by Sarah K. White

What is an automation engineer? A growing role to address IT automation

Aug 04, 20238 mins

IT automation engineers help develop, test, and implement technologies aimed at automating business, IT, and development processes — a growing business imperative.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Automation has been a hot topic in the job market for several years now, with plenty of pros and cons surrounding both the idea of job creation and job loss. A study from Zippia found that automation has the potential to eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030, with 35% of Americans worried about automation displacing them and 25% of American jobs “highly susceptible” to automation. But automation is also predicted to create 58 million new jobs, with 85% of Americans supporting automation when it applies to jobs that are “dangerous or unhealthy for humans.”

Regardless of how people feel about automation, it’s here to stay, and companies are embracing automation technologies to streamline IT, business, development, and service processes. As automation increases, organizations across every industry are looking for automation engineers to help facilitate, manage, and oversee enterprise automation.

The automation engineer role

Automation has been a cornerstone of the manufacturing industry for decades, but it’s relatively new to the business, healthcare, and finance industries. Outside of manufacturing and factory automation, IT automation is typically focused on service automation and QA testing of automated processes. The goal of an automation engineer is to eliminate defects, errors, and problems with product or software development and with business or customer service processes.

Businesses are also increasingly embracing automated chatbots to help solve customer issues or to direct customers to the right person, and automation engineers help build, implement, and maintain that technology. Automation is also used to streamline IT help desk ticketing, service management and to deliver quality products and software faster, with fewer defects. Ultimately, the goal of an automation engineer is to reduce the load on workers and to improve efficiency and reliability by streamlining manual processes that are redundant or inconsistent.

What does an automation engineer do?

In IT, an automation engineer refers to someone who delivers automated solutions for software processes to improve efficiency, boost performance, and maintain systems. As a software automation engineer, you’ll have to work closely with other teams to help discover and eliminate problems by gathering requirements and implementing process automation. Sometimes this will include hardware or software, but other times you might be asked to automate service or business processes.

Responsibilities vary depending on the industry and specific company, but in general an automation engineer is expected to:

  • Identify opportunities for automation within software processes.
  • Design and execute QA tests using scripts that automatically test functionality.
  • Run tests for databases, systems, networks, applications, hardware, and software.
  • Identify bugs and quality issues in development, service, or business processes.
  • Install applications and databases relevant to automation.
  • Collaborate with other business units to understand how automation can improve workflow.
  • Gather requirements from clients, customers, or end-users to develop the best automation solutions.

Automation engineer salary

The most common IT automation engineering jobs fall under the role of QA engineer. According to data from Glassdoor, the average salary for QA automation engineers — and similar job titles — is $100,523 per year. Senior QA automation engineers reportedly earn an average salary of $136,927 per year.

What does it take to be an automation engineer?

As an automation engineer, you’ll need a wide range of technical skills and soft skills. You will need to understand the systems, networks, hardware, and software you’re working with, but you also need the skills to communicate and collaborate with other business units, clients, or customers.

The job requires programming skills in languages such as C#, SQL, and Java, but the languages and tools you’ll need to know will vary by industry. You’ll also need a working knowledge of mobile, web, and desktop operating systems as well as experience with analytics, robotics, AI and machine learning. Leadership skills will also be important, as you will need to lead cross-departmental efforts to help streamline business processes.

Some of the most common skills for an automation engineer include:

  • Automation and robotics
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Programming and coding experience
  • Project management
  • Agile, cloud, and DevOps
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Communication and leadership skills
  • Experience in computer science or engineering

How to become an automation engineer

You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a similar field to become an automation engineer. You’ll want a program that includes courses on robotics, databases, statistics, AI, control systems, and artificial neural networks (ANN). Depending on the role, some employers will also want a master’s degree and experience with manual and automated testing procedures.

Automation jobs often combine engineering, science, and IT but the skills you need will vary by industry. You’ll want to look at different job descriptions for automation engineers in different industries to get a better sense of the skills, tools, and education relevant to those industries.

Types of automation engineers

While QA automation engineer is the most common IT automation job title, there are several other job titles that fall under the same category, including those aimed at building and developing services and solutions to bring automation into the workplace. Some positions focus on the cloud, while other jobs focus on automating with specific tools or services available on the market.

The roles and responsibilities fluctuate with each job description, and there are several different career avenues available for an automation engineer. According to PayScale these include:

  • Automation design engineer
  • Automation systems engineer
  • Automation specialist
  • Selenium automation engineer
  • Software QA automation engineer
  • Cloud automation engineer
  • End-to-end automation engineer
  • Test automation engineer

Automation tools

The most commonly used software for automation engineering is automated testing software. These tools help businesses automate alerts, integrate QA processes, and test automation processes in the organization. They can also help solve automation problems, deliver reports, and automate the QA testing process.

According to data from Capterra, the highest rated automation testing software tools include:

  • Picreel
  • DevSkiller TalentSCore
  • WebCEO
  • Subject7
  • Codemagic
  • Accelq
  • Escala
  • ProdPerfect
  • Rainforest

Automation certifications

Automation is a relatively new field, but certifications are emerging to help you validate your automation skills. You’ll want a well-rounded technical background in IT, and there may be certifications that are industry-related, but there are several automation-specific certifications you can earn: 

  • ISA Certified Automation Professional (CAP)
  • ISA Certified Control Systems Technician (CCST)
  • IIST Certified Software Test Automation Specialist (CSTAS)
  • IIST Certified Software Test Automation Architect (CSTAA)
  • ISA Control Systems Engineer (CSE) Licensing
  • ISTQB Certified Tester Advanced Level, Test Automation Engineer (CTAL-TAE)
  • ISTQB Advanced Level Security Tester Certification Exam
  • ISTQB Agile Tester Certification
  • ISTQB Test Automation Engineer Certification (ITSQB)
  • QAI Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST)
  • QAI Quality Assurance Institute Certified Software Tester (CSTE)
  • QAI Certified Manager of Software Testing (CMST)

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