ITIL Certification Guide: Career Paths, Exams, Cost, Prerequisites
What is ITIL Certification?
What is ITIL
ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, which is as the name suggests a library of various pieces that provide technologists and IT service management practitioners with the framework that helps deliver the IT services for organizations. The framework is holistic in the terms of covering the IT services lifecycle and helps organizations accomplish a systematic approach offered by the ITIL model for managing risk management, strengthening customer relationship, adopt cost-effective methodologies, and build a structured IT environment that is stable enough to offer growth, scalability, and transformation.
ITIL was first developed by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) in the 1980s. CCTA is a British government agency that introduced ITIL with around 30 books released along a period of time. The information in the first bunch of ITIL books covered the best practices in IT, and businesses like IBM and other major IT vendors helped the agency to accumulate the information to present as one set generalized for all IT professionals and organizations to understand and implement.
The year 2001 got the Office of Government Commerce (OCG) involved in the process of refining the ITIL framework further to help the government tackle its dependency on IT. By dependency, it means that the government had to take technology’s help to advance on the global front. To make the government’s processes, projects, and overall IT dependency cost-effective, time-effective, and error-proof to the maximum, the ITIL framework had to be improved to a standard that it can deliver what was aimed for. In the year 2005, ITIL got recognized in the ISO 20000 Service Management standard which happens to be the very first IT service management standard internationally. This was the first official milestone on global grounds to establish the ITIL framework’s importance with a strong mark.
There have been various changes, which may better be called evolutionary advancements that brought in improved versions of the framework taking into account the changing needs of the time. Today we have in front of us ITIL V3 and the latest, ITIL 4. It started with the first release of 30 books that were acknowledged and used as ITIL v1 until the late 1990s. ITIL v2 was released in 2001 and later in 2007 ITIL V3 was published, with an updated version of the same released in 2011. The latest version of ITIL came out in 2019 and is now widely recognized as ITIL 4.
ITIL came under the ownership of Axelos which is a joint venture between the Cabinet Office and Capita. It was Axelos and huge support from ITIL experts across the globe that ITIL 4 came into existence. We will discuss the ITIL evolution in detail in this whitepaper, but first, let’s take a look at ITIL certifications that were introduced to enable IT professionals to develop a culture of streamlined IT service management. You will become well-aware of why ITIL certification is a must for IT professionals.
As mentioned in the previous section, ITIL has evolved to adapt to the changing needs of modern IT service management principles and practices. Its evolution will be discussed in detail ahead. Let’s talk about what ITIL certifications are and how they are helping create organizations work in an ecosystem of ITSM balance.
ITIL comprises e-books as the actual matter that must be studied and implemented. However, just studying it won’t make an impact on how IT operations are supposed to be streamlined with ITIL’s teachings. Not just you, there will have to be a whole team that will be required to get aligned with ITIL practices and processes. This is not a task that can be executed smoothly if you and your team just rely on the e-books. To get the team on the same page that you are, with the skills that would assist in implementing the ITIL framework on your organization’s IT operations and management, there is a complete suite of training, consultation, and certifications. Certifications formalize the process of learning ITIL to become an ITIL practicing professional. Two separate bodies were administering the certifications, EXIN and ISEB. EXIN is a Dutch company that offers IT certifications and ISEB, International Schools Examination Board in the United Kingdom. In 2006, both bodies got together to represent IT service management.
Since 2013, a joint venture by the Government of the UK and Capita, Axelos, has been the owner of ITIL personnel certifications. Accredited Training Organizations (ATOs) get accreditation from Strategic Examination Institutes (EIs) to administer the exams, and EIs can give accreditation to ATOs after getting accredited by Axelos.
We will study the certifications in detail, however, it is important to understand that ITIL certifications are plenty in number, considering both ITIL V3 and ITIL 4 are active and there are professionals who are within the process of getting certified at different stages to claim different levels of certifications. There are credits offered on various modules, and upon gathering enough credits, and in some cases years of working experience too, you can get certain ITIL certifications. It is difficult to acquire ITIL certification if learners appear in the exam without going through the process of ITIL certification training from a reputable IT training platform. The stages and levels will be discussed further.
