Does certification have value or not?

I read a blogpost in Dutch named “Does certification have value or not?” by Jan Jaap Cannegieter. I wanted to reply, but there was no option to reply, so I decided to turn my comments into a blogpost. Since the original blogpost is in Dutch I have translated it here.

The proponents claim that you prove to have a foundation in testing with certification, you possess certain knowledge and it supports education.” (text in blue is from the blogpost, translated by me).

Three things are said here:

  1. prove to have foundation
    Foundation? What foundation? You learn a few terms/definitions and an over-simplified “standard” process? And how important is this anyway? Also the argument of an common language is nicely debunked by Michael Bolton here: “Common languages aint so common
  2. possess certain knowledge
    When passing an exam, you indicate to be able to remember certain things. It doesn’t prove you can apply that knowledge. And is that knowledge really important in our craft? I think knowledge is over appreciated and skills are undervalued. I’d rather have someone who has the skills to play football well instead of somebody who knows the rules. From a foundation training, wouldn’t you at least expect to learn the basic testing skills? In no ISTQB training, students use a computer. Imagine giving someone a driver’s license without having ever sat in a car …
  3. supports education
    Really? Can you tell me how? I think the opposite is true! As an experienced teacher (I also did my share of certification training in the past), my experience is that there is too much focus on passing the exam rather than learning useful skills. Unfortunately, preparing the students for the exam takes a lot of time and focus away from the stuff that really matters. Time I would rather use differently.

Learning & tacit knowledge

So how do people learn skills? There are many resources I could point to. Try these:

In his wonderful book “The psychology of software testing” John Stevenson talks about learning op page 49:

The “sit back and listen” approach can be effective in acquiring information but appears to be very poor in the development of thinking skills or acquiring the necessary knowledge to apply what has been explained. The majority of trainers have come to realise the importance of hands on training “Learn by doing” or “experiential learning”.

John points to resources like: Learningfromexperience.com and the book “Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development” by David Kolb. Also Jerry Weinberg has written books on experiential learning.

The resources on learning skills mentioned by me earlier, will tell you that experienced people know what is relevant and how things are related. Also practice, experimentation and reflection are important parts of learning. Learning of a skill  depends heavily on tacit knowledge. On page 50 in his book John Stevenson writes:

Pakivi Tynjaklak makes an interesting comment in the International Journal of Educational research: “The key to professional development is making explicit that which has earlier been tacit and implicit, and thus opening it to critical reflection and transformation” – This means that what we learn may not be something we can explain easily (tacit) and that as we learn we try to find ways to make it explicit. This is the key to understanding and knowledge when we take something which is implicit and make it explicit. Therefore, able to reflect on what is learned and explaining our understanding.

And since testing is collecting information or learning about a product, the importance of tacit knowledge also applies to testing: John writes in his book on page 197:

However testing is about testing the information we do not know or cannot explain (the hidden stuff). To do this we have to use tacit knowledge (skills, experience, thinking) and we need to experience it to be able to work it out. This is what is meant by tacit knowledge“.

Back to the blogpost:

The opponents say certification only shows that you’ve learned a particular book well, it says nothing about the tester’s ability and can be counterproductive because the tester is trained to a standard tester.

  • Learned a particular book
    Agree, see arguments 1 and 2 above.
  • it says nothing about the tester’s ability
    Agree, see my argumentation on skills in point 2 above: “knowledge is over appreciated and skills are undervalued”. To learn we need practice and reflection. Also tacit knowledge is an important part of learning.
  • Trained to a standard tester
    Agree. No testing that I know of, is standard. Testing is driven by context. And testers with excellent skills have the ability to work in any context without using standards or templates. Have a look at the Ted Talk by Dr. Derek Cabrera “How Thinking Works“. He explains that critical thinking is a skill that is extremely important. Schools (and training providers)  nowadays are over-engineering the content curriculum: students do not learn to think, they learn to memorize stuff. Students are learned to follow instructions, like painting by the numbers or fill in templates. To fix this, we need to learn how to think better! Learning to paint by numbers is exactly what certification based on knowledge does with testers! Read more about learning, thinking and how to become an excellent tester in one of my earlier blogpost: “a road to awesomeness“.

