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Software Testing and Higher Education: Do They Go Hand In Hand?

This is an extremely commonly-asked question whether you are ISEB / ISTQB certified or not.  It’s true that software testers come from all different backgrounds and educational levels, but is any educational characteristic or level a prerequisite to success?  Is it necessary to have a college education to be an effective software tester? Well, like most things in life, there is no clear-cut answer.

In an attempt to try and shed light on this burning question, let’s take a look at the different viewpoints.  The main benefit of having a college education is that it clearly helps with analytical thinking.  It provides the tools and skills to analyze problems at a deeper level, to think systematically, and to see the big picture.  Obviously, these are skills that are critical in the world of software testing.

Additionally, attending college likely helps develop the social skills needed to engage in effective communication.  Because most full-time university students are essentially thrown into a foreign environment all by themselves, they are forced to learn how to interact and build relationships where none previously existed.  This social “sink or swim” process forces the student to learn, practice, and refine their communication skills over time.

On the flip side, many people believe that having a college education, although helpful, is not a substitute for an individual’s natural work-ethic, intelligence and analytical skills.  Simply put, the thought is that some people are simply “hard wired” to perform better, whether they go to college or not.  Another thing to consider is that having a mix of college educated and non-college educated software testers helps foster diverse viewpoints amongst the team.  This increases the team’s ability to analyze a situation from all angles and subsequently can be expected to facilitate better overall team performance.

So, what’s the verdict?  In my opinion, if software testing is your career – one where you aspire to climb the company ranks – then having a college degree can only help.  Whether right or wrong, this will give you an extra tool in your tool chest compared to your non-college educated peers.  Additionally, having a college degree myself, I can attest to the fact that it does indeed enhance analytical and problem-solving skills, both of which are important attributes of good testers.  But if you are not career-oriented and are just looking for a job, then a college degree probably is not necessary.  However, earning at least your ISEB Foundation / ISTQB Foundation software testing certification can be beneficial because it could help you get your foot in the proverbial door.


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