Do Testers have to Write Code?

Software TestingAutomation TestingTesting Tools

A common query that keeps running in the mind of every IT aspirant is: do software testers have to write or learn code? In this article, we will be discussing the solution to this question. Software testing can be done manually as well as through automation. We will be discussing what skills a good tester must possess, what all knowledge they must have, and how much coding knowledge a good tester must have.

Before answering this question, we must understand various software testing roles. Quality assurance (QA) testing in software testing is primarily divided into two broad categories −

  • Quality Analysts − Quality analysts (QA) evaluate the functionality and entirety of the test. These analysts test the software product after the development phase has been completed. The role of a QA is not as technical as a developer; thus, QA may not need to learn coding or write code.

  • Software Designer Engineer in Test (SDET) − SDET is a professional who is responsible for the inner working of the software product. They look after the database, programming languages, etc. The are actively involved in the product design, data design, and user interface (UI). SDETs, unlike QAs, work while the product is still in the development phase. Thus, SDETs must have appropriate coding knowledge. This makes the roles and responsibilities of SDETs more challenging and complex. SDETs have to play the role of a developer as well as a tester. Automation testers can be regarded as SDETs.

Thus, based on the above two roles, it can decide if tester must have coding knowledge.

Characteristics of a good tester

Software testing varies from product to product depend on the needs and specifications of the product under testing. A good, professional and skilled QA is vital for the success of the testing process.

Several characteristics of a good tester includes −

  • Proper domain knowledge and respective skills. Software testers, like any other professionals, must have full knowledge of their respective field, and associated skill sets.

  • Logical thinking / reasoning power. Software tester must possess logical reasoning powers to solve complex problems efficiently.

  • Good programming knowledge.

  • Technical tools and technical knowledge. A good software tester must possess an effective knowledge of testing tools to be able to define the best performance and financial aspects to achieve optimum results.

  • Wise time management. Testers must know and remember that every software product to be tested comes with a specified delivery time.

  • Automation expertise. Software testers must be capable of recognizing such tests that are beneficial to automate and at what stage.

  • Communication skills. Software testers, like in other profession, have to work as a team, which may consist members from completely different backgrounds. Thus, a good tester must possess excellent communication skills.

  • Quick and continuous learning. One cannot be an expert in all the programming languages and technologies. Thus, a good tester must keep gaining knowledge of each and always be open to learning new emerging technologies.

  • Analytical skills. A good tester must be capable of applying this analysis to the test results and use them for future.

  • Creativity. A good tester should be able to think and work out of the ordinary, that other team members or client never thought of.

  • DEVOPS awareness − A collaborative environment helps the product quickly enter production stage. Thus, every tester must know terms such as Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration.

How much coding knowledge does a tester need?

Wiring the code and debugging it is the responsibility of the developer. Then, why is coding knowledge necessary for testers? The answer to this question is determined by the following reasons −

  • To create automation tests.

  • For white box testing.

  • To deal with SQL query command.

  • Automation tests for agile testing.

  • To handle SQL injection and database.

Software testing primarily includes two approaches: Manual testing and Automation testing. Advanced testing can be categorized to White box, Black box, or Gray box testing.

  • During Black box testing, the tester need not have the coding knowledge. Testers just test the product by inputting the data and then checking the results.

  • During White box testing, testers need to have coding knowledge. That is why this testing is also referred to as code-driven testing. Knowledge of various concepts like C, C#, C++, DBMS and RDBMS, etc. may be beneficial.

  • In automation testing or White box testing, testers need to have proper coding knowledge because they involve statement coverage, code coverage, cyclomatic complexity, etc. These concepts require proper programming and database knowledge and skills.

  • Testing may need database verification. Thus, testers must have the basic knowledge of SQL commands, for example select, create, update, etc.

  • SQL injection is a technique used for database hacking through inserting unwanted commands. To protect the product from such security threats, one must have a good knowledge of JavaScript and SQL commands.

  • In agile testing, the tester is responsible for quality of the software product. Throughout the process, the tester works with multiple programmers to code. Thus, it is necessary for testers to know coding to create an automated test.

Tips for QA professionals

  • They must have proper knowledge of manual testing, scripting languages – JavaScript, and others. This will enhance their testing skills.

  • A good tester has basic knowledge of programming and scripting languages like Java, VBScript, JavaScript, etc. Knowledge of languages is not a must, but is necessary. Knowing SQL concepts and DBMS concept is a plus point for any a QA.

