Best Certification in Software Testing. Wanna get one?

These days certifications are in great demand! And if you are in Software Testing, then it is assumed that you already have one of them or at least you are planning/preparing to have one of them soon. I find many people working in Software Testing field with some or other certification. How often do you hear about certifications in software testing like CSTE, CSQA, QAI, ISTQB, ISEB, Brainbench etc in your work place? I have seen a strange look on many faces when they are told that I don’t own (I purposefully used this word to emphasize the fact that certifications are now considered as commodities which can/should be owned!) a certification yet.

Interestingly, when I tell many of my blog readers and online friends that I don’t have any kind of certifications, they simply refuse to believe it! As if, I am a weird creature in this testing field, who does not have one of the most essential thing required to test a software or even write a blog about it! People suddenly start to doubt my credibility as a tester after hearing this fact. But who cares! Rather, this further strengthens my determination to avoid a commercial certification in testing. Don’t start to think that I am afraid of appearing a certification examination. But I don’t believe that any of the available certification programs is capable of making my testing skills better in any possible way. And I think all these so called certification programs are mere money making tools for their respective organizations.

During a discussion with a friend (who happens to be the fastest emerging skilled tester of India), I was told that he knows a friend who holds all available Software Testing Certifications along with 67 Brainbench Testing Certifications! And ironically, the poor chap wants to get more certifications so that he can make a Guinness Record! People believe that they can attain greater heights in their career by holding a certification! And the irony of Indian Software Testing Industry is that to some extent they are true! Here you can find many reputed (!) Software Companies who look for candidates holding some sort of certification while recruiting. I think that is the main reason driving these people to go after certifications.

But my question is: “Can any of these certifications guarantee that it can improve your skills as a tester?” Most of the syllabi of those certifications are age old. They have not been updated for quite long time. They speak of practices and approaches in Software Testing, which are outdated in current scenario. Most of those approaches were written in the earlier days of Software Testing. At a time, when Software Testing was struggling to get its own identity. There were very few people who were real experts in the field. But these certification courses are still happy to follow those old grandpa day’s procedures and approaches. In what way, are they supposed to better your testing skills?

By the way, most of those certifications are 3 hours examinations consisting of some theoretical questions (I am not telling this out of my imagination. I have lot of such old question papers with me). You need not use the thinking and reasoning parts of testing, to answer these questions, which are the most essential elements of a skilled tester. More over, the questions seldom deal with other required skills like risk management, building test ideas, exploring a software and so on. Anybody (can be from a different field other than testing) with a little ability of memorizing things, can clear such a certification examination with flying colors! What’s the big deal? By saying so, in no way I am questioning the ability of the people holding such certifications. My aim is to point out the inefficiency of such certification programs in improving the skills of a tester. 

When James Bach was asked by Michael Hunter of Microsoft in a recent interview about the “The biggest challenge for testers/the test discipline for the next five years”, one of his answers was “To reject the false prophets of certification. Bad certification programs cheapen our craft.” Think over it.

Now you must be wondering about the title of this post! So let me come to the point. If there is any certification, capable of improving your testing skills, then let me share this little secret with you. Try to be “Self-Certified”. If you are really skilled, then why should you need a piece of paper to certify your skills? I know a few testers who are Self Certified Skilled Testers. 

And James Bach is one among them. You might be shocked to know that his highest formal qualification is 8th Grade from High school (James please correct me if I am wrong). But still, he is considered as one of the fathers of software testing. He is one of the pioneers, who has helped Software Testing get its own identity. To reach this position, he never required any commercial certification. So why should we? Let me tell you, I am one of those upcoming Self Certified Skilled Testers. These are the 3 golden rules, that I have set for me to become one of them.

1. Keep learning. There is no substitute for learning. There are lots of things which can help you in becoming a better tester. Even subjects like philosophy and epistemology can make you a better tester. Because according to James, “testing is applied epistemology”.
2. Keep practicing. Practice makes you perfect. And that applies to software testing too. The more testing you do, the smarter you become as a tester. So test, test and test!
3. Try to acquire the different skills required for a skilled tester. And I am told that, there are more than 3000 documented skills a tester can/should have. Please don’t start asking me for a list of them. Because, honestly I don’t have such a list. I am trying to explore, find and learn those skills. So also you can.

