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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?

  • 3
    +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

21 Answers 21

47

"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.

  • 2
    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
17

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.

17

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.

7

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. ;)

  • 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
6

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.

5

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...

  • 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
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    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
3
  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.
3

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". :))

2

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

2

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.

  • 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
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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.

1

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.

1

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.

  • How does it help? – Chris Kenst May 17 '12 at 23:35
1

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
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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
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Do ISTQB/ISEB Testing Certificates prove that someone can test?

Not really. It is all theory and definitions of terminologies. Frankly in my career and experience I haven't seen one size fits all theory. Demand and quality criteria of each piece of software differs and only thing that really helps is hands on experience and ability to think and question. Certifications don't teach that. So the certifications can't prove that someone can test. You can only judge by comparing one's experience and with your needs and see if they will be a good fit to hire on your team for testing software. Why I say this is because every where you go the they have their own terminologies and processes which means the terminologies and processes defined as standards become obselete in that case and you have to adjust and many a times improvise over it.

Are certificates really of value to my career?

That really depends. If you are working for companies that are certification oriented, then yes, it does add value. Many companies prefer to hire people with certifications. There may be several reasons for this. Some that I know of are,

  1. They filter resumes when hiring depending on certain keywords so that they don't have to go through a long list of them.
  2. They really believe in having a certification means you can test.
  3. They hire people with certificates to show-off to their client and for marketing purposes.

In such situations as mentioned above having a certification can be an added value to get a job.

BUT,

To get the job done and to keep it the only thing that helps is your ability to perform, think, question, communicate and advocate-bugs. Doesn't matter if you pass all the certification exams out there and have hundreds of certification logos on your CV if you cant test you're getting nowhere near to growth in your career.

0
  • 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'
0

No. IMHO Any certificate in hand does not prove anything in itself. I think in any certification(in fact in any education) the value you receive is directly equal to the effort you put into it.

So you may receive high value out of it, provided you put that much effort in understanding and applying the deeper concepts, fundamentals of the Software testing which of course you can get it without any certification as well if you really learn and practice those skills.

0

I have an ISQTB Foundation cert that a previous employer paid for , i think it has differentiated me in arbitrary situations. I wouldn't have paid for it myself. It was a half hour multiple choice question test that is pretty hard to fail. I learnt some formal terms that help when explaining things to others.

There are loads of sample tests for ISQTB online that you can do for free , the test material hasn't changed much so you can have the soft benefits without paying for the cert.

Doing sample tests before an interview is a reasonable way of validating your knowledge and that validation translates into confidence in the interview.

Demonstrating confidence and knowledge will get you the job, if you have it you don't need an ISQTB , if you don't ISQTB can help but its not a substitute.

I haven't looked at the advanced or manager level ISQTB certs , they may be more in depth and useful , they are certainly expensive.

0

For my experience is having certifications means not you know how to test. I have interviewed several candidates with many ISTQB certifications but when we asked simple questions they can't answer. However that not say that you do not need to do certifications.

Actually testing is an art and everyone cant be a good tester. Sometimes it comes with experience. Also your passionate about learning explore things, Analytical skills , technical skills all will matter. However for interviews or even organization level when we want to show the level of quality engineers these certifications are important. Let s if a client come and ask look how many qualified quality engineers you have for this , ISTQB is one criteria we are using. Therefor in order to go up the ladder all will matter.

-2

In my region, the short answer is YES.

I find this issue similar to having a driving license.

There are many teenager who knows how to drive car but with out driving license. Another example: there are some adults whose driving license has been taken back as a punishment. Both groups knows how to drive a car but with out a license someone (Police Officer) do not know if they can drive or not and they will get punished if they drive a car.

Similar to above example ISTQB certificate shows that you have at least basic knowledge of software testing and someone (Human Resources) easily could understand this. With out certificate Human Resources less likely to call you for a appointment.

This might be different if you are in another part of the world.

  • I have heard the driver-licence comparison before, but in this case ISTQB is not a license, it is a way to make money nothing more nothing less, it is not about modern practical testing. James Bach compares test-certifications with medicine in the middle ages. In those times you where learned that bloodletting was a good practise for fixing illnesses and diseases, you could also get a doctor degree for it, auch! I think ISTQB is similar as it is not practical and based on theory, therefor I signed the professionaltestersmanifesto.org – Niels van Reijmersdal May 22 '17 at 9:49
  • I agree with you at the point where you need to pay money for this certificate. But you need to pay money also for ITIL, TOEFL , IELTS , Universities etc. In my point of I would hire certificated tester instead of non at the same experience level. As I would hire University graduate instead of vocational school graduate. – RecepC May 22 '17 at 10:38
  • It depends on person per person. I would not grade someone with a degree or certificate higher or lower. For testers it is even harder as critical thinking is not something you learn on school. I would argue that schools destroys critical thinking, because teachers and predefined answers are always right. As the manifesto states: "testing benefits from diversity and not homogeneity". I understand your thinking and that of most HR-departments, but I think it is seriously flawed. I do have to remark that I am also biased as I do not have a certificate nor a degree from any school. :) – Niels van Reijmersdal May 22 '17 at 12:07
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    In some places having the certificate is necessary for employment and considered necessary to be able to test. I suspect this is the poster's environment. – Kate Paulk May 22 '17 at 16:00

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