We often see folks new to testing worried if they should pay for some sort of foundation testing course and exam. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Interesting to read thoughts about qualifications for those new to testing, on this LinkedIn post.

Some replies:

I haven’t gone down that route, and wouldn’t as I see it as a kind of rent seeking. I wouldn’t actively discourage anyone else from doing it, as long as they see a benefit from it

I’m a great believer in the ISTQB exams, it helps you understand your discipline more and will improve your overall professionalism. I have also found that there are great practical elements too that can be introduced in the work place on a daily basis.
The exams also ensure that we’re all speaking the same language & terminology aligned to software testing.

I’m relatively new to testing and I did the ISTQB CTFL course. Even though experience is the best teacher by far in my opinion, the course did help me place what I had learned on the job in a broader perspective.

It’s not a substitute of experience but may help you get a role, understand the industry and give you some pointers of areas to research further.

How about you? We often see folks new to testing worried if they should pay for some sort of foundation testing course and exam. What are your thoughts on this topic?

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I think it’s based on the course level, for me if I am looking for a basic knowledge about something, I’d rather to search for free tutorials because they are enough. If I found something that may add a new knowledge and if it worth the cost, I will consider it. However, experience is the most important thing

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As someone entirely new to software development and looking to make a career change from music into the world of software testing, I’ve often wondered if there was a specific course I should be following.

As it stands I’m still currently self teaching how to be a tester to enter the industry through the likes of MoT courses, Code Academy, books (‘Explore It!’ by E.Hendrickson) and mentorship from a seasoned tester. I agree with the above, that what is key is experience for me to learn more and most importantly to be able break ground into the industry.
Trying to get onto Graduate programs or Academies has been my main focus, to find a way into becoming a tester, so I can learn from the best and get any qualification I might need along the way.

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If you have a genuine passion for the subject and want a career in software, this will show for good recruiters.

The need for foundational courses in QA is an archaic concept, some of the best testers i’ve hired and worked with never touched a foundational exam.
For further context, I was sent on the ISQTB foundation course after being a tester for a couple of years, this was to secure a promotion to senior and get a bump to a new contractual salary band. The course had little relevance to my day to day. Aside from basic stuff like risk assessment and boundary analysis etc. the ISQTB course doesn’t teach anything you cant google (IMO, apologies if I am discounting anyone else’s experience).

As for generally paying for courses going forward, once you’ve secured a role … I’d be willing to guess that i’ve only paid less than £50 on learning materials over my career. My learning can be loosely scattered across the following sources -

  • Udemy courses, usually for stuff I want to learn outside my project space (always look for a sale)
  • Programming courses from Microsoft Academy, such as Bob Tabors javascript for beginners course (free)
  • Youtube, youtube, youtube
  • MoT (free content and company-sponsored memberships)
  • ISQTB Foundation, which was company-sponsored
  • Talks, conventions and meet-ups
  • Dev & test pairing
  • Borrowing books

Additionally, I have jumped on any learning course offered by whichever company I work for at the time. If they aren’t offering, ask a manager or HR if there is an education budget and make use of it! I’ve been at several places where most of the people I work with don’t even know about learning budgets.

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Going back way over a decade I informally trained people and coached them to pass these exams.

In hindsight my view was they gave very limited insight into what testing was all about and for the roles I have recruited for I often thought in interview stage I would need to reverse engineer some of the thinking about testing it placed in them. I am personally not a fan of these certifications these days.

On the flip side, if you look at job roles the mainstream still edges more towards things like test cases, scripted and verification focused testing which is often what these courses are all about.

If I felt testing and the development industry had evolved to leverage much more from broader testing skills often with a bias towards discovery rather than just verification then I’d be straight no on the value of these certifications.

I am not convinced the mainstream has evolved though so this can get new testers in the door of these companies and they are often a good match for the command, control and evidence base testing cultures they have.

There are better courses out there that will give a broader and in my view more valuable thinking around testing but if you are looking for primarily a scripted and verification focused testing role then this may suit you.

