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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36 thoughts on “Is It Worth Getting a QA Software Testing Certification?”

  1. Great article as always.

    I have 2.9 years of work exp and currently have ISTQB CTFL certification. Now thinking to do CTAL certifications. I am in dilemma which certification to chose. Kindly advise.


    • Jatin, wait for the second part of this certification series for the answer to your question.

  2. certification without practical knowledge is worthless.

    • Yes Chaitanya, practical knowledge is important, however certification will make you stand out in the crowd.

  3. I personally feel that,if u are unable to implement the concepts / learnings in real time then its just wastage of time and money. Our goal of doing certification with the point mentioned in the post is to implement the personal view

  4. This is very true and in Testing industry, you will get distinct advantage if you did one Certification. It gives you this confidence. Certification across an organization ensures deep testing knowledge and testing practices.

  5. @Pankaj- It’s absolutely helpful to apply the knowledge gained by hands-on experience on your real job, However certification keeps you updated about other trends/techniques in the market which you might not have experience on as mentioned in the article.

  6. Thanks All for reading and providing your valuable feedback.

    Happy Testing!

  7. Very informative & helpful.
    Looking forward to the next article.

  8. thanks for this.. Coudl you please compile a list of technology related certification which will be helpful for testers as most of the above listed are just for theoretical knowledge which are good at start level.

    But in most of the interviews these days,… except pure manual… people are interested in knowing about the tools..

    So if you can include those it would be great

  9. I have 4.7 yrs exp and I don’t have any certification. Shall I go for ISTQB foundation level?

  10. I’m currently studying for the CSTE exam. Any thoughts from anyone who’s taken exams for either the CSTE, CTFL, or CTAL certs and why they picked one over the other? ITSQB exams are more popular but is that because they’re easier?

  11. Considering my own experience with Certification (ISTQB) and practical testing, I can say that these certification schemes are causing more bad than good to the testing field.

    Arguments like ‘certifications help you stand out in the crowd’ is utter rubbish. Yes, utter rubbish because many hiring managers I know of do not give a damn to certification thing for that they know the ‘real value’ of it. What makes one stand out in crowd is one’s testing skills and reputation one builds for him/herself. I have known many certified testers who do not deserve even to stand near computers forget about letting them test software. On contrary, the people that are already standing out in crowd are not necessarily certified. With all humbleness I disagree with intent and content of this article and would urge testers to use their brains before blindly falling for any of such schemes.

    Every Tom, Dick and Harry you may know is already certified and there are tons of them looking for job/promotions already. How would one stand out among crowd which is already over-flooded with certification zombies? Oh wait, may be there will be another certification for that…”Certification to stand out among the crowd of ‘already certified testers’ “. Let’s wait for that?

    • I agree to your point to a certain degree. I wouldn’t say that certifications are utterly useless. In my opinion, these certifications can lead you to fill in knowledge gaps and learn more about testing in general. Any smart / good resource can apply these practices in his work routine to stand out. So, the benefits may not be as direct as most people want them to be but they certainly are there.

  12. Knowledge full and helping to improve a track

  13. Thanks a lot for great summary of benefits of certification, very motivational.

    I just have a notice regarding ISTQB certificates, refer to the new scheme. Expert level is changed, and there are new career branches available. Some of them more domain specific. I see new benefits here as well

  14. hello, i wanted to know are there any certifications available for an entry level fresher in the QA domain?

  15. I have 4yrs exp and I don’t have any certification. Shall I go for ISTQB foundation level?

  16. Hey, i am 1.8 years experienced as a software tester currently working in an MNC.Kindly guide me as to how can i enhance my resume through certifications wnd how will they help in getting higher packages when i go for switching the organisation.

  17. HI,

    I want to know how effective it will put impact of CTFl certified VS those who are not. I am having 2.8 yr of experience. Will write CTFL exam in coming days.

  18. I am also a tester and yes I am also confused about this.

    But according to me it’s good to go for certification if we want to go onsite later-on. Right now I am preparing for ISTQB exam.

  19. HI,

    I am already done with ISTQB Foundation Level certification. I have 3.7 years experience. Will it be any helpful or add ons for my career if i take CAST or CSTE certification? Please suggest which certification further will be good for my career.


  20. Can a student from non IT background take training, do the certification and search for QA job in country like U.S.A?

  21. Hello,

    I have 9 yrs of experience in Investment Banking operations and now I am planning for Software testing certification as additional skill set to work in IT industry.

    Is it worth to go for the software certification.

  22. I have 15+ years experience with Testing – Functional, Automation, API, Database, etc. I honestly cannot afford to pay $300+ for a certification and my company does not reimburse. I’d like to take a course for continual learning but certifications are not for me due to the price.