ITIL as defined above pertains to the framework that tunes your IT service management in pursuit of various benefits in terms of cost, speed, effectiveness, and overall business performance. ITIL’s history dates to the early days of the IT breakthrough, the same era when Rubik’s Cube was brought in, when MTV was something new on the music side, and when IT as a profession really started to make a noticeable difference. Sit back and relax while this ITIL certification guide takes you through the evolution of ITIL in the past decades.
The very first initiative that became the base of today’s ITIL framework is when IBM was researching in 1972 about the Information Systems Management Architecture (ISMA). It was aimed to dig deep into the architecture of management systems, which is more or less what ITIL has improved upon and brought forward for modern use. In 1980, Edward A. Van Schaik published the first bunch of IT service management volumes that majorly enhanced the findings and concepts of IBM’s ISMA. It highlighted the processes and methods to help organizations highlight the effectiveness of their IT service management systems. Today’s ITIL framework takes a whole lot from Schaik’s first edition of ITSM studies he published.
In the late 1980s, the Government of the UK felt that the IT services they are receiving are both inefficient and costly, which led Central Computer Telecommunication Agency (CCTA) to further study the skeleton of ITIL presented by Schaik, and come up with an improved, more focused framework on IT services management. The then established framework was called Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management (GITIM). It was in 1989 that this GITIM was further polished to produce the first-ever volume surrounding the ITIL framework which started helping public and private organizations in the UK to streamline their ITSM.
The inception of ITIL Framework
It was in the early 1990s that the ITIL v1 was introduced with a humungous 30-volume framework that covered IT service management practices covering from problem management in IT to managing costs to managing configuration of systems, only to make the overall process more effective and business-friendly. Since it was majorly initiated by the Government of the UK, ITIL’s adoption was smooth across Europe and organizations started becoming familiar with the framework as well as how it benefits them through ITIL defined IT service management practices.
Once ITIL got widely accepted in the European IT markets, the US and Canadian IT markets followed the adoption inevitably. Noticing the rising fame and acceptance of ITIL in the latter two markets, Microsoft came up with its own IT service management framework called Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF). Microsoft tried to address in this framework all the gaps and shortcomings identified by ITIL v1 users, focusing on three major areas. Cost, where MOF made the study of framework available free online; Lifecycle Construction, where MOF reduced the IT service lifecycle stages from five in ITIL to three; and Governance, where MOF presented the governance in accountability and responsibility in contrast with the then version of ITIL which reflected the same in strategy and continual improvement phases of the lifecycle. Since Microsoft has been a huge driving force in the world of IT, it was only logical for ITIL to come up with an improved version of the framework, thus the next breakthrough.
ITIL v2 Release
It was in 2001 that ITIL v2 was finally released and was witnessed to be more accessible and less formidable for the users. Addressing the accessibility, as well as making the library more streamlined for users, ITIL v2 was a result of CCTA merging with the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).
The earlier version with 30-volumes was reduced to 7 titles, covering the whole of the framework in a more precise and understandable manner for a modern user. The purpose that was aimed to fulfill was achieved very well, allowing IT professionals who could not adopt the framework before, get a new level of affordability with v2. ITIL v2, in no time, became the most popular ITSM framework across the globe.
ITIL V3: Presenting IT Business Integration with a Lifecycle Approach
Within six years of ITIL v2 release, a newer, more advanced, and business-focused version ITIL V3 was released in 2007. The release was also called the “ITIL Refresh Project” that adopted a lifecycle approach with a compact set of five volumes. Emphasis was laid on business integration to highlight the far-fetched impacts of adopting the ITIL framework.
This version was a great improvement to the previous v2. It was improved in terms of key philosophies focusing on business integration, it was much more in-depth making it bigger in volume and matter, and lastly, it highlighted the importance of operational flexibility with ITSM roles defined more clearly to work in favor of overall business goals.
ITIL V3 was revised in the year 2011 by Axelos, and this version was added with new concepts. The motive behind this update was kicking out the errors and resolving inconsistencies from the previous version. The modules were similar in number and context as the initial ITIL V3 release, but they were just presented to clarify the principles for professionals to easily adopt and implement them in their ITSM practices.