Comparison with driving license
Does a driving license show anything? Well, at least you have studied the traffic rules well and know them. And, while driving, it is quite useful if we all use the same rules. If you doubt that, you should drive a couple of rounds in Mumbai.

In testing we should NEVER use the same rules as a starting point. “The value depends on the context!” . Driving in Mumbai or anywhere by strictly adhering to the rules, will result in accidents and will get you killed. You need skills to drive a car and be able to anticipate, observe, respond to unexpected behaviour of others, etc. This is what will keep you out of trouble while driving.

As I explained earlier on the TestNet website: this comparison is wrong in many ways. For a driver’s license, you must do a practical exam. And to pass the practice exam, most people will take lessons! You will be driving for at least 20 hours before your exam. And the exam is not a laboratory: it means you go on the (real) road with a real car. A multiple-choice exam does not even remotely resemble a real situation. That’s also how pointless ISTQB or TMap certificates are. Nowhere in the training or the exam, the student uses software nor does the the student has to test anything!

This is the heart of the problem! People do not learn how to test, but they learn to memorize outdated theory about testing. Unfortunately in many companies new and inexperienced testers are left unattended in complex environments without the right supervision and support!

So what would you prefer in your project: someone who can drive a car (someone who has the basic skills to test software), or someone knows the rules (someone who knows all the process steps and definitions by heart?). In addition, ISTQB states that the training is intended for people with 6 months of experience here.  So how are new testers going to learn the first 6 months?

The foundation for a tester?

The argument that the ISTQB foundation training provides a basis for a beginner to start is nonsense! It teaches the students a number of terms and a practically unusable standard process. In addition, there is a lot of theory about test techniques and approaches, but the practical implementation is lacking. There are many better alternatives as described in the resources earlier in this blogpost: learning by doing! Of course with the right guidance, support and supervision. Teach beginners the skills to do their work, as we learn the skills to drive a car in driving lessons. In a safe environment with an experienced driver next to us. Until we are skilled enough to do it without supervision. Sure, theory and explicit knowledge are important, but skills are much more important! And we need tacit knowledge to apply the explicit knowledge in our work.

So please stop stating that foundation training like TMap and ISTQB are a good start for people to learn about testing. There aren’t. Learning to drive a car starts with practicing actually driving the car.

Jan Jaap states he thinks a tester should be certified: “And what about testers? I think that they should also be certified. From someone who calls himself a professional tester we may expect some basic knowledge and knowledge about certain methods?“.
I think we may expect professional testers to have expertise in different methods. They should be able to do their job, which demands skills and knowledge. We may expect a bit more from professional testers than only some basic knowledge and knowledge about methods.

Many of the well-known certification programs originated when IT projects looked very different and, in my view, these programs did not grow with the developments. So they train for the old world

Absolutely true.

Another point where the opponents have a point is the value purchasing departments or intermediaries attach to certificates. In many of the purchasing departments and intermediaries, the attitude seems that if someone has a certificate, it is also a good tester. And to say that, more is needed.

It is indeed very sad that this is the main reason why certificates are popular. Many people get certificated because of the popular demand of organisations who do not recognise the true value of these certificates. Organisations are often not able (or do not what to spend the time needed) to recognise real professional testers and so they rely on certificates. On how to solve this problem I did a webinar “Tips, Tricks & Lessons Learned for Hiring Professional Testers” and wrote an article about it for Testing Circus.

Learning goals & value

On the ISTQB website I found the Foundation Level learning goals. Let’s have a look at them. Quotes from the website are in purple.

Foundation Level professionals should be able to:

