Why Testing Certifications Get A Bum Rap

If you’ve heard the chatter of the software testing circles then you’ve probably heard the arguments that spiral around testing certifications. There has been a strong sentiment against and for software testing certification from many testing circles, for a variety of reasons.

These are just a few, but please feel free to add any I missed in the comment section.

Pro-Certification Arguments

The Independents

  • It is as long as the test:

    • Requires critical thinking
    • Is not multiple-choice (predetermined answers)
    • Is open ended

  • Anything that encourages learning software testing should be accepted, but it shouldn’t be in the form of certification

Anti-Certification Arguments

  • It is a scam in order to make a quick buck on newbie testers.
  • It is an initiation that does not represent the testing community as a whole.

Firstly, I never took a certification nor did someone teach me how to be a software tester. A background in audio engineering positioned me as a software tester. My proven abilities to have a thick skin and use critical thinking to troubleshoot a problem in a restricted amount of time is what initially made me hirable. Of course, having an audio background helped since I would be testing embedded audio software. That isn’t to say that it would be easier with or without a certification, since I can’t speak to that on my own personal experiences.

Personally, it isn’t that certifications are bad, rather they are, in most cases, assuming that a tester’s abilities are solely based on memory instead of critical thinking. By memory, I mean studying the vocabulary in order to pass rather than practicing software testing itself.

Here are some questions that are from a mockup test for the ISTQB certification I pulled from a blog on Software Testing Help.

Which of these activities provides the biggest potential cost saving from the use of CAST (Computer Aided Software Testing)?

a)    Test management

b)    Test design

c)    Test execution

d)    Test planning

Firstly, forget about the correct answer. I would argue that ROI and cost savings cannot be so easily determined with computer aided software testing. The cost savings to me would be releasing a product to market that a software development team is comfortable with, due to increased cycles in the software testing process.

The increased cycles would be acquired by the use of Computer Aided Software Testing (CAST), which I assume includes software like automated testing or test management tools.

A failure is:

a)    found in the software; the result of an error

b)    departure from specified behavior

c)    an incorrect step, process or data definition in a computer program

d)    a human action that produces an incorrect result

My argument here is that whether or not the tester answers this question correctly does not correlate to the ability of the tester. For instance, there are plenty of testers out there who have never even heard of ISTQB or even thought about a certification, because it never was required from the get-go.

I don’t want to completely shoot down software testing certifications, because, to be fair, there are questions on the ISTQB test, and others like it, that require critical thinking and do have a right and wrong answer. Nonetheless, it’s a mixed bag.

Anything that encourages learning software testing should be accepted, but certification programs, to me, should be a last resort and by no means a necessity when deciding to hire employees. And I don’t just say that for software testing, but in all fields. If anything, there should be more degrees in software testing, where students learn skills that actually pertain to the job description, rather than knowing a strict vocabulary. There should also be an acceptance to those who are self-taught, since they may be just as viable a candidate to test software than the school-seasoned individual.

What do you think? Is software testing certification necessary or do you despise it? Let us know in the comment section below.

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