ITIL 4 Enters the Market
Released in 2019, ITIL 4 comes out as the latest IT service management frameworks aimed to address the challenging needs of the globalized business era. The latest version will help modern technologists carve their ways to business success with streamlined practices based on the latest ITSM principles.
ITIL 4 as a version is widely recognized as focusing majorly on shifting from processes to practices as reflected in the linguistics of the material. The guiding principles also increased in number, from five to seven, including Focus on Value, Start Where You Are, Progress Iteratively with Feedback, Collaborate and Promote Visibility, Think and Work Holistically, Keep it Simple and Practical, and Optimize and Automate.
ITIL 4 is released to support the Fourth Industrial Revolution driven by the technological and internet evolution in the global IT systems. “Service” as a term has been highly redefined in the fourth version and has led technologists who implement ITIL 4 know the real meaning of it in the 21st century.
Is ITIL Certification Worth it?
The fact that ITIL has been and is still considered as one of the prime frameworks for IT service management across the globe already makes it a path worth taking. Since the framework has worked for organizations in transforming their IT infrastructure and management systems, millions of professionals in the field have invested their time and money in taking ITIL training and acquiring the certifications to increase their credibility of leading IT teams in delivering result-oriented IT service management. Here are three main reasons ITIL certifications are totally worth your effort and time.
The ITIL Framework
Designed to align the practices of IT service management, the ITIL framework proposes the enablement of certified individuals to understand deeply the conceptual teachings of the framework. It then allows them to implement those understandings as per the requirements of enterprise business needs. ITIL 4 version, that is the latest version has shifted the focus from only service management to delivering business value by taking into account the current demand of businesses. The ultimate goal of learning the framework is to drive business excellence in modern IT environments.
Following Global ITSM Standards
ITIL is in the complete alignment of global ITSM standards by getting standardized with the ISO/IEC 20000 global standard of ITSM. ITIL is also aligned with other international quality standards which means the global implementation of ITIL is huge, and professionals certified in this skill can have vast opportunities not just at their homeland, but also in many other places across international borders.
Get Certified, Get Hired
Certified candidates always have a far greater chance of getting hired compared to those who are not certified. Certifications are a guarantee of a candidate’s dedication towards being skilled, him being up to date with the latest trends, and his level of expertise that gets validated with passing the exams. A survey revealed over 90 percent of employers admitting the difficulty to find IT professionals appropriately qualified to fill in job vacancies. The same survey also revealed that 72 percent of those employers preferred certifications before hiring a candidate, 67 percent believed certified professionals work harder than non-certified and 60 percent of employers considered certifications as evidence of expertise in a professional. Certifications also give you a level of confidence, certain knowledge of the subject, and make you a reliable resource for employers to trust. If you are certified, employers will be able to take the risk of spending on you continuously while providing you a chance to perform for them.
ITIL certifications, thus, are worth spending your time and money in hopes of a brighter future in ITSM.
ITIL V3 vs ITIL 4
Although ITIL 4 is the latest updated version in ITIL, ITIL V3 is also very much valid for there are many professionals in the middle of the ITIL V3 certification path. There are many processes in ITIL 4 that correspond to the ITIL V3 processes. ITIL 4 is an advanced version of the pre-established v3 and includes much of the content based on ITIL V3. The basic reason to introduce ITIL 4 is helping organizations adapt to the digital transformation with the help of practical and flexible methods in the range of IT service management.
Below we will highlight the ITIL 4 components and then discuss how they are different or similar, or what has changed in the later version regarding those components.
ITIL 4 Key Concepts
When discussing the key components of service management, ITIL 4 has picked some concepts from ITIL V3. The introductory chapters of ITIL V3 will have some of the service management key components mentioned in ITIL 4.
ITIL 4 Four Dimensions Model
The four dimensions explained to complete the approach of systems management in ITIL 4 include Organizations and People, Information and Technology, Partners and Suppliers, and Value Streams and Processes as being applicable to the service value system. ITIL V3 does not mention these four dimensions as a part of the service value system but talks about service management in terms of a systems approach in relevancy with the assets and service management components. Where ITIL V3 takes processes as the main approach to guidance, ITIL 4 focuses on value streams and converting demand into value creation for customers with the help of these four dimensions.
