I just took and passed the pilot exam for the ASQ's new CQIA certification. I thought I'd give a little overview of the experience in case anyone else is thinking of going for the cert.
The American Society for Quality (ASQ - www.asq.org) is, according to their web site, "a society of individual and organizational members dedicated to the ongoing development, advancement, and promotion of quality concepts, principles, and technologies." They're a professional organization for quality assurance and engineering in all industries, not just software engineering. They offer programs of certification in various aspects of quality, notably the Certified Software Quality Engineer (CSQE). A competing organization in the software quality assurance arena is the Quality Assurance Institute (QAI - www.qaiusa.com), which has its own programs of certification.
The CSQE program mandates five years of quality assurance experience with a bachelor's degree as the prerequisite for certification candidates. Or eight years' experience without a degree! Being a college student with only a couple year's worth of interships under my belt, I couldn't sit for the CSQE exam.
The QAI certification programs are a bit more lenient in prerequisites but I still didn't qualify. Then, this year, the ASQ began a new certification program in general quality prinicples called the Certified Quality Improvement Associate (CQIA). The prerequisites for this program are two years' work experience in any field (not necessarily quality) or a bachelor's degree with no experience.
The CQIA program is not software-specific but aims to give a broad basis of knowledge in quality principles, process improvement, and quality team operation. I think that the CQIA body of knowledge is a good supplement to practical SQA experience and has given me a big-picture thinking-outside-the-box perspective on software quality.
For anyone else considering this certification: I didn't take any courses, I just studied by reading from several sources. The original CQIA Body of Knowledge listed four sources that were used to compose the program:
Deming, W. Edwards, Out of the Crisis
Evans, James R., William M. Lindsay, The Management and Control of Quality, 4th ed.,
Juran, Joseph M., Juran's Quality Handbook, 5th ed.,
Scholtes, Peter R., The Team Handbook, 2nd ed.
The ASQ web site now lists quite a few more reference books, I will note.
_Out of the Crisis_ is a sort of classic of quality by the most prominent expert in quality, W. Edwards Deming. It presents Deming's philosophy interwoven with lots of illustrative anecdotes and a little methodology. I read this first and found it a good starting point.
Then I got a hold of the CQIA study primer from the Quality Council of Indiana (http://www.qualitycouncil.com/), an organization which produces study guides for most of the ASQ certification programs. I found it to be an extremely concise, well-written, and thorough, and I constantly referred to it to review and refresh my memory as I continued studying. It also contains a large number of example questions for practice, which I found helpful.
Then I read _The Team Handbook_. This is a guide to starting and running quality-oriented project teams. It summarizes quality basics and provides methods and advice for formal project teams. Many of the questions on the pilot exam, which is the one I took, seemed to have come almost directly from this book.
_The Management and Control of Quality_ seems to be a textbook for a course in quality in a graduate degree business program. It is very complete, very thorough, and well-designed. It's also about a thousand pages long. I skimmed through it after I read the other books and it kind of served as a final review in the weeks before the exam.
I didn't buy _Juran's Quality Handbook_. I borrowed it from a library temporarily and found it to be a large, expensive book that was broken up into thirty or forty sections of very specific treatments of quality in different industries. There didn't seem to be much content that was relevant to the CQIA program.
You are allowed to bring any reference materials except example questions into the exam with you. I found myself primarily referring to the QCI's Primer and a little bit to _The Team Handbook_. I looked up stuff in _The Management and Control of Quality_ for maybe three or four questions (but it was information that wasn't in the other books at all, I don't think).
The exam proctor and several others advised me that the exam can change dramatically each time it's given, especially after the first one, so my study methods may not be as appropriate for the later exams.
In total I spent about three months studying a few hours a week and around $350 on both the books (got some used) and on the exam fee ($155 for me as an ASQ member).
Good luck if you take the exam yourself!
Re: CQIA Certification
I also passed the CQIA this year. I took ASQ's Quality 101 self-study course which I found to be useful. Also, you should get one of ASQ's recommended books on TQM or take a course since TQM is a broad topic.