The Tester Certification Debate (Part 1)

This is the first in a series of Blog posts about Tester Certification. I’m writing a series of posts on this subject because (in my humble opinion) it is one of the most important issues we face in our profession today and is therefore worthy of in depth analysis.

Before I begin, I will declare that I have been granted the status of “Certified Tester” by the ISTQB and CSTP (Australia) Examination Boards. I have also gained several “internal” certifications from companies that I have worked for during my Testing career. I won’t go into the specifics of the certification levels I’ve achieved (at this time) as they are not relevant to this article. However, I will declare my proficiency at a later date.

The reason I have provided this information up front is to assure you (the reader) that I am qualified to tackle the subject and that I can provide a balanced view (as I have studied and passed exams run by two independent examination boards). By the way, I have also been a part-time Trainer of both of these syllabi and have sat on committees that have defined these syllabi at various times in the past. Now, enough of me, down to the topic.

As with many subjects related to software testing, there are some very strong opinions regarding the value of Tester Certification and it is because of this that I believe we need more definitive information and guidance as to it’s value and context. In future posts I will be interviewing Testing Community leaders, syllabi developers and training practitioners regarding their thoughts and current position in this debate. I will also be attending the latest incarnations of several Tester Certification training program’s, in order to provide an independent and up to date analysis of what is on the market. I am doing this because I gained my certifications more than five years ago and therefore believe that I should take a fresh look at the market. Incidentally, I presented a Conference Paper at AsiaSTAR 2002 comparing the ISTQB and CSTP certification offerings, as they were at that time, and I will refer to this Conference Paper in later articles.

Current estimates are that there are more than 200,000 ISTQB certified testers worldwide and therefore we are talking serious numbers of individuals and organisations; however, what I don’t know at this time is how many of these certified testers are currently active in the community and what the breakdown is by year and certification level. These are definitely questions I will be endeavouring to answer in later articles (based upon the interviews I will be conducting). I will also look to provide a breakdown by country – over 40 countries are currently represented in the 200,000 certified to date.

One of my aims is to gain more transparency regarding the certification boards and therefore provide information about how the various national boards are run. This may appear contentious (at the outset), but given the “not for profit” status of the various national certification boards, I believe we as a Testing Community should know how and where the income is used. I should also declare at this time that I was at the inaugural ANZTB Board Meeting in Melbourne, but have not stayed close to the organisation since then. In fact, my latest contact with the ANZTB was speaking at their Canberra SIGIST Meeting in May 2012, when I gave a presentation called “Test Automation: A Story Lost in Translation”. Prior to that, I spoke at their annual conference in Auckland in March 2011 on the subject of “A Future Without Testers”. It should also be noted that both of my papers are available via the ANZTB website; however, the Auckland one has been modified from the original due to some contentious material I presented relating to the ISTQB Foundation Exam.

So, as you can see, I have had an “interesting” past with Tester Certification and I intend to have an ongoing involvement with it in the future. My next steps are to speak to numerous eminent software testing professionals from around the world, who have opinions on both sides of the debate, and then present them in this Blog as soon as I can. My aim is that within the next three to six months I will have provided a balanced and up to date view of the Tester Certification landscape in order that individuals and organisations can make a more informed decision when it comes to the value of Tester certification.

If any of you have information or questions that you would like included please contact me via the “Comments” box below. I am really excited about this initiative and hope that you will all share the journey with me.

Dateline: Friday February 22, Melbourne

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