Test Automation Engineer — Income and Opportunity

5/5 - (6 votes)

Before we learn about the money, let’s get this question out of the way:

What is a Test Automation Engineer?

A Test Automation Engineer is a software developer who creates automated software tests for existing or new applications. Testing is a crucial phase in the software development cycle to learn about bugs, usability, and security issues and fix them before deploying an application in the real world.

Annual Income of a Test Automation Engineer (US)

💬 Question: How much does a Test Automation Engineer in the US make per year?

Average Income of a Test Automation Engineer in the US by Source.
Figure: Average Income of a Test Automation Engineer in the US by Source. [1]

The expected annual income of a Test Automation Engineer in the United States is between $74,821 and $120,000 per year, with an average annual income of $95,285 per year and a median income of $93,657 per year.

This data is based on our meta-study of 10 salary aggregators sources such as Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and PayScale.

SourceAverage Income
Glassdoor.com$89,025
ZipRecruiter.com$98,965
Talent.com$105,407
Indeed.com$95,314
PayScale.com$74,966
Hired.com$120,000
Comparably.com$92,000
Zippia.com$91,589
BuiltIn.com$110,772
Salary.com$74,821
Table: Average Income of a Test Automation Engineer in the US by Source.

💡 Note: This is the most comprehensive salary meta-study of test automation engineers’ income in the world, to the best of my knowledge!

Let’s have a look at the hourly rate of Test Automation Engineers next!

Hourly Rate

Test Automation Engineers are well-paid on freelancing platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr.

If you decide to go the route as a freelance Test Automation Engineer, you can expect to make between $25 and $120 per hour on Upwork (source). Assuming an annual workload of 2000 hours, you can expect to make between $50,000 and $240,000 per year.

Note: Do you want to create your own thriving coding business online? Feel free to check out our freelance developer course — the world’s #1 best-selling freelance developer course that specifically shows you how to succeed on Upwork and Fiverr!

What Does a Test Automation Engineer Do?

The daily responsibilities of a Test Automation Engineer revolve around the creation of automated testing solutions for software applications.

A Test Automation Engineer works closely with teams to find and fix bugs, issues, and problems in an application.

To accomplish this, Test Automation Engineers need to constantly research application requirements and develop solutions for process automation.

Now that you know about what they do, let’s have a look at what test automation engineers earn next!

How Do I Become a Test Automation Engineer?

Do you want to become a Test Automation Engineer? Here’s a step-by-step learning path I’d propose to get started with Test Automation :

You can find many additional computer science courses on the Finxter Computer Science Academy (flatrate model).

But don’t wait too long to acquire practical experience!

Even if you have little skills, it’s best to get started as a freelance developer and learn as you work on real projects for clients — earning income as you learn and gaining motivation through real-world feedback.

🚀 Tip: An excellent start to turbo-charge your freelancing career (earning more in less time) is our Finxter Freelancer Course. The goal of the course is to pay for itself!

Is Test Automation Engineering a Good Career?

Test Automation Engineering has the potential to be a good career if you’re interested in programming and scripting technologies and you love solving challenging problems.

The earning potential is great: if you keep learning, you’re likely to reach a six-figure income in a couple of years in the US or as a freelancer online.

You can find great work satisfaction and purpose as an automation engineer. Testing the software, finding bugs, and suggesting improvement ideas is a crucial part of improving the product which can be very rewarding and gratifying.

You need to be able to push through problems and challenges and frustrations because if software doesn’t work and there are deadlines, life can be tough at times.

Recommended Interview: Life as a QA Automation Tester

Is an Automation Engineer a Software Engineer?

Yes, automation engineers are software engineers because automation and testing are part of the software development life cycle. Every software engineer must be able to understand testing and every automation engineer must know software engineering.

All automation engineers are software engineers but not all software engineers are automation engineers although all software engineers do testing from time to time. Thus, automation engineers are software engineers!

To learn more about the software development lifecycle, check out my detailed book The Art of Clean Code (NoStarch 2022).

Are Automation Engineers in Demand?

But is there enough demand? Let’s have a look at Google trends to find out how interest evolves over time (source):

The search demand for test automation has doubled between 2009 and 2022. The search demand for test automation engineer has exploded by roughly 1000% in the last two decades. Thus, Test Automation Engineers are in high demand today!

What is the Future of a Test Automation Engineer?

Test Automation Engineers are in high demand today. The interest has grown steadily in the last two decades.

Every software project needs testing as part of the software development lifecycle.

As “software eats the world”, test automation engineers are likely to keep experiencing an exploding demand and increasing income levels in the decades ahead.

The future looks bright for test automation engineers! 🌞

What Skills are Required for Automation Testing?

The following 13 skills will help you find work quickly as a test automation engineer:

  1. Programming language for automation (e.g., Python)
  2. Automation tool or library (e.g., Selenium)
  3. Understand general testing methodology and process
  4. Understand software performance
  5. Understand software scalability
  6. Life-long learning
  7. Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field
  8. Master’s degree in computer science or related field
  9. Internship and/or work experience in a software engineering company
  10. Online course certificates (e.g., Finxter Computer Science Academy)
  11. Understanding scripting and automation (e.g., Powershell)
  12. Familiarity with agile software development
  13. Familiarity with DevOps engineering

Soft skills such as time management and communication are important too!

You can find more job descriptions for coders, programmers, and computer scientists in our detailed overview guide:

The following statistic shows the self-reported income from 9,649 US-based professional developers (source).

