I frequently get questions regarding what my daily tasks are as a QA analyst. This is a snippet of what we do in the QA department on any given day for anyone who wants to know or wants to get into a career in QA.
There are 4 of the major test phases that we run through as part of our test cycle: Smoke, Functional, Adhoc and Regression.
Smoke tests: This is where the team does a quick run through of the software touching on the major functionality to make sure that that there is nothing preventing the team from performing their tests. Anything that blocks testing is escalated to the project manager so that it can be resolved immediately by the development team.
Functional tests: This is where the team runs through a series of test cases to ensure that the software is doing what it was designed to do. Defects are easier to capture during this phase of testing as there is usually no room for interpretation, either it works or it doesn't. Bugs are then entered into a database and assigned to a developer to fix.
Adhoc/Exploratory tests: This is my favourite phase of testing. This is where you get creative and try to break the software by doing things outside of what a normal user would do. It could be as simple as entering invalid text into a textbox to something more complicated where multiple inputs under certain conditions must be met before the bug occurs. Consequences can range from graphical issues to complete loss of use of the software. Again, bugs are entered into a database and assigned to a developer to fix.
Regression test: After bugs are fixed by the developers, the team moves to the Regression phase where they run the bugs through the newest release of the software again to make sure that they don't occur. Once a bug has been verified to not occur it is closed in the database.
The team will run through this test cycle numerous times through a software's life cycle until a majority of bugs are captured and the team is comfortable that the product is of exceptional quality for use. Hope this gives a good insight into what a QA Analyst's world looks like.