Why I don’t value test certification

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Certification for testers seems to have been a hot topic for a while and many testers seem unsure whether it’s the right thing to do for their career or not.

If you want to work in the USA or India as a software tester then you will almost certainly need an ISTQB qualification. In that case it may be useful for your career but it feels very much like a box ticking exercise at that point.

I’ve recruited software testers for many organisations in different industries and countries and I never value certification as part of the application.

Times, they are a’changing…

The software industry is a fast paced ever changing industry and software testing as a discipline is no exception. You can get some test certification that you never have to retake! Given the pace of change in the industry how can this mean you have learnt knowledge of modern software testing? Given the time and effort put in to creating and arranging the courses many ones I’ve seen are out of date at the time you take them. They simply can’t react fast enough to keep the tests up to date with the industry.

Passing the test

Test certificates will verify that you have a certain amount of knowledge on models and techniques which allow you to pass the tests. They don’t verify that you can apply this knowledge in the right situations or that you understand why these models exist. It’s a similar problem to certification in other areas as you have proved you can pass a test only.

Skills vs behaviours

Test models and techniques are entirely skills based and these are the things certification teaches you. But skills are not a highly valuable asset when I’m looking for new testers. Ultimately technologies, techniques and models can be learned and they change quickly. Behaviours and mindset on the other hand are much harder to learn and change. The behaviours an individual has will determine how well they build relationships, work in a team, lead people, work with clients and so on. This is a much more valuable thing to demonstrate to a potential employer.

I would rather see evidence on an application as to how someone has spent time working on behaviours such as empathy instead of skills learnt.

Forced certification

I’ve heard of and worked with (not worked for, I’m not doing that) companies that force new testers to get ISTQB certification within 6 months of working there if they don’t have it already! Not only does this seem a waste of time and money but as shown above it doesn’t necessarily make them a better tester so no one benefits. Except ISTQB of course.

Should I ever get certified?

Ultimately whether you want to undertake studying for some test certification comes down to your aims. Do you specifically want to work in a country or for a company that requires certification? If you do then it may be worthwhile.

However if you want to become a better tester then reading books about case studies, participating in and learning from the community, and working on your personal skills and behaviours are much better ways of spending your time in my eyes.

If you definitely do want certification, then think about the one that would benefit you most. Is it worthwhile getting something like ISTQB or would you be better learning something like a cloud technology and studying for an AWS certificate or similar?

I’d never get certified to prove you are a great tester, because in my eyes, it doesn’t.

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