Software Test Automation Engineer Salary and Career Overview in 2019

In this article, I will show you why gaining test automation skills are needed for your quality assurance career if you want to remain marketable as a tester. I will tell you what technical skills and automation tools you need to learn about if you’re just getting started with test automation.

Why you should be an automation tester?

Automation testing is not a new concept in the software development industry anymore, but it is still one of the fastest growing trends. As you may have heard, doing less can help you achieve more. Whatever your views on the importance of manual testing, there’s no denying that the industry is trending heavily toward automated testing. Let’s face the truth, manual testing skills alone no longer dominate the game and certainly cannot help you achieve the highest position in your software testing career. The career of test automation is growing day by day, not only because it reduces human effort but also because of its demands.

Even the most laborious tester will make mistakes while handling tedious manual tests. On the other hand, automation testing brings out much more precise test results with the same steps. Executing repetitive tasks with automation testing gives you time to spend on more complex features and rewarding projects. Furthermore, when considering which direction to pursue in an automation testing career, here are a few advantages of test automation you should think about:

  • It’s creative and challenging: Testing is like solving puzzles and problems, and automation testing will bring something new to you every day. By acting as the end-user, you’re the one who has to get creative when thinking of places there may be inconsistencies.
  • You’re constantly learning: Once you start automating, there’s always more to learn. Your work will never be stagnant as you’ll be continuously growing and improving your practice.
  • It’s a specialized skill: Following the misconception that everyone can test, most testers start in a similar field and find themselves being drawn to the role, but it requires in-depth knowledge of development patterns as well as good technical programming skills. Those who find it’s their calling are sure to fall in love with test automation.
  • It’s rewarding: You’re essentially helping your company build products in less time with lower costs and greater quality. You’ll probably see your impact every day on the job.
  • There’s a strong community: One of the best things about being an automation tester is the supportive and robust community from StackOverflow to Twitter where you can discuss the best practices and trending topics in the industry.

Why 2019 is a great time to be an automation tester?

For the past several years, QA and test analyst job ads have stressed the need for test automation skills. Four years ago, recruiters clearly advised testers to gain technical and test automation skills. Since then, the demand for test automation has continued to grow, and now some teams are completely eliminating manual testers and hiring only test professionals with test automation skills.

Today, more and more components of the lifecycle are being automated and there is a focus on automating the entire lifecycle. Increased number of applications and new releases have also led to a rise in the importance of automation. According to the World Quality Report 2018-2019, test automation continued to be the most popular approach for generating and executing functional test cases. By the end of 2018,  18% of functional test cases were generated using test automation tools, and 16% were executed using test automation tools. Similarly, 16% of all security tests were executed using automation tools, and automation was also applied to the execution of the 16% of all performance test cases. Quite encouragingly, 15% of all end-to-end business scenarios were also being executed using test automation tools.

The career path for a software testing professional is as shown below:

test automation engineer salary and career path
  • Manual Tester (0 – 2 years): As a new entrant, you will be involved in conducting functionality testing manually. Manual testing is a structured process and involves writing test cases. The learning curve is not very steep and you should be able to master the skills within 6 months.
  • Automation Tester (2 – 5  years): Becoming an automation tester is a natural career move for manual testers. […]
  • Test Analyst (4 – 6 yrs): Test analysts may take sole responsibility of complete testing phase for a project. However, in some cases, they may still be part of a testing team. The job does involve coordination with the customer as well designing and defining test strategies. It’s a challenging role and requires certain key skills to succeed.
  • Test Lead/Manager (6 – 10 years): The next level of growth is to be a test leader or a manager. As a test lead or manager, you will be responsible for managing a test team independently, planning test activities, tracking activities, analysing test results, etc.

Since test automation is one of the career fields experiencing the most growth in the world right now, it’s rare to see a job listing for a test role where there isn’t at least a demand for an understanding of test automation and at least one scripting language. At the time I’m writing this article, there are roughly 16,955 available jobs in Test Automation Engineering on Indeed, 30,705 jobs on Glassdoor, and 5,580 jobs posted on LinkedIn. These numbers indicate the high demand for this skill nowadays, and for that reason you shouldn’t worry much about the risk of career change. Keep in mind the fact that as an automation tester, you’ll always be needed and will find no lack of leading companies trying their hardest to recruit you, and there are constantly opportunities to grow in your career to reach a managerial level.

test automation engineer salary and job postings

Moreover, if you want a high growth and a high paying career, test automation engineering/ automation testing is also the way to go. According to the report, the global test automation market was valued at approximately USD 15.87 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 54.98 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 23.01% between 2017 and 2022. The national average test automation engineer salary is $105,630 in the United States.

What do you need to prepare for your automation testing career?

To excel in this field, testers must be aware of automation tools and modern techniques that are being used in the testing industry. This doesn’t mean you’re being asked to be programmers, but it does require automation testers to have a programming background. Programming skills can help testers communicate better with developers and participate in unit testing. As automation tests are closely connected with code, the knowledge of the programming language that the team works with is one of the critical requirements for a tester. If the product is written in Ruby, then the tester needs to have Ruby experience on their resume. Besides definite programming languages such as Java, C/C++, Ruby, Python, Perl, some other required skills include knowing SQL and relational databases, experience with HTTP/HTTPS, HTML, CSS, JS, XML and testing APIs, knowing one of the frameworks (i.e., Cucumber for Ruby) is definitely an advantage.

You can initiate your test automation path by referring some popular software testing blogs and forums like Utest, Software Testing Help, Stickyminds, Ministry of Testing, etc. These sites help educate and inspire teams of all types and sizes to test automation.

As I mentioned, the more technical and test automation skills you have, the more marketable you’ll be as a tester. However, anyone who is serious about a career in testing would do well to pick up a powerful automation tool. Most available test automation tools in the market are developed with a programming mindset. Some of the most popular tools:

  • Selenium
  • Katalon Studio
  • UFT
  • TestComplete
  • SoapUI

Learn more about the above-mentioned tools here.

Among these tools, I have found Katalon Studio to be the most user friendly automated software testing tool. You can easily automate web services and mobile testing and execute the scripts on your desired platform. The most interesting features is the spy utility, which captures the web and mobile objects with just one click. Katalon Studio is intelligent enough to capture your element with all possible locators. If you just started learning programming for automation testing, please find the simplest test scenario that needs to be repeated a thousand times in your project. Then create a simple automation script to run it and check the result of the test. These easy tests will motivate you to create more and more scripts and avoid manual procedures whenever possible.

Other ways to gain solid knowledge in test automation are joining local meetups and conferences such as STAREAST, STARWEST, Agile Testing Days, and QualityJam. Last month, I had a chance to join a webinar co-hosted by Katalon Studio and ToolsQA about the software testing trends of 2019. I found this webinar to be amazing and practica, and I would suggest you try to register for similar events.

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