Service Value Systems (SVS) in ITIL 4
ITIL 4 came up with an entirely new concept of service value systems that focuses on value creation with the help of harmonizing the use of components and activities in an organization’s IT environment. There are five components in ITIL 4 SVS: Guiding Principles, Governance, Service Value Chain, Continual Improvement, and Principles. The ITIL V3’s 26 service lifecycle processes and overall guidance map almost revolves around the same, the only difference being the ITIL 4 allows organizations to use their preferred approaches of work. Let’s discuss the differences with respect to each component.
Guiding principles by ITIL 4 are not included in ITIL V3, but the latest ITIL Practitioner addition to ITI v3 does have these guiding principles incorporated.
Governance in ITIL 4 informs organizations on how to direct and control the organizational processes to align with best ITIL 4 practices. You will find governance covered in service strategy in ITIL V3.
Service Value Chain is one of the fundamental elements in the ITIL 4 service value system. There are six main points based on which ITIL 4 aims to create value for users and customers. Here are the six points: Plan, Improve, Engage, Design and Transition, Obtain/Build, and Delver and Support. ITIL V3 provides a somewhat similar approach in its service lifecycle with five stages, namely Service strategy, design, transition, operation, and continual service improvement. Both versions present different points but on a deeper level, ITIL V3 lifecycle stages correspond to each other.
Continual Improvement in ITIL 4 pertains to improvements steps organizations can adopt at all levels and is quite similar to what ITIL V3 has proposed, just with a few added advancements.
ITIL 4 Practices are the 34 practices presented in this version, as opposed to the 26 processes presented in ITIL V3. Once you read and compare the ITIL 4 practices with ITIL V3 processes, you’ll realize how ITIL 4 roots have been taken from ITIL V3 and improved by replacing processes with practices to meet the needs of the modern digital world. Students are preparing for both ITIL 4 and ITIL V3 certifications with the help of ITIL classes online and getting ITIL certified to become well qualified for positions in IT service management across the globe.
ITIL V3 Certification Path
ITIL V3 certification path is quite simple. There is a foundation certification and then various modules, completing which will earn them credits. There are higher-level exams that require a certain number of credits, and once students have gathered enough credits they can opt to appear for those exams and decorate their resumes. The ITIL intermediate modules cover a variety of topics that professionals can choose as relevant to their work or interest in ITSM. Below are the details of the ITIL V3 certification path.
ITIL V3 Foundation
Users will get introduced to the ITIL framework in this foundation module. The terminologies and key concepts, the ITIL Service Lifecycle and five core ITIL volumes that include: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement. To progress into intermediate level modules, every student must first take this foundation level module. Completing this module will offer two credits.
ITIL Lifecycle Modules
Service Strategy (SS)
The module offers three credits. The students will learn to achieve customer and business objectives by making use of IT services. It will also enable students to analyze the needs of users in the IT marketplace and make informed decisions on what capabilities will be required by the organization to serve the needs of customers.
Service Design (SD)
The module offers three credits. Students will be enabled to maximize their value by knowing about the design of existing and new IT services and how various designs can help achieve desired results. It also addresses the documentation, processes, policies, and architectures involved in service delivery.
Service Transition (ST)
The module offers three credits. In this module, students will study industry practices for IT service management and will be able to build and deploy new IT services keeping in account any changes required in the old IT service management system. They will learn a smooth transition, with the help of key processes like change evaluation and management.
Service Operation (SO)
This module offers three credits. The module further moves to provide students with the ability to carry the on-going operations by coordinating activities. It will also help students learn about effectively delivering services, solve service issues, and user requests for maintenance requirements.
Continual Service Improvement (CSI)
This module offers three credits. Students in this module will learn to strategically repeat the assessment of products and services so that they can be improved on a regular and continuous basis. Not just designing new services but also changing the old services to create a healthy change-oriented environment.
