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What Are the Job Duties of a Test Engineer?

A test engineer's job duties include planning, designing, and evaluating products, as well as collaborating with production management. The test engineer makes sure that the finished product can be identified easily and tested thoroughly. Read on for a full test engineer job description and information on test engineer salaries.

What is a Test Engineer and What Does a Test Engineer Do?

Test engineering is the process of designing a product so it can be tested and making sure it is tested appropriately. When testing a computer or complex electronic assembly, this can be a difficult job. Testing requires three things:

  • Knowing the component or machine you are testing
  • Knowing which tests can provide the information you need
  • Running the test correctly and consistently

Professionals in this industry typically work as computer hardware or software test engineers, but there are roles available in myriad other fields, such as medical equipment or commercial transportation. While a bachelor's degree is typically required for this career (such as one in computer science), a master's or PhD may be valuable for certain test engineering positions. Individuals may also need a well-rounded knowledge of computer programming languages, such as Javascript or C++ to successfully debug any problematic software.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Required Education Bachelor's degree; a master's or doctorate may be needed for certain roles
Key Skills Problem solving, analytical, speaking, creativity, critical thinking
Median Salary (2019) $71,401*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 8% growth (for all engineers)**

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Preparing and Designing Products for Testing

The test engineer determines how each component is to be labeled and where the label is to be placed for readability. Sometimes there is an internal 'label' as well. This is a piece of code that identifies the component and gives its specifications. Also at this early design stage, a test engineer reviews the plans to make sure that access for testing does not require taking the machine apart. For example, if a computer test can be run through a serial port, the engineer would insist that a serial port was installed early and not covered with another part.

Choosing and Automating Tests

Depending on the component or machine being tested, dozens of tests can be run. A test engineer chooses the most appropriate test, modifying it to the specifications of the machine. Then, the engineer figures out how to automate the testing process. An automatic testing process is far more consistent than a human tester can be. Once properly programmed, the automated test is far more reliable. Minimizing variables that might affect a test is one of the test engineer's important job duties.

Product Follow-Up

The test engineer's duties are not over when the finished product leaves the building. Field data on failures or problems will come to her or his attention as consumers report bugs. New tests or more tests might have to be designed.

Salary Statistics

According to PayScale.com, salaries earned by most engineers in this field range from $54K to $101K per year, with the median reported as $71,401 as of August 2019. Entry-level test engineers earned an average of $65,000 per year during this time. Senior software engineers and test automation engineers are among the highest-paid roles in this industry.