Automation Engineer: What They Do, Skills, Salary, and How to Hire

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Rafael Timbó
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Rafael Timbó
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Chief Technology Officer
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Learn more about how an automation engineer can help your software development process, their skills, their salary, and how to hire one today.
Published on
March 7, 2023
Updated on
April 11, 2024

If you're interested in automating your software development process, consider hiring a software automation engineer. These experts can work with other teams to eliminate blockers in your workflows and implement process automation. They can design entirely new automation systems or change existing technology so that it requires less human interaction.

Read our guide to learn more about automation engineers, what they do, and how you can hire one. We'll also share tips for writing compelling job descriptions and interview questions.

What Is an Automation Engineer?

Also known as a test and quality assurance (QA) automation engineer, an automation engineer is an information technology (IT) professional who boosts the efficiency of various computer systems by automating parts to work on their own. They also monitor the performance of the updates they make. Depending on your needs, they may even create new systems to automate your system.

Most automation engineers are software engineers who automate processes through programming languages. However, some are traditional automation engineers who work primarily with physical machines.

This guide will focus on software automation engineers, so "automation engineer" will refer to software automation engineers unless otherwise specified.

Automation Engineer Salary

Test automation engineers' salaries depend on experience. Professionals with more experience and skills have higher salaries.

Junior Automation Engineer Salary and Skills

Junior automation engineers have under three years of experience.

Because they have limited experience in the industry, they have lower salaries. According to Glassdoor, the average U.S.-based test and QA automation engineer earns $90,541 per year with additional cash compensation averaging $6,427.

Most companies expect junior automation engineers to have the following skills:

  • Zero to two years of programming experience with languages like Python and Java
  • Some experience working in an Agile or Waterfall development environment
  • Some experience developing test scripts
  • An eye for detail
  • Robust teamwork skills

Senior Automation Engineer Salary and Skills

Senior automation engineers have over three years of professional experience. As such, they have much higher salaries than their junior colleagues. According to Glassdoor, the average U.S.-based senior automation engineer earns $117,896 per year with additional cash compensation averaging $11,622.

Most senior automation engineers are expected to have the following skills:

  • Fluent in coding languages like JavaScript and Python
  • At least two years of experience using testing tools like Selenium and Appium
  • Experience with mobile and web testing
  • The ability to spot, analyze, report, and record defects, inconsistencies, and questionable functions in products during each stage of the software development lifecycle (SDLC)
  • Deep understanding of QA methodologies
  • Solid hands-on experience developing test scripts for performance, functional, and regression testing
  • Experience with Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD)
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Proven experience with testing in an Agile or Waterfall development environment

What Does an Automation Engineer Do?

Test and QA automation engineers' duties vary depending on their company, but most companies require them to:

  • Identify new automation opportunities
  • Collaborate with engineering teams to plan and create automation systems
  • Simulate and test new automation processes and equipment
  • Write and execute QA tests with scripts that automatically test functionality
  • Establish QA and monitoring protocols
  • Oversee the QA process
  • Lead, train, and manage teams to implement changes
  • Troubleshoot errors and defects in automation technology
  • Make connections between information inputs and outputs
  • Improve efficiency for manual business processes
  • Develop and maintain clear documentation of automation processes and equipment

They use the following tools to perform their duties:

  • Computers: Test and QA engineers use computers to start, manage, and oversee automation for digital and physical systems.
  • Coding languages: Automation engineers use languages like C# and Python to write programs that automate systems and software. Some traditional automation engineers may also use programming languages to create programs to monitor physical systems.
  • Control: Control refers to systems that take information from the input and give instructions to the output based on the engineers' requirements.
  • Actuators: Also known as outputs, actuators perform an action when the control instructs it. Examples include physical devices like rotors and pistons and software systems that output data, such as robot control systems and printer drivers.
  • Measurement sensors: Automation engineers use software measurement sensors to measure input that is sent to control.
  • Automated testing software: Automation engineers use this software to check their systems for errors and defects that could affect workflow.

How To Find a Software Automation Engineer

Hiring skilled test and QA automation software engineers offers many benefits. The right picks can work with your existing staff to create, maintain, and manage automation for company systems. They can also establish QA protocols, oversee the QA process, and lead and train teams.

