Let's talk Money: The most lucrative Testing Specialization for your wallet?

Hey fellow testing enthusiasts!

Let’s dive right into the heart of the matter: money talk! I believe we all love what we do in the testing world, but it’s natural to wonder which specialization can lead us to financial prosperity. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the most financially lucrative specialization in the testing realm.

Are you betting on automation testing as the moneymaker? Maybe specializing in automating tests for Android, iOS, or the web can prove to be more lucrative? Or perhaps performance testing coupled with security testing? I’d love to hear your individual perspectives on this, since I’m a bit torn on deciding which alley to go down to.

Moreover, let’s discuss how to land those dream jobs in these specialized areas:

  1. Where to search for jobs?: So far what has been your go-to platform for look up the best propositions on the market?
  2. Networking: Have you used networking to land a sought-after position? How so?
  3. Portfolios: How do we showcase our skills and expertise through portfolios in the world of testing? Have you had any positive use-cases of showing off your portfolio? What did the portfolio consist of?
  4. Effective Applications: How do we tailor applications to each position and avoid being generic? What had proven to be one of the most important dots in your resume that caught attention of recruiters?

Lastly, let’s touch on how salaries can vary based on regions around the world. While salaries for testing roles can differ significantly, might it be wise to focus on considering remote jobs in the EU or the US?

Excited to hear your thoughts and experiences on these topics! :rocket::moneybag:

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heart of the matter

It’s interesting you say this, because to me the heart of what I do is supporting others and being good at it. That’s what keeps me alive. Money is a factor, but I’ve worked for less many times in my career in order to be happy with what I do, and I don’t regret that. There’s plenty of ways to sell your happiness, free time and mental health.

Often money comes with its own cost. You can make money working in secure environments for military contracts, but then you have to work against the tide of military formalism and bureaucracy. You can work on a large automation project but never design an interesting test and the problems you solve become the same every day.

For example, I will generally only work in an environment where I can:

  • Regularly communicate with the team building the software
  • Be treated with basic respect for what I do so I can build on that
  • Affect the process, so I can improve it
  • Attend talks, courses and conferences to self-improve (helps if they’re subsidised)
  • Mentor others and be mentored by others
  • Work on my own projects for the company
  • Do tester-driven testing (where tools and process serve the testing, not the inverse)

So I look at the money, and I look at the cost, and I try to find the most profit, and it’s very often not the one with the highest salary and benefits.

As for the money itself it’s probably a combination of country, industry, role and timing. You also have to factor in moving and living costs, currency spending power, and benefits. Then if you want some specialism training, accreditation or clearance you have to factor in the time and money that takes.

There’s also what you’re passionate about. If you go into security consulting you will spend a lot of time researching and learning about what’s changing in the industry, or you will fall behind and lose your value. So if you don’t love it you’ll suffer.

And finally there’s your ability to negotiate and sell yourself, because incompetence and competence look very similar from the outside, in testing.

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I do agree with @kinofrost here, it’s very interesting that you say this. Because “The heart of the matter” isn’t always Money :stuck_out_tongue:

My question towards you is: would you do a job that you don’t like for more money then a job you LOVE to do but you’ll get paid less?

But all that asides and back to the money talk. It kind of depends on the demand of your country.
I’ll give you the example of Belgium, Testers are rare and not easy to find so any specialization is will give you a benefit. BUT… Are companies ready to provide that?

There are a lot of companies here that still don’t see the benefit of a tester or a performance tester.

If I had to name a specific path, I would probably say Security. O boy, the dark side of IT that nobody knows anything about and everybody is scared of it especially when somebody with experience then says “that’s not okay”.

Security knowledge is so rare, it’s insane. I work as a consultant and I, of course, don’t stay ‘forever’ at a client. So I can easily do a handover or coach some internal people on how to do test automation or how to setup a performance test and explains all the differences. Because that’s straight forward (most cases). But security… that’s a different story, you cannot just teach someone security testing, because it’s an out of the box thing where you need creativity and the continuous learning drive to keep up to date with new technologies and vectors. Just as @kinofrost mentioned.

You work 8 hours for your client but after hours, you better work another 4 hours to keep your skills up to date, otherwise people will see you as a script-kiddie (someone who uses tools from others and doesn’t create anything himself and just does a scan and that’s it.)

So if you ask me what the biggest money maker is, probably security but if you want to compare it to the effort made into it, then you have to give a lot more of yourself compared to doing performance testing or automation.

The pro’s of security testing is that you can easily have a well earning side track doing bug bounties.
If you are very dedicated, you can probably do this as a fulltime job and earn even more then you’d if you were on a payroll or doing freelance consultancy.

All by all, you probably have to chose between a certain factors in life and I guess it comes down to something like this: (But probably using other factors, I would probably replace Energy with “FUN”)

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@kinofrost @kristof
Very interesting points from both of you!
In terms of money being the “heart of the matter” - I don’t want to get overly philosophical on this, but I want to point out that it varies from person to person and, frankly, a lot of it relies on the point in life the person is on at the given moment.

For the time being, I am focusing on securing a financially stable future for my family, friends and other people that may depend on me. In the pursuit of that goal, I have been sacrificing a lot in terms of being happy at a workplace in the past, present and considerably in the future also. However, my mindset allows me to do that, I am fine with not being entirely pleased with the type of work that I’m doing, knowing that it all serves a purpose/goal that I set for myself.

