Become Automation Test Engineer: 10 Tips From the Best Experts

A test automation engineer is an IT specialist who plays a critical role in the software development life cycle. It is a separate kind of software developers who specializes in quality assurance of digital solutions using automation test scripts. Throughout the work on a project, a QA automation tester (as such software engineers are often called) writes and supports test scenarios, creates test documentation, prepares reports on automation tests passed, and analyzes their results.

In this article, the leading testers from explain why this profession is so in demand on the market and how to start your journey in this direction. We have talked with the best specialists in the company and are ready to share their expert opinions with you. We are glad to present:

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Relevance of the Test Automation Profession in IT

Any software requires careful testing, regardless of its purpose and chosen development stack. In order for a software product to meet the needs of end users, everything must be tested before its release: from small code fragments and primary functions to the operation of the entire system.

As modern digital solutions become more and more complex, their manual testing ceases to be the best choice because it takes too much time and human resources. And here, test automation comes to the rescue: a testing approach that rejects manual labor testers in favor of fulfilling tests with the help of automation scripts.

Michael Bodnarchuk

The profession of an automation tester is in great demand because modern products are becoming larger, and it is very difficult to check them manually. Moreover, during manual testing, you miss some bugs due to the human factor. Automation of the testing process frees up a lot of time to find new problems and test new features.

Oleksandr Pelykh

Now the demand for automation test engineers, as well as for representatives of other IT professions, decreased a little. This is due to the global crisis, the reduction in top companies (Facebook, Google), the situation in Ukraine. In most cases, Middle experts are needed, then Senior, and QA leads even less. Junior specialists are almost never sought, and if they are sought, it is conducted through internal channels because such vacancies receive a lot of feedback that is difficult to process.

Considering the tendency to reject manual testing in favor of QA automation and, as a result, the relevance of the automation test engineer profession, the team has prepared for you 10 tips for building a successful career in test automation engineering.

#1: Prepare to Enter the Profession: Education and First Experience

There is a misconception that you can become a testing engineer in a few weeks. However, this is not true. Automated testing is a complex process requiring a specialist to have knowledge of software development, skills to work with test automation tools and experience in writing scripts. Our experts shared their opinions on where to get the appropriate education and first work experience.

Michael Bodnarchuk

“There are a lot of QA courses, so becoming a manual tester is easy. In addition, there are many services where you can get the first experience in testing. To start your career in automation testing, you must also complete programming courses. To gain experience, you can start with writing tests for some websites. I recommend online stores. Choose a tool and try to write code using chatGPT, simultaneously learning how to write automation scripts on your own”.

Vitaliy Mykhailiuk

“I think it’s worth getting a bachelor’s degree in the technical profession and understanding the intricacies of software development. First, learn the basics of some programming languages. You can think of Go, JavaScript, or Python. Then practice with modular, integration, and client tests. Then you need to learn the basics of test automation, select the technology stack (programming language and automation test framework), and start creating demo projects related to testing. All this allows you to understand in which direction to move.

As for experience, I recommend responding to crypto projects or trying yourself in an e-commerce startup. These are simple areas that, at the same time, can be quite interesting and educational.”

#2: Learn Progressive Programming Languages and Automation Frameworks

The popularity of programming languages ​​and automation frameworks based on them changes from year to year. For example, in the last year, testing engineers and developers began to actively use Python, while the popularity of Java decreased slightly. The same applies to testing tools. To be always in demand, a test automation engineer should follow current trends and constantly update their knowledge.

Oleksandr Pelykh

«When choosing a programming language to study, consider market peculiarities. Now half of the software is written in Java, followed by JavaScript, and followed by Python. However, the popularity of Java tends to fall, so if you look at the future, you should select JS.

For each language, there is a top framework that you can choose and start working on. Playwright For JS, Selenium and Pytest for Python, Selenium for Java.

Michael Bodnarchuk

«Now, in addition to the classic Selenium/WebDriver/Java stack, the Playwright/JavaScript/TypeScript stack is becoming popular. It contains advanced technologies for testing, so it is the most promising».

#3: Become a Certified Professional

Obtaining a certificate from specialized organizations, for example, ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board), will be an indisputable advantage for a beginner test engineer. This will confirm your qualifications and will be considered when hiring.

