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Which Software Testing Career Path and Certification is Right for You?

Are you wondering which ISTQB certification is right for you? The following is a short explanation of the various certifications and the way you might want to proceed based on your career goals. The tricky thing in our industry is the constant change. The skills of today may or may not be marketable tomorrow, so while you’re thinking about what you want to do, you should also consider what you need to do to be able to get or retain the job you want.

Foundation Level – This is where you need to start. This is the gateway certification for all the other ISTQB certifications. This level is designed for beginners all the way up to those who have been in the industry for awhile (or maybe a long while) and need to brush up their skills and update their terminology. One of the fastest ways to fail in an interview is to use the wrong terms for testing processes, documents and techniques. Organizations tend to adopt their own terminology and it helps to have a base of “standard” terminology, particularly before you venture out for an interview.

The Foundation Level is in the process of being expanded to include several extension modules. Right now, the agile extension is due to be available in early 2014 and work is starting on the model-based testing extension. These are separate certifications you can get that are “added on” to your Foundation Level certification.

Advanced Level – This is where you need to start making decisions. What do you like to do? What do you want to do? Where are the most opportunities?

Advanced Level – Test Analyst – If you are not very technically minded, and would rather work with the user, know the business application and apply your skills more for analysis than programming, you want to pursue the Advanced Test Analyst certification. This certification is designed for the strong tester who has a deep understanding of the business domain and the needs of the user. You’ll learn about designing good test documentation, conducting effective reviews, and participating in risk analysis sessions (particularly to help determine the impact of a realized risk to the business user). You’ll learn about how you can contribute the test information (input data, action, expected results) to the test automation effort and you’ll learn about usability testing. You’ll also build upon the test techniques you learned at the Foundation Level and will learn new techniques such as domain analysis and cause-effect graphing, as well as how to test using use cases and user stories. You’ll learn more about defect-based and experience-based techniques so you’ll know how to pick an appropriate defect taxonomy and how to implement traceable and reproducible exploratory and checklist-based testing. Let’s not forget process improvement as well. You’ll learn what to track in your defect management to be sure you have the information to figure out what could be improved in your process and how you can do it. This certification is designed for the person who wants to spend their time testing, not programming or delving into the code or troubleshooting technical issues.
The path for the Advanced Test Analyst at the Expert Level will include a further specialization in usability testing and further development of testing techniques. At this point, these new syllabi are being discussed but will not be available until at least 2015.

Advanced Level – Technical Test Analyst – OK, admit it, you really like to play in the code. You like to review it, program tests to test it and create test automation and tools. If this is describing you, you definitely need to be looking at the Advanced Technical Test Analyst certification. This certification is designed for the technically minded individual who wants to and is capable of programming, both in scripting languages (e.g., python) as well as standard programming languages (e.g., java). You’ll learn how to approach white-box testing to find the difficult problems that are often missed by the black-box testing that is usually done by the Test Analyst. You will learn strong testing techniques that will allow you to systematically test decision logic, APIs and code paths. You will also learn about static and dynamic analysis techniques and tools (stamp out those memory leaks!). You will learn about testing for the technical quality characteristics such as efficiency (performance), security, reliability, maintainability, and portability. You’ll learn how to do effective code and architectural reviews. And, you’ll learn about tools – using tools, making tools, and a little about selecting the right tools. After all, you wouldn’t want to accidentally get a tool that creates code mutants (really, that’s a legitimate tool usage) when you really wanted a simulator. And did I mention automation? You will learn the basis for automation that will be built on at the Expert Level.

The Advanced Technical Test Analyst certification is the gateway to the Expert Level for Test Automation (Engineering) and Security. The Test Automation (Engineering) syllabus and the Security syllabus and their associated certifications are likely to be available in 2014 or early 2015.

