Testing Certifications | Is it Mandatory to have an ISTQB Certification?

The complexity of Software systems and the demand of customers and users are increasing every day. It has become evident that testing must be treated as a disciplined and controlled process. Test professionals must learn precise techniques and methods by which they can deliver software with a much higher degree of confidence. Individuals who are charged with the responsibility of testing computer systems must receive formal education, i.e. Testing Certifications. Testing certifications are in great demand! It is assumed that you already have one of them or at least you are planning/preparing to have one of them soon. Educating testers on curriculum that is based on a well-established bodies of knowledge is the only way to establish testing as a discipline and to change the perception that testing is an ad hoc activity that requires minimal training.

But does that mean any formal education? There are various training and testing certifications providers out there, greedy to get the money out of your pocket. Recruiters are looking for professionals who are already certified. Certifications give testers an endorsement. But experienced testers know about the shallow certifications out there. So which testing certification do you pursue? Or should you get certified or not? Will a certification give you an advantage? This is the question plaguing most of the entry-level QA enthusiasts. Recently I got a similar query on LinkedIn,

“Hi Deepanshu, will you please tell me being a Software Tester, is it mandatory to have an ISTQB Certification?”

No. It is Not. But…

What is a ‘Certification’?

“Certification is a formal process of making certain that an individual is qualified in terms of particular knowledge or skills.”

Certification, i.e. Accreditation or an endorsement. Why do you look for accredited universities to receive higher education? Why does an educational degree matter? You know it is theoretical but still go for it, why? Yes! Accredited universities gives you an endorsement that Yes, Deepanshu Agarwal is an Engineer who has completed ‘Bachelor of Engineering’ degree in ‘Information Technology’ stream. Though not that useful in my practical day-to-day tasks, but still it helped the mind groom & grow to grasp ideas.

Many vendors and groups have recognized Software testing as an integral part of the development and maintenance process and have developed certifications to standardize and demonstrate knowledge of the QA process and testing tools. An Exam Provider is an organization licensed by a Member Board(s) to offer exams locally and internationally including online testing certifications.

Types of Certifications

Software Testing is a multi-faceted discipline. A Software tester is required to gain different skills over a period of time. Skills are related to QA basics, methodologies, tools, techniques, management & general overall process. Tools used can be proprietary or open-source. Therefore we have two kind of certifications in place,

  • Vendor Neutral Certifications: which do not depend on a particular vendor or a tool. These certifications encompass the Testing discipline as a whole. Example – ISTQB Certifications, CSTE, etc.
  • Vendor Certifications: These are conducted by specific vendors for specific tools & technology. For example – HPE – UFT Certification, HPE QC certification or IBM – RFT Certification, etc.

Note: Selenium is an Open source Software, no authorized certification, but some third party organizations are conduction Selenium certification programs.

Some Popular Testing Certifications

  1. ISTQB

ISTQB® has created the world’s most successful scheme for certifying software testers. ISTQB was officially founded as an International Testing Qualifications Board in Edinburgh in November 2002. The ISTQB is responsible for the “ISTQB Certified Tester”, which is an international qualification scheme and the qualifications in the scheme are based on a syllabus. There is an examination covering the contents of the syllabus. After the examination, each successful participant receives the “ISTQB-Certified-Tester” certificate. The contents of each syllabus are taught as courses by training providers, which have been accredited by ITB. As of December 2016, ISTQB® has administered over 700,000 exams and issued more than 500,000 certifications in over 117 countries world-wide. The scheme relies on a Body of Knowledge (Syllabus and Glossary) and exam rules that are applied consistently all over the world, with exams and supporting material being available in many languages.

  1. CSTE

The Certified Software Tester (CSTE) certification is intended to establish standards for initial qualification and provide direction for the testing function through an aggressive educational program. Acquiring the designation of Certified Software Tester (CSTE) indicates a professional level of competence in the principles and practices of quality control in the IT profession. CSTE’s become members of a recognized professional group and receive recognition of their competence by business and professional associates, potentially more rapid career advancement, and greater acceptance in the role as advisor to management.

