QA or QC, What do you do?

I define Quality Assurance as the practice of assuring a high quality product through continuous improvement to the process used to create the product.

I define Quality Control as the practice of performing activities that verify the quality of a product, and that uncover defects where the product does not meet the standards of quality.

Here are the standard wikipedia definitions

Coming from a previous company where the two terms were completely separate and well defined, I guess I am more sensitive to and surprised at how interchangeably "QA" and "QC" are used in casual conversation, blog posts, and even formal papers, articles, and books. This is especially true in testers describing what they do as "QA" when pure testing as defined above should almost always be classified as a Quality Control activity. Being a tester then, I am naturally curious as to why this "defect" in our conversations exists (If your definition of a defect includes ambiguity :).

I have determined the following 4 possible causes for this "defect":

1.Testers who use "QA" to define what they do, do not understand the difference between quality assurance and quality control

2.Testers who use "QA" to define what they do actually include quality assurance process improvments in their day to day activities, and are therefore correct in classifying themselves as QA. However, I would not agree that this applies to the quality control activity of actual testing.

3.Testers who use "QA" to define what they do, work for a company that does not know the difference and calls their activities QA, therefore they have been worn down into using the wrong term as well.

4. Testers who use "QA" to define what they do, know the difference but just do not care to make the distinction, or are still under the effects of a previous cause 3.

5. The tester's company does not employ any formal process improvement at all, so the Quality Control activities literaly are the only source of process improvement by pointing out defects in what is produced.

So to anyone reading this post, into which discipline do you place your everyday work activities, QA, QC, or both? What are your reasons? Do any other testers come from a company with separate, distinct roles for both?

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Because both are so broadly applied, I only claim to be a tester. I don't use any Q's...

[textile]I can sooooo relate to what you are saying... although your post is far more structured than "my rant on the topic":

I'm with Mike on this one... I am a Tester/Testing Specialist (most of the time). I don't use the word 'QA' to describe what I do.

I've found that when a testing group goes through a 'rebranding' exercise to rename themselves "Testing", this can be an opporunity to educate those who still call them QA... Of course, the testers have to know this first.

For this to work, it has to be treated in the same way as any other rebranding exercise, including communications in various forms.

It can also be an excuse to re-engage the organisation in disucssions about testing, reminding them of what you do and why you are there.

Antony Marcano

[textile]Another definition...


Software QA involves the entire software development PROCESS - monitoring and improving the process, making sure that any agreed-upon standards and procedures are followed, and ensuring that problems are found and dealt with. It is oriented to 'prevention'.

Testing involves operation of a system or application under controlled conditions and evaluating the results[...] It is oriented to 'detection'.

Antony Marcano

Last year I listed this and more “defects” and described the reason for my company. I also remember some blog describing that in some company they got QA Manager role for a pure tester, although everyone knew the person is only a tester, but on the papers delivered to customer (e.g. test report) it was impressive to have QA Manager’s sign.

My primary task is testing (QC) however I volunteer (as it helps to minimize my QC job) doing also a QA job in my projects and it seems my project managers are lately used to that and not only support me but even expect me to do so. So I assume full responsibility for a product quality, not only for good testing. You could see my QA person considerations in blogs about project (not only testing) progress reporting , process (not only testing) improvement , prioritizing development defect fixing , etc.

I too, have posted a rant on this subject (

I think another reason the title / term may be abused is for egotistical reasons. For some reason, some people see "Quality Assurance" as a more professional sounding title than "tester".

[textile]And this is a sad reality for many testers... they volunteer to do the QA role, often because nobody else does.

On Agile teams the concept of collective code ownership, combined with the Agile manifesto and the fact that the quality of the software is made more transparent (if using TDD + COntinuous integration) can have a nice side effect... That side effect is that everyone on the project feels responsible for the quality of the product, and acts on it!

This is yet another reason why I have stuck to Extreme Programming projects for the last few years. I don't ever want to be the sole guardian of the quality of the product.

In one company that I am working with to help them move closer to this ideal, their team had been called QA for a long time. They had become the guardians of quality...

After some discussions, I managed to convince the test manager to rebrand the team as the "Testing Team"... This sparked a discussion with the Testing Team's customers, giving them the opportunity to re-educate them. (I mentioned this approach in an earlier comment).

Purely by coincidence, she said to me today "Changing the name to the Testing Team has made such a difference". She explained "now, the project managers are taking much more responsibility".

So, personally, I'd avoid the "QA" title... I'd play my part in the process of QA (because every member of the entire project team has a part to play). I wouldn't repeatedly compensate for others' choice to ignore their responsibility to play their part in QA... including developers, testers, project managers and customers. That just smells of "codependency":

Antony Marcano

All of the above, but not so much #2, and also #6, it sounds better as a title and on a resume.

But yeah, most have it wrong and don't know. I'm a tester. They put "Performance Engineer" on my business card. I'm a performance tester, is what I am.

QC implies manufacturing to me. For example, watching over and checking the quality of samples or lots. A QC position in my opinion would be a taste tester for Ben & Jerry's ice cream (which is a real position at the company). Or other manufacturing quality positions to check the quality of auto parts, medical devices, or other products often produced in batch mode fall in the range of QC.

QA is a broad term left to mean many things. I have numerous times held the title of QA Manager. But what quality means in an organization has varied quite a bit.

Despite all the titles I've had, I've referred to myself as a software tester for years. Software testing is fundamentally what I do.