How to Become a Test Engineer

The first step for becoming a test engineer is to determine if the work will suit your skills, traits, ambitions, and desired lifestyle (such as work-life balance, schedule, etc.).


Individuals who have a natural aptitude in mathematics and science, and enjoy working with computers and electronics are typically well suited for this work, as are individuals whom enjoy using their skills in engineering to identify and solve technical problems.


To work in this field, you must be comfortable working closely with other professionals, such as design engineers and managers, and sharing your opinions with them. You must also be willing to work a typical weekday schedule, which may involve work after hours to meet deadlines, and perform other duties as needed.


It's also critical to have the intellectual and emotional capacity needed to complete the rigorous educational requirements of becoming a test engineer.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a test engineer. We've also included helpful information for this occupation, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Required Education

You'll likely need to earn a bachelor’s of engineering degree related to the field in which you want to work. For example, if you want to become a software testing engineer, you will need a bachelor’s degree in software engineering.


Some employers, depending on factors such as the specific technology field they operate within, may require that you have a master’s degree in your chosen field in order to work as a test engineer. 





What is a Test Engineer?

A test engineer is an engineer that performs quality assurance testing on devices or products, including electronic equipment, computer components, software, automotive devices, and other products, to ensure they can handle the potential duress caused by typical usage, as well as to ensure that there are no flaws, bugs or errors hampering them. 


A test engineer is responsible for not only testing the quality of a product, but also must devise and develop tests that will assess the reliability of the product. These types of tests can include “burn in” testing, “highly accelerated life testing” (HALT), and a number of other forms of testing. 



General Job Description

As test engineers work in a specialized field of engineering, the job description of a test engineer varies based on the type of product they are testing, and what they purpose of the testing is. For example, the job description of a test engineer who works in software will vary from a test engineer that works in electronics.


In general, test engineers are responsible for designing, implementing and documenting quality assurance testing to ensure that products work efficiently and are able to withstand the rigors of use. They typically do so after the first version of a product has been created.


They must take detailed notes of their methods and their findings and prepare reports based on those findings, and share those reports with the development team and management. The reports they create help to improve the next version of the product, and ultimately, help it reach the market.



Typical Job Duties & Responsibilities

• Develop and document testing processes and procedures

• Liaise with design engineers, product development teams and marketing personnel

• Test technical and/or computer products and devices

• Report problems or failures identified during testing

• Make recommendations to product development team concerning improvements and solutions to problems



Where Do They Work?

Test engineers find jobs with organizations involved in developing, testing and selling a variety of products, including automotive, electronic, computer software/hardware and other products. They are also hired by third party organizations in order to conduct testing of these products.


Organizations that hire test engineers include:


• Companies that devise embedded software for inclusion in other products

• Companies that develop industrial instrumentation and process control products

• Consulting companies that provide software related services

• Manufacturing companies in a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace and others

• Oil, gas and other energy companies

• Mining companies

• Colleges and universities

• Public and private research institutions

• Software manufacturers

• Electronics manufacturers

• Internet based businesses

• Software marketing companies




Gaining Career Experience as a Student

It is important for any aspiring test engineer to gain in-field experience while they are still a student, as this will prove they can work effectively as an engineer, and help reduce the time needed to train them when they gain full-time employment. It will also help expose them to the work environment of a test engineer, and help them determine if this is the career field they want to be in.


Fortunately, accredited engineering programs in North America offer work-placement and internship opportunities as part of their curriculum.



Common Working Conditions

Work Hours: Test engineers usually work a normal, weekday working week. Overtime, including evenings, weekends and holidays, may be required in order to perform various tasks, or to complete a project before a deadline. Some employers may require their test engineers to work shift work, which involves working in cycles of morning, afternoon or night shifts.


Work Environment: These professionals are often members of teams when working on particular projects, and often work closely with design engineers. They may work in offices, laboratories, factories or outdoor settings; depending on what product they are working on.


Work Hazards: Test engineers may be exposed to hazards from equipment or toxic materials, although accidents are rare if proper safety procedures are followed. The intense concentration required for this job, and the pressure of deadlines can be stressful for test engineers.



Skills and Traits Needed

In order to become effective in a career as a test engineer, you need to posses a specific set of skills and certain personality traits. These skills and traits will not only allow you to perform your job duties with competence; they will also allow you to endure the challenges of this career.


• A natural aptitude and interest in mathematics and science

• Excellent written and communication skills

• Able to work well with other professionals, such as design engineers and managers

• Methodical approach to work

• Very detail oriented in work

• Able to follow methodical testing procedures, without taking shortcuts

• Good time and task management skills

• A commitment to product quality

• Be able to apply engineering knowledge to the development of new testing methods


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Test Engineer Salary

The salary level of test engineers can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, what sort of equipment they are testing, and many others.


There is no reliable salary information available specifically for the career Test Engineer, however we can get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the salary level of the closely related occupation of Software Engineer.


Test Engineer Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Software Engineers occupational group earned on average of between $31.77 and $66.71 per hour. The mean wage for this group is $42.61 per hour.


Test Engineer Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of workers in the Software Engineers and Designers occupational group is $72,202 per year.


Test Engineer Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Software Developers occupational group is $90,530 per year. 



Similar Career Guides in Our System

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Test Engineer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Electronics Engineer

Hardware Engineer

IT Analyst

Software Engineer

Software Testing Engineer

Technical Support Specialist




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Test Engineer.


Occupations in Alberta:Software Engineer.” (March 27, 2014). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Computer and Information Technology:Software Developers.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Job Descriptions:Software Test Engineer.” (n.d.). Compucert website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.



Helpful Scholarships for Becoming a Test Engineer

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for relevant university majors can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a Test Engineer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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