The Software Test Engineer Certificate Program at Bellevue College has trained many testers. Most of them directly enter the field as contractors or entry-level testers after receiving their certificate. Recently, the program has been revamped to better fit the demands of the current job market and needs of today’s students.
The program has always been unique: It is one of only two comparable programs in the Seattle-Bellevue area and the only program that allows students to attend classes at their own pace. But program planners improved on traditional methods to give the program its most recent update. Traditionally, working testers updated the program. “A third party hired our instructors, and the instructors developed the curriculum,” explained Robin Ballard, technology program manager at Bellevue College Continuing Education (BC CE). ”But we realized that it was in our employers’ and students’ best interests for us to develop our own curriculum, involve many industry advisors, and hire our own instructors to continually improve the quality.”
“We also instituted skills checks and labs to provide another barometer of success, so the classes have to be at least 30% hands on,” Ballard added. These enhancements give students a clear measure of their skills before they begin competing for jobs.
Many of the changes to the curriculum were made based on input from an advisory committee of hiring managers from local businesses such as Costco, Traffiq, Nintendo, Microsoft, Edifecs — “a great group of committed hiring managers who gave us valuable advice on who they’d like to hire,” Ballard noted. By restructuring the software testing program with their advice, BC CE is not only better able to help certificate holders meet the current demands of employers but is also poised to outfit its graduates to succeed in the workplace of the future.
The changes were well timed given Bellevue-Seattle’s growing technology industry: “From everything I’m hearing from the employers I’ve talked to, the market’s getting larger. Students are able to get those first positions with contract agencies and don’t have to compete with experienced testers in a tight job market,” Ballard reported.
Although the rubric for success in the certificate program is now more rigorous, the character and skills students need to be successful as software testers haven’t changed. Students who are interested in understanding how software works, who work well in groups, and who aren’t afraid of “breaking things” typically do well as software testers. And as Program Manager Ballard puts it, “If students walk out with the knowledge of methods and programming skills that the program is designed to give them, they’ll be very competitive.”