What is the Difference Between SDET and QA?

What is the Difference Between SDET and QA

SDET engineers (Software Development Engineer in Test) are involved in designing, developing, and maintaining automated test scripts and frameworks. Their involvement in the project begins at the planning stage, and throughout the product development period, they are responsible for its verification, improvement, and test automation. On the other side, the main function of QA experts is to provide a quality guarantee for applications, software, or other digital products. They ensure that the products meet the expectations of the market and the target audience, focusing on functionality, user safety, and usability. Let's consider the differences between SDET and QA in more detail.

  • QA testers often participate in checking and improving the product at the final stage of its creation, directly before its release. In contrast, SDET engineers are involved continuously, starting from the project's early days. They not only test but also automate, design, and develop.
  • QA testers may work either automated or manually. In the former case, understanding coding is necessary, linking them with SDET engineers. However, knowledge of programming languages is not necessary for manual testing.
  • SDET work is creative, as they are partially developers. QA testers do not create anything; their task is to evaluate the finished product and fix any detected issues.
  • Mostly, QA testers perform minor tasks related to testing digital products. SDET engineers play a critical position and are more actively involved in the company's process of development.

At the same time, they share many common features—programming language proficiency, automation and testing skills, data management, etc. All SDET specialists perform certain QA functions, but not all QA testers are SDET engineers. The concept of Software Development Engineer in Test is much broader, while QA tasks may be somewhat superficial and general. SDET engineers bear greater responsibility, particularly for code stability and reliability. 

Tasks of SDET engineers and QA engineers 

SDET engineers perform tasks related to creating high-performance code. This is done in partnership with developers, product specialists, and testers. Among the most common tasks of SDET, the following can be highlighted.

  • Writing automated test scripts.
  • Creation of concepts of databases for the development of user screens.
  • Development of advanced scenarios for testing automation.
  • Creating functional and acceptance cases.
  • Analyzing the performance of test scenarios, planning or implementing the required improvements.
  • Fixing test cases, results, and frameworks.
  • Configuring automation frameworks and tools.

Meanwhile, QA engineers control product quality. They also work in teams, coordinating their actions and decisions with developers and reporting to them. Here are some key responsibilities of software quality engineers:

  • planning the testing process considering its budget and schedule;
  • functional testing in conformity with defined protocols;
  • writing code for automated tests;
  • testing the efficiency, compliance and accuracy of the product in extreme conditions;
  • end-to-end system testing;
  • if necessary, checking the correctness of software operation on mobile devices;
  • interface evaluation, product feature analysis from a user perspective;
  • security testing, including preventing user data leaks;
  • finding functional errors in digital products before releasing them to the market.

Compared to QA testers, the duties, and consequently, the knowledge and skills of SDET engineers are more universal and in-depth. The emergence of automation in testing has led companies to more frequently seek SDET specialists, and their work is more highly paid. It's good news for software testers—transitioning from one specialty to another can be quite simple and quick. 

How to become an SDET engineer?

There are two most common starting points for becoming an SDET engineer—experience in software development and qualifications in QA testing. In the former case, you'll know how to code, which is already half the battle. You'll be able to automate manually written cases and, under the guidance of a QA tester, eventually tackle more complex tasks.

If you have a good understanding of software testing, have obtained a certificate in this field, or completed relevant training in a company, transitioning into the SDET field will be easier than for a developer. This requires learning one programming language, which can be done in a matter of months.

Once you learn how to create automated code, try writing scripts for websites and applications. This way, you can develop in SDET engineering and land a prestigious position. However, some companies have strict requirements for candidates for SDET positions, and practical skills alone may not be enough here.

  •  Education

For some organizations, a high school diploma may be sufficient. But most jobs require a bachelor's degree in computer science, informatics, or a related area. In some cases, a master's degree in computer science or other related field may be helpful.

  • Certification

Usually, certification is not mandatory. But it can make your resume stand out by underlining your specialties. To do this, you should take specialized online courses that will certify you as a software development engineer in the testing field. You can also validate your qualifications with other certificates, such as QA from the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

  •  Professional Experience

For many employers, the most important criterion for selecting specialists is experience. Your portfolio, especially cases with feedback, is compelling evidence that you have the necessary knowledge and skills. Experience as a junior developer or QA tester will be helpful, as it demonstrates your understanding of a particular programming language, testing types, etc. 


SDET Engineer Skills 

Like in any profession related to programming, a future specialist must master certain technical skills. Hard skills include programming skills, including working with programming languages like Java, Python, HTML, etc., working with QA tools, including understanding basic software testing models, and the ability to analyze databases, manage risks in the code verification process, and quality control results.

Basic soft skills include excellent written and oral communication skills, teamwork, deductive reasoning, the ability to quickly and efficiently solve problems, including non-standard ways, project management, time management, and self-development combined with adaptability. The latter is related to the volatility of technologies and the need to regularly learn to work with new tools and methods.

SDET stands for «Software Development Engineer in Test». The specialty is quite in demand in the modern job market. It is more highly paid than the job of a QA specialist, but it also comes with higher responsibilities and requirements for the employee. SDET engineers often engage in writing software code, but their main duties are based on test automation.

Unlike QA testers, they not only test but also design and develop software, configure automation frameworks, and tools. They participate in the digital product creation process at all stages, from planning to final testing. At the same time, QA testers evaluate the product in terms of standard requirements and user needs.

A QA specialist, like a software developer, can expand the range of their technical skills and transition into the SDET field. These experts focus on creating, controlling, and maintaining automated testing.

Is SDET better than QA?

The SDET field is broader than QA. Therefore, it is easier for SDET engineers to find high-paying jobs. However, without understanding QA, it is impossible to become an SDET professional. Specializations share many similarities, such as the need for programming language proficiency, automation and testing skills, data management, etc.

What is the difference between SDET and tester?

SDET specialists are involved in software development. QA testers use various testing tools to identify functional errors in programs, applications, and other digital products. They create scenarios for fixing these flaws and coordinate with SDET staff, who can then carry out high-quality control tasks.

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