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I have passed the foundation level exam, and to be honest, I'm pretty sure that anyone could pass that exam with a couple of days of studying. My question is are these certificates really of value to my career and should I put any effort into acquiring the more advanced levels?

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+1 for a question with the potential to spread awareness! –  Suchit Parikh Jun 9 '11 at 18:53
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If you can get someone to hire you based on a certification, imagine what you can trick him into paying you! :-) –  corsiKa Jun 9 '11 at 20:09
    
@ glowcoder, I got the definite reason to write a testing certificate now ;-) –  Tarun Jun 10 '11 at 4:00
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It's interesting to me that some comments are directed at certifications and hiring, or certification != skill. Both these are tangential to your question. The question you have to ask yourself is, "did you learn something new and valuable while studying for the certfication that will help you in your career?" –  Bj Rollison Jun 10 '11 at 14:07
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I have a friend who uses organisations that require ISTQB as a clear indicator of where NOT to work. :-) –  Bruce McLeod Aug 22 '11 at 22:59

18 Answers 18

up vote 24 down vote accepted

"Value to career" is a tough thing to call.

I don't have a certification, and as far as I know, I've never hired anyone with a certification. That could be due to my location, or just a coincidence, or could be a point demonstrating their lack of value.

I do know that I've never considered ISTQB/ISEB Certification of any value while reviewing candidates' resumes or during interviews.

To answer the question in the title of your post: No. Testing Certificates do not prove that someone can test. They only prove that the individual can pass the certification exam.

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One more comment - a while back I performed a quick experiment with similar Certification to see how often they were listed as job requirements. strazzere.blogspot.com/2010/04/… You could do something like that for yourself. –  Joe Strazzere Jun 10 '11 at 21:12
  • Experience gained in working across multiple projects / domains is totally different from theoritically reading and passing the exam
  • Certification might get some initial attention to shortlist the candidate but overall it is the quality of the candidate that speaks
  • Answer is 'NO'
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I have never even mentioned these certifications to any prospective candidate, nor have I been ever asked. These certifications have been able to thrive so much, maybe because of lack of formal education for the field of Quality Assurance.

I believe these come handy when you are applying for a QA/tester job in non-technological industry where the hiring managers do not have substantial technological skills or experience and the certificates can help them filter the candidates.

These certificates, maybe prove that someone knows the basics of testing - fundamentals and definitions, which might be beneficial at the start of the career. It might help getting a job initially, but is not a quality metrics for the ability to test.

Again, ROI is a totally different argument.

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I wouldn't hire someone based on a QA certification, but I wouldn't hold it against them either. In a tight job market, a person might try a lot of things to make themselves more marketable.

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  1. Judge for yourself: scan the ads and see what % mention certification and what % require it.
  2. ISTQB certification shows that you mastered some common body of knowledge and glossary. For me it is a nice-to-have sort of thing.
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I am aware of the current "certification is evil" line going through the software testing community. I have to say that, I don't agree with this line.

As user246 mentioned, people do occaisionally attain this certification to be more marketable. People also often sometimes take this certification early in their careers in the hopes of learning more. Certainly not going to hold it against them.

To your question however. Certification does not prove that someone knows how to test. They can show that you have learned a set of "common" terms and idea's. They may even teach someone some of the basics of testing, however, really good testing can only be learned through experience, practice, and personal retrospectives as to what they actually learned while they were testing.

If you want to put the time and money into them, I certainly wouldn't begrudge you for having them if I happened to be interviewing you, I've often contemplated the same thing myself. There are managers however, who feel that certification is a requirement. In this case, if you are in a very competitive market, it could very well help give you a one up over another candidate.

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Does it mean you can test? As has already been stated above several times, certainly not.

Does it help? I can't really think of any situations where it would be a negative (at the worst, a non-factor maybe), so it certainly can't affect your employability - which, let's face it, is a rather important part of the "software testing career" experience.

On a personal note, I gained the ISTQB Foundation cert back in 2009, and it was one of the reasons my resume wasn't thrown in the bin (and for me giving an interview etc). So I can't categorically state that it helps in that regard, but on the other hand, I was thrown into an environment where I lost my bearings for the first few months and didn't apply a lot of the knowledge I'd acquired (both through previous job experience and the cert), so in that way it didn't prove that I could test at all.