  • Use a common language for efficient and effective communication with other testers and project stakeholders.
    Okay, we can check if the student knows how ISTQB defines stuff with an exam. However, understanding what it means or how to deal with it in a daily practice is very different. Also, again, common language is a myth.
  • Understand established testing concepts, the fundamental test process, test approaches, and principles to support test objectives.
    Concepts and test process: okay, you can check if a student remembers these. However, the content is old and outdated and in many places incorrect! I think understanding approaches cannot be checked in a (multiple-choice) exam. Maybe some definitions, but how to apply them? No way.
  • Design and prioritize tests by using established techniques; analyze both functional and non-functional specifications (such as performance and usability) at all test levels for systems with a low to medium level of complexity.
    Design and prioritize tests? Interesting. Where is this trained? Or being tested in the exam? Analyse specifications? That is not even part of the training. Applying some techniques is, but there is a lot more to designing and prioritize tests and analysing specifications.
  • Execute tests according to agreed test plans, and analyze and report on the results of tests.
    Execution of tests nor analysis or reporting of test results is part of the exam. In class only the theory about test reporting is discussed but never practiced.
  • Write clear and understandable incident reports.
    How do you check this with a multiple choice exam? And how you train this skill without actually testing software in class? No exercises in class that actually ask you to write such reports.
  • Effectively participate in reviews of small to medium-sized projects.
    The theory about reviews is part of the class. To effectively participate in reviews, you need to do it and learn from experience.
  • Be familiar with different types of testing tools and their uses; assist in the selection and implementation process.
    Some tools and their goals and uses are mentioned in class. So I will agree with the first part. But to assist in selection and implementation, again you need skills.

So looking at the learning goals above, I doubt if the current classes teach this. The exam for sure doesn’t prove that a foundation level professionals is be able to do this things. A lot of promises that are just wrong! Certificate training like ISTQB-F and TMap as they are now are simply not worth the money! The training and exam are mostly 3 days and cost around 1.700 euro in the Netherlands. I think that is a crazy investment for what you get in return… There are better ways to invest that money, time and effort!

I think that a more valuable 3 day foundation training is doable. But surely not the way it is done now by TMap or ISTQB. I’ve written a blog post about it years ago: “What they teach us in TMap Class and why it is wrong!“.


More blogs / presentations about certification:

16 Comments

  1. Hi Huib,

    I remember having a similar conversation with you about this in a class you taught for… er, a certification 😉 I agree with you that certification doesn’t per se make someone a good tester, any more than giving someone a driver’s license shows that they are a good driver. The main problem is that many companies want to have a shiny certification attached to a person’s CV because they want a shortcut to finding someone they can hire. This can be a big problem going forward if someone does have a certification, but cannot cope with anything more than basic testing. If someone is so involved in writing a Master Test Plan that they forget to properly test the website or software they are testing, the company will be looking for a new tester soon enough. IMHO, there are two things that should be done to address this: 1) Make getting a certification much cheaper. I had to pay out of pocket in excess of €2000 for two different certifications, one of which didn’t even help me get a job because every company in Holland only wants someone with a TMap certificate. If the price dropped to a more reasonable level, people who are not working for consulting companies will be able to afford these certifications; 2) Stress to both students and to hiring professionals that getting a certification is only a beginning. Hiring professionals should take a look at the person’s CV first and at the certifications last. If the person has shown testing skills at different companies in the past and if they answer questions during the interview in a professional and accurate manner, they should be considered regardless of whether they have a certificate or not. If they on;y have a certificate to their name, then hiring managers should treat these people very much as new testers, with the phrase ‘Caveat Emptor’ (let the buyer beware) in the back of their minds. Otherwise, it will just be a matter of time before some new certification becomes the ‘in thing’, and poor people will have to scramble to get this new certification or lose their possibility of getting a job.

    Barry

    • Hi Barry, thanks for your comment. I think the whole certification problem needs to be seen as a system. So when you say: “the main problem is that many companies want to have a shiny certification attached to a person’s CV because they want a shortcut to finding someone they can hire”. I agree, but it is only part of the problem, I think there are 3 parts to the certification problem as I said In reply to Thanh Huynh: employers, trainers AND testers. Please do some critical thinking using systems thinking on what you say: if testers keep blaming employers …

      You say: “If someone is so involved in writing a Master Test Plan that they forget to properly test the website or software they are testing, the company will be looking for a new tester soon enough”. I agree, but at the same time I do not know many testers who do it this extreme. I do know testers who waste a lot of time by not knowing how do excellent and professional testing. I think hiring people is really hard. People who recruit testers should take not look at the person’s CV nor certifications. They should test people themselves to see if they fit the job.

      Making certification cheaper? Do you mean the exam or the classes? What would be a reasonable price to pay for getting a 3 day training?

