Are software Testing Certifications worth it?

I still have the huge, heavy, ISTQB Foundation Level Course in Software Testing learning material/mega-book right here at the back of my desk at home. Collecting dust. Let me blow the dust off and read some of the content headers to you.

The Seven Principles of Software Testing…#1)…

Throws book out of the window in anger

You cannot ‘teach’ someone to be a Software Tester with this mind numbing drivel. Testers, good testers, are people who are stubborn, curious, cynical, analytically adept, strong communicators, powerful influencers and sticklers for perfection. These are traits that people are born with.

Stick 'Boundary Value Analysis and Equivalence Partitioning were the sun don’t shine! As a tester, your mission is to ensure that an application under development is the best it can be for the client who is paying for it.

If you are going to attempt to teach people Software Testing. Teach them common sense. Don’t confuse them with ridiculous buzz words.

We are all consumers in our day-to-day lives. We have all used an app or a website and payed for a program on a PC, tablet or mobile device in our lives. We have all experienced what it’s like to take on a new program with no knowledge of its functions. Learn its functions. Its uses. And we have all found ourselves with a little piece of something in that software that we did not like. A button got stuck, a field refused a value or a page loaded slowly or it failed to load at all. We have all tested software in our lives. You wouldn’t tolerate or except those annoying quirks as a consumer so don’t except them as a Tester. That is all you need to teach.

These courses. These certifications, exist purely to make money. To make money out of you!

Save yourself the time and the expense.

There are a worrying number of companies that insist on a tester having at least an ISTQB Foundation Level certificate before they would consider them for a new vacancy. I would give these companies a very wide berth as it shows they know little about what true software testing involves.

Aim for the companies who are looking for dynamic investigators. The companies that understand that a tester needs to be a cynical consumer first and a certificate holder last, or not at all.

I failed the ISTQB Foundation Level Software Testing course by six points…

…I’m a Consultant Software Test Analyst by the way.


In my own experience I can say that the ISTQB certification can open up a few doors. I recently got my own ISTQB Foundation Level certificate and today I came back from vacation and there was a message in my LinkedIn inbox about a job offer. In details there was a “Desirable skill” and it was about this certificate.

But personally I don’t think much of it because the syllabus and my everyday work is very different. So I think it’s just something to be added into the LinkedIn profile to be more “professional” tester.

Whilst there are very good arguments against ISTQB, something like

is just plain wrong. All of those skills or traits can be taught to a person, yes some people might naturally be stronger in these areas but they are also very straight forward to teach somebody who is naturally weaker if they want to. It also doesn’t serve the wider community to define good testers as these special creatures who are just born that way and if you don’t think you have those skills then tough there is nothing you can do about it.

So you see no value in those techniques at all? You would happily have an tester who had been testing for several years who had no idea what these things are?


I did up to the ISEB Practitioner, the real benefit was the depth of the conversation during the course which was based on the content of the course. Sites like MOT, Testing Meet-ups and Test Bash’s can replace the tangible benefit I took from my exams.

My advice would still to do the ISEB, it takes 3 hours to do the Practitioner Exam and 30-ish hours to study. It might not improve you professionally in your day to day job, but rightly or wrongly at a career level it opens doors and provides opportunities that might not have been there without it.

I am ISTQB / CAT / IREB trainer, and I own a software testing company un Uruguay, South America.
The certifications don’t have a particular value itself. If you are a competent and honest professional, the certification is only a kind of “checklist” of your knowledge.
Lot of people have a confusion between the content of the certifications and the evaluation method. They said “you are evaluated in a multiple choice way, and it is not serious”. The ISTQB does not evaluate any other points that the points described in the syllabus. It does not contain anything about “soft skills”… it is true, absolutely true. May be this method is not the best (I think that is not, for sure).
At least here in South America, the certifications are the only way for a lot of people to demonstrate their proficiency, even they are not passed trough the academic education.