Luckily they were patient with me...

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I know at least one company where your CV will be binned if it has the ISEB on it. They say as much in their ads. –  testerab Jun 10 '11 at 17:52
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To be fair, if you read their ad and didn't update your CV accordingly, how can they expect you to actually read their specs too? Whether or not I agree with the philosophy of nixxing based on a certification, I do agree with nixxing people whose first communication with me shows they can't follow directions. –  corsiKa Jun 10 '11 at 22:30
    
Yup, I think it's a perfectly rational way to sift out oblivious candidates. I wouldn't nix based on a cert, but I'm increasingly seeing ads that make it clear that they'd rather you were polite enough not to mention your cert as a selling point because they don't consider it to be one. –  testerab Jun 12 '11 at 23:33
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Interesting criteria, testerab - wonder why they do it? Are certifications these days over-rated, don't really demonstrate any testing capability, or something else? Or as glowcoder pointed out, a fairly basic test to see if applicants can follow basic instructions? It's quite a grey area, different people/organisations will take different things away from including/excluding certifications as job requirements. –  Dean Mackenzie Jun 15 '11 at 2:02

Having ISTQB certifcation doesn't make you an experienced person. It just add's weightage to your resume when you are switching to another company. In few cases it helps a person who is planning to shift altogether to a new country for ex: If you are working in india and looking for a job in USA or any European countries it helps you in finding a job.

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How does it help? –  Chris Kenst May 17 '12 at 23:35

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught - Oscar Wilde

If the effort you make to acquire certifications in the field of software testing in it's current form would encourgae you read more relevant stuff related to testing and you firmly believe that is going to help you think critically about the craft; I would say go for it. Inversely you can spend the same effort in becoming good at what you do by interacting and particaipating in different forums/activities related to testing outside your work. It largely depends on the person. if he needs to have a motivation (in someone's case it can be a certificate) to evolve as a professional, there is no harm in doing what you think is right.

Having said that I still feel that the certification programs currently available hardly inspire you to enahance your cognitive and creative skills and probably also in providing any solid pratical lessons on how to evolve as professional tester. You could invest your time, effort and money in better things such as books on programming, testing, development, pyschology, critical thinking, sytems thinking, etc. and read them instead.

Your long term career would be a sum of what you have learned and helped others learn by doing some inspring work on the field rather than how many medals you have managed to put on the wall. For a specific job there is a possibility that you manage with short-cuts, but if we speak of a career then it's much more than mere certificates and citations.

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No, a testing certificate doesn't prove you can test. Having said that, I have sat (and passed) the ISEB Foundation and Intermediate levels and the ISTQB Advanced Test Analyst.

For each of those I read a bunch of books and articles, then paid to sit the exam. It was definitely worth reading the books - I learned some useful things. I think it was just about worth sitting the exams (about £120 each), it's possible that it will give me an edge at some point when applying for a job.

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Are you saying you could have gotten the same knowledge by downloading the free Syallabus and then buying and reading the books in it? –  Chris Kenst Sep 24 '12 at 3:48

I have also have been on the foundation course and feel that it presented no gain in my career. The course however would have been of great help when I had first started my career as a software tester. It highlights some of the basic techniques that can be applied and tries to put the concepts behind testing into perspective.

I am sure that "anyone" could pass this test and as it is only a 3 day course then I would not expect it to be too difficult. If you are looking to see what the next level's in the course teach then I am sure that they have books available that will inform you of what the course contains.

Software Testing: An ISEB Intermediate Certificate

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Well... No, in my opinion the ISTQB Foundation level certification does not guarantee that you can test. Learning the specifics of the job requires practice, depth of knowledge, experience, etc. ISTQB preparation teaches you basic terminology. Processes and even testing techniques are not covered well... Anyway, think about it that way: "ISTQB does not guarantee that you cannot test". :))

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Not exactly. It may prove that you have understood the concepts but that doesn't mean that ur good at hunting bugs.