      I think many of the trainers stress to both students and hiring professionals that a certification is only a beginning. But after paying 2000 euro for something that isn’t worth the money (if I understand you well), they cannot afford another training. Doesn’t that sound wrong? That is exactly why testers should take control and take better classes! If testers keep blaming trainers …

      Poor people will have to be smart and step out of the victim role! Get proper training, learn to do excellent testing and get a wonderful job! There are many ways to learn how to be a great tester without paying loads of money on certification… Take control of your own destiny and start learning! I am happy to help to guide you on your way, you got my number!

      PS: Let me be clear about why I teach CAT, but first let me give you some context why I work for Improve. I work for a consultancy company that respects me for who I am and gives me the opportunity to do what I do: teach people how to do proper testing AND talk openly about my opinion about certification. I discuss the value of certification with my colleagues on many occasions, I even get the change to talk about my opinions on client events we organize. Working for Improve gives me the opportunity to change what is going on from the inside! It also gives me the opportunity to influence clients who asked for ISTQB or TMAP but got workshops taught by me (and other colleagues). Some really do, it’s that wonderful? It also gives me the opportunity to influence “learning processes” like series of classes/workshops we do for big clients. I am working on changing how the world thinks about certification. I am not happy about the focus on the exam in the CAT training, but at least it is a class where you actually test software using exploration. So it gives me the opportunity to talk about REAL testing in agile and point people in the right direction.

  2. Hi Huib,

    I agree with you and so will most of the testers. But the problem I believe is not convincing testers that certification is not mandatory or that it can be misleading as far as practical learning is considered. Problem is convincing the Organisations, their Clients and Recruiters. Till the time they ask for it testers are going to follow it naturally as it might take them through the first scan.

    Ok. Now the problem is who can convince or take to the agreement these ‘Organisations, Clients, and Recruiters’? I think as of now only this top 5%(as Rene mentioned, I am not sure about the exact percentage but it is definitely low) hold most of that reach and influence which can help things change quickly. And many names I know like you are doing fantastic efforts to make this change happen.

    But then again I stumble upon another question-
    Is ~5% the enough number to shift thinking of entire(or most of the) industry?
    Probably Yes, probably No.
    What I am trying to suggest is, larger this percentage, larger would be the impact. I personally think this is where we all need to work.

    I know a lot of names from this ~5%, few of them know me from a distance probably. Trust me, personally I feel, getting into the community has become difficult somehow. I trust no one did it intentionally but there is a struggle. Reasons can be many- Lack of awareness, lack of courage, a feel of closed community, costly conference/meetup passes, restricted social networking circles, etc. Who knows how many great thoughts left unsaid due to lack of courage? Who knows how many great testing stories went unnoticed because there was no one to read?

    Bit off-topic, but this is where I think change has to happen. More we grow as open community, larger would be the impact.
    Thanks!

    PS: I don’t know where I belong % slab wise, definitely not in top slab as I closely watch all the great work there and try my best to get there somewhen with many others from the other part. Big ‘Thank You’ to couple of names who helped me a lot-
    James Bach: for getting me close to community and giving some priceless lessons.
    Santhosh Tuppad: Brother, Friend, Mentor. For being such a easy to approach person.

    *I hope the feeling reaches as is and statement loopholes if any are ignored as I typed this in one go.

    • Thanks for your comment Mahesh. Please read my reply to Barry (Sledgeh101). We as testers are part of the problem. We can do something about it! By not feeling victims. Thank you for being part of the people who want this change!

      I truly believe that if every tester would influence 1 other tester or – if you have enough courage – maybe your boss, the world would rapidly change! I really hope that what you say about “most of testers agree” is true. Because then we have a lot of potential!

      It doesn’t matter where you are in the top x%. If the top influences and teaches the next 5% and they influence and teach the next 5% and so on, the world will change fast.

      People like James and Santhosh are amazing and helping in their own personal way and style.

  3. Hi Huib,

    While I do agree with many points in the post. However, “does certification has value or not” is not an easy answer.

    I believe in “Value is in the eyes of beholder”. Certification does not show value to you (of course) because you have a lot of testing experience under your belt. Your value is different from my value.

    Needless to say, people are different. Your problem is different from my problem. Your job market is different from my job market. Your life is different from my life.

    I have recently shared a blog post answering the similar question: Certified or not certified (http://www.asktester.com/software-testing-certification/)

    Certification is not a problem itself. It becomes problem if you mis-use it and rely on it entirely.

