Software Testing Certification

Professional certification is a hot topic. While professions are getting more and more specialised and rivalry is not only on the employee level, but HRs and recruiters also, who’re competing in hiring best professionals, it takes even more to promote yourself and prove your value and knowledge.
On the other hand, professional certification is a business, and while exams are paid, certifications centres takes profit from number of people attending. There’s also no certification trend lately, saying that in professions like software development, certificates don’t prove ones value, because they don’t show experience, ability to learn and wide knowledge.

Are professional certifications worth taking in software development world? The answer is – it depends, obviously. Let’s consider this question from few characters (fictional), being in different state of their careers and coming from different background.

Peter – 0 years of experience, student
Although Peter is a college freshman with no professional experience, he wants to become a junior tester. He has some basic knowledge of scripting and software testing generals, but has no luck in finding his first job so far. The biggest obstacle is lack of recruiters attention – who would want to hire first year college student without any experience? – explains Peter.
Here we have quite obvious, pro-certification situation. The most popular testing certification is ISTQB, with it’s entry level – ISTQB foundation level. Syllabus covers very basics of testing concepts. There’s a common controversy whether it proves actual skills or just few quotes learn by heart, but lets put that aside and look from employer perspective. Owning certification tells our future employer few things:

  • we treat this profession seriously, investing time and money to develop ourselves
  • despite lack of experience, with some entry level certification we have (or should have) skills and knowledge foundations in our profession

Summing-up, foundation level certificates can be the best way to kick-off our starting career and to stand out from the crowd to our first job.

Anna – 16 years of experience, expert test engineer
Anna’s been software tester since the very beginning of her career. She’s been doing automation mainly, but manual testing and team management is nothing new for her. Anna felt a little stuck in the middle lately. She’s not developing herself as fast as she used to few years ago. Although her career is advancing, she isn’t really progressing in software testing craft. Anna consider attempting software testing certification. This is new for her, because until now, all her knowledge bas been day-by-day experience. She even feels like missing something, watching those younger folks with testing diplomas.
I bet you’ve been in Anna’s shoes a few times. Bottom line is there’s nothing more valuable than real experience. You can learn fancy rules of team management, you can name all different phases of test process, but then you’d be challenged by budget, time schedule, team maturity and so on. I’m not saying that certification is bad or it doesn’t teach you anything – what I mean is nothing can beat experience. According to learning curve, as more experienced you are, the harder is to get new knowledge, but isn’t it an essence of craftsmanship? Skills and knowledge are gained through hard work, dedication and experience.

Jan – 8 years of experience, software testing consultant
Although Jan has 8 years of professional experience, it isn’t real determinant. He runs his own business, hiring small team of testers, aiming mainly for contracting companies for outsourced testing. When competitions for outsourced services are being made, besides factors like price, time, service quality etc, there’re often formal requirements like possession of suitable certification.
This is obviously pro-certification situation. It’s not dictated mostly by need to acquiring new knowledge and skills, but from practical, business approach. What’s more, even when there’re no formal requirements for certification, having one can be significant advantage in contract competitions.

 

Summary
There’s lots of controversy over software testing certification. In my personal opinion, most important factor in software tester value is experience and business/technical knowledge (depending on role). When it comes to agility, continuous delivery and modern software engineering process, pure software craftsmanship and personal abilities are more valuable than principles and guidelines. I’m not discarding certification though, cause as I described above – it can be important factor as an advantage point.

  • Łukasz Pietrucha

    As always “context” is a key word that should drive such discussions :-).