Just to complement, I put here a note by Cem Kaner about the certifications:

all by best from uruguay :slight_smile:


I’ve been involved in software testing since the mid-90’s in some form or other as part of my original qualification (non-IT), and got my ISEB certification in 2001 when I switched to software testing full-time. At the time, I was told “get the certification, or you’ll get nowhere”. I did the course, passed the exam and entered the IT world. Since then, I’ve had a lot of different jobs in IT, and each one of them has been based on that first little addendum to my CV- ISEB. Has it made me a better tester? I don’t think so- I’ve managed to forget most of what happened then, and replaced it with real-world knowledge and skills.
What it has done, though, is establish that I have, at least, passed a formal exam and therefore know at least the basics of what I need to do.
Since then I’ve neen hiring and firing, and been hired and made redundant. The one common thread is still “have you got your xxxxxxx certification?”, which is simply HR’s way of filtering out applicants who do not meet at least that basic level of fitness for purpose. Some of the best testers I’ve met and worked with took the certifications as an afterthought, when it became clear that their new position would not be possible without it. They would not have made it past that initial hurdle of filtering the CVs even though they have been testing for years, and are extremely good at what they do simply because of a clerical requirement.
@sjwatsonuk 's comments below are extremely similar to what I ask new starters on my team when they arrive- I find these answers and their attitude and approach are more important than a piece of paper that satisfies HR.

In terms of value of the certifications? They all espouse “common this” and “common that”, but there is certainly very little “common” whatever, even within departments of a company. What is useful is the basic knowledge of what should be tested from a purely technical perspective, and the doors that these certifications open. Proper testing, though, is as much attitude and approach as technical testing, and that cannot always be taught, or revealed in an exam.


Not really! Unless you could justify the experience related to the same.

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It seems to me that all the discussion in this thread is focused on ISTQB Foundation level certification.

What do you professionals and experts think of ISTQB Test Manager and Expert Level exams, like the one for test automation?

I agree that these cert-industry is one way to rob people of their money. ISTQB foundation level is tooooo expensive.

yes, it will help in the industry as per my view.

I think that the concept of certifications doesn’t work. I don’t know about the content of the courses except the ones I’ve done, and I can say that the following courses were helpful to me:

  • Rapid Software Testing - James Bach (best course I’ve done by far)
  • Mobile Testing - Stephen Janaway
  • Security Testing - Bill Matthews & Dan Billing

I don’t have certifications in any of these things. I have a certificate of attendance for RST that says I was there, but so would anyone who paid and turned up. It doesn’t say I passed anything or achieved anything beyond proof that I showed up. As it turns out I got a lot from it and use things from it every day, but the paper doesn’t say that, my achievements do.

A vaguely intelligent person hiring anyone knows the difference between a record that says someone can do something and them actually being able to do it. If you can find someone who doesn’t know the difference then you can use your certificates to get hired! But then you’re working for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing and you’re going to feel that pain sooner or later. Unless the person being hired doesn’t care about doing good work and the person hiring wouldn’t know what good work might be, in which case yeah, do whatever, the whole thing’s a circus that makes money and keeps widget crankers employed and churns out something of no known quality with no regard for its users no matter what the clowns inside are doing.


I think the question we should be asking is not so much “are the certifications worth it?”, as “do the qualifications relate to the real-life knowledge that they are trying to validate?”. We seem to have established that the certifications merely establish that someone has attended a class and has answered a series of questions on the subject, not that they actually know what they’re doing!

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Here’s an excellent writeup:


Regarding the ISTQB foundation, I didn’t think much of it. Out of date, far too easy and largely irrelevant for modern testing practice. A bit of a scam tbh. I did do the ISTQB Advanced Technical Test Analyst exam however and found that an order of magnitude harder, with much better and more fulfilling content. I think that’s how the ISTQB roll. An easy foundation cash cow and much harder, more informative and respected advanced and expert qualifications.