However, the opinions of Testomat experts are different regarding whether a certificate is necessary for a successful career in automation testing.

Vitaliy Mykhailiuk

“I got it and recommend it to everyone. First, to systematize your theoretical knowledge. Secondly, to understand where to go next. After receiving the first basic certificate, other related certificates are opened for a specialist. It is also useful to experience studying in European countries.”

Michael Bodnarchuk

“Those who want to move up the career ladder receive certificates. But this is not necessary. It depends on the conditions and requirements of the employing company. Perhaps someone finds it more important to raise programming skills rather than spend time on certification».

Oleksandr Pelykh

“Certification is not a necessary condition for a successful career, but it has an advantage: when you receive a certificate, you systematize your knowledge. That is, the main thing is not a certificate, but what a specialist goes through to obtain it. It is also worth considering the fact that a certificate imposes a certain responsibility on candidates: they must confirm their knowledge during the interview».

#4: Start With Manual Testing

To understand the fundamentals of testing, learn to determine where a bug is most likely to occur, and delve into the testing process, many experts recommend starting the journey of a test automation engineer from a manual tester career. To what extent this is justified, our experts said.

Michael Bodnarchuk

“This is the most obvious way, but it is quite difficult because a manual tester may struggle with programming. Therefore, it is easier to start your career as a programmer. In this case, you will have a simpler code. You will face fewer errors and understand how things work. It is optimal to approach the start of a career from two sides: you can start with manual testing and attend programming courses at the same time».

Vitaliy Mykhailiuk

“It’s more of a strange myth. After all, with understanding what and how to test, as well as the ability to read coding, you can immediately start working as an automation tester and improve your skills in this profession, rather than wasting time on manual testing».

Oleksandr Pelykh

“I believe that this is a justified tactic. There are two types of people: those who divide quality assurance specialists into manual testers / automators and those who do not divide. I belong to the second group. I do both testing types. And I am convinced that this is how it should be.”

#5: Advance in Software Development

At least a little experience in software development can help an aspiring professional build a successful career. It is much easier to test a digital product when a QA automation tester understands how it works. The speakers were unanimous on this point.

Michael Bodnarchuk

“Automation test engineer needs experience in software development at least to understand at what level what tests to perform. For example, if we are talking about primitive calculations, these are module tests; to test interaction with the interface, you need E2E testing. Besides, without understanding how the product works, the engineer cannot write a correct test.”

#6: Master the Main Types of Testing and Continuously Improve

Different practices and approaches are used in software testing. Existing tests may cover the system as a whole or its components, product functions, or product features. Naturally, it is not easy to be equally well versed in all this variety, so a test engineer, before starting their career, should understand what kind of tests they will have to face.

Michael Bodnarchuk

“The simplest tests are browser tests. I would always start with them because they are linear and correspond to the business logic of the user. Test testers should focus on high-correlated tests.”

Oleksandr Pelykh

“Automation engineers are more often involved in functional testing and less often in non-functional testing. Usually, they are expected to have experience in performance testing, but some test automation engineers deal only with it. There are also different criteria for dividing tests. For example, by levels: Unit tests are written by developers, and E2E tests are written by automation engineers.”

#7: Develop the Right Technical Skills

Before starting a career as an automation tester, it is important to understand what hard skills such a specialist should possess. In general, this is knowledge in software development: popular programming languages and automation tools, the principle of working with databases, the basics of client-server architecture, and CI\CD customization. Our experts told us more about what a good specialist should know.

Michael Bodnarchuk

“Automation test engineer should know a lot of things, but the most important thing is to be able to get into project details. First, the business logic of applications is required: what is needed to make a profit and what customers want. The second essential point is to understand where problems can arise. It is also mandatory to understand the technologies that will be best suited for writing specific tests. Other necessary knowledge and skills include frontend basics, React, server principles, etc.”

Oleksandr Pelykh

“It is believed that a Senior engineer should know at least two programming languages. Also, it should not be a problem for them to switch between automation frameworks because they need experience with several of them. Next, they should be able to configure CI\CD so that tests run automatically. It’s important to know performance testing, testing theory, client-server architecture, and how to work with databases.”

