Internet Quality Assurance Specialists


Exploring this Job

There are several ways you can explore this field. One of the first things you should consider doing is joining a computer users group or club in your community or school. If there isn't such a club, go ahead and start one. You'll meet people with similar interests as well as increase your computer knowledge. You can also check out other organizations in your community that may also have Web sites, such as your church or synagogue. If they don't have sites, volunteer to work on them. This activity will give you experience working with the Internet and problem solving.

Some game and app development companies hire high school interns (usually paid, although sometimes not paid) to beta test their products on a part-time basis. This is an excellent way to get exposure and valuable experience.

Since the specialist's job requires communication and people skills, consider activities that will allow you to work with others. Volunteer to teach a computer class at a senior citizens' center or look for part-time or summer work. In addition, develop your independent learning skills by checking out programming books from the library and teaching yourself new applications. 

Ask your parents or school counselor to help you locate computer professionals in your area so that you can set up an information interview with them. Even if you can't find a quality assurance specialist, talking to anyone in the field may be useful and give you an insider's view of the industry. Naturally, you should surf the Internet frequently. Study different sites and their functions to get an insight into how rapidly the computer industry is changing and where careers may be going.

The Job

Internet quality assurance specialists improve and ensure the quality of the Internet experience for end users (that is, the people using the Internet and interacting with Web sites). Quality assurance specialists test software, Web-based applications, or e-commerce applications before they are released for the public to use. Although quality assurance specialists do not have to be software engineers or developers, the more computer experience they have the more qualified they are for the job. To do this work, they need to have programming knowledge and technical computer experience, particularly with software testing.

One of the main responsibilities of the quality assurance specialist is to break or "crash" a company's new Web site or application before the company's customers ever see it. By doing this, the specialist finds any potential problems with the site and makes sure those problems are fixed before the site or app "goes live," or becomes available for the public to use.

Although it may sound like quality assurance specialists are only involved in testing at the end of a project, that is rarely the case. Specialists are often involved during the early stages of planning and are called in to analyze the technical specifications for a site before the site is even built. The specialists meet with the company's development staff to determine what capabilities the company wants for the site. For example, should a visitor to the site be able to order an item or fill out an application? The quality assurance specialists identify where the weak areas or limitations of the site's specifications may be and then develop a testing strategy.

The specialist must have a thorough understanding of the company and its goals for the new product as well as strong communication skills. The testing process involves both staff and technological testing tools that automate the process. Careful documentation is required so that the specialist knows what icons were hit or what keystrokes were entered and in what order to cause a problem with the site. Part of this job involves analysis, since specialists must examine their findings.

The specialists then write detailed reports based on their findings and analysis and give these reports to the company's developers. Once the developers have made a change to correct or improve the product, the testing process starts over.

The final testing for a new Web site or app comes right before the site goes live. By this point the site or app has been fully developed and has undergone installation, meaning the site has been placed on the server where it can be accessed by the public or the app is available for download. Before the installation is complete, the quality assurance specialist puts the site or app through a final test to make sure that all the problems identified earlier were fixed and that the installation process itself hasn't created new ones. Time is usually quite short at this point, so the specialist must have pinpointed just a few tests that will show if the site functions correctly. If there is a problem, the specialist must decide quickly if the problem is so severe that the management should be notified and the opening of the site or the launch of the app postponed.

Quality assurance specialists work on the cutting edge of new technology. Because of this, they must constantly improve their skills. Not everything in the workplace is always positive and runs smoothly. Surprises are, unfortunately, a part of the quality assurance specialist's job. QA specialists must be able to work well with many different departments and personalities. They also monitor feedback they receive on the site or through social media outlets to identify possible issues that may not have been caught in the QA process. Most specialists find the challenges of the job and the successful completion of a project highly rewarding.