I’ve had a few conversations on twitter over the past few weeks about tester titles. My conclusion is that test titles are meaningless, but let’s look at why I think that, and why it doesn’t matter.
Let’s say you’ve been testing for eight years, given a conference presentation or two and wrote a bit about testing on a blog. You’re definitely experienced – given the turnover in test roles, some may even call you an “expert” – you may or not be an expert, but chances are you are at least above average in the testing skills department.
Now – your company just folded and you’re looking for a new job. You go to monster.com or dice.com and you search for “test’. You see a huge list of titles like:
- Test Engineer (and Test Engineer II, Test Engineer III, etc.)
- Quality Analyst
- Testing Analyst
- Automation Engineer
- Test Architect
- Test Automation Developer
- Test Manager
- Director of Test
- Senior Test Engineer
- many, many more…
OK – which one do you apply for? I’ll save you a bit of work and tell you that the job descriptions are mostly the same. I’ll give you some advice – if you’re in the job market, do not look for a job based on title – the titles don’t mean anything. With title being out of the picture, I’d suggest looking for companies and locations that interest you and applying for whatever test jobs they have available. Companies may be advertising for a “Test Engineer”, hoping to get someone with half a brain about testing, but would be delighted to have someone with experience. You may think, “How could I take a Test Engineer job when my qualifications dictate that I’m at least a Test Engineer III?” I’ll say it again – titles don’t matter. It’s what you do, and not what you’re called.
As a side note, I give this same advice to people changing jobs within Microsoft where we have standard titles to match career stage. If you find a product you want to work on, but you’re overqualified for the positions they have open, talk to them anyway. Most test managers I know are usually more than happy to up-level their team.
Now let’s fast forward. You have a new job, the work is challenging, and you’re kicking ass. Your job title is merely tester, and you’re worried that people will look down on you because you don’t have a more prestigious title like Senor Test Engineer, or Senior Software Quality Specialist, or Super Tester from Another Planet!.
One last time: in software testing, titles just don’t matter. Software testing is still a relatively new profession and definitions are still evolving for nearly every aspect of the profession. That’s ok (and expected). Focus on what you do (and on kicking ass), and you’ll be just fine.
Or – if consistent titles are that important to you, you can go get a job as a plumber or garbage man (ahem – sanitation engineer).