After Five Years of Debate…Tester Certifications Still a Touchy Subject

Mention certifications to testers and you’77ba97b0c4ll run the gamut of responses, from those that have found valuable experience and advancement in their careers by being certified, to those that preach that a certification is no substitute for cold, hard experience.

We all know how testing luminary James Bach feels about them, going on to say that “The ISTQB and similar programs require your stupidity and your fear in order to survive,” and that “dopey, frightened, lazy people will continue to use them in hiring, just as they have for years.” Suffice to say that James won’t be sending the ISTQB a card this holiday season.

Rarely has a topic been as polarizing and heated in discussion, to the point of after five years of the initial topic being launched in our uTest Community on the subject, hundreds of responses have been logged, along with sequel/knockoff threads (sequels that were actually still engaging and not superfluous like A Good Day to Die Hard).

Here are just a few of our favorite viewpoints from these discussions:

Are certifications bad? Not necessarily.
Are certifications that base their exams on multiple choice bad? Most likely.
Do certifications meet the needs of my organization? Perhaps.
Is there even a best practice in Software Testing? Not likely.
Do certifications tell you how good you are as a tester? Hell no.
(Glory L.)

IMO, the Foundation cert does teach someone the basics of how to test (in addition to what testing is, where it fits in the SDLC, etc). The Advanced level certainly expands on how to test. And yes, it is my belief that these certs advance a tester in their skills and ability – the study material alone should be on any tester’s reading list.
(Shane D.)

I have no use for certifications. I think they are bunk. My last full-time job had a number of “certified” people in various roles that had no idea what they were doing. Basically they were able to pass a test and get a piece of paper. But it didn’t make them any better at their jobs. I would put more time into learning rather than trying to pass a test. Learn because you want to, not because you have to. You’ll be better for it.
(John K.)

I just recently sat for my CTFL certification, not because I saw the value in it, but I wasn’t getting interviews without it. I have only been testing software for 5 years, and primarily for a single company in a niche market. Therefore though I have the respect and ‘backing’ of people at my company, and in my particular industry, but was having great difficulty breaking into a new field.
(Derek C.)

Are ‘certifications’ always a dirty word when it comes to testing, or is there a time and a place for certifications, especially at the foundation level where it’s important for testers to have a baseline for core concepts? We’d love to hear from testers in the Comments below.


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  • Claudiu Draghia says:

    I guess this not a question only for software testing. If you look at Sir Ken Robinson’s talks on TED one can realize the usefulness of a classical education. Perhaps we should explore more alternatives ways of “certification” rather than a doll questionnaire…perhaps identify a learning patter that a tester could follow to improve…

  • Gabriel Garcia says:

    I’ve read online that ISTQB is better for testers outside the United States of America, whereas CTFL is better for people within the states. Can anybody confirm this? Trying to decide which certification to tick off..Don’t really consider certification important besides to improve your resume.

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