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A software test engineer is usually responsible for testing new computer software or programs before the product is sold to consumers to ensure that it works properly, performs the desired functions, and is free from defects. These computer professionals usually design and perform the tests, evaluate the results, and make recommendations based on final conclusions. They often work as part of a quality assurance team, and work cooperatively with other quality assurance personnel such as computer programmers.
The software test engineer is involved in multiple phases of the development process, since new products must be tested continuously at various stages so that problems can be found and fixed quickly. New software is usually tested during several development phases including design, programming, installation, and maintenance. Software test engineers try to simulate many different usage scenarios to determine if the software performs as intended. They specifically check to see if the software accurately performs the functions it is designed for, and if it performs them in a reliable, consistent manner without any major difficulties. They also test for internet security issues.
There are two primary points of view a software test engineer uses while testing called white and black box testing. During white box testing, the tester uses an internal point of view. This means he or she is evaluating the structure of the programming, and is actually able to track the flow of information through the software and pinpoint where issues occur within the program.
In black box testing, the software test engineer assumes an external point of view, or the point of view of the software user. This means that he or she is testing as many different inputs of information as possible and evaluating the results of those inputs, but can't see exactly where things go wrong if problems do occur.
Once testing is completed, a software test engineer is responsible for evaluating and analyzing the results. Often, he or she will then work on designing solutions to any flaws that are found, as well as ways to improve the software's performance. The results and suggested solutions are communicated to other members of the quality assurance team, and the improvements are usually implemented by programmers. After that, the software is tested and evaluated again to determine if the improvements have the desired effect. The process continues until the team members are satisfied that the software is performing to expectations.
Software test engineers are usually employed by companies that produce and sell computer software or for consulting firms that are hired by the software companies. The work environment is usually an office, although in some cases working from home is possible. The work they perform is increasingly important and valuable as society grows more and more dependent on properly functioning computers in all walks of life.