ITIL has been the primary framework used by IT folks for IT service management (ITSM). Here’s your go-to guide for anything and everything about ITIL certifications. If you’re in IT support, having an ITIL certification is always one of your to-do things. ITIL framework is set of detailed practices that focuses on aligning IT services with the business needs. ITIL principles are vendor neutral, and are used for two fold benefits- increase productivity of IT folks and reduce costs of IT operations.

The current form of ITIL has five core parts, each covering different stages of ITSM lifecycle. People often consider ITIL as a holy bible to IT support. However, what we fail to understand is the fact that ITIL is a set of best practices pertaining to IT support, and it should be viewed just that way. ITIL framework is just means to an end, not the end itself.

For instance, a set of best practices from ITIL (self service in service desk) could be used to reduce the number of direct walk-ins requests to resolve issues. However, you must have a comprehensive self service portal in your ITSM tool to achieve this.

So, what are ITIL principles all about?

As we mentioned in the previous section, ITIL is a set of best practices that help you deliver a seamless IT service. ITIL in its current form has gone through several upgrades/revisions. The latest version of ITIL consists of five parts covering various aspects of IT service. The five parts are

The latest version of ITIL also known as ITIL v3 focuses on integration between business and IT. ITIL principles when followed systematically can help you manage & mitigate risks better, save costs of IT support, create an ecosystem for growth, scale, change and helps strengthen your relationship with your end users.

Why should you take ITIL certification?

Having an ITIL certification has multi-fold benefits if you’re someone in IT support. Here are a few of them

Better prepared

Needless to say, an ITIL certification gives you an in-depth knowledge into ITIL frameworks, letting you manage your work better. If put to right use, the certification will make you more productive and efficient at work.

Professional advancements and better pay

This one is a no-brainer as professional development with better pay is one of the primary reasons why people undertake an ITIL certification. In the ITSM world, someone with a certification has an edge over others. With a certification, you could see a jump in your payscale (as much as 15%). Though how much you earn depends on where you live, and your experience, a certification does enhance your paycheck.

Speak the language of IT pros

ITIL is by far the most widely adopted methodology for ITSM. By having an ITIL certification, you get to know the common terminologies used by by IT professionals, across industries and geographies. You speak a language that’s widely accepted and recognised.

A look at the bigger picture

As you might have seen from the suite of modules, ITIL certification gives a holistic view of how IT- Business fit. This not only gives you a better perspective to various IT initiatives, but also ensures your decisions are aligned the bigger business goals.

ITIL certification examination

ITIL uses something called as an “ITIL credit system” to award certifications. All the ITIL and related qualification are awarded specific “credit values”. A candidate advances to subsequent stages of certification as credits are applied at each level. A cumulative of 22 points is required to be awarded the “ITIL expert certification”.

The various levels of ITIL qualification focuses on different facets of ITIL best practices. The five levels of ITIL certification are

Here’s a deep dive into each of these sections.

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Foundation level

This is the first level of certification. It’s focussed on general awareness of the key elements, basics of ITIL concepts, important definitions used in ITIL service lifecycle and their contribution to service management practices.

The foundation level of ITIL certification is aimed at folks

The foundation level consists of 40 multiple choice questions and awards 2 credits to candidates who clear the level. A minimum of 65% (26/40) would help you procure a certification. The foundation level is a closed book examination and there are no prerequisites required to take the exam; anyone with an interest in IT service management can take the exam.

Practitioner level

The practitioner level is the second step in ITIL certification. This stage focuses on providing a bridge between the foundation level and intermediate level (third level in ITIL certification). The main aim of the practitioner level is to equip the IT folks with the ability to adopt ITIL frameworks at their workplace.

Building on best practices from other frameworks like DevOps, Agile, Lean, ITIL practitioner adds value to any improvement initiative in IT service management. Like the foundation level, the practitioner level has 40 multiple choice questions to be answered in 135 minutes. A minimum of 70% (28/40) ensures you clear this level. Unlike the first level, this is an open book examination. A completion of this level would award you 3 credits.

Intermediate level

has a flexible structure and includes two categories

As you would have seen from the above details, each module in the intermediate of ITIL certification focuses on different aspects of service management. You can choose to take as many or as few intermediate qualifications as you wish. Based on what you like to extract from the module, you can mix and match modules from both these categories.
The intermediate level gives you 15 or 16 credits (Based on the modules you choose). However, the intermediate level is only open to people who have successfully completed ITIL foundation exam AND have completed an accredited training course from ITIL accredited organisation.