    Here’s my suggestion for those who want to take certification:

    1) If you see the need to get one, get it and move forward
    2) Huib shares good ideas to learn software testing in this post, go and read it. They are gold.
    3) Don’t limit yourself to a single source of knowledge. Open your eyes and use your best judgement to make decision.

    -Thanh

    • Thanks for your comments and link to your blog post. I agree the question: “does certification has value or not” hasn’t got an easy answer. It depends on many factors like availability of alternatives, demand by employers but also by how we as testers think about them. To get to the answer requires critical thinking!

      Value is in the eye of the beholder, value is subjective to everybody and everybody should decide for themselves how much value. Unfortunately, I do not see enough critical thinking when people make the decision to get certification or not. In you blog post you give a list of 5 benefits and problems. I like that. There are pros and cons and we need to think critically about them. The underlying assumption in your thinking seems to be: certification has value in certain cases but don’t over think it and go for it! My whole point is that we do not consider the whole of all arguments together. We step over the problems too easily, turning them into benefits:

      • Certificates show no skills, but we can use it to convince employers to hire us
      • The curriculum is outdated and very theoretical, but it helps to learn about the fundamentals of testing
      • The curriculum doesn’t teach skills, but it helps to learn about the fundamentals of testing
      • We know successful projects and testing depends on context, but it teaches us testing language
      • We know every culture has its own language, but it teaches us testing language
      • It is so simple anybody could get it, but it shows you are dedicated to learn
      • We forget there are many (better) ways to learn, but it puts you in position to learn new things
      • We forget it does not let you test any real software, but it gets you hands-on experience
      • Knowing this, let me give you an alternative for the job interview from your blog post:

        Certification itself has some benefits:
        #1 – Provide an objective confirmation of competence
        Let’s take a look at this discussion
        Me: I can do this job. I’m very good at project management. I have done it for 10 years
        Employer: Does anyone else know that or confirm that?
        Me: Ah, ok, my mom, my close friends know me and can confirm that…oh, btw, my wife too
        Employer: No, I mean someone who I can recognize that confirm that?
        Me: ah, ok. I’m holding a PMP certification.
        Employer: Now I got it.
        That’s how a certification speaks itself. It provides an objective confirmation of your competence, knowledge, and skills.

        Me: I can do this job [fill in type of job]. I’m proficient [fill in needed skills] in [context]. After I learned about [fill in requested expertise] in [fill in skill based training]. After that I learned on the job and I have done it for [fill in experience] as you can see in resume. And I know I have been successful because the results where [fill in results]. I learned [fill in lessons] from this by debrief/retrospect/reviewed by talking, collaborating and pairing with people who have [requested expertise]. I also learned some lesson from that situation [points at resume] where I wasn’t successful I have learned [fill in lessons]. Since then I do [fill in activity/skill] differently and this resulted in [fill in improvement].

        Employer: Does anyone else know that or confirm that?

        Me: Yes sure, I know people who can do that for me. What skill do you want to have confirmed? I can point you to people who have worked with me very closely.

        Employer: No, I mean someone who I can call that can confirm you have all the skills you claim to have?

        Me: Well, I don’t think anybody could do that. But for instance [name + function, year] and [name + function, year] are respected professionals in [requested area]. I have worked with them. They can confirm I know about [activity/skill] and they can also confirm I am proficient at [activity/skill].

        Employer: Ah, okay. You seem to have some credible sources I can talk to. Let me call them.

        Me: I am happy to help you get in contact with them.

        Employer: Thanks, let me now explain what I wan you to test for me in the next hour. [Explanation of testing to be done in job interview]. We will debrief in an hour, okay?

        Me: Nice. Let me get to work on this. Looking forward to the debrief!

        I think testing certification needs to change. But everybody in the testing community can help change it: testers themselves, trainers (companies offering these classes) and employers hiring testers.

