There are different job titles that can be given to software testers that reflect experience, seniority or office. The benefits of assigning these titles to testers are to:
- Recognise and instil a sense of achievement
- Make it easy to identify someone’s role and responsibilities within an organisation, which may confer different policies, procedures or privileges
- Make it easy to identify experienced or capable people who can help or support less senior testers
- Change perceptions of how testers are viewed (Hynie, 2015)
The following list offers a guide to different job titles for software testers, including what they mean, how they differentiate from each other and how they can be structurally organised. The titles are split between two parallel career paths, individual contributors (actual testers) and administrative officers (test managers) each with their own titles of increasing, but equal, responsibility, seniority and pay. The opens up promotions into leadership positions for testers other than management, although the two paths will work closely together at the same level (Page, Johnston & Rollison, 2008), (McKay, 2007a), (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986), (SFIA, 2001).
As individual contributors rise in seniority they acquire broader knowledge and expertise across many specialities and areas, including management, meaning many seniors can switch between the two paths as necessary. This also means that any switch between the two paths is considered a lateral move and not a promotion. As administrative officers rise in seniority they apply more focus, growth and training on general management with larger teams, projects and programmes, so the two paths increasingly diverge. Beyond test architect and director of test are distinguished engineers or technical fellows and vice presidents of engineering and chief technology officers respectively (Page, Johnston & Rollison, 2008), (McKay, 2007b).
Despite being equal in seniority to those on the administrative office path, individual contributors are always accountable to administrative officers as their line managers and not other senior individual contributors. Only the largest organisations typically have the most senior testing titles, while other organisations merge individual contributors together into cross-functional delivery teams headed by engineering or team leads, engineering or project managers, and directors of engineering or programme managers respectively.
List of Titles
|Level||Dreyfus / SFIA
|5||Expert / Initiate, influence||Test Architect
A testing and quality thought-leader, problem-solver and visionary that advances the testing profession across the organisation. Researches new types of risks can affect customers in many new and important ways. Researches new approaches, heuristics and automation tools, and drives implementation across the organisation. Works with senior managers and other engineers to create high-level policies, procedures and strategies for improving testing.
|Director of Test
Supervises multiple testing departments and managers across large organisations of multiple projects. Can identify and prevent conflicts or issues between people before they arise, including other managers, can make large organisation-impacting decisions and delegate major business operations. Works with senior management and contributors to help create and sign-off on high-level test strategies, policies, processes and implementation. May be an assistant vice president specialising in testing for a vice president of engineering.
|4||Proficient / Ensure, advise||Principal Tester
Redefines meaning and understanding of what testing and quality are. Knows many approaches, heuristics and tools and can create new ones to solve new problems in testing. Identifies and prioritises new types of risk and bugs based on deep evaluation of project context. Identifies and influences creation of new ideas for automation tools in testing and better ways to do test planning, design, execution, reporting and review meetings, and drives implementation across the organisation.
Heads up a testing department of testers working on multiple projects or specialisms in medium-to-large organisations and supervises team leads. Can identify and swiftly resolve conflicts as they arise, make medium-risk project-impacting judgement calls and delegate major projects. Helps create and sign-off on testing processes and improvements, and can interpret metrics and act upon them. May be an assistant director specialising in testing for a program or director of engineering.
|3||Competent / Enable||Senior Tester
Can easily explain meaning of testing and quality through own experience. Knows many approaches, heuristics and tools across many specialities, can apply them context appropriately and explain why. Can identify and prioritise many different risks to find deep, complex or hidden bugs. Can identify, use and create automated tools to help with many different testing tasks. Can lead in test planning, design, execution, reporting and review meetings for large projects.
Supervises testers in a single project or specialism team. Mediates simple disputes, gets consensus between team members, make low-risk judgement decisions and delegate simple tasks. Contributes to testing process improvements and gathers simple metrics. Assists with hiring, firing, appraisals, career development and disciplinary matters for testers. May be an assistant manager specialising in testing for a project or engineering manager.
|2||Advanced Beginner / Apply||Tester
Demonstrates understanding and purpose of testing and quality. Knows broader range of approaches, heuristics and tools, and can apply them context appropriately. Can think in terms of broader risk to find a wider range of different bugs. Can identify, use or create automation tools that follow familiar patterns. Can do test planning, design, execution, reporting and review meetings under broad direction.
|1||Novice / Assist||Associate Tester
Can recite the definitions of testing and quality. Knows commonly used approaches, heuristics and tools but needs help applying them context appropriately. Can identify basic risks from a list of common problems to find simple, obvious bugs. Can use or create basic automation tools under direction. Can contribute to test planning, design, execution, reporting and review meetings.
Studies what is testing and quality under tuition. Learns what approaches and tools testers use and can list examples. Studies programming to create automation tools. Works with other testers to learn planning, design, execution, reporting and review meetings.
Developer-in-test is an alternative title for individual contributors who’s main responsibility is developing automation tools for testing, so are developers rather than testers. Otherwise, the titles of seniority would be the same.
Head of Testing: The most senior testing administrative officer in an organisation that’s either a lead, manager or director depending on organisation size.
Test Coach: Specialist role created to solve specific testing problems similar to an agile or quality coach. A common example in agile transformation is agile test coach who specialises in agile testing. A test coach can be an individual contributor where they assist with testing problems or a management consultant to help testing administrative officers.
- Dreyfus, H. L., and Dreyfus, S. E. (1986). Mind over machine: The power of human intuition and expertise in the era of the computer. New York: The Free Press.
- Hynie, M. (2015) What’s in a name? Experimenting with testing job titles, Ministry of Testing. Available at: Link
- McKay, J. (2007) Managing the Test People: A Guide to Practical Technical Management. 1st ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Rocky Nook. pp. 46-48, 52(a), 54-57(b)
- Page, A., Johnston, K. and Rollison, B. (2008) in How We Test Software at Microsoft. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press, pp. 33–39.
- SFIA (2021). Levels of responsibility. v. 8. [online] Available at: Link