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How do I find my career path in software testing?

I've been a tester for many years and want to progress professionally. Yet, I'm struggling to find chances for advancement and a career path in software testing. Any pointers?

QA professionals can often become frustrated with their options for a career path in software testing. Within many companies, the available choices are not as well-defined -- or guaranteed -- as those of their nontechnical peers.

Software jobs are different. Nontechnical companies tend to hire technical software people because they need someone with a specific skill set for a project with a limited duration. Often, software testers are thought of as free agents who leave when a new and exciting project comes up elsewhere, not as individuals who advance in an organization.

It can be a real challenge to find a stable career path in software testing. Unless a company makes technical products or provides technical services, there is often little opportunity to progress into high-level roles or senior management.

If you can't find such an organization to work for, consider fully embracing the free agent nature of the field or, similarly, becoming a consultant. To do so, consider specializing to market yourself as an expert on a particular technology. The freelance consultant path can be difficult because the technology landscape shifts so rapidly. Today's hot skill can be obsolete within a year. Furthermore, going out on your own is difficult and marred by uncertainty.

Another possible career path in software testing is to join a Pure-play testing organization. These companies offer testers lots of room to grow and have a vested interest in their career growth. If you show initiative, a pure-play testing organization might provide training and mentoring that could open up new career paths.

In whatever direction you choose, take responsibility for your own personal development and career path in software testing. Get used to the idea that you must seek your own advancement, rather than depend on your employer.

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