What Is The ISTQB Certification and Should I Get It?

You might have heard about these certifications from the ISTQB. What are they? Are they good for IT professionals to get? Who are they for? Learn more about them in this article.

What is the ISTQB and Who Are They For?

ISTQB stands for International Software Testing Qualifications Board, and they are an organization that has defined a series of certifications for software testers.

There are many other vendors out there who provide certifications for the development side of the application, such as Microsoft and Oracle, but ISTQB provides certifications for software testing.

If you’re a software tester, you would be familiar with the ISTQB. I’m not a software tester myself, so I haven’t had a lot to do with them, but I imagine they hold similar relevance to testers that the PMBOK does to project managers and the BABOK does to business analysts.

What Is The ISTQB Certification Path?

Like many vendors, the ISTQB offers several certifications. They have various levels and sit along a certification path, which means you need to get certain certifications before others are available.

For the ISTQB certifications, basically there are three levels:

  • Foundation (CTFL – Certified Tester Foundation Level)
  • Advanced (CTAL – Certified Tester Advanced Level)
  • Expert (CTEL – Certified Tester Expert Level)

The ISTQB Foundation certification, the CTFL, is where everybody starts. The ISTQB suggests that candidates have at least six months of practical experience in a testing role. Note that this is a suggestion, and not a requirement. If you’re a software tester, you can attempt this certification. If you’re a developer or another role related to software, you can also attempt the certification, as there is no strict requirement. This is common with a lot of certifications, where the entry-level certification has no strict requirements. However, the other certifications do.

There is also currently an “Agile Tester” extension to the Foundation certification. This is at the Foundation level, so it isn’t an Advanced certification, and focuses on the Agile-specific features of software testing. The only pre-requisite to this is to have the Foundation certificate

After the Foundation level comes the Advanced level (CTAL). There are three certifications available: Test Manager, Test Analyst and Technical Test Analyst. All three are options at these stage (none of them need the Agile Tester role), so the choice is based on your own preference and which are you’d like to get certified in.

The ISTQB requires that you have the Foundation certification before attempting any of the Advanced certification. It suggests you need “sufficient practical experience” for these exams, which I believe is somewhere up to 5 years (as that’s what the Expert level asks for).

Getting all of the Advanced level certifications allows you to get another certification, known as the Full Advanced.

The final level of the certification path is the Expert level. There are currently three types of Expert certification, with two more in development: Improving the Testing Process, Test Management, and Test Automation Engineering.

Both the Test Management and Improving the Testing Process require the Test Manager from the Advanced level to pursue them, while the Test Automation Engineering certification requires the Technical Test Analyst certification from the Advanced level.

If you’re interested in the Expert level certifications, you’ll need to have a few things (as mentioned by the ISTQB):

  • The relevant Advanced certification
  • A Foundation certification
  • At least 5 years of practical testing experience
  • At least 2 years of industry experience in the specific Expert Level topic

Should I Get The ISTQB Foundation Level?

I’ve mentioned this before, but I believe that education is important, and if you have the time and money to get a certification, then you should. It can help you get a job in the industry, help you stand out from other testers, improve your knowledge, and help you do your job better.

The Foundation certification doesn’t have any prerequisites, which means that anyone can study for and take the exam to become certified. This doesn’t mean that you should, though. Someone working as a network engineer wouldn’t have a need for the Foundation certification, unless that’s the area they wanted to move in to.

So, getting the CTFL would depend on what your role is:

  • Software testerDefinitely, this certification is designed for you so I think you should look at getting it
  • Developer: It could help your role to learn about software testing, but it’s not the most important certification for you
  • Project manager: It’s probably not relevant for you to get this certification.
  • Business analyst: Like the PM, it’s not a relevant certification for you.
  • Architect: Getting this is too detailed and not relevant for this area.
  • Team leader: It’s also not relevant for being a team leader, unless you’re leading a testing team.
  • Networking: Not relevant for this role.
  • Database administrator: Also, not relevant for this role.

These are just my recommendations (and I hope I didn’t leave any roles out). If you’re interested in the ISTQB Foundation certification (the CTFL), have a look at how it can help your career in your current role or in any future role you might look at getting into.

So, I hope this article has been helpful to you if you’re looking to get an ISTQB certification. Are you thinking of getting one? Do you have one already? What has your experience been like? Share your comments in the section below.