However, locating the right software automation expert can be difficult, especially if you've never hired one before. Use our list of top software automation engineering skills to help you find top-notch candidates.

Automation Engineer Hard Skills

The best test automation engineer for your team should have the following hard or technical skills:

Programming Skills

Robust programming skills are a must for every software automation engineer. Without fluency in multiple languages, your hire won't be able to create or refine automation systems.

Here are some languages to look for in automation engineer resumes and cover letters:

  • Python: An object-oriented, interpreted language with dynamic semantics, Python has tons of automation libraries. It also has Pytest, one of the best test frameworks in any language. Pytest can handle any functional test, including end-to-end, integration, and unit tests.
  • Java: Another great choice for testing, Java is compatible with testing tools like Mockito, JUnit, Cucumber, Selenium, and Spock Framework.
  • C#: Many automation engineers use C# to write test scripts in Visual Studio, an integrated development environment (IDE) that provides powerful features like debugging, code-completion aids, and basic refractors.
  • JavaScript: Not to be confused with Java, JavaScript is a popular scripting language for web development. Engineers can use JavaScript to automate tests through Selenium and other testing tools.

Mechanical Knowledge

Unlike traditional automation engineers, software automation engineers don't need to have in-depth technical knowledge.

However, you may want to hire an automation engineer with mechanical skills if your business uses complex machinery. Technical knowledge will help your hire automate your systems in a more efficient manner. They can also work with other team members to maintain the machines and troubleshoot errors as they occur.

Knowing When To Use Different Tests

Your automation engineering hire should also know when to use certain types of tests. They should know:

  • When manual testing is preferred over automation
  • When automation is a better choice than manual testing
  • When to use different testing framework techniques, including modular, data-driven, and keyword-driven testing techniques
  • How to apply tests to different project management methodologies, such as Agile and Waterfall

Experience With Testing Tools

The ideal hire must know how to use testing tools to run and manage tests. Here are the top testing tools to look for:

  • Katalon Studio: A scalable and low-code automation testing tool for desktop, web, API, and mobile apps, Katalon Studio offers testing reporting and a Smart Debugging user interface (UI) to troubleshoot failures quickly. It also offers native integrations with hot CI/CD and application lifecycle management (ALM) tools.
  • Appium: An open-source automation testing tool for mobile applications, Appium allows engineers to create automated UI tests for hybrid, native, and web-based Android and iOS apps. It supports JavaScript, Java, C#, Python, Perl, Ruby, and PHP.
  • Selenium: One of the hottest open-source frameworks for web testing automation, Selenium includes Selenium WebDriver, Selenium IDE, and Selenium Grid. It supports a wide range of languages, including Java, Python, C#, Ruby, JavaScript, and PHP.
  • Apache JMeter: Apache JMeter is designed for automated performance testing. It features test execution in both CLI and GUI modes, a user-friendly UI, test plan creation with recording features, and support for various protocols, servers, and applications.

Experience With Different Project Methodologies

Last but not least, an experienced automation engineer should have real-life experience with at least one of the following project management methodologies:

Waterfall

A linear project management methodology, Waterfall breaks a project into distinct stages, with each stage starting only after the previous one has been completed. Waterfall teams can't revisit previous steps without starting from scratch.

Agile

Agile is a group of iterative development methodologies, where requirements and solutions evolve with each iteration. Unlike Waterfall, Agile delivers work in small increments called "sprints," encouraging rapid customer feedback throughout the SDLC. Well-known Agile methodologies include:

  • Scrum: Scrum is a lightweight framework for Agile development that's widely used in software engineering. It has specific practices and concepts, such as Time Boxes, Artifacts, and Roles. It's most often used to manage complex product and software development.
  • Lean: Lean is an Agile methodology that improves efficiency by eliminating waste. It identifies three types of waste:
  • Muri, which is the overuse of equipment or employees
  • Muda, which are activities that use resources without generating additional value
  • Mura, which is operational "unevenness" that lowers efficiency and productivity in the long run
  • Kanban: Japanese for "sign," Kanban is an Agile method for defining, improving, and managing the SDLC. It helps teams visualize work, improve continuously, and maximize efficiency. Team leads use Kanban boards to handle complex projects and optimize work across multiple teams.

