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How software testing certifications can boost your career

How can software testing certifications give QA professionals a leg up in their careers? Learn how in this overview, as well as what certification types testers should consider.

As software testing continues to shift from manual exploration to more automated processes, testers should consider how to adapt their skills. That might mean pursuing certifications or learning more about the languages developers use.

Learn why software testing certification can help QA professionals advance their careers. Certifications can communicate to recruiters and managers that a given tester can navigate an ever-evolving IT landscape.

Here we provide an overview of the certification types testers should pursue and each kind's specific details.

How software tester certifications can help

When a tester possesses a certification, it signals to recruiters and prospective employers that you know your business and have the demonstrable knowledge to back it up. In turn, it can lead to a higher salary and advancement opportunities that other professionals might not have.

"Adding a certification is a recommended next step for a QA engineer because it offers greater opportunities, potentially better salary and invaluable knowledge that can make your job performance better," said Sander Tamm, founder and CEO of the online learning platform E-Student.

Employers like to see testers with the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) certification, which has international acceptance and industry recognition. "It's a 'foot-in-the-door' type certification that instantly makes you eligible for the majority of QA positions at all levels," Tamm said.

Outside the basic level of ISTQB certification, opportunities exist for certifications that are more advanced and more specific -- such as for Agile and core testing infrastructure. Tamm recommends newcomers to software testing consider the Certified Software Test Engineer (CSTE) program. The CSTE certification demonstrates competence in the basics of quality control and shows prospective employers that you know what you're doing.

After a tester obtains basic test certification, they should learn the basics on popular programming languages like Java and Go.

Language and infrastructure-specific certifications

While software testers haven't generally needed to master a programming language for their jobs, it's not to say this won't be the case in the future. Testing continues to move into the languages where developers write code. In the Java and Go ecosystems, for example, tests are written in those languages, typically executed with those languages' build/package managers and used as quality gates during CI/CD pipelines.

Testers should view Oracle as the first step for a rock-solid Java certification. Because there isn't an official Go certification, testers might want to look at vertical-specific certifications.

Another option is to explore non-functional requirements, such as security. For example, the GSSP-JAVA [GIAC Secure Software Programmer-Java] certification is one that stands out in the Java ecosystem.

Or, if testers decide they want to be certified in the infrastructure stack, they can look at certifications from AWS or GCP to demonstrate their capabilities under a particular cloud provider's umbrella.

Internal certifications

Outside of the aforementioned certifications, testers should also explore any certifications offered by third parties in their target industry or any potential (or current) employers.

For example, the French consulting firm Capgemini created its own internal code-related certifications that were designed by its architects and center of excellence team. These certifications helped the firm qualify potential automation experts, software development engineers and data engineers in testing.

"While the external certifications give us an idea of a candidate's competency, we know if they can drill down a bit more specifically into the areas we need them to be proficient in, then we are able to more accurately assess their abilities," said Rajesh Natarajan, director of digital assurance and quality engineering at Sogeti.

Expand your toolbox

With all that said regarding certifications, Natarajan found that demonstrating competence in learning new tools can sometimes be as valuable as knowledge of a specific tool set. As the tool landscape rapidly changes, Natarajan noticed that testers' work doesn't revolve around a specific tool. What matters more is that testers demonstrate the ability to adapt to a newer technology or platform and excel at applying that knowledge to the tool landscape.

"We strongly believe if someone has expertise in any one language or tool, that candidate can adapt to any other language or tool," Natarajan said. Testers should be able to exhibit a learning pattern as they grow in their career.

If testers have the relevant experience and knowledge with a specific tool set, they should be able to use best practices and relevant experience with comparable tools to overcome hurdles.

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