If you have any other suggestions that can be added to my golden rule list, please feel free to let me know (of course, by leaving a Comment). And if that sounds credible, I promise to add them in my list with proper credit to you. And last but not the least, Wish me luck in becoming a Self Certified Skilled Tester from INDIA.
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About Debasis Pradhan

Debasis has over a decade worth of exclusive experience in the field of Software Quality Assurance, Software Development and Testing. He writes here to share some of his interesting experiences with fellow testers.


  1. I agree with debasis.

    I have ISEB certification eventhough it never helped me in day to day tester job

  2. Thanks "codertester" for supporting my views. :)

  3. I agree and Disagree too!

    Debasis wrote, Certification won't help us in our testing work. I disagree with this by saying that It won't disturb our work. By the way it may help us like a Catalyst.

    Tell me the reason why a tester should not go for Certification?

    Comming to Syllabus some boards are continuously Working on the Syllabus.

    And another point is its not valid for life time, only Foundation levels are valid for life time.
    So one has t owrite every after 3 yrs to be updated.

    On seeing these i prefer it and suggest it.
    Whats the wrong in doing certifications as our companies are paying for us as reiumbersements.
    Comming to Self Certification, It a good idea but won't be possible for all the people. It varies from person to person.
    One has an ability to write his views as blogs, the another may also have but may not have that much ability or time or anyreason.
    same logic applies for this self certification.

    In my opinion Internmational Software Testing Certifications will help us
    1) To get recognisition worlwide
    2) Build Confidence
    3) to use same Terminologies all over the world
    4) Get good oppertunities ;)
    5) Get Reiumbersements too ;)

    By the way I personally support and encourage self certification.
    BEST OF LUCK Debashis,
    We are behind you to encourage. :)

  4. @ Purna,

    Thanks Purna, for sharing your views. Here is a little correction. I never said that having a Certification will disturb our work. I simply said that having a Certification doesnot necessarily make us a better tester.

    I can't think of a situation where having a Certification can work as a Catalyst. Rather, having a Certification may result in complacency which may retard your learning curve!

    Well, I am glad to hear that some boards are working on the Syllabus. I am waiting with my fingers crossed to see the new avtar of the syllabi! I hope they are not old wine in a new bottle kind of stuff. :)

    Talking about the freshness of Certifications, hardly I have seen a person going for a Certification examination, after it gets expired!

    Do Certifications give self confidence? Well, I dont know as I don't have any of them. :) But I have seen a guy having a Certification getting terminated from his Company, because he was not good at his job! Was that the result of a false self confidence?

    Coming to standardization of terminologies, I don't agree with you. Because different Certification providing Organizations use different definitions for a terminology. So how can they serve in standardizing them?

    These are the reasons why, I personally prefer Self Certification over any other Commercial Certifications.

    Once again, Thanks for sharing your viewpoints. And Thanks for encouraging me and wishing me Luck in becoming a Self Certified Skilled Tester. :)

    - Debasis

  5. As a ISTQB certified tester, I believe that certification courses gives you an edge over others in interviews. These courses do not guarantee that they can improve your testing skills but certainly they add value. I did my ISTQB certification while I was working with a MNC Company and it did help me in my next job search. I did not found the syllabus outdated, but rather the questions required practical experience to answer them correctly. So, why not appear in these courses and become a certified tester 

    Last but not the least , I totally agree with the 3 golden rules which Debasis has mentioned.

  6. @ Shaifali,

    Thanks Shaifali, for sharing your views here. You said:

    As a ISTQB certified tester, I believe that certification courses gives you an edge over others in interviews.

    [I wish this was 100% true. Though, some Companies look for candidates holding some sort of Certification, that does not mean that anybody having a certification can get the job! Certifications may help you in getting shortlisted for an interview. But in the technical round, what really matters is your competency level and skills, not your Certificates.]

    These courses do not guarantee that they can improve your testing skills but certainly they add value.