Automation Engineer Soft Skills

Besides well-honed technical skills, the ideal automation engineering expert should also have first-class soft skills, like the ability to innovate, leadership skills, and flexibility. Pay close attention to these skills — without them, your hire will find it difficult to perform many of their duties.

Innovation

The best test and QA automation engineer for your team constantly looks for new opportunities to upgrade your automated systems. They can do this by:

  • Networking with like-minded peers
  • Subscribing to vloggers and influencers in the automation industry
  • Researching new trends to improve plans
  • Learning new technologies and programming languages

Leadership Skills

Automation engineers should also have strong leadership skills. They should know how to lead and manage the following:

  • Engineering
  • QA
  • Software developers
  • UI/user experience (UX) designers
  • Marketing
  • Team leads from across the organization

To lead well, your hire should be open-minded and willing to see problems from other perspectives. They should also know:

  • When to listen and speak
  • How to give and receive constructive criticism
  • How to empathize with others
  • How to find multiple solutions for problems

Flexibility

Software automation engineers use science as the foundation for their automation scripts, but that doesn't mean they can't be flexible. Although it's important to follow established procedures, a skilled automation engineer should know when and how to change procedures to meet clients' needs. They should also be creative with how they implement their automation systems.

Patience

Your hire should also be patient — that is, they should have the ability to step back from a situation to assess it. They must be able to:

  • Accept delays in a range of situations, rather than trying to force the issue
  • Avoid negative emotions associated with waiting, such as restlessness and anger
  • Remain calm in the face of difficulty

Written Communication Skills

Your chosen test automation engineer must have strong written communication skills.

Besides knowing how to communicate efficiently and effectively through email, SMS, and other written formats, they need to know how to create documentation and reports that tell internal and external stakeholders what the automation systems are doing and how they will be used.

Comprehensive documentation and reports ensure that:

  • Stakeholders know what the systems are for and how to use them
  • Future automation engineers can maintain, fix, or change the systems successfully

Oral Communication Skills

Besides writing skills, your hire should also have impressive oral communication skills. Specifically, they should know how to:

  • Communicate with a wide range of stakeholders, including marketing, C-suite executives, non-technical staff, and clients
  • Explain engineering concepts to non-technical staff when needed
  • Give clear instructions and directions to teammates
  • Deliver and explain information from the clients

How To Hire a Software Automation Engineer

Now that you know what kinds of skills you should look for, you can start recruiting test automation engineers. Follow these steps to get started:

1. Choose a Place for Hiring Software Automation Engineers

First, choose a place to recruit software automation engineers. Here are some places for sourcing the best picks for your team:

Job Sites

Most companies choose to hire through job sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, which have state-of-the-art tools for locating and onboarding talent.

For example, LinkedIn is home to LinkedIn Recruiter, a comprehensive hiring platform that helps employers find, connect with, and manage professionals. It provides:

  • Advanced search filters
  • Insights on over 740 million LinkedIn members
  • Recommended matches
  • The ability to send bulk messages to candidates
  • The ability to track and manage talent pipelines via collaboration and analytics tools

Similarly, Indeed for Employers lets you:

  • Sponsor your job ad so it'll be seen by the right people
  • View and sort resumes
  • Schedule interviews
  • Add assessments and screener questions to test applicants' skills

Online Communities

Online communities like Reddit are also great places to source and onboard talent. All you have to do is:

  1. Make an account on the site.
  2. Use keywords and hashtags to locate popular automation engineering topics.
  3. Make a list of users with insightful answers.
  4. Check each user's browsing history to see if they have the personality, skills, and experience you want.
  5. Message the best picks for your team and ask them if they're interested in your position.

Talent Marketplaces

As you can see, sourcing talent through job sites and online communities requires a lot of time and patience. If you don't have the time to test and vet candidates manually, consider partnering with a tech talent marketplace.

Talent marketplaces already have pre-vetted automation engineers. Accordingly, all you have to do is reach out and tell the talent marketplace about your needs. They will send you a list of hand-picked candidates in a few days.