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No, but it normally proves, you that you will understand what the ISTQB test manager and the other ISTQB tester mean. Many project managers think that testing is that obvious that one need no education for it, it is certainly wrong.

A big value is - one would not disturb good testing process by implementing his not-understanding about testing and qa.

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So you are saying the benefit of getting a certification is to be able to understand other certified people? That doesn't seem very convincing. Wouldn't it just be easier to discuss things as a team? The second part of your statement doesn't make any sense. –  Chris Kenst Sep 24 '12 at 3:46
    
What are you going to discuss, if everybody speaks his own language? One tells - make a test plan, and another will make what he think a test plan is. Testing seems intuitive, but it is not. There is an opinion- a tester should be anybody who can't do anything useful. –  Alexei Vinogradov Sep 25 '12 at 15:24
    
What do you mean by langauge? English, Hindi, etc? The words you use have different meaning under different context. People need to be intelligent enough to ask for clarification, e.g. what do you mean by a "test plan"? Building a common vocabulary can be very helpful but that needs to be done within the context of the team / group / etc. Regardless if your company is full of "certified" testers or not, you'll need to understand the context of the words before it will help. –  Chris Kenst Sep 25 '12 at 19:45

No, absolutely. The problem with ISTQB Syllabus is that it does not really reflect modern approaches and methodologies (especially in agile environments). I attended ISTQB training recently myself and I must say that at least half of it was useless (problems that were mentioned do not exist in agile team to which I belong).

But...

Although it does not say much about you as a tester it may be a value to your career. Depends on where you live (or where you will be seeking jobs in the future). In my area the certificate is always mentioned as 'nice-to-have' in all job adverts.

From what I've heard the advanced-level exams are much more difficult and if I were you I would take at least one of them.

Now, I said the certificate is good for a career even if it doesn't give you much knowledge. So you may wonder - is there any training/certification that comes with some useful knowledge? Association For Software Testing provides online training. They are not (yet?) recognized by employers, but I heard they can change the way you look at testing. I am not sure if it's truth or not (although people who told me about AST were definitely trustworthy), but I am going to take the training in September. Then I will share my thoughts here. ;)

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+1 for pointing out lack of relevance to Agile team. Hope you enjoy the AST course! –  testerab May 21 '12 at 19:22
    
I recently look the AST course and yes, it was a real eye-opener. Having also taken the ISTQB course, I'd rate the value in the AST course to be magnitudes higher, as it really focuses on the "how to test", not in a "this way or the highway" kind of approach, but in teaching you the principles to identify bugs, come up with useful tests and so on. Disclaimer - my test expertise when I took both courses varied wildly (ISTQB when I was just starting out, AST just a few months ago with several years now under the belt) so there is bias present in my viewpoints. –  Dean Mackenzie Jul 4 '12 at 6:06

Why are the people with loads of experience and knowledge afraid of the certification exams? I started to doubt if these people just get along with their connections and some politicking? Just like certification, even your academic credentials can't reflect your abilities. Most Indians know of one Harvard graduate who cannot spell "Harvard" correctly. But then studying at Harvard doesn't make all those who studied there to be fools.

When these kind of people are at the helm of the affairs, problems start. Because when they can't put in effort to pass, they have a prejudice against those who pass the exam.

If they really believe in all that bs they dish out, they should be developing their own software instead of using the crappy software from Microsoft and oracle.

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Afraid of the certification exams? I suspect you are confusing "disdain" and "fear". –  Joe Strazzere Jun 21 '12 at 12:36
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Most of the people I know who don't trust certification exams aren't afraid. They believe the exams don't measure what they say they measure, or that the exams are actually harmful because the right answers on the exams aren't correct. Would you trust an exam that marked 2 + 2 = 4 wrong? For many experienced testers, that's what they see in the certification exams. –  Kate Paulk Oct 22 '12 at 11:37

Certifications can only prove that certified personal has knowledge. But In order to be a good tester , we need to apply knowledge.

ISTQB certification test only knowledge but not on how to apply knowledge. There can be still dumb testers even with ISTQB certificates.

Thanks! Sashi

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i don't think that ISTQB Certification or another approves that you are now can test, you must do real work to learn but it also good for concepts & some companies may requires it to join work

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