Testing Certifications – Are they worth the paper they are written on?

There has been a lot of buzz around this topic at recent testing events and in forum discussions between testing professionals, there are a fair few different certifications around but are they of value? A quick google and I found the following certifications:

  • ISTQB – Foundation, Advanced (Test Manager, Test Analyst and Technical Test Analyst) and Practitioner
  • Certified Software Tester (CSTE) – Varying levels and also offer a separate Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA)
  • Certified Agile Tester (CAT)
  • Certified Software Test Professional (CSTP)

There are many others and courses which don’t provide ‘Certifications’.

Now, let me state that I have the ISEB/ISTQB Foundation and Intermediate Certificates in Software testing, I attained them a long time ago and at the time they worked well as a base knowledge to get me going in the testing world. That is what I saw them as, a way to gain an understanding before applying the knowledge and diving deeper on my own into the different topics. I have done lots of reading and many free online courses around certain aspects which may have been briefly mentioned in the ISTQB courses.

Now here comes my rant… Doing the courses is one thing, for most of the courses, passing the exam means you have digested the definitions and content from the course and been able to answer most questions correctly in a multiple guess exercise. THIS DOES NOT MAKE YOU A GREAT TESTER! Stating you are a certified tester sends out the wrong message. Putting it in your profile name on linkedin – “John Smith – ISTQB Foundation Certified Software Tester” is wrong, it should not be something you are shouting from the rooftops. You should be saying something like the following:

I am an experienced Software Tester with advanced skills in x,y and z.

(note the lack of mention of the certification). They should not define you as a tester, you should be considered for roles on your skills, not on whether you attended a particular course and passed an exam. Companies also need to stop specifying certifications as part of their job specs, there are plenty of very good testers which may not have them who would do the role better than some of those who have.

There are plenty of courses worth doing out there that don’t give a Certified stamp at the end, ones that still have some form of assessments such as the BBST series (link here), these are courses I would like to get around to doing, but they are not 3 day courses with a multiple choice exam, they require continued effort for a period of weeks/months with practical assessments aswell as an exam.

Another course which comes highly recommended is the Rapid Software Testing course by James Bach, Michael Bolton and Cem Kaner, three industry gurus who give students confidence they can test anything in any timeframe (linky).

I guess the point I’m trying to make is, these ‘Certifications’ should be treated as any other training course, if you feel you will get value attending then go on them, just don’t hold the certifications up as a badge because it shouldn’t give you any additional kudos over other testers who haven’t got the certifications.

Testers are people and people learn in different ways. Testing is a field of work where there are constantly new things to learn, new skills to develop and new concepts to get your head around. Not everything you need to know will be in the syllabus of a certification course.

Like i said before, I have nothing against some of these courses, but they don’t make you the complete tester. Use them as stepping stones to further your knowledge and grow in the testing role.

Personally, I find now, that I learn just as much from reading other testers blogs or attending testing events and hearing new ideas. Learning opportunities can arise in many forms, all will be useful in making you a better tester.

So my answer is, certifications are only worth the paper they are written on, if they are then extended upon, knowledge is applied and not just used as a “that is everything I need to be a good tester” approach.

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