Education Test Developer: Education, Salary, and Outlook
An education test developer works as part of the curriculum design team to help assess student performance. Test questions show areas of strength and weakness in the student population, allowing teachers to tailor presentations to plug learning gaps. Creating test questions that have no cultural bias and have clear answers can be a challenge, but when done well, it allows schools to measure student achievement and performance objectively.
Education test developers work on exams like the High School Placement Test, General Education Development Test, Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, Law School Admission Test, and many other exams that can help determine students’ eventual career paths.
At a glance: Education test developer
An education test developer is someone who helps create the tests taken by children throughout the country to assess their performance. States provide annual assessments to track learning outcomes, and there are standardized tests commonly used to determine college admissions. Licensure exams, board certifications, and dozens of other educational activities often culminate in a test.
Education test developers work to design documents that measure students’ retained knowledge at the end of their course or schooling. The career pathway for test developers has expanded tremendously over the past several decades, but the backlash against standardized tests may make finding a job in this field somewhat uncertain. As colleges start to question the validity of SATs and other tests, and educators discuss the efficacy of teaching to the test, not the subject matter, this field may shrink.
Daily expectations for an education test developer
Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, standardized testing has exploded. Where students in the ’90s and earlier might take three or four tests during their K-12 education, along with the PSAT and SAT, now many students face annual examinations. More testing means more need for education test developers. An education test developer is often asked to:
- Analyze data and participate in task force meetings to identify knowledge, skills, and abilities that need testing
- Research primary sources that can be used when developing new test questions and revising existing material
- Write and edit the test questions
- Schedule and oversee meetings for standard-setting, determining how an exam is scored and what constitutes a passing grade
- Maintain high levels of security and discretion surrounding test materials
- Establish schedules and hit deadlines as designed
- Work with a variety of stakeholders to create testing materials
- Ensure tests are accurate and error-free prior to production
- Prepare post-testing reports on results
Skills of a good education test developer
Education test developers may not spend much time in the classroom, but they still need many of the skills that a teacher might require, including:
- Excellent written and verbal communication with a variety of stakeholders from test-takers to policy-makers
- The ability to work with teams, particularly via digital channels as some team members may be geographically separated
- Attention to detail and a high level of accuracy
- Good time management and the ability to meet deadlines
- Exceptional security practices
- A track record of dependability and the metrics to prove it
As this field continues to develop, new technology may play a role in the future. Cumulative test scores taken from a variety of assessments delivered throughout the year are an avenue being explored by some school districts. Adaptive learning programs may replace some of the more burdensome testing requirements, depending on policy changes at the federal level.
Behind the scores: Education test developer
How long does it take to become an education test developer?
Education: Master’s or Doctorate
Typical study time: 5-10 years
Like an instructional coordinator or another job in curriculum development, education test developers often require a master’s degree. Depending on the subject matter, education test developers may also need specific expertise. For example, developers that work on the LSAT might need a law degree, while those working on the MCAT might need a medical degree.
The higher the level of the test, the more education is required in order to formulate questions that reveal meaningful information about the student.
Required certifications for education test developers
Certification requirements often depend on where you live. Some states may require a teaching certificate, and some may not. An EdD degree is acceptable in all states as an acceptable qualification for becoming an education test developer.
Expected earnings for an education test developer
According to ZipRecruiter.com, education test developer salaries range between $70,179 and $99,288, depending on the state. With education requirements already high and a relatively low salary variance, experience may not dramatically affect salaries.
Here is a quick look at what expected salaries might be:
- Payscale: $70,000
- ZipRecruiter: $90,743
- Glassdoor: $61,763
Opportunities for education test developers
Salaries for education test developers are often similar to those for instructional coordinators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 6% job growth in curriculum development through 2028, which is around average. Education test developers may not have the same growth given recent negative press surrounding standardized testing. If colleges stop using SAT scores, for example, that could mean substantial layoffs in some parts of the industry.
The pros and cons of working as an education test developer
Working as a test developer often means earning more than you would as a teacher, where the median salary is $57,980 per year, according to the BLS. It also means more regular office hours, vacation time available during the school year, and plenty of travel opportunities.
The biggest negatives of working as an education test developer might be the uncertainty surrounding standardized testing and its future, handling complaints from low-scoring students and their family members, and traveling too much.
Going further as an education test developer
There are no specific growth opportunities for education test developers. A developer might become a project manager for test development, overseeing the entire process of creating a test. Another option might be a lateral move into curriculum design, which also has the opportunity to move into policy-creation.
Staying up to date as an education test developer
An education test developer might need continuing education to stay abreast of changes to curricula and course design. While many teachers are required to pursue a set number of CE credits per year, test developers may not face the same requirements. However, teaching CEs often have value to the professionals designing the assessments by which teaching is judged. Graduate education programs in educational technology and/or instructional design might help an education test developer stay updated with the latest education curriculum and technology trends.
Professional organizations for education test developers
- International Society for Performance Improvement
- American Society for Training and Development
- Association for Educational Communications and Technology
Staying current via digital sources
Education test developers have more opportunities to communicate with frontline educators, school administrators, students, and parents, than ever. Social media and online sources provide ways to see the challenges other test developers face, identify areas of weakness, and address concerns and complaints. Below are some of the top resources out there for those involved in the creation of standardized tests.
Best education test developer blogs
Twitter handles to follow as an education test developer
- Vicki Davis: @coolcatteacher
- Kevin Corbett: @kevin_corbett
- Melissa Taylor: @ImaginationSoup
- ECE Webinars: @ECEWebinars
- policy4results: @policy4results
- United States Department of Education: @usedgov
- The National Association for the Education of Young Children: @NAEYC
- Gates Foundation: @gatesfoundation