ISTQB certification for QA specialists

As the latest researches show: education and diplomas, unlike experience and the format of work, have little impact on the wages of QA specialists. But is it really? And what is the point in getting an ISTQB certificate? Why can obtaining a certificate be more advantageous to an employer than to a specialist? Is ISTQB preparation worth the time and money that will have to be given for its surrender? We will try to find answers to these questions in our article.

What are ISTQB and its certification levels? Do you really need it?

ISTQB is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of software testing, founded by representatives of eight countries: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

ISTQB Tester Certification is a program that allows specialists to obtain an international test certificate and increase professional qualifications.

As of October 2019, ISTQB has conducted 920,000+ examinations and issued more than 673,000+ certificates. 120 countries worldwide recognize the ISTQB certification validity. The scheme relies on a Body of Knowledge (Syllabi and Glossary) and exam rules that are applied consistently all over the world, with exams and supporting material being available in many languages.

That sounds great, doesn’t it? But does ISTQB certification cost your efforts?
 What are the advantages and opportunities of having a certificate for testing specialists?

Which certification level should you choose?

We’ll start by working out the certification options for the testing experts. ISTQB offers 3 certification levels and 3 directions for each of the levels according to the matrix:

What to know about the choice of levels and directions:

  1. ISTQB foundation level exam of the Core direction is the last point of taking basis for any higher-level certificate.
  2. Specialist F-level – it provides highly specialized certification. Course material is about usability, mobile application, performance, acceptance, model-based testing, etc.
  3. Level F and Advanced (AD) direction of Agile – the demand for certificates of this type has increased by more than 20% in the last 2 years.
  4. AD level – certification for/to:
     – Test managers;
     – Test automation engineers;
     – Test analysts;
     – technical test analyst;
     – security testing.
  5. Expert Level (EX) – assumes certification by test management and improvement of the testing process.

By the way, when choosing the certification levels for the desired area of study, please refer to the information of the main ISTQB site, because on the websites of the providers there are inaccuracies in the description.

Talk about the benefits

From the Qa-specialist’s point of view, certification is:

  1. First of all, the certification of qualifications and suitability for testing by international experts opens up access to new labour markets. At the international level, the certificate is recognized in 126 countries of the world – a haven for remote work or a prerequisite for relocation to any countries.
  2. Improving competitiveness on the labour market: although most employers do not require an ISTQB certificate from applicants, about 55% of test managers indicate that they would like to have 100% certified staff.
  3. Confidence in tomorrow. The certificate does not guarantee a top quality assurance engineer salary at employment or an automatic promotion at work, but is a peculiar «fire-proof amount» below which your work will not be appreciated.
  4. Expanding and systematizing knowledge in QA. Certification is an excellent way for a QA specialist to increase and enrich knowledge in testing. And if you are a mother tester, update and streamline knowledge in the subject area, including through international standards and industry methodologies.

From a company’s point of view, certification is:

  1. Additional competitive advantage in the market: companies with certified experts provide poor-quality consulting and QA services less frequently, which has a positive impact on the reputation and flow of new orders.
  2. Bonus in large tenders: The presence of certified specialists gives an advantage to companies in tendering for tenders.
  3. Risk mitigation: The presence of a certificate indicates that specialists have a knowledge of the testing methodology, which reduces the risks of poor test analysis and can increase the speed of testing by optimizing the number of test scenarios.
  4. Advantages of the international market in providing software testing services for foreign customers and software.
  5. Development of competencies within the company through mentoring and training of uncertified professionals to recognized international standards in testing.


Certification may be a requirement for individual companies or government projects. When deciding whether to obtain an ISTQB certificate, we should be guided by the following realities:

  1. Experience and knowledge, rather than a certificate, will be the determining factor in selecting a candidate for testing. Although, where similar skills exist, a certified specialist will be preferred.
  2. ISTQB study material helps in career development (it is important for 90% of managers to have 50-100% of certified testers in the team), and in some companies obtaining a certificate is a reason for raising salaries.
  3. Certification helps to increase your self-confidence. It also helps you develop the ability to think about things from different angles, you grow up as a specialist.