There are a lot of ‘certifications’ in the software field. Does having a certification mean you are competent in that particular specialty? Not necessarily. What it means is that you took and passed a test.
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There is one certification which stands out in the specialty of software testing. This is the CTFL (Certified Tester, Foundation Level) certification from the ISTQB (International Software Test Quality board). And like most all certifications, you get it by passing their test.
Now, there are of course, several paths to get to where passing the test is likely. On the one end, you can be an expert in software testing and take the test ‘cold’. You may well pass the test, which after all is about software testing, but you may not do ‘really well’ on the test. Because, ISTQB, oddly enough, has their own vocabulary and view of software test, which, shockingly, can vary from your experience.
So a more reliable path for a testing expert would be to take a short preparatory course and then take the test. Not only can you answer the questions from a real world perspective, you will know what the terms they use mean and the view they have of testing.
It is worthwhile for an experienced tester to get certified. After all, it is likely that a prospective employer, having to choose between 2 candidates with equal qualifications, will go with the one who is certified.
But what if you don’t have significant experience testing? Is getting certified worth the effort? I think so. It will not mean you ‘know how to test’, and probably no employer thinks that. But it does show that you know what testing is, some common terms and how testing fits into the Software Development cycle. Plus that you went to the trouble to get the certification. Again, between candidates with similar education and minimal experience, it seems likely that the one with the certification will get the nod.
So how do you get it? Beats me. My manager came to me and said ‘do you want to get certified?’ and I said ‘Sure’. Several people from my department attended a class, 3 days I think, at the end of which we were given the test. The tests are given by people licensed by ISTQB (all over the world); you can probably find out where by searching the internet. The Testing4Success forum seems to have some information about it from a worldwide prospective.
As with many (multiple choice) tests, you can study the subject in order to be able to choose the right answers, or you can go through large numbers of sample questions to hopefully have the answers to the actual questions used ‘memorized’. I suggest actually learning the material, possibly taking a sample test to make sure it all sunk in. Both methodologies may get you the certification, but actually learning the subject will provide you benefits from the knowledge in addition to those from possessing the certification.
To reiterate – getting the certification does NOT make you a tester. It marks you as having at least basic knowledge about test and the determination to go to the trouble to prove it to the world.