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ITIL Capability Modules
Operational Support and Analysis (OPS)
This module offers four credits. The students will learn to apply OSA practices to their organizational IT operations and manage access, request, problem, incident, application, and technical issues in alignment with these practices. The students will also learn relationship management, procedure management, and infrastructure and people management.
Planning Protection and Optimization (PPO)
This module offers four credits. Students will learn about the ITIL service design process and make sure the user requirements are kept in consideration while designing the components. Students will also learn about contingency planning in this module.
Release, Control, and Validation (RCV)
This module offers four credits. Students will learn about the ITIL transition process, testing new services to see if they are fitting the needs of the organization. Students will also learn to carry change management, service asset management, configuration management, release and deployment management, and knowledge management, as well as request fulfillment, testing, and service validation.
Service Offerings and Agreements (SOA)
This module offers four credits. Students will learn how value creation for projects takes place with the five stages of ITIL Lifecycle. The SOA practices are taught in this module and will help students identify the roles and responsibilities within SOA.
ITIL Managing Across Lifecycle
Upon earning 17 credits by completing the aforementioned modules, including the two credits from ITIL Foundation, students can appear in the exam for Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC). This exam will teach students to implement the previous stages of the ITIL lifecycle in combination with each other to optimize the service delivery for an organization. Once passed, the candidate is believed to be able to use the lifecycle and capability modules in harmony to suit the business needs and maximize the ITIL benefits. Upon successfully receiving the ITIL MALC certification, the candidate will become an ITIL Expert.
ITIL Master is the highest level of certification and it cannot be achieved only by earning credits. You will have to have at least five years of experience in IT service management, necessarily in higher-management roles. Professionals who aim for ITIL Master will have to demonstrate their ability to implement the ITIL framework for organizations in a real-world environment. There is a process that includes submitting an application, a work experience record, and passing an interview of assessors. Once passed, the candidate will get an official ITIL Master recognition.
ITIL 4 Certification Path
ITIL 4 certifications are designed to two main professional paths to aim for, being an ITIL practitioner. Both certifications combined include seven modules in total. The ITIL 4 Foundation is the first, and a must-have certification, just like in ITIL V3. After achieving the foundation level certification candidates will choose to go for either ITIL Managing Professional (MP) or an ITIL Strategic Leader (SL), both having their own certification paths.
ITIL 4 Foundation
Similar to ITIL V3, this fundamental level certification will cover the basics of ITIL 4 and certify that the candidates possess the knowledge of the core principles of ITIL 4. The candidates will have to appear for the training offered by accredited training organizations or third-party training organizations. You can further study what is ITIL Foundation certification on our blog. If you are in IT service management and haven’t achieved any ITIL certification, you can double your salary with ITIL Foundation.
ITIL Managing Professional
This certification is designed for candidates who want to become an ITIL practitioner who would work with digital and tech teams across the organization. It gives the ability to use technical skills and run IT teams, manage projects, and implement workflows to abide by the ITIL framework. To achieve the certification, these are the module exams candidates will need to pass.
ITIL Specialist: Create, Deliver and Support
This module will teach service management techniques to ensure they learn the methods of service performance, quality, and improvement. It is designed for professionals practicing the ITSM approach to manage service delivery for their organization.
ITIL Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value
It teaches the candidates to manage all the stakeholders involved in the process, and how each, including customers, users, partners, and suppliers work with the service provider that is the organization.
ITIL Specialist: High-Velocity IT
This module aims to enable candidates to deliver products and services rapidly by integrating Agile and Lean methodologies and other technical skills. Those technical skills may include cloud automation and automatic testing.
ITIL Strategist: Direct, Plan & Improve
This module will help candidates to bring in an organization the ability to learn and improve its IT environment with strategic planning and direction. They will know how to use methodologies like Agile and Lean to implement continual improvement without hiccups or unnecessary delays and improve on the ITSM practices to yield better results with time.
IT Strategic Leader
IT Strategic Leader certification will not just apply to IT operations but all the digitally enabled services. Being a strategy focused certification, candidates will learn to maximize the impact of IT on business strategy. To achieve this certification, you will have to pass these two exam modules.
