A Complete ITIL® Certification Guide
A Complete ITIL® Certification Guide
| training | certification paths - David Brown

A Complete ITIL® Certification Guide

Disclaimer: CBT Nuggets is not engaged in any partnership or affiliation with AXELOS Limited nor any applicable Examination Institute. CBT Nuggets is not an Accredited Training Organization authorized to provide ITIL training or content. ITIL® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved. CBT Nuggets hereby disclaims any implied or perceived affiliation between itself and AXELOS Limited. Any information found herein is for informational purposes only.

ITIL originated in the 1980s in the UK as a set of five books. It was developed by a commercial arm of the British government called The Cabinet Office (similar to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce). It now serves as an accreditation and certification program for IT businesses and professionals worldwide.

In 2019, AXELOS started rolling out a significant revision to the current framework with the release of the ITIL 4 Foundation exam. Three more exams and specialty modules are expected to be completed by the end of 2020 — at which time the ITIL 4 will become the accepted designation. In the meantime, ITIL practitioners can choose to pursue available certification in the ITIL 3 or ITIL 4 frameworks. However, Axelos recommends that candidates with no ITIL certification start with the ITIL 4 path.

ITIL uses a credit system as part of its certification scheme. Each ITIL certification comes with a certain number of credits. For ITIL v3, 22 credits are required before taking the Expert level exam. The Foundation exam will get you two credits, and the Practitioner exam gives you three. The other certifications can be taken in any order.

How Valuable is ITIL certification?

For many IT professionals, a career in IT Service Management (ITSM) starts with ITIL certification. The ITIL Foundation Certification is the starting point for any ITIL certification path. There are a number of possible roles that await a dedicated IT professional pursuing ITSM. From service desk technician to IT operations manager, an ITSM career path extends from beginner to executive.

Unlike other certifications in technology, ITIL focuses on business skills for IT professionals. It may not help you find the subnet mask for an IP address, but it will give you the management skills required to handle a wide variety of organizational issues.

Since 2013, ITIL has been under the direction of Axelos, a joint venture between the UK government’s Cabinet Office and the professional services company Capita.

Potential test takers will be interested in ITIL certification costs at each level. ITIL Foundation Certification cost is generally the lowest, and the price increases from there. The ITIL v3 Certification cost is listed as low at $250 (USD), but the actual price will depend on where you take it. Exams are usually offered following an ITIL course. Exams can be proctored in a classroom or online. As with the training, exam costs may vary with the training provider, the country, and the region.

As with any IT certification, there are multiple ways to prepare. Your study path may include a combination of classroom instruction, online courses, or self-study. Axelos recommends that you read as much as you can, ask a lot of questions, and take a lot of notes. And one interesting tip that they offer is to use real-world examples in your exam preparation. “Don’t be afraid to ask how ITIL relates to your own workplace experience,” they write.

In this guide, we cover a number of topics about getting certified in ITIL. We look at individual exams and offer comparisons between ITIL v.3 and ITIL v.4. We also help you explore what an ITIL certification can do for your career. Finally, we discuss training options, including those offered by CBT Nuggets.

Here is what’s included in this certification guide:

  • ITIL Certification Guide
  • What is an ITIL Certification?
  • ITILv3 Scheme vs ITILv4 Scheme
  • ITILv3 Certifications
  • ITILv4 Certifications
  • How to Transition from ITILv3 to ITILv4
  • ITIL Recertification and Renewal
  • ITIL Certification Salary and Career Information
  • ITIL Certification Training

What is ITIL® Certification?

Unlike other IT certifications, ITIL does not focus on a particular set of technical tasks. Rather, it deals with a set of best practices to be followed in the implementation of IT Service Management. The idea is to track IT services from beginning to end in what is called lifecycle management. The principles of ITIL are valid for all industry segments in information technology.

ITIL®v3 Scheme vs ITIL®v4 Scheme

The ITIL certification plan is currently in transition from ITILv3 to ITILv4. Unfortunately, there is no easy bridge from one to the other for most of those who already have an ITILv3 certification. The new content will require fresh study and testing for those wishing to acquire ITILv4. The Foundation exam for ITILv4 is already available, but the other levels aren’t expected until late 2019.