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Imho, if you really want some certification you shouldn’t pay for it yourself but your company should. If your company doesn’t want you to improve, switch company because it’s not a good match for you. It’s that easy :stuck_out_tongue:

If you are new and getting into testing and you can’t get a job without the ISTQB certification, there are many companies that offer testing-bootcamps/traineeships and offer to pay for the certification also.

So imho, you should never pay yourself to get certified.


If you have a lot of experience, for me it doesn’t matter if you have a certification or not, as long as you can prove your skills it’s all good.

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I heard good things about BBST courses, from Cam Kaner, they are not free, but it looks like they cover a lot of important fundamental skills.

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I believe access to the video’s is free so you can self study. Trainer lead course would of course offer extra value.

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Today, I would definitely pay, since the time cost of self learning is actually quite high.
Simply forcing yourself to pass the ISTQB Foundation probably pays for itself on your CV for example, even if it’s just to get your foot in the door.

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It depends on what country you live in, what industry you want to test for, what your personality is like, what other experience you might have, what businesses are looking for this year.

For example I personally believe that the ISTQB course material is a hindrance to the understanding of testing; the language is restrictive and the exam seems poorly written and designed so that it does not even test the knowledge the course pretends to teach and the whole thing is a scam to try to paywall entry into testing… but some countries love it, some industries love it, some businesses require it. In that case I think an ISTQB course would be an obvious good career move to get a job.

This brings up the point that not all courses are for the same thing. I think it’s important to find people you respect and take courses by them to inspire you and expand your horizons, and to fill gaps in your knowledge (e.g. taking a course on a specific technology so you can better understand its place in your business’ tech stack). You may have to get a certification to meet some mandated requirement. You may think your CV is a little light on examples and need to add something useful to it. You can fill in a gap in your employment to show you’re keeping up and still interested. Know why you’re going into a course to help inform you which one to choose, if any.

I know that I would rather hire a newbie who is eager to learn, thinks for themselves and takes pride in their role than someone with experience and a list of certifications but relies on artefacts to tell them how to think or believes processes are prescriptive and requirements documents are complete and sufficient. And above everything I’d rather hire someone that gives a shit than someone that doesn’t despite literally everything on their CVs - people don’t do the right thing they do what they want, so you have to hire people who want to do the right thing. I don’t know a course that would prove any of these things, but I’d be happy to see a lot of learning of any kind on a CV backed up with conversation that they care about what they learned there rather than collecting them like pokemon. Not everyone feels this way or thinks like this, and it will depend on who’s potentially hiring you. Perhaps a good start is to reach out to the sorts of companies who you would want to be hired by and ask them if having done a particular course would be important to them.

It also depends on who you are and what you’re like. Your personality, way with with words, examples of your work and self-organisation and propensity to improve, all things that can do in place of courses to help getting hired. Also if you are in a group that is discriminated against. A course is one way (of many) that can be used to help lead people away from assumptions about laziness, unprofessionalism, incompetence and so on that hiring folk can come to just by making assumptions based on your race, sex, height, weight, if you have a beard, and other factors that come out of employment studies.

Also money. A tighter budget means you’re more on the lookout for free opportunities - volunteer work, testing open source projects, self-learning, free courses, webinars, being active in online discussions. Then get the job and have them pay for the courses you want.

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I created a video on this recently but I want to add a few extra points.

https://youtu.be/K0yT1R3JqHg

One’s reason for getting certified should/can affect if you do.

Here are a few examples of why someone may be considering getting their ISTQB foundations:

  • they want to; they find it interesting
  • they think it will help them become a better tester
  • they think you need it to get a job

If someone agrees with the first reason, then go ahead. But for the latter two, I don’t think it holds up to scrutiny.

I’ve heard a lot of testers say that it helps to know definitions, but then in my experience terms are used differently in different companies anyway.

Lastly, one thing you can’t look past is the price, it’s pretty expensive for what it is IMO.

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