Who is a test automation engineer and how to become one?

During the last decade, the field of test automation evolved by leaps and bounds. Vendors have introduced new tools, developers created new open-source solutions, and testers have been inundated with a wide range of products for automation testing. 

This is why the role of a test automation engineer has become so popular in the tech industry. If you’re wondering what this job is all about and how to become a test automation engineer, this article is for you. 

In what follows, we zoom in on the field of automation testing, discuss whether becoming a test automation engineer is a smart career move today, and then show you how to do it. 


What is test automation? 


Test automation (or automation testing) means that a team uses an automation tool to execute the test case suite. The goal of test automation is reducing the number of test cases that need to be run manually – however, it doesn’t remove the need for manual testing altogether.

Manual testing is carried out by human testers who sit in front of the computer and carefully execute all of the test steps in order to test an application or system. Contrary to manual testing, automation testing is performed by a machine.

Automation testing involves automation software that can also enter test data into the system under testing, compare the expected to the actual results, and generate detailed test reports. 

While test automation requires a considerable upfront investment, it offers organizations a lot of value and ROI in the long run. That’s because the success of development cycles usually requires carrying out the same test suite repeatedly. By using a test automation tool, teams can record tests as frequently as required. Once a given test suite is automated, no human intervention will ever be needed to run it. That’s how test automation improves the ROI of the testing process. 


Which test cases do development teams automate? 


Most of the time, teams automate test cases that are high risk, that tend to be repeatedly executed, and ones that are tedious, difficult, or time-consuming to perform manually. 

It doesn’t make sense to automate test cases that have been newly designed and not executed manually at least ones, test cases where the requirements are changing very often, and ones that are executed on an ad hoc basis. 


Benefits of automated testing


  • – Manual testing of all workflows, scenarios, and fields is time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, it is difficult to test multilingual sites manually. 
  • – Automated testing helps here and doesn’t require any human intervention. For example, it’s possible to run automated tests unattended (overnight). 
  • – Automation boosts the speed of test execution and helps to increase test coverage, ultimately leading teams to build software of better quality. 
  • – Moreover, manual testing can often become boring and error-prone. These problems are eliminated with the introduction of test automation.



Is becoming a test automation engineer a smart career move?


There’s no denying that the profusion of test automation software means that automated testing has become a much simpler task. It might seem that a manual tester with adequate business knowledge could pick up automation at any time. However, the market expectations from an automation expert are actually at a much higher level. 

Basically, anyone can execute the test automation scripts created by an expert. But creating these scripts is an altogether different story. It requires different skills and more technical knowledge – and these cannot be easily acquired by a manual tester in a matter of a week or two. 

Today, test automation engineers are expected to provide teams with an overall automation strategy for the entire application or product lifecycle. It’s not a question of only automating the finalized test cases or scenarios; it’s a much more holistic approach to testing. 

Test automation engineers are also responsible for identifying the right set of tools for every stage of the development lifecycle and creating a seamless integration strategy that is also cost-effective. No organization today wants to wait for six or eight cycles to get its return on investment. 

Apart from all of this, test automation experts are expected to define and develop utilities to reduce the redundant manual testing work and the work that goes into generating test data. All in all, test automation engineers are going to remain strong technical professionals, and the career path is bound to offer a lot of opportunities in the future.


How to become a test automation engineer


1. Learn the basics of testing really well

Since automation testing is still a branch of testing, you need to create a strong foundation of knowledge about testing as a field. Automation testing is just a form of testing that adopts a more technical approach to the process. However, if you want to be a successful test automation engineer, you need to have a clear understanding of what you’re testing and why you are testing it. It’s all about the WHAT at this point is not the HOW.


2. Get started as early as possible

You might be waiting for an automation project to come your way to start working on your skills. But you can begin to polish your skill set much earlier – on the open-source tools that are available free of charge. Install one of the tools on your personal computer and give it a try. You can use generic applications such as Gmail, Amazon, or even Microsoft Office. Anything is good material for testing.


3. Learn basic coding concepts

In order to become a successful test automation engineer, you simply need to get some coding skills. It’s not that you will be writing a lot of code yourself, but a firm knowledge of the basic coding concepts in any language of your choice will be very useful down the line. 

