The Hidden Heroes of Software Development: Software Testing & Quality Assurance

Considering a career in software, but unsure of which path to take?  When folks think about working in tech, they often think of software developers–a career path which has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to the star power of big tech companies (Google and Microsoft, anyone?), TV shows such as Silicon Valley and Halt and Catch Fire, and celebrity CEOs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.  In reality, though, programming’s starring role in popular imagination is actually only one part of the software development lifecycle.  Another big part of that lifecycle is the role of quality assurance and software testing.  In this article, we’ll explore what a QA/testing position looks like, the significance of the role, and what skills are required to do it successfully. 

A photograph of a computer screen.  There is a code editor in the background of the screen, and in the foreground is a calculator application.
Photo by Eduardo Rosas

What is software quality assurance? 

Just like a traditional quality assurance role involves checking products for correctness before they’re released to customers, software quality assurance analysts ensure that appliances meet a company’s standards for reliability and performance before being released to users.  A software tester dives into an application and identifies defects (or, “bugs”), and works with software developers to fix those bugs and make sure the software provides a good experience for the user. 

The importance of software testing and quality assurance cannot be overstated.  Although programming may enjoy the limelight, users expect software to function flawlessly–and software developers are pretty susceptible to introducing bugs in the code.  Companies rely on skilled QA professionals to catch those bugs and help them deliver software products that meet users’ expectations. 

What careers are there in software testing? 

Software testing offers a myriad of opportunities for quality assurance professionals: manual testing, automated testing, security testing, usability testing… there’s a wide range of roles that fall under the domain of quality assurance.  With the adoption of Agile software development practices and DevOps, QA professionals are usually integrated in cross-functional teams where they collaborate with developers, product owners, Scrum Leaders and other team members through the software development lifecycle.  This close collaboration gives quality assurance workers many opportunities to broaden their skill sets and learn about other roles in software development as well. 

Entry-level roles, usually denoted as “QA Tester”, “Software Tester”, or “Quality Assurance Analyst”, are a great starting point for a career in the software industry.  These jobs provide hands-on experience with software from an insider perspective, and allow candidates to quickly learn testing methodologies and tools.  Some testers only do manual testing, some only do automated testing, and there are plenty of QA folks who do both!  From entry-level, it’s only a matter of time and experience before gaining eligibility for senior QA roles, such as “QA Engineer”, “Lead Tester”, or “Quality Assurance Manager” (if you enjoy managing people as much as you enjoy managing software!). 

Manual Testing

Manual testing refers to the process of interacting directly with an application in the same way an end user would, exploring various parts of the application’s functionality to find defects, inconsistencies, and usability issues.  Before testing commences, a QA worker creates a  “test case” or “test plan” based on requirements for use of the application.  A test case outlines the steps to be performed during testing, including expected inputs and outputs, as well as any other verification that needs to happen during the test.  The tester then executes the test case by using the software just like a user would, following the steps outlined in the test plan.  When a defect is found, the tester documents it, including a detailed description of the problem, the steps to recreate it, and any screenshots or supporting information a developer might need to fix the code. 

Automated Testing

Automated testing is done using tools and scripts to execute test cases and compare actual outcomes with expected outcomes.  Unlike manual testing, which relies on a human interacting with the software, automated testing is software testing other software.  Scripts, testing frameworks, and specialized tools automate the testing process to make testing faster and more efficient while being less prone to human error.  In automated testing, a tester writes code that, when executed, calls the functionality of the software being tested and evaluates whether the results of running that functionality are correct.  QA professionals who work in automated testing may be referred to as “Test Engineers” or “QA Developers” to denote a difference in their role from professionals who do manual testing. 

What skills do I need to work in software testing? 

To work in software quality assurance, you’ll need a diverse skill set that includes both “hard” (technical) and “soft” (people) skills.  Successful QA professionals will need to be proficient in computer usage, including typing,  interacting with the file system, and installing and running applications. An ability to analyze computer systems and processes, identify potential defects and issues, and come up with effective test cases is a vital skill for QA workers, as this allows them to ensure they are doing comprehensive testing. 

Testers also need to be creative problem-solvers, effective communicators, and have a knack for paying attention to detail, which allows them to carefully inspect software applications and detect even the smallest problems and discrepancies.  There’s a great amount of creative thinking involved in finding bugs, troubleshooting issues, and proposing solutions that enhance software product quality.  Effective communication is also a key skill, as testers need to articulate issues with the software clearly to collaborate with developers and to convey technical information in a way that is understandable to both technical and non-technical team members. 


A career in software testing can be a rewarding option for those interested in working in the tech industry.  Professional testers and quality assurance analysts are a vital part of the software development lifecycle and an important asset on development teams.  For those seeking to make an impact in the world of software without necessarily having to write code, working in QA is often an exciting option that can lead to a wealth of opportunities for growth and advancement.  If you’re an analytical thinker with a great attention to detail who enjoys working as part of a team, quality assurance might be the career you’re looking for.  Happy testing! 

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