What Is ITIL Certification?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

ITIL is a global framework designed to help improve customer experience. Learn what is ITIL certification, benefits of certification and how to get certified.

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ITIL is a global framework of best practices for IT service management focused on reducing risk, improving customer relations, and supporting IT environments. Read on to explore what ITIL certification is, its benefits, and the path to ITIL certification.

What is ITIL 

ITIL stands for the IT Infrastructure Library, an internationally accepted IT service delivery framework. The ITIL recommends best practices for IT service management (ITSM) to support the standardization of various processes and stages in the IT lifecycle.

The ITIL started in the 1980s when the United Kingdom's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) saw a need to establish standardized guidelines to avoid inconsistencies among the increasingly diverse IT architectures. 

The first version of ITIL was released in 1989, but the framework continues to be revised, overseen by Axelos. The current iteration, ITIL 4, has evolved to meet IT administrators' needs adapting to newer IT management approaches. Thus, along with providing best practices for incident management and continual improvement, it also addresses cloud computing, automation, AI, DevOps, Agile and more [1, 2]. 

Read more: What is ITIL? A Beginner’s Guide to the ITIL Process

ITIL recognizes the importance of integrating ITSM with other business areas by focusing on seven guiding principles, as described by IFS Assyst [3]: 

  • Focus on value

  • Start where you are

  • Progress iteratively with feedback

  • Collaborate and promote visibility

  • Think and work holistically

  • Keep it simple and practical

  • Optimize and automate

Benefits of ITIL certification

The benefits of ITIL certification extend to both the individual and the IT environment. Consider these main advantages.

Higher earning potential 

Individuals with  ITIL certification can earn more. You’ll have a designation demonstrating your knowledge of the role ITSM can play in attaining larger business objectives. Plus, as ITIL is focused on value and streamlining ITSM efforts, employers will pay more for people who can help them save money by reducing operational costs.

ITIL-certified individuals can typically get roles as CIOs, VPs of IT, IT directors, IT managers, service delivery managers, IT project managers, and IT business analysts. Payscale reports the average annual salary for professionals who have ITIL certification as $102,000 per year [4]. Your salary will vary depending on your role, level of experience, location, and the company you work for.

Increased efficiency and effectiveness

The ITIL framework helps IT administrators improve service timelines and customer satisfaction. The certification also educates you on best practices to increase the IT environment's visibility and flexibility. 

Better risk management 

ITIL 4 emphasizes the importance of customer feedback. Understanding public perception of IT service delivery can help anticipate risks. At the same time, the ITIL framework is about integrating ITSM into the business culture. Improving collaboration across teams can break down siloes, which also helps to reduce business risks.  

Ability to build an Agile IT environment

The systematic approach of ITIL focuses on improving productivity while streamlining processes using best practices. ITIL 4, though, represents an overhaul aimed at helping ITSM to be more flexible. The certification encourages collaboration and communication, integrating Agile and DevOps practices and automating processes to improve outcome delivery. 

Recognition of your expertise

Getting credit for your skills and expertise is another benefit of ITIL certification. By taking the time to earn the certification, you establish you have the know-how to take a systematic and professional approach to ITSM. You may already know how to reduce IT costs or improve IT services, but now you have the certification to show you do so using proven best practices.

In one survey of those with ITIL certification, 76.5 percent said it makes them more marketable. Some 58.8 percent of the 117 respondents also thought ITIL certification improved their ability to compete for IT jobs [5]. 

4 ITIL certification paths

ITIL 4 offers three paths to certification as well as two extension modules. With ITIL certification, you demonstrate an understanding of how ITSM impacts business strategy and service delivery.

ITIL 4 Foundation

This first stage in ITIL certification fosters awareness of key IT and digital service delivery concepts. This level:


  • Examines operations in modern IT and digital service organizations

  • Addresses how to increase value stream speed and efficiency

  • Explores the role of cultural or behavioral principles 

  • Outlines commonly used service management terms and concepts

ITIL 4 Managing Professional (ITIL MP)

Building on the foundational certification, this stream goes deeper into the practical and technical knowledge to help managing professionals:


  • Create, deliver, and support IT-enabled services

  • Drive stakeholder value

  • Support high-velocity IT

  • Direct, plan, and improve successful IT-enabled workflows and teams

ITIL Strategic Leader

Expanding on the MP certification, this certification develops more of a strategic perspective. Preparing the IT administrator to play a more significant role in influencing and directing strategy, this certification has two components:

  • ITIL 4 Strategist Direct, Plan, and Improve

  • ITIL 4 Leader Digital and IT Strategy

ITIL extension modules

You can also access two specialized ITIL 4 certifications. These focus on emerging technologies, and no prerequisites are needed, so you can use them to gain a deeper understanding of ITIL principles as well as potentially open up new career opportunities:

  • ITIL 4 Specialist: Sustainability in Digital and IT: Focuses on understanding and managing the environmental effect of digital and IT services

  • ITIL 4 Specialist: Acquiring and Managing Cloud Services: Explores cloud technology and its use in business strategy

Path to ITIL certification

Making ITIL certification part of your career path can help set you apart from your peers in IT.  To achieve the benefits of ITIL certification, you’ll need to study the modules and test your understanding.


Accredited training organizations run ITIL training courses in a variety of formats. This means you can complete ITIL certification courses via e-learning courses in a collaborative virtual learning environment, in-person classes, or self-study.

Taking the exams

You’ll have to take a 40-question, 60-minute, closed-book, multiple-choice exam to earn your Foundation certification. A score of 26 out of 40 is considered passing.

After passing the Foundation certification, you can move to the Managing Professional certification. You must pass exams for four modules, each of which requires correctly answering 28 of 40 multiple choice questions on the 90-minute, closed-book exams:

  • ITIL 4 Specialist: Create, Deliver, and Support: This module focuses on the creation of services, and you must pass 28 of 40 multiple-choice questions on the 90-minute exam.

  • ITIL 4 Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value: This module helps you learn how to work effectively with stakeholders.

  • ITIL 4 Specialist: High-velocity IT: This module focuses on the skills needed to work with digital products and services or highly automated environments.

  • ITIL 4 Strategist: Direct, Plan, and Improve: This module helps you learn the skills needed to improve organization strategies and work with teams.

You can also earn the ITIL Strategic Leader certification after passing the Foundation exam. It consists of passing ITIL 4 Strategist Direct, Plan, and Improve module as described above as well as an  ITIL 4 Leader Digital and IT Strategy module. The latter helps leaders learn how to develop digital strategies throughout their organization and requires passing 21 of 30 multiple-choice questions on a 60-minute closed-book exam. 

Anyone can take the two extension modules, which require passage of multiple-choice, timed exams.

Maintaining certification

There is no expiration date on ITIL certification. However, you can gain more of the benefits of ITIL certification by continuing to build on your level of ITIL certification.

Next steps

Prepare for the ITIL Foundation exam on Coursera. Enroll for free in ITIL 4 Exam Preparation offered by Learn Quest.  You can also begin your career path in IT with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate on Coursera.


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Article sources


Ivanti. “What Is ITIL? The Essential Guide to ITIL, https://www.ivanti.com/glossary/itil." Accessed September 8, 2022.

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