ITIL®v3 Scheme

The ITIL v3 Foundation Certification is based on a set of five books that deal with the five levels of ITIL v3 certification. ITIL v3 certification requirements include a good understanding of the ITIL framework. The ITIL v3 certifications path follows the original structure of the ITIL founding literature. The five books that are currently used for ITIL v3 are:

  • ITIL 2011 Service Strategy
  • ITIL 2011 Service Design
  • ITIL 2011 Service Transition
  • ITIL 2011 Service Operation
  • ITIL 2011 Continual Service Improvement

Service Strategy is all about meeting the customer’s needs. Various technologies may be interesting to the IT professional, but they are nothing if they do not serve the customer. At the heart of customer service in the ITIL framework is the key performance indicator (KPI). KPIs measure how well IT services are delivered, and whether they meet the requirements of the previously agreed service level agreement (SLA).

Service Design is a module that covers architectures, policies, processes, and documentation related to the design of IT services. It deals with the development and integration of new services into the IT service management lifecycle. ITIL Service Design provides a blueprint for future services and takes a Service-Oriented Architecture approach to service implementation.

The importance of Service Transition should not be underestimated. The potential dangers involved in any alterations to a running IT system can mean sudden devastation for a business. That’s why ITIL Service Transition processes include change control, configuration management, and service validation. This module takes IT services from design to production.

Service Operation deals with the efficient delivery of IT services. This involves service requests, request fulfillment, incident and event management, and constant monitoring of services. There are many aspects to IT operations, and IT professionals will do their jobs better if they know the best practices for service delivery.

Quality control is at the heart of Continual Service Improvement. The focus is on making services and processes better. To do that, IT professionals should continue to evaluate and review the effectiveness of the services they are delivering. ITIL promotes the use of KPIs to measure and report on a wide variety of aspects of IT service within an organization.

ITIL v3 certification benefits will continue for the certification holder long after any full transition to ITIL v4. The concepts laid out in the 1980s will continue to be taught as long as IT Service Management exists.

ITIL® Foundation v3 Certification

The ITIL® Foundation v3 certification is designed for entry-level IT professionals working in IT Service Management (ITSM). The exam is based on the five books that form the corpus of the IT Information Library. Certification with Foundation v3 will last a lifetime.

However, the book for ITIL Foundation 4 was released on February 18, 2019, and it may make more sense to go ahead and prepare for v4.

The ITIL® Foundation v3 certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these IT Service Management topics and skills:

  • The five key areas of the ITIL framework
  • IT Service Management (ITSM) principles and concepts
  • The service-driven lifecycle
  • Strategies for ITSM
  • Measuring service delivery success

Required exam: Earning the ITIL Foundation certification requires passing one exam — the ITIL Foundation exam.

Prerequisites: None

Recommended experience: The ITIL Foundation certification is for anyone who has an interest in IT Service Management. Some experience in information technology is helpful but not required.

ITIL® Practitioner v3 Certification

The ITIL® Practitioner v3 certification is designed for IT professionals working in IT Service Management (ITSM). The exam is open book and tests candidates’ ability to make practical decisions in different scenarios. It counts for three points(3) toward ITIL Expert and 15 points toward an ITIL digital badge. The exam validates three key areas crucial for success:

  • Organizational change management
  • Communication
  • Measurement and metrics

Additionally, the ITIL Practitioner certification validates the nine guiding principles of the ITIL Practitioner:

  • Focus on value
  • Design for experience
  • Start where you are
  • Work holistically
  • Progress iteratively
  • Observe directly
  • Be transparent
  • Collaborate
  • Keep it simple

Required exam: Earning the ITIL Practitioner certification requires passing one exam — the ITIL Practitioner exam.

Prerequisites: Axelos requires that candidates earn the ITIL v3 Foundation or ITIL 4 Foundation certification prior to attempting ITIL Practitioner certification modules.

Recommended experience: Axelos designed the ITIL Practitioner Certification is for anyone who has an interest in IT Service Management. Experience in information technology is helpful in understanding the various technical and professional scenarios that might show up on the exam.

