Who Earns more, a Software Tester or a Developer?

Everyone remembers the day they joined their first company. Fresh out from college, all freshers are filled with energy and are pumped up to make their presence felt in the Software world. Eventually, the training starts and everyone gets acquainted with the IT terminologies, different roles in a Software firm, and how different the actual world is outside the textual confinement.

During this phase, most freshers are excited about their job and are not bothered much by their respective salaries. Once they are allotted in a project and lose the fresher tag, they start to realize how distinct salary slabs can be. And with every passing cycle, this concept become even more evident.
Professions with the same experience, playing different roles, in the same company can show a huge difference in their earnings. Is such indifference strictly due to the difference in roles that professionals play?
In this article, we will talk about the two primary roles played by professionals in every IT company, i.e Software developers, and testers. To get a better understanding, we will understand the responsibilities of developers and testers respectively. And based on that we will evaluate, who should earn more, and compare the theory with practical market data.

How is a Software Professional’s Paycheck defined

  • Every IT professional’s salary is primarily driven by 2 factors, i.e. their roles & responsibilities and their expertise. Expertise varies from one individual to the other, while the former is specific in project or organization level.
  • A software developer’s primary role is to code and to make sure that the end product is functionally sturdy and devoid of any anomaly. On the other hand, a software tester’s goal is to find gaps or loopholes that were introduced by the developer’s code. 
  • As we have already mentioned earlier, both developers and testers have a different mindset, yet both strive to make the application robust and sturdy. So without developers support, there won’t be any application, and without a tester’s keen insight, the application won’t be production ready.
  • Both the roles are crucial and inter-dependent. Being said that, depending on the nature of the project and business implementation, the degree of importance of the roles vary.

Who earns the more Software Tester or Developer

As earlier mentioned, both development and testing are an integral part of SDLC, but a project’s nature might not agree with this rule of thumb. Let’s proceed with an example.
  • There are projects where developers create designs and advertisements for marketing companies and business houses. In such projects, designs and advertisement specifications are provided by the client, and the developer either creates the web-based advertisement by viewing existing designs or going through the requirement document.
  • In such projects, the testing effort is minimal and can be accomplished by dev testing only. In such projects, visibility and importance of the developer are way higher than a tester. Thus a developer is bound to earn more than a QA.
  • But in the case of banking application projects, the story can be completely different.A typical banking application handles customer information and financial transactions. Such data is extremely crucial and requires thorough functional and security testing.
  • Developers in such projects mainly focus on strengthening the core functionalities of the application and the database architecture.
  • While the testing team is responsible for performing thorough testing of different business scenarios every day. Apart from executing manual test cases, nightly automation builds, load testing, database testing, and security testing are performed to eliminate any showstoppers or critical errors.
  • As real-time financial data is handled by these applications, the stability of the entire system solely depends on the alertness and efficiency of the testers. In such projects, the payout is either equal or in certain cases in favor of the testers.
What does the current market trend suggest?
Now that we have discussed how the salaries of a software tester and developer vary from one project to the other, it’s time to look at the statistical data.
  • According to Naukri.com, a leading Indian Job portal, there isn’t much difference between the average annual salaries of testers and developers. Below mentioned line graph depicts the average annual salary of different disciplines of Test Engineers, against years of experience.
  • While in the case of Software developers the average annual salary against years of experience is as below.

The statistical data suggests that in the current market, software developers earn slightly more than software developers. As the data depicts average annual income, the dominance of developer in case of an annual paycheck is quite evident.
How earning varies with experience?
In most cases, annual salaries for IT professionals increase with experience. As years add to their resume, an IT professional becomes an expert in his/ her field. And as experience increases, their role gradually shifts from working “on” the project to working “for” the project.
  • That means, be it a developer or tester, after a few years he/ she would start delegating her regular works to others while their productive time would be utilized to handle clients and manage other juniors present in the project.
  • For example, a tester having 5 years of experience and above, would spend 50-60% of their time testing the application, while the rest of the time would be invested in reviewing the test cases, and automation scripts of junior testers, conducting discussions with clients and creating test strategies.
  • Thus as the years progresses, both test engineers and developers gradually steer away from technical work and step into managing the team.
  • Once a managerial position is allotted, a professional’s past role doesn’t matter much, as all managers strive towards a common goal of strengthening the current project and team and acquiring new projects from the clients.
In a nutshell, even though market analysis suggests developers earn more than QA, the type of project decides what the final earning would be. Also, professional’s role in the project and expertise can be a major decider. But ultimately as a developer or QA evolves into a project manager, the salary difference would not be a concerning factor.