Is It Worth Getting a QA Software Testing Certification?

All software testers consider the question “Is a QA Certification worth it?” at least once in their career.

For both newcomers and experienced QAs, the idea of certification is both exciting and tiresome. I took a lot of time too before I decided to get certified considering the fact that I had already spent 8 years in the software testing field.

This article is an effort to summarize my research and thought process behind getting QA Software testing certification. I hope this will help those who are facing the same dilemma.

 QA certification

Who can benefit from this article?

Freshers – New joins into Software Testing and also those who are trying to kick-start their QA career.
Experienced Testers – Who are undecided as to get certified or not.


By the end of this article, your question of “Certification or No Certification” is going to be replaced by “Am I ready for Certification?” because to be certified apparently wins. (Spoiler Alert! 🙂 )

Let’s start!

Why is certification important?

  • In today’s economy, certification has become a very important tool to reach knowledgeable and skilled employee base.
  • Certification helps you gain practical skills that you use on the job.
  • Certification curriculum to focus on the knowledge and skills that are required in the work world.
  • Certification helps bridge educational/theoretical gaps.
  • Learning is a lifelong process. Certification not only helps professionals refresh their basic knowledge but also to keep up with new processes/techniques coming in.

Positives of Certification:

If you are New to the Software QA world:

1) It gives you the opportunity to stand out of the crowd: – Real-time knowledge is, of course, important but a certification will make you stand out in a crowd. The majority of the candidates you will compete against for testing jobs may not be certified. Hence, those who are certified will have a distinct advantage.

2) It helps your resume to be selected during Initial Screening: – Most of the hiring managers definitely consider certification as important criteria in their initial screening of resumes. A Foundation Level certificate encourages confidence on the candidate before the actual interview happens.

Certification ensures that even if the candidate does not have any experience in Testing, he/she has a basic understanding of testing concepts and knowledge of standard testing terminology.

In most of the firms, initial screening of resumes is done by a non-technical person and having Certifications on your resume will make a difference. It will make your resume look more professional.

If you are an Experienced Software QA professional:

1) If you are looking for growth in the same firm:

It’s always nice to be ahead of your competitors. Likewise, it’s always better to perfect what you do. Certification gives you this confidence. Certification across an organization ensures deep testing knowledge and testing practices.

The fundamental benefit is – it allows skilled testers to find the right defects with the right amount of effort.

2) If you are looking for new opportunities in the market

You are an expert in Software testing field for several years and now you decide to look for new opportunities in the market. Many of the experienced professional testers are limited only to what they test every day.

In other words, if a person is working in Functional Testing for a longer period, he/she may lose touch with all other types of testing which will eventually obstruct them in a longer run. Similarly, a person working in waterfall model has no idea about Agile model. This can be very harmful to both.

Certification will keep you updated about the standard testing definitions and updated technology. So even if you haven’t worked on it, you gain the knowledge about it.

Negatives of Certification:

1) Nobody can assure you that being certified can land you a good job in QA. Neither it gives you guarantee that you know all the details of software testing and you are ready for it.

2) Many of the HR persons do not consider Certification as entry criteria for the job if you have desired skills or hands-on experience needed.

Salary Aspect of Certification:

There is no direct evidence that relates a salary hike to a certification. However, Certification surely helps in career development. According to the effectiveness survey done by ISTQB, Test Managers would like to have approximately 75% of their staff certified at the Foundation Level.

So, I hope by now you are sure you want to get certified. The next question is which one?

Types of Certification Available for QA:

There are many certifications for software testers. Even companies like HP have their own certification exams for automation tools like UFT and LoadRunner.

You can check the list of all cetifications with more details in this series Part 1 and part 2.

Two certification organization are mostly recognized in Software testing:

#1) International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB)

Three Levels of Certifications are provided by ISTQB:

  1. ISTQB Foundation Level (CTFL)
  2. ISTQB Advanced Level (CTAL)
    • CTAL Test Analyst
    • CTAL Technical Test Analyst
    • CTAL Test Manager
  3. ISTQB Expert Level
    • ASTQB Expert Level Test Manager – Strategic
    • ASTQB Expert Level Test Manager – Operational
    • ASTQB Expert Level Test Manager – Managing the Test Team

#2) Quality Assurance Institute (QAI)

  • Certified Test Engineer (CSTE)
  • Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA)
  • Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST)

Let’s talk about the Foundation level certificates in more details.

Before I did my Certification, I researched the options and made the below chart. You have it now for your reference.

This chart will help you make the right choice. Once you have decided and acquired the foundation level certificate you can always go to Next Levels to enhance your knowledge.

Comparing ISTQB Vs CSTE:

First Level of CertificationCertified Tester, Foundation Level (CTFL)Certified Software Tester (CSTE)CAST
Company/Organization Providing CertificationInternational Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB)Quality Assurance Institute (QAI)Quality Assurance Institute (QAI)
U.S. Volunteer BoardAmerican Software Testing Qualifications Board (ASTQB)N/AN/A
Type of OrganizationNot for ProfitPrivate – For-ProfitPrivate – For-Profit
Number of certified individuals for all levels of certificationApproximately 200,000 (CTFL and CTAL; as of February 2012)Approximately 60,000 (CSTE and CSQA; estimated based on 35,000 as of October 2008)Not Available(As this is a relatively new certification)
Education required to be taken from company/organization providing certification?NoNoNo
Sells training courses for their certification?NoYesYes
Provides free syllabus/body of knowledge and glossary?Free 76 page syllabus and free 43 page glossaryFree 10 page body of knowledgeFree 10 page body of knowledge
Required Fees$250.00$350.00 to $420.00$100
Recertification Required for First Level?NoYes – every 3 yearsYes – every 3 years
Additional Levels of Certification AvailableCertified Tester, Advanced Level (CTAL):• Test Analyst• Technical Test Analyst • Test ManagerAdvanced (ASTE) Master (MSTE)CSTE
PrerequisitesNone. Anyone can take up this examination18 months of experience in Software Testing + minimal educational experience (check the website… It gives this very clearly)4 year bachelor degree
2 year degree with 2 years IT experience
4 year IT experience
(most students satisfy 4 year degree prerequisite)
Examination patternISTQB Foundation: 75 Mins closed book exam consists of approximately 40 multiple choice questions of 1 points each. An exam amounts to 40 points total, pass is 65%(26 points)CSTE has four sections and total exam duration is 270 min. There are 2 section having 50 objective questions and time limit is 45 min and 2 sections having subjective 6 to 10 questions and time limit as 75 min. With 10 min, break after each paper the total duration.Multiple choice: 75 minutes.
70% score is required to pass.
Recertification Required for First Level?NoYes – every 3 yearsYes – every 3 years


Certification may not give you any extra benefit with regards to salary or increased package but it will definitely put you ahead in the race.

Consider yourself as a hiring Manager and think of below scenario – When two equally skilled people with same profiles and work experience apply for the same job – whom will you prefer?

I know our answers match. 🙂 Definitely, the one with certification will bag the job.

It is up to an individual how much effort he/she wants to put into getting certified.

About the author:  This is a guest article by Renuka K. She is having 11+ years of Software testing experience.

Next article – In next article, we will take a step ahead and find out which Software testing certification is right for you based on your experience level.

Let us know your questions about Software testing QA certifications.

Happy Certification!

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