#8: Develop the Right Soft Skills

The work of an automation test engineer is, first of all, teamwork. By the nature of their work, such specialists must constantly communicate with developers, project managers, business analysts, and, in some companies, directly with the customer. That is why communication skills are considered the most important for QA engineers. An automation tester should also have time management skills, get out of difficult situations, strive to learn new things and improve themselves.

Michael Bodnarchuk

“The most important skill is the ability to communicate. A tester has to communicate with developers – ask them to explain how something works, etc. Situations where they will just write code can be counted on one hand. Even if it happens, it’s ineffective; the test cases will be disconnected from the software product. That’s why constant interaction with managers and programmers is crucial.”

Vitaliy Mykhailiuk

“A test automation engineer must be sociable, persevering, able to get to the bottom of the truth and identify the problem that prevents the software from working as it should. An analytical mindset is also essential.”

Oleksandr Pelykh

“QA has to communicate with BA, management, and developers, so they are not meant to be introverts. Developed communication skills are what a great test automation engineer must have.”

#9: Study the Responsibilities of an Automation Test Engineer and Check Your Compliance With the Requirements

To qualify for an automation test engineer position at a certain level – Junior, Middle, Senior, or Lead – a specialist should clearly understand what is required of a tester at each stage of their career. This will allow you to enhance your knowledge and skills before submitting your resume and apply only for jobs that match the specialist’s qualifications.

Michael Bodnarchuk

“The requirements for test automation engineers vary from company to company, but generally, they include maintaining automation tests, writing new test cases, and reducing regressions between releases through test automation. That is, such a specialist must ensure that all known scenarios of interaction between releases are executed as automated tests, making it possible to say that the product can be released. In other words, it’s their responsibility to maintain confidence in the release through automated tests.”

Oleksandr Pelykh

“The list of requirements for an automation test engineer depends on the position, company, and project. In general, they have to test, check functionality, find bugs, create bug reports, write test documentation (test plans, automation strategy, checklists, test cases), check the back-end, work with the database, perform performance testing, and participate in CI\CD setup. If we compare a manual developer and an automation engineer, the latter has a much wider list of responsibilities. In other words, if a manual worker becomes an automation engineer, they do not change their duties but expand them.”

#10: Don’t Expect Quick Career Growth

On the web, you often see advertisements for testing courses that promise to turn a Junior Specialist into a Quality Assurance Lead in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, this is just a marketing move; you should not count on such a fast career advancement. To become a good specialist, you need to constantly improve your knowledge and skills in software testing and development and work on gaining comprehensive experience. experts explained how long it takes for a novice automation engineer with no experience to become a leading QA tester.

Michael Bodnarchuk

“It depends on the type of personality, ability to interact with people, ability to learn. You can pass this way in 3 years, but you may not pass it in 10. Be proactive, study, and you will become a great specialist.”

Vitaliy Mykhailiuk

“It all depends on the candidate and the organization. In my practice, some applicants became QA leads at their previous jobs within a year just because they were more competent than their colleagues. However, this is an incorrect criterion for assessing the level of a specialist. As for me, you can learn the basics in any field in 3 years. And then it all depends on the individual.”

Oleksandr Pelykh

“It’s very individual. In the West, it takes 10-15 years to become a Senior specialist, while in Ukraine, you can become one in 3-5 years. Theoretically, you can focus on this period, but it depends on many factors, such as the experience you have gained. You should also understand that you can be a Senior in one company and a Middle in another. To determine your level, you need to look at the relevant vacancies and check your compliance with their requirements.”

Tatyana Khomenko

*A specialist with impressive experience in manual testing, summarized all of the above.

“As a manual tester, I cannot give advice about a successful career as a test automation engineer based on my experience. However, I often interact with such specialists in my work, so I would like to tell you how I see a good automation tester. In my mind, an ideal automation tester:

  • Understands what they are doing: knows the basics of programming, can write clean, understandable code, and understands how the software under test works.
  • They can maintain communication within the team: they communicate with colleagues, management, and stakeholders.
  • They constantly develop: they learn new technologies, tools, and approaches”.

Test management is a team of experienced professionals in manual and automated testing. Today, they share their recommendations for building a successful career as a test automation engineer while in their daily life, they work on ensuring high-quality software for their customers.