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Testing certification in context

Jennette Mullaney
Jennette Mullaney

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Certification has been a controversial topic in software testing circles for some time now. Testing forums are filled with lively debates on the merits of certification. A simple post along the lines of, "Hi, I'm new to testing. What certifications should I get?" may generate weeks of intense argument, potentially scaring the newbie away from the testing field altogether.

Certifications like CSTE, CSQA, CSTP, ISTQB (the list goes on) guarantee only one thing -- that a person has passed a certification test. There's no assurance a certified tester can actually work on your project. However, certain companies require certification, and certification is often a necessary step overseas.

What does a tester stand to gain from certification? Tester Ainers Galvers is ISTQB certified but is less than thrilled with the certification process, declaring ISTQB's Software Testing Foundations the "worst book ever." He argues that certification may actually hurt testers by arming them with information that's not applicable in the real world.

What's a new tester to do? Many feel pressured to pursue CSTE and its cousins, even if certifications are ultimately just initials on a resume.

In a field where context is everything, certification seems a bit out of place. But that doesn't mean it has no place in testing. Rather, certification should be considered on an individual basis. Testing certification should be estimated, like everything else, in context.


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