Top 3 skills of a QA analyst

So far you must have understood that a good QA analyst must have more than one technical skill and knowledge on development, testing techniques and programming languages. In addition to these skills, a QA analyst must possess the following three soft skills that all great QA engineers have −

  • Critical thinking

  • Flexibility

  • Social skills

A good QA tester must know how to approach a software to create as many “what if” scenarios as can be made. Critical thinking helps achieve this. It allows QA engineers to view the product from the client’s perspective to predict potential issues and threats and frame solutions to deal with them.

Flexibility is an important skill for any QA tester. The reason being QA analysts have to apply different testing tools and techniques based on the project. Moreover, they do not just have to know them but also be versatile to switch from one to other seamlessly.

Social skills include other things; mainly collaboration and communication skills. QA analysts need to be social as their role will need them to be communicating with developers, managers, executives, clients, etc. So, they must be able to communicate with others to make sure that everybody is on the same page, quality-wise.

Tips for QA Beginners

  •  Knowledge of different life cycles − I assume you must have heard about software development life cycle (SDLC). Well, just knowing it by name is not enough. One must know and completely understand all its phases, from requirement analysis to testing and maintenance. That is because QA services can offer improvements for the whole process, and not just the testing process. Apart from SDLC, a tester should know the other two life cycles essential for working of QA. In the testing life cycle, the activities are involved in the testing itself. On the other hand, there is bug life cycle. It includes specific processes that take place upon discovering a bug.

  • Knowledge of different types of bugs − This is a type of role you wish to play in SDLC, however it is worth repeating, particularly because it would not be easy at all to identify bugs, while you are just starting your QA career. There are various types of bugs a tester needs to know so that the team can be properly reported about them. You must know the bugs in detail, more you know, the better it is. Features like functionality, responsiveness, design, syntax, performance, etc. can help find bugs that you need to report. As you work and gain more experience, you will surely learn more about the various types of bugs. However, you cannot start from the scratch. You must obtain a theoretical background of bugs from the beginning of your career.

  • Furbish your bug report − You might know everything an excellent QA needs to know about bugs, but if you do not how to report them appropriately, it all becomes null and void. While reporting bugs, ensure good communication, as you will have to explain the bugs to the development team as simply as possible, so that they can replicate and understand your report easily. This is not just about semantics. You have to be extremely thorough and detailed in your report to prevent any back and forth as well as guesswork from the development team. The specifications start right from the report’s title and go all the way to your explanation of the bugs. If possible, for you, add videos or images that clearly represent the bug.

  • Test management skills − Since you are a novice in the field of QA and software testing, you might not pay even think about test management, rather would completely focus on technical skills. QA process will need you to manage tasks from the development phase till the delivery phase, thus knowing how to do that can have a positive influence on the way you do things. Even though you have some experience with a project management platform, for example Jira or Wrike, try going beyond them and learn theory. So that, you can easily adapt to any platform because you will have a better knowledge of the concepts that are foundations of those platforms.

  • Basic knowledge of UI elements − This suggestion may seem unnecessary to you, as you would have probably expected to know something completely contrary to user interfaces (UI). Still, QA work will place you with such products where you need to do UI testing. You work will surely become much simpler provided that you have a basic grasp of UI elements and concepts. That is, you have to learn HTML and CSS elements and design terms and phrases, such as font size and colour, padding, navigation, etc. All these will help you analyse better the software product you will be working on. It will also help you make stronger and better bug reports, which all developers love.

Benefits of having coding knowledge

  • You can design test cases sooner and better. You can also understand the architecture and work flow of the software.

  • You can review code and detect bugs in them.

  • Writing a code, you can do your work just with a click and would not need to do dull tasks every time. You can do tasks effectively in a lot less time.

  • It gives an edge over testers who just have functional knowledge. With coding knowledge, you can surely add more value to you company, also it will create more opportunities in your career.


Testers are not expected to write code as good as developers, however learning something new is always a good thing. In general, manual testers need not have to learn and write code. They are mainly involved in understanding the working of the product, discussing with testers and developers what functions to test, preparing test cases and test data, exploratory testing, Black box testing, ad-hoc testing, and so on. As with automation testers as well as manual testers who wish to learn automation testing, coding becomes essential. They must know programming language(s) supported to write automation scripts for test cases.

Thus, the answer to whether a tester has to learn and write code completely depends on the context. Today, job creators are seeking more value. In terms of an employer, “more value” means the IT industry is in search of more productive professionals to increase their profits.

Software testing aspirants have better career opportunities if they know: a programming language, databases, SDLC and programming and scripting languages such as Ruby, Java, JavaScript, etc. This gives them a significant edge over other testers because they play a vital role in complex projects such as security testing, performance benchmarking, performance tuning, etc. of software products.

Besides, it is always a good thing to learn something new.

Updated on 22-Sep-2021 11:10:25