  1. IIST

International Institute of Software Testing (IIST) took lead since 1999 and has become the provider of education-based testing certifications. IIST’s Advisory Board, a group of industry experts and practitioners, provides direction to the effort of developing its certification programs. IIST offers twelve different certifications. Each certification is based on a well-defined Body of Knowledge (BOK) approved by IIST’s Advisory Board. To achieve these certifications, a candidate must attend a number of instructor-led courses and pass a test for each course. Exams are not multiple choice or true/false type of exams as commonly used by other certification providers. The Advisory Board agreed that this approach might be acceptable in those types of certifications that require merely passing an exam and do not require a rigorous course of study. Exams in Education-Based Certifications are more of problem solving and hands-on questions.

  1. HPE UFT

For the ones working on Quick Test Professional (QTP), this has always been the most popular certification provided by HP. QTP certification by HPE is meant for QuickTest professionals who wish to gain mastery in testing tool by HPE called QuickTest (now UFT). The exam is intended for Testers, Automation Engineers, Services Specialists and technical personnel who will implement test automation by creating, enhancing and running tests and analysing run results with HP Functional Testing 11.x.

  1. Quality Improvement Associate Certification (CQIA)

The Certified Quality Improvement Associate has a basic knowledge of quality tools and their uses and is involved in quality improvement projects, but doesn’t necessarily come from a traditional quality area.

  1. Certified Test Manager (CTM)

The CTM Certification was developed based on the Test Management Body of Knowledge (TMBOK) to fill the gap in the management skills required by test managers and test leads to effectively manage the test process, the test project and the test organization.

  1. Certified Software Test Professional (CSTP)

CSTP is the short form for “Certified Software Test Professional.” This was initiated by International Institute for Software Testing (IIST) in 1991, and so far has been successful in enhancing the career of thousands of aspirants by providing the professional skill set for software application testing. This certification program could be taken by any new comer in the testing field as well as for the managers and leaders in testing field.

  1. Six Sigma Black Belt Certification (CSSBB)

The Certified Six Sigma Black Belt is a professional who can explain Six Sigma philosophies and principles, including supporting systems and tools. A Black Belt should demonstrate team leadership, understand team dynamics and assign team member roles and responsibilities. Black Belts have a thorough understanding of all aspects of the DMAIC model in accordance with Six Sigma principles. They have basic knowledge of Lean enterprise concepts, are able to identify non-value-added elements and activities and are able to use specific tools.

  1. Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA)

Prove your level proficiency as a manager or advisor when it comes to IT principles and practices of quality assurance when you become Certified Software Quality Analyst certified.

  1. Certified Manager of Software Testing (CMST)

This certification reflects your ability to handle the project and demonstrate your capability to manage the Software test function.

The learning does not stop here. Post expert level, one can opt for PMP (Project Management Professional) certification or / and move to Agile certifications like CSM (Certified Scrum Master) / CSPO (Certified Product Owner). After completing your CSM certification, you can continue your learning by moving on to next level which is CSP (Certified Scrum Professional) and gradually towards Agile Coach or Trainer.

In favor of Testing Certifications

“If there were two equally-qualified candidates for a software tester or QA job, and only one had ISTQB software testing certification, which candidate would you rather be?”

Current IT jobs market is competitive. And specifically Indian jobs market is too competitive, obviously seeing the average population into IT. Everybody wants to land a dream job into the world of Information Technology. With no programming language required (initially), Software testing becomes an easy goat. A job post on Software Testing can fetch you thousands of resumes within hours. Such is the competition. In this scenario, taking a certification can help you differentiate yourself from peers and your subsequent employment chances. Seeing one of the testing certifications on your resume helps recruiter to know that okay, you have ‘some’ basic knowledge about software testing.

Some employers too, i.e. companies, push their employees to get certified in one or the other testing certifications. Why? Since a certification acts as a skills verification tool and improves the staff’s ability to quickly complete the job tasks. Additionally, it’s a marketing tool for organizations as well – that so-and-so percentage of their QA employees are this-and-that certified. Certification builds quality culture and improves credibility with the clients.

Why Testing certifications doesn’t really matter?