This is a good moment to consider which basics of programming languages you need to learn. For example, for VB Scripting you should learn the data types, how variables are handled, conditional statements, different operators, loop statements, functions, arrays, and many others. 

Once you understand all of these concepts, you will be able to easily extrapolate your knowledge to any programming language. Take at least a week or two to familiarize yourself with them; it’s definitely worth your time and energy.


4. Don’t forget about manual testing

Many companies are moving to codeless automated testing tools. But to keep up with the competition of other automation test engineers on the market, it’s critical that you focus on building your manual testing skills at the beginning. 

For example, you can attend a remote course that offers the foundation knowledge about manual testing and familiarizes you with the basic concepts behind testing. It will help you understand the difference between manual and automated testing as well. During such a course, you will also get the essential coding skills.  


5. Learn how to code

To become a great automation testing engineer for a long-lasting career in the tech industry, you need to be proficient with manual testing. If you’re completely new to the testing field, you will need to have some knowledge of programming languages like C, Java, Python, SQL, Perl, HTML, CSS, or XML. 

Coding is just one side of the coin. The other is the technical skills that you need to become a great automation testing engineer: 

  • – test design, 
  • – performance testing, 
  • – test architecture, 
  • – configuration management, 
  • – troubleshooting, 
  • – communication between teams, 
  • – manual testing agility and interaction, 
  • – continuous delivery, agile, and DevOps.


6. Learn how to understand applications

An automation testing engineer needs to have a full comprehension of the software application under test, inside and out. Here are some of the questions you should be able to answer when testing an application:

  • – What were the programming languages used to develop the application? 
  • – Which platform is the application built on? 
  • – Which databases does it involve? 
  • – Are there any APIs or web services connected to different parts of the system? And if so, how? 
  • – What is the objective of the main stakeholders in developing the application? 
  • – What are the features and functionalities expected from the application? 
  • – Has manual testing been executed already? How many manual hours have been spent on testing the application? 
  • – Are there any unresolved bugs or other serious issues? 
  • – What is the expected delivery date of the application? 

These are just a few points, and they might vary based on the complexity of the application at hand. That’s why a test automation engineer needs to have full knowledge about the applications they are about to test with automation tools.


7. Try your hand at automation testing tools 

The majority of companies in the tech industry are already using test automation tools. The main reason behind that is the benefits they bring to companies. 

That’s why it’s critical that you start experimenting with the leading test automation tools available on the market. By doing that, you will learn more about their environment, architecture, and relevance for the application under test. 

Having experience with these tools will help you to decide which one of them fulfills your automation testing needs in a given situation. This is a key step you should take to further your career in testing.


8. Become familiar with the ATLC methodology

ATLC stands for the automation testing lifecycle. Just like you follow the lifecycle of software development, you can decipher automation testing. 

In order to follow the ATLC principles, you need experience in areas such as:

  • – test automation tools, 
  • – the automation testing process, 
  • – decision-making in automated testing, 
  • – test planning, design, and development, 
  • – test script execution and management, 
  • – assessment and review of test programs. 

When facing a test automation requirement, and engineer usually makes the decision to create automated test scripts, acquire a test automation tool, introduce the process of automating testing, engage in test planning, design, and development, later on, execution management, and finally program review and assessment.


9. Learn how to create a test automation strategy

Once you learn the ins and outs of the ATLC methodology and get a firm grip on testing tools, you’re ready to create your first test automation strategy. To further your career, you need to be the one who initiates the preparation of that strategy, finalizes the tool, and draws the overall cost and ROI calculation. 

Creating an automation strategy is a critical part of your role because it helps to reduce the manual testing hours and offers excellent ROI to organizations that invest in automated testing.


10. Keep with the latest testing trends

Stay updated and keep a close eye on the latest trends in software testing and test automation. It’s not only about tools but also techniques and best practices that help professionals to achieve success in crafting test automation strategies.




Launching a career in test automation is an exciting move because talented engineers can get high up in the ranks and gain a lot of appreciation for their work. And you can be sure that businesses are going to invest in test automation as they build up increasingly complex applications and systems. This role definitely has a bright future in front of it.

If you would like to learn more about building a career in the tech industry, keep a close eye on our blog, where our experts share their insights to help you succeed and grow.