  23. I am not sure what to intent of this article is.
    It has no foundation in fact. I have been a Software Engineer for over 25+ years and a QA Engineer for over 11+ years, I am a Senior QA Engineer now and never have I been asked “Why aren’t you certified?”
    I have never been told I did not get a job because I was not certified.
    Hiring Managers want people with the job skills specific to the position they need to fill. It has nothing to do with a Certification from some other company or organization. You can have 10 Certifications, but if you have NO experience on the code source, platforms, tools , procedures that they need you will not get an offer.
    It makes more sense to see which job skills are in demand instead of pursuing some generic Certification.
    Also, getting certified while you already have a job does not mean you will get a raise.
    It all depends on what a Company is looking for and if your personality fits with the culture of the Department, and if the current employees feel they can work with you and your skills are good.

  24. I think its always useful to obtain appropriate certifications.
    * Studying for them will make you more knowledgeable.
    * Having the certification demonstrates your level of knowledge. Its not just you saying you know “x”.
    * For a series of certifications, such as CTFL/CTAL, it lets you measure your level of competence.
    * Its a differentiator when an employer is comparing you with a group of potential hires.

  25. Great article Renuka. Can you guide me how should I prepare for foundation level exam of ISTQB.

  26. In the organization I work with, Certification is highly regarded. Since we are an outsource company, it’s important for us to work with the same concepts and technical language. The hiring managers use it as a way to ensure compliance. I mean, I’ve been outsourced to companies where the test team didn’t know the difference between white box, black box testing or how to do equivalence partitioning and proper boundary value analysis. Getting my certification basically just puts the hiring manager’s mind at ease that I can at least do whatever concepts are covered in the certification. It could be the difference with getting the job and not. It’s really emotional I think. Sure you can learn this stuff elsewhere. But it shows you have done the exam and demonstrated it to a certification body like ISTQB or whatever.

  27. Let me explain in a few ways why certification in testing is worth the time and money. BTW, I was the 2nd certified tester in the world. 1) The demand for certifications has always originated from management in companies. Without that demand to help establish a baseline of knowledge and practice for a person, then the certifications in any field would cease to exist. 2) It shows that a person has a certain level of investment in their career development. The wisest test managers I know look for “chefs” instead of “cooks”. They want the person who sees testing as a profession as opposed to a job. 3) It builds confidence that they person knows what they are doing. Would you rather take your new car into a certified technician for that brand of car, or to Louie down the street. In some cases, Louie may do a fine job. However, I have learned from my youngest son who is a certified Honda tech, that there are some things you need extreme Honda knowledge to diagnose an d fix. People to take their cars to the dealership because their people are certified. I hope this helps!

  28. My background is procurement and willing to get into software QA and wanted to know are there any certifications available for an entry level fresher in the QA domain?

  29. Echoing many other commentators: GREAT article. Thanks!

    Full disclosure: I’m on the Technical Advisory Group for the American board for ISTQB — the ASTQB. We write the exams and review provider courses for accreditation (helped review one of those Randy Rice offers; Hi Randy!)

    Yes, having certifications can help your career. Now at the point in mine where potential employers reach out with emails, once to twice a month. Our current customer requires new testers to get CTFL within a few weeks, and then requires they get CTAL-TA (advanced level test analyst) within one year. Seeing advanced certification called out in ever-more job advertisements.

    But, IMHO, that pales, next to the single biggest advantage: You will become a better tester.

    Just *reading* the right syllabus (see will improve your skills. *Thought* I was a good tester before our then-customer started “this certification nonsense” about 12 years ago. Have to attend an in-house course? They’re nuts! Then, teeth gritted, sat through it. Test techniques? Huh, they make sense. Soon, became a teacher in the course. For several years, the student exercise had them test a tool that I and another senior guy had previously tested Every class–of “newbies!”–found the bugs we had missed. Made me a believer.

    Years later…thought I was doing good Agile testing. Then the syllabus came out (PDF at Yeah, that was an eye opener!

    Reading the syllabi will help, but studying for the exams will solidify the knowledge. There are many tools, and they all come in handy sometime. Just finished a massive business rule test design at a customer site. Good to know how to collapse that table and reduce the 96 tests to the 26 actually needed!

    Oh, and study must become a lifetime practice. Am old enough to have seen core memory being made in the factory, and IBM was going to change the world with 96-column cards (1/3 the size of the 80-column cards, too!) Right now I’m studying Python & Django, trying to help a development team get right with Test Driven Development. Always keep learning!

  30. Is the any Microsoft certification exam which is helpful for testers/QA?

  31. I was also in two minds whether to go with this testing or not, but after reading your article it seems that going forward with testing is a better choice.

  32. I have been certified in software testing since 1989. As both an independent consultant and employee, I have found that in many cases it helps me stand out when competing for work. In my case, I must hold the certifications I teach, so it looks like I have been on a certification safari. So, I address that up front with people. But in most cases, my prospective clients see the certs I have as positive things. I guarantee you that I would not spend the time, money and effort to get something that was marginal or did no good. One other quick point. When deciding on which cert to get, you want to get the one most people are looking for – ISTQB. In that program, you must start at Foundation Level (CTFL) before you can get any other ISTQB certs, such as Advanced Security, Performance Tester, etc. I say, “Go for it!”


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