“The biggest challenge for testers/the test discipline is to reject the false prophets of certification. Bad certification programs cheapen our craft.” – James Bach

Testing Certifications has long been a debatable topic amongst the QA enthusiasts. Why? Because Formal academic programs seldom provide even rudimentary coverage of software testing, let alone teaching it as a discipline. Many say that none of the available testing certifications are capable of making testing skills better in any possible way. And these so called certifications are a mere money making tools for respective organizations.

Can any of these certifications guarantee that it can improve your skills as a tester? No! Most of the syllabus of these testing certifications are age old. They have not been updated for quite long time. The questions seldom deal with other required skills like risk management, building test ideas, exploring a software and so on. They speak of practices and approaches in Software Testing, which are outdated in current scenario. Most of those approaches were written in the earlier days of Software Testing. At a time, when Software Testing was struggling to get its own identity.

It’s a vicious cycle – People are driven to testing certifications since companies are still looking for candidates holding some sort of certification while recruiting.

Experience matters | Not certifications

Nothing beats EXPERIENCE. No certification can provide the exposure and training you get while working on real time projects. PERIOD! I think work experience is far more important for a senior than any certification, certifications are just to prove you have a certain basic level knowledge and can communicate with others in the industry. Testing Certifications are not mandatory – technical ability, experience and other soft skills do play a major role in your job. Even a certified professional can be very poor at actual software testing practices. It is with experience & continuous learning that you learn & grow the practical aspects of Software testing as a discipline.

But everyone cannot be a James Bach

You might be shocked to know that James Bach’s highest formal qualification is 8th Grade from High school. But still, he is considered as one of the fathers of software testing. He is one of the pioneers, who has helped Software Testing get its own identity. To reach this position, he never required any commercial certification. So why should we?

Just that there is one catch: I am no James Bach. I can be one day, but today I am not. And not everyone can be a James Bach. These idealistic talks are good for the best, but for average people struggling to get a job or to keep one – certifications can be a boost to self-esteem at least. After all, not everyone is born to be a leader (yeah! I am not ideal, but practical). Though testing certifications cannot help, but who said it will obstruct my way to reach that pinnacle one day?

My Personal take on Testing Certifications

Now that all in the world has been discussed above, let me come to the point. With decreasing training budgets, software testers today are given very little training and guidance on how to perform effective testing. Certifications too are narrow in their syllabus and do not focus on practical QA skills. But what’s the harm I ask? Being a mediocre, how can I keep pace with the highly competitive industry? Yeah! Certifications.

If you are thinking Testing certifications will help you in your practical QA abilities in any way – No. They will not! But so does the theoretical education. I believe theory is just to kick-off your mind. Open your mind to continuous learning in the related field. That was the sole reason I went for ISTQB certification when I started my career 8 years back. If Testing certifications can kick-start your learning curve, then be it. What’s the harm? You are not losing anything. There is absolutely no harm in any kind of education. Period. Additionally if you are a fresher, or are from a non-technical background and trying to get a job in the software industry, certification will HELP. Just think about it, as an employer, I do not have any other parameters to judge your technical caliber, so certification is a good start point.

But don’t believe in any myth like Testing certifications are a way to,

  • Gain recognition for performance excellence.
  • Enhance your practical career.
  • Realize salary goals.
  • And increase the probability of promotions.

A strong point I would like to make is – do not rely on testing certifications alone. Your enthusiasm towards a particular field and the experience gained over a period of time are the most valuable assets. Merely doing a certification would not guarantee better growth, both in terms of personal learning and professional aspirations. Your technical acumen, experience and other soft skills do play a major role in your professional career growth.

  • Continuous learning: There is no substitute for learning. There are lots of things which can help you in becoming a better tester.
  • Practice, Practice, and Practice: The more testing you do, the smarter you become as a tester. So test, test and test!
  • Acquire skills: Instead of certifications, try to acquire different skills required for a skilled tester. Explore, find and learn.

Note: To determine what certification is in demand, you can count the number of times a certification shows up in recent job descriptions. Make sure that the certification you do should be well mapped to your experience level. These are just recommendations. The choice of selecting a certification/course is based on one’s personal aspirations.

Hope this article was of ‘some’ help to clear the air around testing certifications. If yes, please share. If not – I am open to debate. Please share your ideas in the comments section below. Happy Testing!



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