ITIL Strategist: Direct, Plan & Improve
Similar to the module in Managing Professional certification, this module will help candidates build a learn and improve the IT environment with strategic planning and direction.
ITIL Leader: Digital & IT Strategy
Candidates will learn to work with disruptive technologies to help the organization ace its IT service management and align IT strategy with that of the overall business strategy.
Just like the ITIL Master certification in ITIL V3, this will also require you to achieve both the ITIL MP and ITIL SL certification, as well as five years of working experience in higher-management roles. You will have to justify the expertise you possess and will be judged based on your own submitted experience. As Axelos says, you will have to “explain and justify how you have personally selected and applied a range of knowledge, principles, methods, and techniques from the ITIL framework and supporting management techniques to achieve desired business outcomes”
The Transition from ITIL V3 to ITIL 4
The best thing about ITIL is that candidates you have achieved any of the ITIL V3 certifications or credits will not have the hard work nullified due to the emergence of ITIL 4. The credits and certifications of ITIL V3 can stat valid forever, and there is a smooth way to transition into learning and getting certified with ITIL 4 certifications. We have defined below the best suitable steps for individuals who have achieved some level(s) of ITIL V3 courses and want to transition from ITIL V3 to ITIL 4.
ITIL V3 Foundation
Candidates who have only achieved ITIL V3 Foundation certification can continue with ITIL V3 modules ahead, but if they want to get into ITIL 4, they will have to take the ITIL 4 Foundation course, and then continue with ITIL MP and SL certifications.
ITIL V3 Intermediate with Three or Four Credits in Hand
These professionals can either take the ITIL 4 Foundation level certification and then further modules of interest to reach the ITIL Specialist, Leader, or Strategist role. The other option for these professionals is to continue with the modules of ITIL V3 and become eligible to transition into the ITIL Managing Professional module by attaining at least 17 credits from ITIL V3 modules.
ITIL V3 Intermediate/Practitioner with Six or More Credits in Hand
These professionals will be taking most advantage by continuing their ITIL V3 modules until they receive 17 credits, and then apply for the ITIL Managing Professional transition module.
ITIL V3 Expert
These professionals can readily take the ITIL MP module and achieve Managing Professional designation. Once it is successfully achieved, professionals can then take the ITIL SL stream with only one module to complete, that is, the ITIL Leader Digital & Strategy module. Once achieved, they are officially eligible to become an ITIL Master.
How Much Does ITIL Certification Cost
The cost for ITIL V3 and ITIL 4 exams can be different based on the location of appearing for the exam. It can range anywhere from $150 to $500. Since there are various levels starting from Foundation level to Master level, the fee structure differs for different modules along the process. Learn how to reach from the ITIL Foundation level to ITIL Master certification from our blog.
You can take the self-study approach for preparing for ITIL modules exams, but official courseware is highly recommended. Training schools online or physically may charge anywhere between $500 to above $1000, depending upon the location, institution, and the learning modality. The exam registration fee may or may not be included in the training fee.
ITIL Certification Salary and Career Information
According to CIO, the average annual salary for ITIL certified professionals is around $96,000. The data is taken from PayScale, which also reflects on how ITIL 4 certification can help candidates earn higher salaries across various IT positions in the domain. Here are some of the positions that ITIL 4 certified professionals enjoy on average:
CIO => $182,000
IT Director => $134,000
IT Manager => $101,000
Service Delivery Manager => $101,000
IT Project Manager => $94,000
IT Business Analyst => $72,000
Candidates can start from an early career and reach up to as high as around $200,000 depending upon experience, ITIL 4 certifications, and the overall portfolio. To achieve career success in IT service management, you must be aware of how to get ITIL certified.
ITIL Certification Training
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You will also be able to get access to Expert Community, a community of professionals and experts that offer discussions for the sake of learning and problem-solving in real-time. QuickStart features various learning modalities that suit the learning needs of a modern learner. With online self-paced courses, candidates can prepare for the exam as per their own set schedules. Individuals and managers get access to learning analytics to know the learning progress. Our subscriptions will provide you access to hundreds of certification training courses pertaining to the hottest IT fields including cloud computing, cybersecurity, networking, data science, and much more.
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