    [If they can't guarantee that they can improve my testing skills, then what other value can they add? Even if they could, I would not be much interested. Because I don't think that any other thing can be with more value than testing skills. :)]

    I did my ISTQB certification while I was working with a MNC Company and it did help me in my next job search. I did not found the syllabus outdated, but rather the questions required practical experience to answer them correctly.

    [FYI, I have also seen some ISTQB Question papers. e.g. one question was to write test cases to check the boundary conditions where the boundary was 5 to 100! It had 4 options and the expected answer was 4,5,6,99,100,101. And it called it as "Boundary Value Analysis". Would you like to call this an ANALYSIS? To me it looks like simple arithmetic(addition and subtraction of 1). Any kid with the knowledge of addition and subtraction could do it. If you still feel that these kind of questions need practical experience to answer them correctly, then I don't have anything to say more.]

    So, why not appear in these courses and become a certified tester?

    [Once you have tried ISTQB, why don't you try and become a Self Ceritified Skilled Tester? :)]

    Thanks again for sharing your views about Certification Exams.

    - Debasis

  7. The danger with self certification is that a) incompetent testers may start using the term, and therefore give a bad name to the term, and b) self certification is an individual thing, so potential employers may find it difficult to understand how skilled the tester is.

    Apart from that, I'm a clear supporter of self certification.

    Rosie Sherry

  8. @ Rosie,

    Thanks Rosie, for leaving behing your valuable comment. I do agree with you regarding the possible dangers associated with Self Certification. Thanks.

    - Debasis

  9. Good job chaps. I totaly agree with all of your views on certifications, don't think that I am diplomatic here. here is the reason.

    1."When you say I have certification, company says I want to test that." 2."When you say I don't have certification,Company says, I want to test you."

    Thats it. Hope these quotes are not deviating from the thread.

    Finally you know what!! my CSTE helped me to get onsite twice, so however you are either certified/non, outcome should be +ve to that individual...

    What you guyz say abt this!!!!!

  10. This article is spot on. Developers, Project Managers, Quality Managers, Business Analysts, System Designers, and fellow Testers certify me not a piece of paper. In my 13 years of continuous employment in testing it has never been a requirement because it is this experience which proves to my peers that I have real methodology rather than something defined by a 3 hour examination.

  11. Hi. I'm an ISTQB Foundation trainer and I agree with you when you say you that don't need a certification to make a better tester. If one has studied by himself and put that into practice, if he has dedicated himself to software testing and strived to improve his skills, then the certification will certainly not make him any better. That said, I also think that the crusade against certification schemes that people like James Bach have embarked on, borders the absurd.

  12. I actually agree with Suren on this one. I think certifications are a must atleast to showcase your skill-set. Certification, tells the client (it could be HR in a company, or the direct client) that I'm competently skilled to the industry standard. Here I feel that QAI's offerings go a long way. They've introduced CMST as a step-up from CSTE. Whether you are ISTQB or ISEB certified, it will become a must to graduate to getting a CSTE certification. You might find this useful -

  13. Thanks for this wonderful and thought-provoking post. Testing software systems to verify they perform reliably and as expected is a very critical quality control activity. Unfortunately, this critical activity is being performed on almost every software project in a very ad hoc, informal manner by developers, testers, and users. I totally agreed with you that these days certifications are in great demand. Thanks

  14. I have done ISTQB Foundation level of certification. I have 1 year of experience in Testing project. Please suggest me some good certifications to increase my knowledge in this domain. My emailid is :-

  15. I have completed ISTQB foundation level certification. I want to know some good certification for a Tester. I have 1 year of experience in Testing domain. Please suggest some good certification in this area. My email id is:-

  16. software testing course in NIIT is good or not???
    they learn IBM rational tools for testing purpose so is it good ???

  17. Is ISEB valid in India and US?

  18. Is ISEB certification valid in India and US?

  19. I think certificate should not be the one and only parameter to judge your quality. Suppose your brother or close friends are working on testing field and you work as helping hand for them. Hopefully you can gather enough knowledge after 4-5 years and that is without a certificate.

  20. No Matter, You wrote very well.. :)


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