You could look at it as an investment of some sort - struggle now to be fine later.

I can’t stress enough how true this is for probably every region in the world. I’ve worked a Dutch employer in the past and currently I’m a part of a TA team in a large org in Georgia (not the state).
In both places, people and leads had miniscule understanding of the value the test automation should and could bring. It has been frustrating to deal with such ignorance day-to-day but I believe gradually the value of testing will become widely appreciated, especially with the emerging trends of AI generated code.

As for the mentions on Security testing, I had no idea! That genuinely got me interested to look into it.

By the way, I am very happy with the responses so far. It has given ground to a very solid discussion, introducing some points that I haven’t thought of when creating the topic.

Thank you for the replies!

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That is a very interesting question. It is also difficult to answer it since so many factors come into the question when we talk about pay range (company size, years of experience, area of specialization, work contract vs. freelancing, region in the world that you are working from, full remote or not, etc.).

Let’s go through some examples:

  • Company size: Salaries for Big techs and Startups tend to have a huge difference;
  • Years of experience: The years of experience can influence your seniority and directly impact your pay range;
  • Area of specialization: As already mentioned by @kristof, some specific areas or knowledge like security testing could differentiate you from other professionals and also in consequence, provide you more power to negotiate your pay range;
  • Work contract vs. freelancing: If you manage to build a good portfolio of clients, freelancing could provide you with a much better pay range than a single work contract;
  • Region where you work from: Most companies provide different pay ranges depending on where you work from. Salaries in the US and EU countries can be very different for the same position and in the same company; Also, another interesting aspect of where you work is how the companies in the country see the value of testing/quality assurance.
  • Fully remote or not: We have examples of global international companies that hire fully remotely, and some cases can offer a much better salary than the companies from the region where we live/work.

As already mentioned by @kinofrost and @kristof, money should not be the single decision point for taking a specific job. Everything comes with a price, and sometimes the price is your quality of life and health, and then maybe it is worthy.

But, if you want to maximize your pay range, I would rather focus on some of those other factors, like for example, which skills I need to get a testing job in a Big Tech.

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I agree, I just consider money to be the most heartless part of the contract of wage labour.

I lived a life where I was always happy to be working, and, besides some relatively careful saving, I spent much of my money on experiences, learning, and support for my family. Then, a few years ago, I fell to the ground and couldn’t get up again. Whilst I did eventually stand up I now live with daily exhaustion and pain, and I’m unable to work long-term or do much of what I did before. I am beyond grateful that I lived a happy work life and lived for my passions while I had the opportunity to do so. So you never know what’ll happen.

That being said I’m also exceedingly privileged, and not everyone has the opportunity to do what they love, or fund their passions. My interests are affordable, I never took much interest in high fashion, cocaine or scorpion venom.

I think that working for a decent wage while not being sad is possible. It may take some creativity, and it will definitely take luck and sustained effort, but I feel like you can pull it off. Just don’t listen to anyone hiring about their philosophy of work. And, all else fails, hop between companies every 6 months for the wage increase.

Security testing is definitely the most lucrative.
Echoing what @kinofrost and @kristof mentioned, it takes major dedication to be good at it. I know just enough to know I don’t have what it takes to make it a career option. I am probably fine with being a “script-kiddie” :smiley:

As for money, there’s a saying from Hong Kong, roughly translated to “Money isn’t everything but without money, you cannot do anything”. I work to live. As long as I have a job with a good working environment and work-life balance, I am happy. However, inflation the last few years have been crazy and not to mention housing cost where I am .

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According to what I have noticed :

  • Crypto/Blockchain companies : usually they propose high salaries
  • Switzerland, but the cost of living there is high
  • Full remote : even if your salary is not huge, you can gain purchasing power by living in cheaper places

In terms of skills, I see that mastering JS/TS with Cypress/Playwright and being able to setup a CI in very appreciated especially for small/mid size companies ready to pay more, especially if they start these topics from scratch.

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This might be useful:

But I’ve no idea how bigger companies test their software.
The testers might be hidden under the Software Engineers in Test roles at best.

The highest salaries as a tester that I know of in Europe are:

  • in contracting in banks/finance in Luxembourg/Netherlands ~600-800/day.
  • in Switzerland in Zurich at around 90-120k per year (highest in banking/finance);
  • Google Switzerland I heard pays north of 140-200k for engineering jobs(no testers though); they used to have I believe some roles as Engineers in Test which were building testing tools for developers - so you’d have to be an ace programmer and tool builder;

How I would think you’d find high-paying jobs is to stalk big companies where they generally pay a lot (in Europe I check glassdoor, but you can also use reddit). Make a list, and register for their job posting newsletters.

As for what they’re looking for, it can depend very largely:

I’d start with what kinofrost said.
Evaluate what you want to achieve in your testing career and what you can/could be happy with.

I’ve aimed too high myself and got career depressed and have burnouts every several months.
I don’t value money that much anymore, as the little bit extra doesn’t make much of a difference in my daily life or future plans anyway.
I took home in the past 7 years around the average salary in the country I live in - in central Europe.

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