What is software quality assurance (QA) testing? In a nutshell, it’s the process of finding problems in software. Why is it a big deal? Software is now in almost everything, and computers are everywhere – from homes to small businesses to large corporations and government institutions. The software also powers mission-critical applications like medical instruments, spacecraft, and nuclear power plants.
And although the software is getting somewhat easier for people to use, the software itself continues to get more complex. The operating system Microsoft Windows has over 100 million lines of programming source code. So finding these problems before the customer or computer user runs across them is not only important (from a business standpoint) but can save someone’s life when used in a medical CAT scanner or an aircraft navigation system.
So why do this as a career? Some of the reasons for becoming a software QA testing professional are: You get to work on cool computer software systems – from small businesses to large corporations. It’s fun to find problems in software – challenging like a puzzle Good career: high paying ($$$) and always in demand Flexible – Can work either as an employee or a contractor/consultant.
What knowledge and skills are needed to get started? Really all that’s needed to get started are basic computer skills: comfortable with an operating system such as MS Windows or Mac OSX; understand how to create, store, print, and manipulate files on the computer; and know what a browser, web-addresses, and the internet are.
There’s also a personality side to folks that make good software QA testers – detail-oriented, skeptical, and enjoy trying to find problems in software. You must be able to look at software and not only find what it should do – but what it should NOT do! For example, aircraft should not fly upside-down when they cross the equator (a true story from the early days of military aircraft).
Hospital medical scanners should not fry patients with x-rays (another true story from the old days). Even a seemingly minor issue like a round-off error on a bank account software system can cost millions (another true story). But if you have basic computer skills, a personality for finding problems, and a desire to learn and advance your career – you can be very successful as a professional software QA tester.
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So what’s the difference between testing and QA? Read on…
Testing involves the actual process of finding problems (or defects as they are called) in the software itself. Typically, you write a test plan document describing the testing processes, activities, approach, resources, schedule, and overall plan used during the testing process. Then a document is developed that describes the actual tests (test cases) that will be run – sometimes hundreds or even thousands of tests. Then you perform the testing by executing the tests that you and others have developed, report any defects (or bugs as they are called in the industry), and submit status reports describing your progress.
QA (Quality Assurance)
Finding and reporting defects is the main activity, but not the only activity. In a real software organization, many activities and processes can get high-quality software products out the door. This “life-cycle” of software includes: