To Certify or Not to Certify.....

Time for my 2-cents worth....

There has been an ongoing argument in the software testing community about the value of tester certification programs. Mostly against them. Personally, I am for software testing certification. As usual, I'm in the minority.

I view software certification programs much like degree programs. Is my degree less valuable, or worse, invaluable because I didn't graduate from Harvard or Stanford? I don't think so. But, I'm sure there are those who graduated from Harvard or Stanford that would disagree with me.

Having any certification basically just means that you understand, to some level, a specific body of knowledge. In my opinion, any certification is better than no certification. At a very low level. I put more emphasis on the certification holder's desire to improve their knowledge and understanding of software testing. Is any one certification program "the" program? - no. Is certification a replacement for experience? - nope. Should certification be required for any job - No way! Should we shun all certification programs? - Not so fast. Let the market decide (that's right I have an MBA). The crap programs will disappear and the better ones will survive. I like some of them. The others - not so much. I'm waiting for the dust to settle. The ones that require you pay to take their classes? - Absolutely not!

Bottom line - take all of these certifications for just what they are - a specific belief system or body of knowledge. Research them all and select on that meets you needs. Even better, read, read, read. The more you know, the better.

Go Zias!!!

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Comment by Abhay Kulshrestha on June 7, 2010 at 6:32
Thanks Dave, I endorse your opinion for testing certifications. As per the Micheal Balton "Testing is all about not being fooled".
Certification programs have no room for context. They are too rigid and more suitable for clerical stuffs.
A big change is needed in order to make certifications programs better because testing concerns deeply with context, learning, interpretation instead documentation.
Comment by Joe Strazzere on June 1, 2010 at 18:39
Dilbert on certification...

"I accomplished nothing this week because I was going through certification."
http://dilbert.com/fast/2010-05-30/
Comment by Jamie L Mitchell on May 26, 2010 at 11:48
So how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? So many of the critiques I hear about certification come down to belief. Most of the testing certification programs stress education. I am not sure how that can be construed to be bad. When I started testing, I was told, "Go ye forth and find bugs!" My bachelor and master degrees in computer science did not prepare me for testing - hell, they never mentioned testing. Had I prepared for certification through class, books, or even research on the web, I would have been a much better tester. I am fascinated by how many testing jobs have a prerequisite for a college degree; yet many of the people I know went through 4 years of university play-pen without really learning anything. There are certainly people who have a certification who learned nothing while attaining it, much the same way many people got a college degree without actually learning anything. But many people have become better testers and test managers by spending the time reading, attending class, and studying for the certification. I am and have been involved in training for certifications; at one time or another I have been involved with three of the four testing certifications in the US. It seems to me that many of the critics of certification spend their time teaching class or writing books; they seem to believe in education, too. Full disclosure: I have taught classes for IIST, QAI and ISTQB. I was past director and board member of IIST, was certified CSTE by QAI, and hold (and teach) the advanced certifications for ISTQB. I don't feel like I am performing any evil acts and am often contacted by past students and told how much the learning has helped them in their careers.
Comment by Bj Rollison on May 25, 2010 at 5:29
I try to remain neutral on the issue of certifications. There are those who denounce all certifications; except of course the one they are trying to pimp. The arguments for and against generally remain the same. As you say, similar to university degress an indivdiual will get out of certification training what they put into it. It's not the school per se, it's the individual taking responsiblity for investing in their own education. A cert program may provide some guidance and a foundational body of knowledge. If certification will help one land a job, then why not put in a little investment

Jim, I am a bit surprised by your statement "certified doesn't mean qualified." I taught diving for 20 years (PADI MSDT #15797) and as an instructor when you sign the certification envelope you (as the certifying agency's representative member) are certifying the individual has demonstrated a degree of competency in basic skills and is qualified to dive in similar conditions under which they were taught.

Chad, for a discussion of case studies involving exploratory testing vs. scripted testing see the article in Testing Experience magazine (http://testingexperience.com/testingexperience04_09.pdf), and the papers in the bibliography.
Comment by Richard Hill on May 24, 2010 at 14:24
In my opinion a lot of the do not certify discussion is fabricated just to drive blog traffic. The same issues exist in every field of endeavor with certification. Sport, Business, ..
Comment by Richard Hill on May 24, 2010 at 14:22
Yes certify. If it helps you find work 2 weeks sooner, it has paid for itself. What's the downside you waste some time.
Comment by Jim Hazen on May 20, 2010 at 19:10
Dave,

I have to use a saying from my scuba instructor days "certified doesn't mean qualified". Having done the CSTE twice in my career (first time where it was petition based, and then the exam re-cert a few years later) I can say there is some benefit from a personal and professional level. But, with the cert. mill mentality of all of the agencies now it has totally diluted the "value" of the certification.

My complaint is that it is too easy to get a certification these days. A "professional" certification should be exactly that, meaning you have been put through the rigor's (or ringer) of proving you are "qualified" to hold the certification. I know test people who have an alphabet soup of certifications and they can't do basic risk analysis planning for risked based testing or have serious issues with figuring out how to do basic Equivalence Partitioning & Boundary Value Analysis for test creation.

I saw this happen with the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), I worked with a guy who couldn't figure out how to get a Windows 2000 Server and SQL 7 system installed and configured correctly. I don't have an MCSE, but knew how to do it. This person was just good at taking tests and regurgitating the information.

I would like to see the different Testing Certification agencies go back to more of a petition based system where you submit your work examples, fill out questionaires (like you would for thesis), and have to have professional references (other already certified people). Get rid of the mills.
Comment by Devon Smith on May 20, 2010 at 13:33
Thanks for a different view on certifications. I am trying to decide if I should get one or not, and it is great to read an informative opinion on the subject.
Comment by Chad Patrick on May 20, 2010 at 12:01
Yes, it has been interesting seeing all of the new blogs pop up recently on this topic. It's like flipping back and forth between Fox News and CNN. Both sides blasting the other, but neither really offering much up in terms of evidence to support their own positions. I do agree with you that in the very least a certification means someone took the time and effort to learn something and memorize it at least long enough to pass a test.

Ultimately, it's up to the employeer to determine what the person did or didn't learn from the ceritification. One of the problems I'm having with many of the posts against the certifications is that they deem them worthless. I have a hard time believing that no one that studies and passes the cert hasn't improved as a tester because of it. I slept through most of my college years but 15 years later, I find myself using things I learned there so it wasn't completely worthless.

To be fair, I haven't read much on Stuart Reid so I really can't give or deny him credibility. It is interesting that the Context Driven folks are up in arms about it and I would be interested in seeing the results of a debate.

"Topics addressed by this analysis shall include:
Will exploratory testing detect more bugs than scripted approaches?
Does using standards reduce the probability of project failure?
Is a certified tester more effective than those without industry certification?
Are formal reviews an efficient way of finding defects or are there better alternatives?
Do testing tools save you money, cost you money or are they simply a distraction?"

Will the response be 'Well, it depends on the context' or will they provide either statistical (or even situational) data to support that side? So far, all I've seen are arguements about what 'evidence' is. I kind of expected more. Maybe after all of the initial uproar, we'll see some meaningful discussion.

Thanks for a refreshing post.

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