"What do you do for a living?"
"I'm in QA."
"Oh. What's QA?"
Q: What is QA?
A: QA is an acronym that usually stands for Quality Assurance. The department in software development organizations responsible for checking newly developed software for readiness for release is usually called QA. Some experts feel that Quality Assurance is an inaccurate title for this organizational function. There is much debate in the industry regarding the roles and objectives of QA.
Q: How do you pronounce QA?
A: QA is pronounced "kyew-aye", not "kwa". It is written like this: QA, not Q/A, Q&A, Q.A. or qa.
Q: Is there a difference between Software Quality Assurance and QA in other fields, like manufacturing or nursing?
A: Quality is a broad term with implications in practically all areas of life, including economics, health, politics, religion and science. The nature of quality across these disciplines is similar only in the most general sense–that it is something good and desirable. While there might be some crossover in techniques to increase quality from other areas, software QA techniques are generally unique.
Q: Are software quality assurance departments similar across companies?
A: No! My experience has been that QA organizations differ from company to company in many ways, including team size (as a ratio to programmers), responsibilities, respect, job functions, skill set, and organizational structure. Even the underlying objective of QA departments differs among some software organizations.
Q: What's the difference between Software Testing and QA?
A: Software Testing is a task intended to detect defects in software by contrasting a computer program's expected results with its actual results for a given set of inputs. By contrast, QA is the implementation of policies and procedures intended to prevent defects from occurring in the first place.
Q: What's QC?
A: QC stands for Quality Control, and like Quality Assurance, it applies to various industries. When applied to computers, it's a synonym for software testing and is focused on detecting defects.
Q: What career opportunities are there in QA?
A: There are many. QA was once thought of as a stepping-stone to other software engineering functions, such as programming or database administration. However over the past few years (and especially since the "Y2K bug" media scare) software testing has evolved into a sophisticated specialty within software engineering.
Q: What skills are required to begin a career in QA?
A: Very few college computer science departments offer programs in software testing or quality engineering, making it difficult for an entry level tester to prepare for their first interview or job. More important than advanced computer skills, a beginning tester should be curious, inquisitive, and creative. They should find probing through layers of an application's functionality enjoyable. Equally important are written and oral communication skills. What's the use of finding bugs if you can't report them in a way that gets them fixed?
Q: Where can I get more information about QA?
A: There are a number of good books and web sites dealing with software testing and quality assurance. Testing Computer Software by Cem Kaner, et al. is one of the most popular books on the subject, and www.stickyminds.com is the online site of STQE (Software Testing and Quality Engineering) magazine. You can also check my website, www.testassured.com.