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QA Testing vs. Software Development: Pivotal Technology Roles

When you think of jobs in the world of tech, the first one that comes to mind is probably that of a software developer. And it’s true — software developers are important players in the innovation and advancement of technology. But they’re not the only vital professionals in the tech industry. Also, essential to the [...]

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When you think of jobs in the world of tech, the first one that comes to mind is probably that of a software developer. And it’s true — software developers are important players in the innovation and advancement of technology. But they’re not the only vital professionals in the tech industry. Also, essential to the software development life cycle (SDLC) are the software quality assurance (QA) testers and associated roles.

Both these career paths are extremely lucrative — together, software developers and software quality assurance analysts make $107,510 annually on average (median 50%), according to May 2019 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And while people with similar backgrounds, (particularly those who are inclined to math, engineering, and computer science) flock to both professions, the jobs entail different duties, responsibilities, and skillsets. 

So, what roles do QA testers and software developers play in the SDLC? And why are they both so essential? Let’s take a look at their distinctions and importance.


Software Developer and QA Tester Roles

What separates the developers from the testers? Here’s a brief breakdown of each of these important positions.


Software Developer

Using many different tools and skills, software developers build products, such as mobile and web applications, according to the requirements established by the client, employer, or other stakeholders. This job requires a vast knowledge of and experience in programming languages and associated programming tools, such as frameworks and environments.

While they are developing the product, they will conduct some basic testing, including unit testing, to ensure that the software is functioning appropriately. While the developer is expected to catch and eliminate bugs that are clearly interfering with the product’s major functionality, their objective is not to rigorously test it and eliminate other, more subtle defects. 

Software development doesn’t only include writing code. Depending on the specific role of the developer, they may be responsible for designing and prototyping the software, as well as researching requirements and determining whether and how it’s possible to meet them.


Software QA Tester

QA testers aren’t involved with the actual creation of the software, but they’re still vital to its life cycle. These technology professionals test the software, as the name implies, to ensure that the product meets the specified requirements. There are many different types of testing they may conduct, assessing functionality, performance, usability, volume, load, and stress the product can handle, security, and much more.

The QA process usually involves a combination of automated and manual testing. Even in the case of automation, a human QA specialist must script the test to be automated. Ultimately, the goal of this process is to ensure that the product is as defect-free as possible and ready for the end-users. 

It’s important to note that it’s not possible to declare a product bug-free, nor is this the goal of QA testing. Rather, QA specialists will catch as many bugs as they possibly can and report them to the developers for resolution. When defects are discovered after the product is released, developers will address them with the next release.

The development team and QA team must work together closely to create a high-quality product and ensure that it is ready for market. Collaboration is essential for every role in the SDLC and none perhaps more so than that between these two positions. 

And while the bulk of testing sometimes takes place at or near the end of the development phase, the software can benefit from earlier testing, too. This way, testers can catch major defects that interfere with the functionality and quality of the product early on, before the developers have invested too much time and effort into building it.


Potential Career Paths

Software development and testing are not isolated roles. Under each umbrella term, there are numerous potential career paths you can take. Here are some of the main jobs developers and testers can have. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive.


Software development

  • Frontend developer
  • Backend developer
  • Full-stack developer
  • Mobile engineer
  • Web developer
  • Application developer
  • Game developer
  • Data scientist
  • DevOps engineer


QA testing

  • QA analyst
  • QA engineer
  • Software test engineer
  • Functional tester
  • Automation engineer
  • Manual tester
  • QA manager
  • Test architect

There is one role that intersects both worlds: the software development engineer in test (SDET). The SDET builds software for QA testing, including automated tests, test code, frameworks, and other tools. Like the other roles on these lists, it plays a key role in the SDLC.


Skill Sets

There are many overlapping skills that both software developers and QA testers should have. Still, there are some that are more essential for one role over the other. Below are just a handful of the many skills each role must exhibit in their jobs. Note that you’ll see some skills twice because they are mandatory for both groups.


Software developer

  • Programming
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Adaptability 
  • Logic
  • Multitasking
  • Curiosity 
  • Concentration
  • Teamwork


QA tester

  • Analytical
  • Interpersonal 
  • Communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Organizational
  • Efficiency
  • Good judgment
  • Critical thinking
  • Agility
  • Data analysis
  • Teamwork


Clearly, both the software developers and QA testers play a pivotal role in creating quality, usable software, no matter what their specific position or title. But they each demand unique skills and responsibilities. If you’re considering going into tech, think carefully about where your strengths lie. 

Remember, too, that these are just two of the many possibilities in the world of software and technology. From information technology (IT) to technical writing to project management, there are many roles that require different insights and skills — you just need to find the niche that’s most appropriate for you.

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