Community Thoughts: Software Testing Certifications

By Melissa Eaden

Software Testing certifications have been around for various software testing jobs and roles for a while. One of the more popular topics of discussion on The Club, our software testing community forum, has been around certifications. This is a short summary of the discussion currently in progress on The Club. You too can be part of the discussion. Feel free to read this summary or go to the topic, and jump in!

Software Testing Certifications Discussed

There are three software testing certifications discussed in The Club topic:

  1. International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB/ISEB),
  2. Black Box Software Testing (BBST) series,
  3. Certified Agile Tester (CAT).

Most of the discussion in the beginning centers around ISTQB foundation series. Much of the community has some pretty strong opinions about why they took the foundation series in the first place and how it affected their work.

Experiences for the group leaned towards not liking the certification. There is a general feeling that while some of the information from ISTQB is interesting, it’s outdated at best and doesn’t serve to get a newcomer up-to-speed on software testing and terminology as much as it should.

BBST was generally discussed in a more favourable light, with some proposing that it was more practical and interesting than ISTQB. With the examinations testing your thinking and practical skills rather than a multiple choice questionnaire. One suggested that the course positively affected their testing approach and the way they communicated about testing within their team.

CAT was mentioned as a book and exam that you could take. It appears that only one person had experience with it, and said that it was mostly an exam requiring a person to memorize the book.

From the discussion, there were three reasons that stood out as to why someone would want or need to take a certification course:

  1. People felt they needed some foundation software testing knowledge.
  2. Their employer paid for the course (either through a mandate/requirement, or voluntary).
  3. Many, especially in Europe, found it necessary to obtain a job interview.

The Expense Of Software Testing Certifications

Many people also discussed the expense between ISTQB and BBST. One positive factor for BBST is that it is more affordable than ISTQB certifications. BBST materials are freely available on the internet, however, you do need to go through AST or Altom if you would like to qualify for a certificate.

Others mentioned that they don’t think they should pay for certifications required by employers. It was noted that it seemed if employers were willing to pay for the certification, they were willing to invest in the professional development of their employees. It also showed the commitment of the employee to take the certification as it demonstrated to the employer that they were willing to grow professionally.

Others mentioned that they saved up for some of the certifications or courses so that they could extend their training and knowledge. Rapid Software Testing (RST) was mentioned as an example of a course people saved for to attend.

The more negative leaning sentiments are that certifications are there to make money and they don’t particularly care about helping the industry or the individual.

Industry Trends For Software Testing Certification

The industry overall, especially in Europe, is using certifications as a way to vet candidates for positions. It was mentioned that this was particularly true if you were attempting to get a job through recruitment agents. Folks who posted mentioned several times that employers were looking for software testing certifications on their CVs. It’s a practice that doesn’t seem to be very welcome in the community at large, but it seems that certifications are the tool companies and recruiters are using to differentiate candidates.

One person posted their experience around discussing not having a certification with potential employers. Their conclusion was the employer missed out on a good candidate with years of experience because they were looking for a certification instead.

A few members suggested this trend was due to targeted marketing strategies from the certification bodies, who aimed their advertising at upper management. It was proposed that the marketing made unsubstantiated claims about the value of the certifications.

Common Language Dictionary

A positive outcome for some members who completed software testing certifications was learning a “standard terminology” and being able to speak a common language with other software testers. However, other members commented that all the information and terminology they learnt was on a shallow level, just to pass the test. After completing their course they forgot everything.

There was also a mention that Cem Kaner tried to start a common language dictionary for testers, in association with Association of Software Testing (AST), but found quickly, that there wasn’t a common definition for terms. The idea never really came to fruition. Definitions and terminology are still being defined and it seems there is no one correct answer to this conundrum of making a standard or common definition we could all use.

Blog Posts About Software Testing Certifications

Several people posted blog links about their certification thoughts and experience. One poster mentioned Martin Fowlers blog post on the topic. Additionally Heather Reid, our Community Boss, posted a blog from Albert Gareev about the topic, noting that he points out that there are other ways, besides certifications, to get jobs in testing. There was another mention of Cem Kaner and his thoughts on certifications. An interesting addition to this list is Troy Hunt, known for his cyber security and tools. His post was shared his thoughts on certifications.

Showing Equivalent Work

Another interesting twist to certifications, were people that expressed having the certifications helped them in their software testing career because they lacked a degree. They often took the certifications at the beginning of their careers and used them as a means of showing “equivalent work” since they didn’t have a degree to show some years of experience with the subject matter. It was seen as a “foot-in-the-door” for a lot of folks who were unable to obtain a college degree for a variety of reasons. It’s very similar to a trades model, where people do courses which certify them for a certain kind of work without having to enter into a full time commitment to attend a more traditional college.

Others posted that they thought these might be helpful for junior software testers or those changing careers but less helpful for more senior folks in the business of testing. It was also mentioned that as the industry grows in technical scope these foundation certifications might be outmoded by certifications in relation to tech certs with more solid knowledge, such as PMP, Comp A++, or a two or four year computer science or computer information degree. Certifications on specific technology might be more helpful in the long run than the testing certifications themselves.

Networking Through Software Testing Certifications

There were additional mentions about using the certifications as a way of networking, also comparing it to the college experience and building a network of people interested in similar topics and ideas. Others mentioned that there were better ways to learn or network, through meetups and conferences.

Alternatives to Software Testing Certifications

Many members discussed alternative, more effective methods of learning about software testing than certifications, these included:

Other alternative methods include all the software testing content and courses available on The Dojo, as well as, training from active software testers made available through the Masters of the Ministry.

Finally, the biggest and best asset to the software testing craft is the software testing community. There’s so much knowledge and experience out there. More often than not, community members are more than happy to share their expertise and to support others. Useful tools for networking, asking questions and having discussions are Twitter, Ministry of Testing Slack, Slack and, of course, The Club.

Join The Discussion

If you would like to get involved in this discussion or any discussion on The Club, jump in! It’s the testing community at your fingertips wherever you have an internet connection. Browse past topics and create new ones. Best of all, the information can be searched and used by others looking for information on similar topics. Join today! Access to The Club is free with a Club Membership Dojo, our software testing learning platform, account brought to you by Ministry of Testing.

Author Bio

Melissa Eaden has worked for more than a decade with tech companies and currently enjoys working for ThoughtWorks, in Dallas, Texas. Melissa’s previous career in mass media continues to lend itself to her current career endeavors. She enjoys being EditorBoss for Ministry of Testing, supporting their community mission for software testers globally. She can be found on Twitter and Slack @melthetester.