Expert level

If you’re someone who wants to demonstrate the length and breadth of your understanding of ITIL frameworks, then ITIL expert certification is perfect for you. The expert certification is awarded to people who have a well rounded, in-depth knowledge and skills of ITIL’s best practices.

There are some important requirements for one to take an ITIL expert certification

Master level

Every ITIL master candidate will have to demonstrate successful implentation projects in ITIL related work from their workplace. There’s no fixed/prescribed syllabus or training suggested by Axelos- The makers of ITIL frameworks. Axelos website states “you must ensure you have extensive practical 'hands-on' ITIL experience and can demonstrate active involvement in implementation of the practices”... In order to appear for Master level of ITIL certification, one must

Managing across lifecycle certification

Awards the candidate with 5 credits. Passing the ITIL foundation exam along with 15 additional credits (from intermediate courses) is a minimum requirement for appearing for this exam. In other words, you need a minimum of 17 credits to take this exam. Many IT folks around the world use this as a gateway to achieve ITIL expert certification.

As you complete each level of certification, you’re awarded with the certification and attributed credits

How much does an ITIL certification cost?

The cost for ITIL certification varies by geography. The cost is determined by the country you’re taking the examination at. Registration fee for the certification range from $150 to $500. However, these are costs of just taking the exam. In most cases candidates and IT folks would like to engage an external agency to help them with their preparation for ITIL certification examinations. Again, the cost of courses vary based on which institute you get trained from, and ranges anywhere between $500 to $1000. That said, there are IT folks who prepare by themselves for the certification, thereby totally eliminating the cost of engaging external agency.

ITIL complementary certifications

Apart from the five levels of ITIL certification, ITIL credit systems also awards credits based on some complementary courses, popularly known as ITIL complementary certifications. A maximum of 6 credits can be earned from taking one or multiple complementary certifications. The Axelos site gives an overview of ITIL credit program to help one be better equipped with the total credits they have attained. It also provides an hawk-eye view of additional certification they should/might want to obtain based on their career aspirations and areas of interest.

However, one must be careful ensuring that there’s not a lot of overlap between modules at various levels. Based on the percentage of overlap, Axelos segregates the overlap categories into low, moderate and high overlaps. As a candidate your focus should be staying in the ‘low overlap’ zone to earn the right credits.

ITIL complementary certification Credits awarded Accreditation body Overview
Problem analyst 1.5 APMG-International Focuses on preventing incidents and problems
ISO/IEC 20000 1.5 APMG-International Demonstrate and teach best practices in ITSM
BiSL 0.5 APMG-International Establish business information management domain
Change Analyst 1.5 APMG-International How to assess, authorize and manage changes.
Certified Process Design Engineer (CPDE) 1.5 LCS Assessment, implementation and other processes related to IT service
Lean IT 0.5 APMG-International Creating a value oriented IT service sans variability and inflexibility
BCS Specialist qualification 1.5         Covers a broad range IT frameworks like ITIL, COBIT,ISO/IEC 20000 etc
Service catalogue 1.5 APMG International Manage your service catalogue effectively and automating service request management
ITSM Foundation 1 Exin & Tuev Sued Core principles of IT service based on ISO/IEC 20000. Aims to improve quality of processes.
ASL2 1 APMG-International Core principles of IT service based on ISO/IEC 20000. Aims to improve quality of processes.
Sourcing governance foundation 1 APMG-International  Sourcing & outsourcing governance and how to apply them
Configuration management database 1.5 APMG-International Learning how to control, audit, report and verify CIs of SMDB. Strengthens asset management capabilities.

What are the nuances of ITIL certification?

Now that you’re equipped all the coursework required to appear for the ITIL certification exam, it’s time you know the finer nuances. When you’re appearing for the examination, ensure you choose one of accredited training and examination institutes . You can find the list of accredited centers and other information here. In case you’re confused about what how to map your certifications to career aspirations, here’s a handy to guide to map skills with certifications. Prior to appearing for the ITIL certification, it’s pivotal that you pass at least one of the sample  ITIL examinations available online. However, if you’re someone who would like to prepare on your own, you could purchase one of the ITIL exam preparation kits for a small fee. Here’s an example of one such preparatory course for a meager $59.

In addition to this, Axelos has also come with official Android and iOS apps.

Still, got doubts about ITIL certification? Do write to us at

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