💡 The average annual income of professional developers in the US is between $70,000 and $177,500 for various programming languages.

Question: What is your current total compensation (salary, bonuses, and perks, before taxes and deductions)? Please enter a whole number in the box below, without any punctuation. If you are paid hourly, please estimate an equivalent weekly, monthly, or yearly salary. (source)

The following statistic compares the self-reported income from 46,693 professional programmers as conducted by StackOverflow.

💡 The average annual income of professional developers worldwide (US and non-US) is between $33,000 and $95,000 for various programming languages.

Here’s a screenshot of a more detailed overview of each programming language considered in the report:

Here’s what different database professionals earn:

Here’s an overview of different cloud solutions experts:

Here’s what professionals in web frameworks earn:

There are many other interesting frameworks—that pay well!

Look at those tools:

Okay, but what do you need to do to get there? What are the skill requirements and qualifications to make you become a professional developer in the area you desire?

Let’s find out next!

General Qualifications of Professionals

StackOverflow performs an annual survey asking professionals, coders, developers, researchers, and engineers various questions about their background and job satisfaction on their website.

Interestingly, when aggregating the data of the developers’ educational background, a good three quarters have an academic background.

Here’s the question asked by StackOverflow (source):

Which of the following best describes the highest level of formal education that you’ve completed?

However, if you don’t have a formal degree, don’t fear! Many of the respondents with degrees don’t have a degree in their field—so it may not be of much value for their coding careers anyways.

Also, about one out of four don’t have a formal degree and still succeeds in their field! You certainly don’t need a degree if you’re committed to your own success!

Freelancing vs Employment Status

The percentage of freelance developers increases steadily. The fraction of freelance developers has already reached 11.21%!

This indicates that more and more work will be done in a more flexible work environment—and fewer and fewer companies and clients want to hire inflexible talent.

Here are the stats from the StackOverflow developer survey (source):

Do you want to become a professional freelance developer and earn some money on the side or as your primary source of income?

Resource: Check out our freelance developer course—it’s the best freelance developer course in the world with the highest student success rate in the industry!

Other Programming Languages Used by Professional Developers

The StackOverflow developer survey collected 58000 responses about the following question (source):

Which programming, scripting, and markup languages have you done extensive development work in over the past year, and which do you want to work in over the next year?

These are the languages you want to focus on when starting out as a coder:

And don’t worry—if you feel stuck or struggle with a nasty bug. We all go through it. Here’s what SO survey respondents and professional developers do when they’re stuck:

What do you do when you get stuck on a problem? Select all that apply. (source)

To get started with some of the fundamentals and industry concepts, feel free to check out these articles:

Where to Go From Here?

Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!

Coders get paid six figures and more because they can solve problems more effectively using machine intelligence and automation.

To become more successful in coding, solve more real problems for real people. That’s how you polish the skills you really need in practice. After all, what’s the use of learning theory that nobody ever needs?

You build high-value coding skills by working on practical coding projects!

Do you want to stop learning with toy projects and focus on practical code projects that earn you money and solve real problems for people?

🚀 If your answer is YES!, consider becoming a Python freelance developer! It’s the best way of approaching the task of improving your Python skills—even if you are a complete beginner.

If you just want to learn about the freelancing opportunity, feel free to watch my free webinar “How to Build Your High-Income Skill Python” and learn how I grew my coding business online and how you can, too—from the comfort of your own home.

Join the free webinar now!

References

[1] The figure was generated using the following code snippet:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np
import math

data = [89025,
        98965,
        105407,
        95314,
        74966,
        120000,
        92000,
        91589,
        110772,
        74821]

labels = ['Glassdoor.com',
          'ZipRecruiter.com',
          'Talent.com',
          'Indeed.com',
          'PayScale.com',
          'Hired.com',
          'Comparably.com',
          'Zippia.com',
          'BuiltIn.com',
          'Salary.com']

median = np.median(data)
average = np.average(data)
print(median, average)
n = len(data)

plt.plot(range(n), [median] * n, color='black', label='Median: $' + str(int(median)))
plt.plot(range(n), [average] * n, '--', color='red', label='Average: $' + str(int(average)))
plt.bar(range(len(data)), data)
plt.xticks(range(len(data)), labels, rotation='vertical', position = (0,0.45), color='white', weight='bold')
plt.ylabel('Average Income ($)')
plt.title('Test Automation Engineer Annual Income - by Finxter')
plt.legend()
plt.show()

The Art of Clean Code

Most software developers waste thousands of hours working with overly complex code. The eight core principles in The Art of Clean Coding will teach you how to write clear, maintainable code without compromising functionality. The book’s guiding principle is simplicity: reduce and simplify, then reinvest energy in the important parts to save you countless hours and ease the often onerous task of code maintenance.

  1. Concentrate on the important stuff with the 80/20 principle — focus on the 20% of your code that matters most
  2. Avoid coding in isolation: create a minimum viable product to get early feedback
  3. Write code cleanly and simply to eliminate clutter 
  4. Avoid premature optimization that risks over-complicating code 
  5. Balance your goals, capacity, and feedback to achieve the productive state of Flow
  6. Apply the Do One Thing Well philosophy to vastly improve functionality
  7. Design efficient user interfaces with the Less is More principle
  8. Tie your new skills together into one unifying principle: Focus

The Python-based The Art of Clean Coding is suitable for programmers at any level, with ideas presented in a language-agnostic manner.