2. Write a Comprehensive Software Automation Engineer Job Ad

If you decide to hire through online communities and other methods that require marketing, you need a comprehensive software automation engineer job description to attract top-notch talent.

Here's what your job ad could look like:

Remote Senior Software Automation Engineer — Revelo

We're looking for a Remote Senior Software Automation Engineer. This role is open to professionals in the following time zones:

  • Eastern Standard Time (EST)
  • Mountain Standard Time (MST)
  • Central Standard Time (CST)
  • Pacific Standard Time (PST)

Company Bio:

Revelo is Latin America's premier tech talent marketplace. We match the top 1% of Latin America's IT personnel with startups around the world. Check out our website to learn more.

Duties:

  • Create, improve, executive, and maintain automation scripts using JavaScript through the following automation frameworks: Appium, Cucumber, Cypress, and Webdriver.io
  • Monitor test results for quick feedback
  • Advocate and encourage good testing practices, such as Test-Driven Development (TDD), code reviews, Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), Continuous Delivery (CD), and Continuous Integration (CI)
  • Proven experience leading and managing Agile projects
  • Conduct manual testing as required
  • Conduct and lead testing sessions with QA
  • Create clean, comprehensive, and concise test plans and other QA documentation
  • Troubleshoot and debug defects to help developers address issues efficiently
  • Document and track defects and bugs according to our standards
  • Participate in daily Scrum meetings
  • Proactively improve processes and methodologies
  • Collaborate with product managers, UI/UX designers, and developers
  • Work autonomously with limited supervision
  • Exhibit ownership and responsibility for results

Required Skills:

  • Over three years of experience in a similar role
  • Extensive experience creating and managing test automation scripts in JavaScript and Python
  • Experience in iOS, Android, desktop, cross-browser, and UI/UX testing
  • Over two years of experience providing mentorship to junior devs, testers, and engineers
  • Deep understanding of software QA methodologies, processes, and tools
  • Ability to multi-task and work on multiple projects at the same time
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Incredibly meticulous and patient
  • Proven experience running and leading Agile/Scrum teams

Compensation and Benefits:

  • Competitive salary of $100,000 to $110,000 depending on experience
  • Parental leave
  • Wellness program
  • Four weeks of vacation
  • Dental and health insurance

Schedule:

  • 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Monday to Friday

3. Create Engaging Software Automation Engineer Questions

After posting your job description, you should get thousands of applications. Go through each resume and make a list of candidates to interview.

If you don't have time to read every resume, consider using applicant tracking software (ATS) like Oracle Taleo. According to Jobscan, 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies use them to speed up the hiring process. Most companies that didn't use ATS were parent or holding companies.

Once you have a list of candidates, it's time to make interview questions. Beyond technical questions like, "What are the steps of the automation process?" you need to ask more personalized questions that reveal whether your candidate is a good fit for your startup. Here are some examples:

  • How do you create automated tests for software?
  • Which automation testing tools are you familiar with?
  • Which is your favorite automation tool? Why?
  • Which is your least favorite automation tool and why?
  • How do you pick the best automation tool for a project?
  • How do you determine whether something should be automated? What factors do you consider?
  • What tests shouldn't be automated and why?
  • Have you mentored junior engineers and developers before? How comfortable are you with being a mentor?
  • How would you rate your leadership skills?
  • What is your favorite programming language and why?
  • Tell us some good coding practices for automation.
  • How do you approach UI testing? Should testing only be limited to the UI layer?
  • When do you prefer manual testing over automation testing?
  • When is automation useful in Agile? How about Waterfall?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What was the proudest moment in your career?
  • How do you give and receive constructive feedback?

Start Hiring Automation Engineers With Revelo

Most companies recruit automation engineers through job sites like Indeed and LinkedIn. While these sites feature powerful tools for locating talent, they require you to vet and test applicants manually. Depending on the size of your talent pipeline, that can take weeks or even months.

Luckily, there's Revelo. As Latin America's premier tech talent marketplace, we can help you speed up the hiring process. All of our automation experts have been rigorously pre-vetted for their skills, experience, and English proficiency, so you don't have to.

Contact Revelo today to learn how to hire automation engineers.

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