There are several major QA certifications online. What are the most popular software testing certifications, how do you achieve them, how much do they cost, and how important is it to get Agile QA certifications?

QA Certification (certificate icon with award)

Types of Certifications

The two biggest sources of QA certifications are the ISTQB and the QAI. Each offers multiple types of software testing certifications.

If you’re looking to specialize in a particular type of QA (such as security testing or management), it’s worth getting the certificate specific to that position.

However, any of the more general QA certifications should be suitable for most testers. Further, if you decide to focus on a different area of QA, having a certification that only applies to your old specialty may not be useful.

From the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB):

  • Foundation Level
  • Advanced Level
  • Expert Level
  • Test Manager
  • Test Analyst
  • Agile Testing
  • Mobile Testing
  • Performance Testing
  • Security Testing
  • Usability Testing
  • Test Automation Engineering

From the Quality Assurance Institute (QAI):

  • Test Engineer (CSTE)
  • Manager of Software Testing (CMST)
  • Associate in Software Testing (CAST)

How Do You Get Certified?

In order to get a QA certification, the main steps are:

  1. Pay a fee
  2. Pass a test
  3. In some cases, you need a college degree or work experience

Some of these steps may sound simple, but the tests can be notoriously difficult. You’ll need to put in quite a few hours of studying first.

In addition, like many tests you may have taken in school, there’s no guarantee that what you learn will actually be helpful in your career. (For more relevant tips, see Career Advice for QA Testers.)QA Certification Cost (people filling out a test next to coins)

How Much Does it Cost to Get Certified? 

The fees range depending on the exact certification. But the range tends to be between $100 and $450.

Out of the ones listed above, the CAST is the cheapest at $100.

How Many Hours of Studying Are Required? 

As with other aspects, it depends on the person. But many of the books/PDFs provided for preparation are hundreds of pages. So it’s safe to say you’ll need more than a one-night cram session to prepare.

Generally, it’s recommended to start studying for a QA certification about three months in advance.

Should You Get Certified?

There’s no universal answer to this question. For some, having a software testing certification can make a big difference in getting a QA job. For others, the time would be better spent learning from a more practical course (or at an existing job). It all comes down to your goals and motivation.

Reasons to Get a QA Certification

  • Job opportunities. The best reason to get a QA certification is to increase your job opportunities. The usefulness of the information learned is debatable. But if a potential employer is choosing between two otherwise identical candidates, having a certification can get you in the door.
  • Sense of accomplishment. If you’re the type of person who takes stock in accolades (no judgment here!), getting a QA certification can help boost your motivation in the field. It’s well known that software testers don’t always get much credit for their work. So being certified might help your career confidence when outside recognition is lacking.

Do You Need a Certification to be Good at QA?ISTQB QA Tester (person sitting with a laptop open)

Nope. In fact, many of the best QA testers don’t have certifications – and there are plenty of certified testers who are not necessarily great at software testing.

While many of the topics covered in certification tests are important, every workplace does things differently. It’s usually more important to follow the process that your specific team has.

Combining this with core QA skills like being detail-oriented, writing good test cases and bug reports, and providing well thought out QA estimates will help your career far more than solely trying to follow ISTQB standards.

Sample Test Questions

Here are a few sample questions based on the ISTQB exam:

1. Which of the following should NOT normally be an objective for a test?

  •  Finding faults in the software
  •  Assessing whether the software is ready for release
  •  Demonstrating that the software doesn’t work
  •  Proving that the software is correct

2. A test harness is a:

  •  High level document describing the principles, approach and major objectives of the organization regarding testing
  •  Distance set of test activities collected into a manageable phase of a project
  •  Test environment comprised of stubs and drives needed to conduct a test
  •  Set of several test cases for a component or system under test

3. Which of the following is true of the V-model?

  •  It states that modules are tested against user requirements
  •  It only models the testing phase
  •  It specifies the test techniques to be used
  •  It includes the verification of designs

You can find additional examples of sample ISTQB questions here.

Summary

If you’re new to software testing, getting certified can help you get your foot in the door. Even if you have years of experience, having a certification on your QA resume certainly can’t hurt.

But a certification is not necessary to be an amazing QA tester. If you don’t choose to (or can’t afford to) get certified, know that this doesn’t make you lesser than certified testers. While some employers may put more weight on QA certifications than makes sense, this doesn’t change the skills you bring to the table.

And if you do decide to get a QA certification, now you know you’ll be going into it for the right reasons!