      • IF employers would not making it mandatory by using them in recruitment as proof of skill… THEN trainers will sell more classes focused on skills and testing real software AND testers will get easier access to skill based classes and have to proof skills in recruitment which will make them better
      • IF trainers would offer more classes focused on skills and testing real software… THEN employers see there are alternatives and will send their testers to these classes more often and wouldn’t need to demand certification anymore AND testers will get easier access to skill based classes which will them better
      • IF testers take different classes more often … THEN trainers will sell classes focused on skills and testing real software AND employers see there are alternatives and wouldn’t need to demand certification anymore AND will send their testers to skill based classes more often which will make them better
  4. Although I sincerely agree, this is all very nice for the top 5% of the testing community, backed up by members of that 5% or those communicative enough to pose as one of those 5% (trivial, it could be 4.15%). The other 95% are bound by the certification frenzy caused by recruiters, brokers and customers ( and thosr companies that earn money by providing these certification (course)). Now I have to return to my reading…..for a new certificate 😉

    • Thank you for adding me to your personal top 5% 🙂 But seriously: that is a major issue in our industry! If we all accept the status quo, nothing will ever change…

  5. I liked this post quite a bit, though there was one thing that disturbed me, and it is this sentence:
    “No testing that I know of, is standard. Testing is driven by context.”. Most testing is very much standard, and can be trained for. It’s only that the standard isn’t a step-by-step algorithm such as is hinted by the ISTQB CTFL syllabus, but rather a set of guidelines and skills. If I will try to describe how does “standard testing” work (it will be full of holes, as I’m winging it as I write) it will look like this:
    1. Understand the project’s (and product’s) purpose, expected use, goals and constraints.
    2. Do your best to uncover and minimize potential problems that will hinder those goals.
    3. push information for all relevant parties.
    Generic, huh? Still, if a tester fail at any of those, there is probably a problem.
    When teaching such vague standard (or, hopefully, something that is a bit more well thought of) there are common skills that help in performing those tasks – system analysis, reporting & communication skills, domain knowledge (frankly, if you’ve tested at least one website in your career, you will have an easier time testing the next one – I see no reason (besides cost) not to train beginner testers in “the first one” of various common contexts (web, mobile, embedded , …).
    This way, while there’s always something new, “properly certified” testers should have the background to at least start researching the testing problem.
    Also, for the question of certification value – I’m assuming it’s very geography-dependant. If a certification will help me get my CV past the filter – it’s valuable and we can even attach some monetary value to that chance alone. Other than that, I have seen little value to certification – unless you force value out of it (which can be done with just about any sort of learning) – but if you are the type of person that can force working value from the certification process, you probably don’t really need it to begin with, and it is probably not a good way to spend your time.

    • If you generalize the way you do, anything would or could be standard. The problem is, the certification I speak of, aren’t vague, but very specific in their processes and artifacts they say you should use. Also: what you describe as easy, is actually very hard and demands many skills, which aren’t “standard”. Like “understanding the project and product purpose” seems easy, but isn’t. You need social skills because projects are social systems build around people driven by people, analytic skills to understand what is going on, critical thinking to protect you from biases and so and so on. That’s why so many project fail to be successful: because we thought it would be easy to do… Projects unfold over time in ways that are often not predictable (http://context-driven-testing.com/)

      If you have tested one website, the next one will be easier is a very limited view on learning. As I tried to explain in my post: learning skills depends on tacit knowledge. Developing tacit knowledge and becoming really good at something requires more than “just” experience. It asks for constructive feedback, processing and reflection. This doesn’t mean just working. Many years of working doesn’t let you necessarily learn effective if you do not get feedback, reflect on what you do in the right environment. Doing the same work for 10 years doesn’t give you 10 years of useful experience. If you never retrospect, reflect or get any feedback, I’d say you have 10 times 1 year of experience, if you are lucky. It the expertise that counts, not necessarily experience.

      What do you mean with “properly certified”? What is proper certification to you?

      You say: Also, for the question of certification value – I’m assuming it’s very geography-dependant. If a certification will help me get my CV past the filter – it’s valuable and we can even attach some monetary value to that chance alone.

      It might be geographically dependent. Although I see the same as you describe in Europe: people getting certificates just because companies ask for them… But isn’t that very wrong? If that is the only value we get from certificates we really need to change the system, don’t we?

      • I think we can agree that the certification you speak about is negligible (or worse) in terms of professional skill\knowledge growth. It is a bit far from stating that “no testing is standard”. The same is true for building a bridge or conducting a psychotherapy session – both are highly complex and require training and expertise. It doesn’t mean that one can’t verify that the professional they are dealing with is standing up to a meaningful minimal skill. Standard testing, for me, does not mean “apply this algorithm to all of your testing problems”, it means “You should have a wide enough array of tools in your belt, and the skills to use them properly, to deal with the challenges you will face”.