ITIL® Intermediate v3 Certification

The ITIL® Intermediate v3 certification is designed for an IT professional working in IT Service Management (ITSM). There are two categories within the ITIL Intermediate certification: Service Lifecycle and Service Capability.

Each of these categories contains various modules, which are outlined below. The ITIL Intermediate certification is really a subset of exams within the ITIL framework. Each of the modules listed here is actually a certification exam.

The five Service Lifecycle (SL) modules are designed to validate a candidate’s ability to deliver quality Service Management practices across teams. Each of these Service Lifecycle modules are worth three (3) points toward the ITIL Intermediate certification:

  • Service Strategy (SS)
  • Service Design (SD)
  • Service Transition (ST)
  • Service Operation (SO)
  • Continual Service Improvement (CSI)

The four Service Capability modules were designed to validate a candidate’s ability to execute day-to-day ITIL practices in an organization. Each of these Service Capability modules are worth four (4) points toward the ITIL Intermediate certification:

  • Operational Support and Analysis (OSA)
  • Planning, Protection and Optimization (PPO)
  • Release, Control and Validation (RCV)
  • Service Offerings and Agreements (SOA)

Required exams: Earning the ITIL Intermediate certification requires earning 15 credits from either the Service Lifecycle or Service Capability modules — or both. ITIL Intermediate candidates must earn a total of 17 credits from both the prerequisites and intermediate modules.

Prerequisites: Axelos requires that candidates earn the ITIL v3 Foundation or ITIL 4 Foundation certification prior to attempting ITIL Intermediate certification modules.

Recommended experience: Axelos designed the ITIL Intermediate certification modules for IT professionals with significant experience with IT Service Management.

ITIL® Expert v3 Certification

The ITIL® Expert v3 certification is designed for those who want to demonstrate a knowledge of the ITIL scheme in its entirety. The exam validates a candidate’s understanding of the following through the lens of ITIL practices:

  • Key concepts of the service lifecycle
  • Communication and stakeholder management
  • Integrating service management processes
  • Managing services across the service lifecycle
  • Governance and organization
  • Measurement
  • Implementing and improving service management capability

Required exam: Earning the ITIL Expert certification requires passing the Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC) module. Candidates must have at least 22 points to earn the ITIL Expert certification.

Prerequisites: Axelos requires that candidates earn 17 credits from either the Service Lifecycle or Service Capability modules — or both, and the ITIL v3 Foundation or ITIL 4 Foundation certification. Additionally, candidates must have taken at least 30 hours of instruction from an Axelos accredited training organization like CBT Nuggets.

Recommended experience: Axelos designed the ITIL Expert certification for IT professionals who are well versed in the entire scope of the ITIL framework. The advanced topics are understood best by those who have been working in the field for some time and understand the relationship of the knowledge to practical work experience.

ITIL® Master Certification

The ITIL® Master v3 certificate is designed for an IT professional with extensive hands-on experience with ITIL. This is the highest level in the ITIL v3 certification scheme. Candidates are permitted to select from their own personal experiences in the fulfillment of the exam. Axelos requires that you are able to demonstrate a thorough application of principles, methods, and techniques of the ITIL Framework.

The ITIL® Master certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these IT Service Management topics and skills:

  • A broad scope of ITIL principles and practices
  • The entire ITIL framework
  • How to apply ITIL knowledge and techniques in a variety of scenarios

Required exam: Earning the ITIL Master certification requires submitting a proposal for a service improvement and a work package that includes documentation about the project, and completing an interview with an ITIL assessment panel.

Prerequisites: Axelos requires that candidates earn the ITIL Expert certification and have five years experience in IT service management leadership or management prior to attempting the ITIL Master requirements.

Recommended experience: Axelos designed the ITIL Master certification for knowledgeable IT professionals who have extensive experience with the ITIL framework. Candidates will need to have sufficient ability to design and implement a full-fledged ITIL project. The highest standards are expected here.

ITIL®v4 Scheme

The ITIL® v4 is the next evolution of the ITIL framework. The exam for ITIL Foundation v4 launched in February 2019. The other exams are expected to be released later in 2019. The developments that led to ITIL v4 stem from the creation of the ITIL Development Group, an organization with 2,000+ members from all parts of the IT industry.

