and the analysis results
publicly available for access and download [44, 49, 50, 91], so that other researchers
use it and assert it.
On the other hand, establishing the desired profile of the role at hiring does
not mean we can equate it with all skills testers are being asked for throughout their
careers. Nor we can equate the testers with the entire testing process; other abilities and
critical competencies are the responsibility of other roles, such as developers, manag-
ers, customer support, contractors, stakeholders, and the like. Listed below, we have
identified other potential threats to the validity of our research.
Generalisation bias: Our analysis stands on observations that were collected
from job ads produced by the industry. We cannot generalise our findings to any de-
mand other than industrial or to the demand for the whole job-hiring process. We can
also not infer conclusions on the demand for existing employees. We mitigated the
limitation using a clear definition of the scope of the research.
Comparison bias: There is no previous study focused on the same parameters as
the ones we analysed to make it possible for us to look at trends in the demand. Our
study is, therefore, a snapshot of current industrial needs. We mitigated the limitation
by finding comparison points with other studies and research and conducted compari-
sons where possible. We have also used those studies as a base for discussion and for
drawing the implications of our study.
Sampling bias: The data were collected at the end 2016 and the beginning 2017,
which means that our current analysis results have limited validity, given that it is most
likely that industry needs will change over time. An additional limitation for the sample
we used in our analysis is that we relied on the search engines’ intrinsic logic when we
searched for the testing jobs. It could have been that there were additional testing jobs
that these engines did not display for the search phrase “software tester”. This limitation
is palliated by the fact that the search results we obtained are the same as the search
results of the job seekers.
In this paper, we performed an empirical analysis of the software tester role in which
we shaped its profile, as requested by the current needs of the industry. The focus was
on making a structured inspection of the skills needed for the role, for which we
grouped the demand into corresponding categories in a taxonomy.
The result of our analysis, performed on 400 job ads, shows that software testing
is a distinct role that involves a high number of specific competencies that have a strong
technical component and a managerial component. Designing of tests is the main in-
dustrial demand of software testing skills. The automated testing skill is more asked for
than the manual testing skill. It is common among employers to ask the software testers
the ability to conduct test planning and implementation. However, it is not common
among the employers to ask for skills in bug identification, writing test documentation,
generating test data or managing the test closure activities. The software testers are
needed to follow-up the reported bugs to resolution, but the employers do not ask the
testers for previous experience with specific bug tracking tools. Among the employers,
there is a high interest in acceptance testing and a lower interest in asking for integration
testing. The software testers are expected to undertake software development tasks and
the responsibility for performance testing. Moreover, they are needed to act as quality
assurers and to undertake parts of project management and customer support. None the
less, there is a strong preference for software testers with a broad technical expertise.
Employers are not likely to be asking for domain-specific knowledge during the
hiring process, which denotes the good portability of software testing knowledge across
industries. Formal education attainment is moderately important, with relevant bache-
lor’s degrees in computer science or related fields being mostly asked for. One in seven
employees is asked to hold a software testing certification. The industry is split in half
regarding the demand for previous experience; the half that requires it usually does not
demand more than three years of experience.
By exposing the industrial need for various abilities of the software testers, the
main contribution of the study is to advance the understanding of the division of labour
in software development teams. Empirical studies can be carried-out to analyse the skill
demand during the hiring process. Furthermore, the profile of software testers can be
broadened with an empirical investigation of skills demand for testers who have already
been hired. The current study can be repeated, to observe how the industry shifts its
preferences in skills demand.
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