        This leads me to my definition of “proper” certification. A proper certification, in my eyes, is one that can help people who don’t understand software testing enough to distinguish between testers that possess a minimal level of skills, and those that don’t. In safety critical professions, such as electricians, there is a license that does that. In less critical areas, that’s what the certification should do – provide a good testimony that the certificate holder is, indeed, a professional (even if it is a junior, inexperienced one). A proper certification should, in my eyes, provide the potential testers with knowledge about common testing fields and specializations (e.g. Performance, security, mobile, web, embedded, medical) and provide common techniques that are used in each field, so when that tester will find themselves in that field, they will understand the basic lingo and have some references to dive deep into. It will include some proof of hands-on experience, or provide the candidate with good simulations of such experience.

        As for the monetary value of the certificate – Yes, it is very wrong. Still, when someone asks me “is there value in a testing certification” (read: “should I have one?”), it would be unfair on my side to ignore the current reality and say “oh, it’s useless, ditch it” just because I think it isn’t good.
        We should change it, though I’m not sure how – I contribute my part when I say (as loud as I can) that having this certificate is a point I count against a candidate when filtering CV, and not one in their favor. Other ways I can see this certification going away is mainly by having a proper certification pushing it aside – which is quite an effort (I think I recall Cem Kaner posting something about it a couple of years ago, not sure if there was any concrete outcome of that).

  6. When I read your post I come to the conclusion we agree mostly! The arguments where you disagree with are not my arguments but the arguments of the proponents. And you seem to agree with my arguments. In the parts where I give my opinion a read ‘agree’ and ‘absolutely true’ a lot. Ok, you think the analogy of the drivers licence is not a good analogy, that is the problem with every analogy: they always go wrong somewhere. I make the analogy to state that having a certificate does not necessarily mean you are good at it.
    I do agree with you that there should be more focus on skills, that is a good addition to my blog post. This week I found this article: http://www.nationalsoftskills.org/the-real-skills-gap/ and this tweet:http://www.nationalsoftskills.org/the-real-skills-gap/ to underline that: . And I could have mentioned that more explicit in my post.
    So at the end for me there is some, but limited value in certification and you need to learn and do much more to become a good tester. You seem to think there is no value in certification.
    But again: based on your post I come to the conclusion we agree on more than we disagree on.

    • We agree on some for sure and I am happy about that. We also disagree on some important issues: you say you would recommend ANY professional tester to have various certifications. I would recommend them to find alternatives to spend their time and money on something more valuable. Also the main reason I started to write my comments, is because of the analogy. It is true that analogies go wrong somewhere often. But in this case, I think the analogy is used often and wrong on many levels. That’s why I wrote about it.

      I guess you copy-pasted the wrong link, since I don’t see a tweet. The article you mention talks about skills. I am not sure if the numbers they give (85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge) are valid for software testers, but I agree that a very big part of the success of being a testers depends on your people and social skills (see my mind map of skills for testers here: https://goo.gl/VCQ0IN). I would be very interested to see research into what skills make a successful tester. I did my own research for years. Not just look back at my experience, but seriously studied testers, their activities and necessary skills. I found that a mix of people, social, communication and testing skills is important. Also social sciences like psychology, sociology and anthropology to understand how culture works, how people learn, how your brain works, etc. is very useful.

      • Hi Huib,

        Sorry for pasting the wrong link, here is the right one: https://twitter.com/andymolinsky/status/873164772350603264/photo/1
        I agree with Rene van Veldhuijzen that there is a top x% test professionals for who a certificate has no value and they can use the time they spend on developping themselves otherwise. I don’t want to start a new discussion but I still value some parts of certification schemes, especially the test design techniques. So in my opinion the investment is an certificate is not a total waste for a part of the population. (I don’t go into the discussion how big this group is, I think people should decide that for themselves.) But I agree that for some it has no value whatsoever bases on their current knowledge and experience.
        Maybe it excites you to hear that in the test training I often deliver the attendees do actual testing, reporting et cetera.
        The discussion on what skills are needed is extremely interesting, but I think this is not the right setting to discuss this.

        Jan Jaap

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