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Software Quality Assurance Technician and Analyst Job Description, Career as a Software Quality Assurance Technician and Analyst, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Software quality assurance technicians and software quality assurance analysts conduct tests on computer software programs to make sure the programs perform properly and are fairly easy to use. The testing may be done on both new programs and updated or modified versions of existing programs.

A software quality assurance technician deliberately tries to do things that will crash the program—that is, make it stop functioning—to determine weaknesses in the computer code. Game testing often involves entering commands or making moves very quickly or very slowly. The testing of word processing programs or other kinds of computer applications may involve typing characters as rapidly as possible to see if the program can process the commands properly. The software quality assurance technician may also use the mouse to click on inappropriate places on the screen to see how the program responds.

A software quality assurance technician keeps a detailed log of all the keystrokes

and/or commands entered during testing and how the computer responds to them. He or she also notes any error messages or codes displayed by the computer. All problems are noted, along with the series of commands that produced the problem. The technician then writes up a detailed report of the test and passes it along to the programmers, who use this information to correct errors in the computer code. Sometimes the technician meets directly with the computer programmers to discuss the test results. In other cases the technician's report is submitted to a quality assurance supervisor or manager who works with the programmers. Because the job involves performing the same types of tasks for hours at a time, the technician should also have a fairly high tolerance for repetition and a low boredom threshold.

Many software developers hire software quality assurance analysts to develop programs that automatically test software in development. A software quality assurance analyst will analyze the software that requires testing. They will then develop a testing program from scratch or modify an existing testing program. The testing program looks for defects in the code that makes up the software being tested. The analyst must keep detailed records of the defects the testing program finds, analyze these defects, and recommend ways to fix the problems. In addition, the quality assurance analyst will test if the software being developed interferes with other software typically found on a computer. They may also be responsible for defining the operating standards that the software must meet in order to be released to the public.

Sometimes software developers will use software quality assurance analysts early in the testing process to weed out the major bugs in a piece of software. They will then use technicians to experiment with the program some more and flush out any additional bugs in the software just before release.

Education and Training Requirements

A person can obtain a temporary or part-time position as a software quality assurance technician with little or no advanced education. Many companies hire high school or college students who are familiar with computers to do this type of work on a short-term basis. Those seeking a full-time position in this field should have a background in computer technology such as software programming or network administration, although a four-year degree is rarely required. Some companies even prefer to hire people who have only a modest amount of computer experience, because most of the users of the product will not be computer experts. In this way, the technician will approach the task from a perspective similar to that of the typical user.

Software quality assurance analysts must have at least a four-year degree in computer science, mathematics, or information systems and knowledge of the major programming languages. National certification courses are offered for most major computer languages, including C++, Java, and XML. Private companies will also offer certification on their newer programming languages and software. Quality assurance analysts must also be aware of the standard methodologies used in quality assurance testing.

Getting the Job

Many computer companies have a permanent software quality assurance department that hires qualified technicians and analysts, but some independent technicians and analysts work for companies on a contract or consulting basis. Positions in this field may be advertised in trade magazines or on Internet job banks. Information about such jobs is also passed on by word of mouth, so having contacts within the computer industry is helpful. Some firms provide quality assurance testing to software companies, but they tend to be located in areas with a large amount of high-tech industry.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

A software quality assurance analyst with experience and college training may go on to a position as a quality assurance manager or supervisor. This type of position involves more administrative work and less hands-on testing. Another managerial path is supervisory sales or marketing, a position in which an individual can use knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of a company's product to work with customers or potential customers.

Working Conditions

Software quality assurance technicians and analysts usually work in an office or laboratory environment, whether they are self-employed or employed by a software firm. The job often requires sitting in front of a computer screen and working with the same program for hours at a time. If a project is under a tight deadline, the software quality assurance technician or analyst may work long or irregular hours to meet the software developer's schedule.

Where to Go for More Information

Association for Computing Machinery
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
(212) 626-0500

IEEE Computer Society
1730 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 371-0101

Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals
2350 Devon Ave., Ste. 115
Des Plaines, IL 60018
(847) 2899-4227

Earnings and Benefits

Software quality assurance technicians' pay varies widely. Video game developers often do not even pay people to test games in the late development stages. Many gamers are eager to test a game simply for the privilege of being the first to play it. Software quality assurance analysts typically make the same salary as systems analysts. According to salary.com, software quality assurance analysts made a median annual wage of $59,306 in 2006. Self-employed technicians and analysts are usually paid an hourly fee, which varies with the experience of the analyst and the nature and difficulty of the testing performed.

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