Advanced Test Manager – Those who can, do, and those who can’t, manage? Well, that’s not usually a successful formula for a test manager. If you are a test manager or want to be one, and you are willing to learn all the necessary techniques and practices to be successful, then this certification is the one for you. You will learn all about test planning, monitoring and controlling for projects but you will also learn about establishing test strategies and policies that can change the course of testing for the organization. You will learn about how to effectively manage, both people and projects, and will learn the importance and application of metrics and estimation techniques. You will learn your role in reviews. You will learn how to effectively manage defects and how to focus on improving the test process. You will also learn the importance and proper usage of tools and be able to set realistic expectations regarding tool usage. So, if you like telling people what to do, and they tend to listen to you, this is probably the right certification for you. However, that said, remember that technical people respect technical people, so rather than just getting the Advanced Test Manager certification, you should think about also getting at least the Advanced Test Analyst certification as well.
The Advanced Test Manager certification is the gateway to the Expert Levels for Improving the Test Process and Test Management. The Expert Level Improving the Test Process certification focuses on various techniques and models that are used for test process improvement. This provides a good coverage of the most popular models and provides information regarding how to approach an improvement effort to net an effective result. The Expert Level Test Management certification focuses on honing those strategic, operational and personnel skills to make you the best test manager you can be. There is significant discussion in the syllabus about how to be sure your department is performing well and is receiving the accolades it deserves. There is also realistic information regarding managing people effectively and dealing with difficult situations.

The Advanced Test Manager certification is also a pre-requisite for the management part of the Expert Level Test Automation certification. This focuses on how to effectively manage an automation project, including getting the right tools, resources, budget and timeframe. This syllabus should be available in late 2014 or early 2015.

Which Way to Go?
It’s entirely up to you. As you can see, there are several ways you can go with the certification path. And remember, for example, you might not want to get the Advanced Technical Test Analyst certification if you are a test manager, but you can always read the free syllabus and learn something even without a big time investment. All the ISTQB syllabi are available for download. They make for interesting reading, even if you are not planning the particular career path that is indicated. Our industry is constantly changing and new syllabi are always in the works. If you plan to head for the Expert Level, it’s a good idea to start planning your path now as that may determine which Advanced certification(s) you will need. Keep an eye on the ISTQB web site for new additions to the syllabus family. And remember to train, not just for your current job, but for the next job you want to get. Right now, the job market is hot for those with the skills of the Advanced Technical Test Analyst. There is always a need for good test managers. Note the emphasis on the word “good”. And, many companies want Advanced Test Analyst’s as well because of the need for black-box testing and strong domain knowledge. Right now, the biggest growth in in the Advanced Technical Test Analyst area, but that can change quickly. Get your training now, so you’ll be ready.

It’s unlikely that we will run out of work anytime in the future because, as long as there are developers, there will be a need for testers. It’s built in job security! Plan and train for your future. It’s looking bright!

Gain Recognition for Your Company

Join companies such as Platinum Partner Blizzard Entertainment in the the ISTQB Partner Program. The ISTQB Partner Program recognizes organizations around the world that have supported the professional development of their software testing staff through ISTQB certification. The Program comprises four levels of partnership (Silver, Gold, Platinum and Global) and the partnership level of an organization is determined through the number of certification points it has accumulated, which relate to the ISTQB Certificates held by staff.

The major benefits of the ISTQB Partner Program include:
·  Permission to use the ISTQB Partnership Program logo (and other permitted marketing material) on your organization’s website
·  Recognition of your organization’s testing professionalism, both in the local and international market
·  Official Recognition Letter, indicating identity/location, validity and level
·  Listing of your organization on ISTQB website
·  Listing of your organization on the CSTB website
·  Special privileges in relation to ISTQB related events and conferences
·  Eligibility to receive the alpha version of new ISTQB Syllabi with the opportunity to contribute to their review
·  Honorary membership of the exclusive “ISTQB Partner Forum” which will allow Partners to receive news on the ISTQB Roadmap.

Learn more and apply for the ISTQB Partner Program today.

About the CSTB: The CSTB (Canadian Software Testing Board) is the Canadian national branch of the ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board). As such, it advocates education and examination as a practical means to excel in the software testing field. The CSTB is one of more than 40 national boards participating in the ISTQB. For more information about the CSTB, please visit www.cstb.ca or email cstb@cstb.ca or call 1(866)656-6603.

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