ITIL v4 starts with the Foundation exam, but the advanced levels differ from ITIL v3, and even the Foundation exam is different. One of the purposes of developing a new ITIL framework is that the technology keeps changing. ITIL v4 aligns with new methods such as Agile, DevOps, and Lean. Concepts such as cost, risks, and value come into a clearer picture in the new scheme. It is a reflection of the changing corporate culture and the new ways of working in the IT field.

ITIL® Foundation v3 versus Foundation v4

The ITIL® Foundation v4 exam constitutes a major update in IT service management. The emphasis moves to collaboration and automation and other concepts now prevalent in IT strategies. DevOps, for instance, is an approach that brings together development and operations in a single discipline. The move to an application-centric architecture means that the updating of ITIL was inevitable at some point.

New Cert: ITIL® Managing Professional

This new intermediate-level ITIL® certification consists of four modules that we will discuss further below. It shares similarities with the Practitioner Certification in ITIL v3 in that it focuses on practical and technical knowledge that is very helpful in the IT workplace. The four modules are:

  • ITIL Specialist Create, Deliver and Support
  • ITIL Specialist Drive Stakeholder Value
  • ITIL Specialist High Velocity IT
  • ITIL Strategist Direct Plan and Improve

New Cert: ITIL® Strategic Leader

This new intermediate-level ITIL® certification focuses on the critical intersection of IT and business strategy. The two modules within this level are:

  • ITIL Strategist Direct Plan and Improve
  • ITIL Leader Digital and IT Strategy

ITIL® Master

The ITIL® Master is still the highest rung of certifications in ITIL v4, and the exam requirements appear to be the same for both ITIL v3 and ITIL v4. However, the content, scope, and approach for the proposal, work package, and interview may change once Axelos releases its new intermediate ITIL v4 certifications.

The finer points of ITIL v4 are yet to be unveiled. The Axelos website projects the release of Managing Professional, Strategic Leader, and Master exams for the second half of 2019. The exact date of those releases is anybody’s guess.

ITIL® Foundation v4 Certification

The ITIL® Foundation Certification – IT Service Management is designed for an entry-level IT professional working in IT Service Management (ITSM). The ITIL Foundation v4 certification exam reflects changes in the IT technologies and practices since the 2011 release of ITIL v3. The exam validates a candidate’s understanding of core ITIL principles:

  • A holistic approach to customer service
  • The guiding principles of ITIL 4
  • The four dimensions of Service Management
  • Key concepts from Lean, Agile, and DevOps
  • Best practices as described in ITIL 4

Required exam: Earning the ITIL Foundation v4 certification requires passing one exam — the ITIL Foundation exam.

Prerequisites: None.

Recommended experience: The ITIL Foundation certification is for anyone who has an interest in IT Service Management. Some experience in information technology is helpful but not required.

ITIL® Managing Professional Certification

The ITIL Managing Professional – ITIL 4 is designed for IT professionals working in IT Service Management (ITSM). This certification deals with practical and technical issues in four modules:

  • ITIL Specialist Create, Deliver and Support
  • ITIL Specialist Drive Stakeholder Value
  • ITIL Specialist High Velocity IT
  • ITIL Strategist Direct Plan and Improve

The ITIL® Managing Professional certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these IT Service Management topics and skills:

  • Core service management activities
  • The creation of services
  • The integration of different values into ITSM
  • ITSM practices, methods, and tools
  • Conversion of demand into value in ITSM
  • Technologies such as cloud, automation, and automatic testing
  • Rapid delivery concepts and practices
  • Skills for learning and improving
  • Strategic method for planning and delivery

Required exams: Candidates must pass an exam in each of the four modules to earn the ITIL Managing Professional certification. Axelos expects to release the new modules in late 2019.

Prerequisites: Axelos requires candidates earn the ITIL 4 Foundation certification prior to attempting ITIL Managing Professional certification modules. Additionally, candidates must have taken an approved training course for each module.

Recommended experience: Axelos designed the ITIL Managing Professional Certification for anyone who has an interest in IT Service Management. Experience in information technology is helpful in understanding the concepts and practices presented in training and included in the exams.

