Certification – is it worth it?

Another topic that has been on my mind is certification for testers.

It’s a tricky one, as there are different qualifications that a tester can get – there are the formal ISTQB or Certified Agile Tester (CAT) courses which will provide some sort of certification, specific qualifications that cover tools such as QTP, or a specialism of some sort such as Security testing.

A number of people have asked the same question, namely ‘is it worth getting a formal qualification?’.

My experience of taking ISEB (as it was then) after being a tester for 15 years was that I learned what I needed to pass the exam, ignoring what I do in my day job. I passed, and then ignored most of what we had learned as it wasn’t relevant when I went back to my day job!. The theory was great – but out of date – it hadn’t moved with the times.

There probably is value in testers taking the exam with some test experience, as opposed to just going straight in with no practical experience – you do need that to help you work out how to apply what you learn, but I do not see the relevance if you have been testing for a long time, as you have to ‘unlearn’ what you do, in order to learn what the examiner wants you to write down. That does not make any sense.

Unfortunately many employers are blind to this, and insist on a qualification, believing that it means that the person is a good tester – but it is not the case at all. I have interviewed people with ISTQB Foundation for example who have no idea how to approach testing when I give them a User Story as a practical test and ask them to outline their approach and give me some example tests. If they have a qualification (whatever it is), then surely they should know this!

The idea of having a standard industry certification is great, however unless that certification actually meets the needs of testers in the industry and reflects how organisations work, it has no practical value, and therein lies the problem. We are left in the position where employers (who often are not testers themselves) do not know how else to measure if a tester is any good or not so insist on what they perceive to be the standard.

We need a standard certification that is recognised and respected worldwide. We need it to be relevant to how the IT industry actually works. We need it to be kept up to date with new trends. We need it to be useful to employers.

We have an opportunity to make something of real practical value. That’s the challenge to the governing bodies, if they choose to accept it.

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