Here is the deal with certifications: I am a business analyst and worked in a number of different capacities including directly on a development team supporting software in a lead analyst (and testing) capacity for many years. I have the following certifications: A+, Network+, Project+, PMP, PSM1, CSPO, and I am taking the CSM exam in a few days. I recently received an email at work about the testing certification which my company would pay for and I will probably pursue. I am currently working as a government contractor and my current employer paid for the PSM1, CSPO, and CSM training and exams. So here is the deal: I ALWAYS forget much of what I learn from these certifications after the test. They do not make you a better quality / skilled person on the testing topic. They do mean that you took your own time and effort to take a class, studied for a test, and passed it. Does it provide me with confidence that I know (or have been exposed to) a topic? To some degree…yes. It mostly shows effort and that you try to keep up with the latest trends and that you are engaged and you take your profession seriously. Many recruiters LOVE to see these certs and some require them for the job. As a government contractor, some projects require certification in various disciplines. You could get selected for a project because they needed someone with the PMP cert (as an example). And here is where I recommend certifications: I was laid off in 2011 but I studied for the PMP around that time. That certification got my foot in the door on many interviews because it is a difficult certification to obtain. In my current job, my employer places a lot of value on certifications because it makes me marketable to the various government agencies. My current employer acknowledges achievements, posts names on walls when people get certifications, people put certification badges on their cubicle walls, blah, blah, blah. All things being equal, I have the edge over a coworker who is not certified because I ‘look’ shiny on paper. Also, sometimes government contractors get laid off and my goal is to keep my job. And if I do get laid off, the certifications that my current employer paid for will stay on my resume. Certifications open doors and keep some doors open just like college degrees. So that’s my 2 cents for what it is worth.


I wanted to add a few other thoughts for people who are earlier in their careers. If you are interested in a testing job, I do recommend one of these foundation certifications that do not require training since training costs money and you many not be able to afford training. Per my last post, certifications can open doors but there is no guarantee. The Mobile Testing certification may be of interest because a lot of company’s have been rolling out applications for smart phones. I’d also recommend the Professional Scrum Master (PSM1) which does not require training and it is relatively inexpensive (about $150). The current trend in software development is Agile. Agile teams can have software developers, user experience experts, testers, and business analysts. A testing certification combined with the PSM1 would show a potential employer that you understand testing processes and terminology in addition to how that fits on an Agile team and the organization as a whole. For those interested in traditional project management (non-Agile), you could also consider the CompTIA Project + certification which exposes you to the life cycle of a software development project where they do not use Agile. Project + does not require training and is not too expensive. Finally, as you gain experience, you could be considered for a business analyst role in the future or perhaps the Scrum Master role.

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So, would the majority of people then agree that certifications are probably a good thing for really junior testers who are still breaking into the profession, but less and less useful the longer you’ve been working (and have a lot of successes on your CV), except where it relates to a new subject (e.g. your past work has been all in Waterfall and you now want to break into Agile)?

If someone like me, starting out, does want to do the ISTQB Foundation course, what price should I reasonably expect to pay? I’ve seen prices from £15 - £800, a huge range!

I don’t know, but I wouldn’t. Then again I haven’t been junior for a very long time, maybe the industry has changed to the point where not having an expensive and valueless sheet of paper means not getting any job. I’ve never had one and I’ve never needed one and I’ve turned down work where it’s a requirement, but that’s because of my situation and my own needs - I’d rather work for a good company for less money, and I’ve always been stable enough to turn down work. I’d say that they are a bad thing for new testers, but perhaps, unfortunately, currently necessary.

Depends on whether you want to do a full course or go for self-study and just pay for the exam. I went down the latter route a few years back, the test was about £200 IIRC . This was mainly because I was trying to get out of the job I was in and a lot of the jobs that were around mentioned it as a desirable. As an aside, I found it odd that quite a few jobs advertised as tester roles I looked at had Comp Sci degree or equivalent as a must-have, but specific testing qualifications desirable. I did once respond to an agency who’d contacted me by saying that the job spec they’d sent through seemed to be written for recruiting a junior developer, not a tester…

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Thanks for your reply.

I’d like to do self study to keep costs down as it’s me paying for it. I don’t have a Comp Sci degree or an IT background as such. I’m hoping if I do this Qual and if I perhaps volunteer my services somewhere, I’ll be able to get a junior/entry level job eventually.