ITIL® Strategic Leader Certification

The ITIL® Strategic Leader – ITIL 4 is designed for IT professionals managing and directing ITSM activities. Specifically, the certification emphasizes IT service management strategy and how it can be improved in two modules:

  • ITIL Strategist Direct Plan and Improve
  • ITIL Leader Digital and IT Strategy

The ITIL® Strategic Leader certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these IT Service Management topics and skills:

  • Influence and impact of Agile and Lean ways of working
  • Skills for learning and improving
  • Strategic method for planning and delivery
  • Impact of disruptive new technologies
  • Strategic approaches to ITIL concepts
  • Pace of change in the digital revolution

Required exams: Candidates must pass an exam in each of the two modules to earn the ITIL Managing Professional certification. Axelos expects to release the new modules in late 2019.

Prerequisites: Axelos requires candidates to earn the ITIL 4 Foundation certification prior to attempting ITIL Managing Professional certification modules.

Recommended experience: Axelos designed the ITIL Strategic Leader exams for IT professionals with significant experience in IT Service Management. The certification is geared toward those who might be taking leadership roles in the creation and management of IT services.

ITIL® Master v4 Certification

The ITIL® Master Certificate – IT Service Management is designed for an IT professional with extensive hands-on experience with ITIL. This is the highest level in the ITIL v4 certification scheme. Axelos is expected to release ITIL Master v4 in 2020.

How to Transition from ITIL®v3 to ITIL®v4

The current state of affairs with the ITIL® certification system may seem a bit confusing. To clear things up, Axelos outlines the following routes for candidates:

  • New to ITIL: Start your journey with ITIL 4 Foundation
  • ITIL Foundation certified (any version) or ITIL v3 up to 6 credits collected: Keep your skills up to date and take ITIL 4 Foundation
  • ITIL v3 more than 6 credits collected: Continue your ITIL v3 journey – continue building skills. Collect 17 credits for an easy transition to ITIL Managing Professional
  • ITIL Expert/Master: Take ITIL Managing Professional Transition module as soon as it is released.

The higher levels of ITIL v4 are expected in late 2019, and ITIL v4 Master is expected to be released in 2020. For many professionals certified with ITIL v3, there is no direct transition. ITIL v3 Experts, however, do have an advantage.

They can take the soon-to-be-released module called ITIL Managing Professional Transition and make a smooth transition to ITIL v4. They won’t need to take the full MALC exam. All others below Expert, it appears, may have to go back to square one and retake Foundation in the ITIL v4 scheme.

ITIL® Recertification and Renewal

Your ITIL® v3 Foundation Certification will never expire. In fact, none of ITIL’s certifications expire. They are yours for a lifetime. But an ITIL v3 certification may become less valuable over time compared to an ITIL v4 certification.

ITIL® Certification Salary and Career Information

How important is ITIL® certification? That depends very much on your interest and your career goals. If moving forward in IT service management leadership is what you want to do, the ITIL certification is the way to go.

According to a 2016 IT Skills and Salary Report, ITIL certification salaries rank in the top five among all IT certifications in the US. Their study found that individuals with ITIL and IT Service Management certifications made an average of $98,212 (USD) per year.

That assessment is right in line with the findings of the salary ranking site Payscale.com/. They put the average salary for an ITIL-certified professional at $97,000 (USD) per year. This may have something to do with the career levels and interests of the people who take these exams.

The job titles included in the Payscale web page are those of managerial level positions rather than front-line IT operations personnel. Here’s their listing (Salaries in USD):

  • Senior Project Manager, IT: $111,205
  • Service Delivery Manager: $96,517
  • Information Technology (IT) Manager: $101,267
  • Information Technology (IT) Operations Manager $98,508
  • Incident Manager: $78,358
  • Information Technology (IT) Director: $126,467
  • Program Manager, IT: $115,262

Would you be making that kind of salary as an IT engineer or technician after completing an ITIL certification? Maybe. But you could also find that with your new skills and outlook, you might not be on the front lines anymore. ITIL seems to be geared toward seeing the big picture of IT Service Management.

The benefits of earning ITIL certification may be a bit different from those of other certifications. ITIL is framework. It is not a product or technology. But the broad application of what you learn in the preparation for ITIL certification will help you to the end of your career.

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