What Is ITIL Certification?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

ITIL is a global framework designed to help improve customer experience. Learn about the ITIL certification, the benefits of it, 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. For IT professionals, an ITIL Certification can help demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the IT Service Management Lifecycle. 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, is an internationally accepted framework that was developed in the 1980s by the British government CCTA (Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency) as a way to enhance the level of IT service quality across the nation as diverse IT architectures emerged. The ITIL recommends best practices for IT service management (ITSM) to support the standardisation of various processes and stages in the IT lifecycle. 

The first version of ITIL was released in 1989, but the framework continues to be revised, overseen by Axelos. Over the next 40 years, the framework was revised several times to meet IT administrators' needs adapting to newer IT management approaches. 

The latest version, ITIL 4, continues to provide best practices for incident management and continual improvement, and has been expanded to address cloud computing, automation, AI, DevOps, Agile and more. 

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

  • Focus on value

  • Start where you are

  • Progress iteratively with feedback

  • Collaborate and promote visibility

  • Think and work holistically

  • Keep it simple and practical

  • Optimise 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 

According to Global Knowledge, ITIL certifications are among the top five highest-paying IT certifications [1]. By taking the time to earn the certification, 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 IT directors, IT managers, IT engineers, IT support engineers, service delivery managers, support analysts, IT project managers, and IT business analysts. 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 emphasises 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 silos, which also helps to reduce business risks.  

Better customer experience

The ITIL 4 certification focuses on improving customer satisfaction and service quality through high-quality tangible deliverables. Some of the deliverables include:

  • Reliable performance

  • High responsiveness to customer inquiries

  • Employee assurance

  • Empathetic interactions with customers

Gaining this certification allows IT professionals to expand their skill set and demonstrate their ability to take their company’s IT performance to the next level.

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. 

ITIL certification levels

In the UK and worldwide, the ITIL 4 certification process includes 4 levels: Foundation, Managing Professional (MP), Strategic Leader (SL), and Master. ITIL MP and ITIL SL are both “designated streams” and require completion of the Foundation certification before earning these titles. After both MP and SL modules are completed, then you may complete the ITIL Master module.

ITIL 4 Foundation

This first stage in ITIL certification fosters awareness of key IT and digital service delivery concepts. It includes ITSM tools, best practices, and updated terminology, structures, and concepts. This level:

  • Examines operations in modern IT and digital service organisations

  • Addresses how to increase value stream speed and efficiency

  • Explores the role of cultural or behavioural 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 management professionals. This includes driving stakeholder value, supporting high-velocity IT, creating and supporting IT-enabled services, and improving IT-enabled workflows.

In this stream, there are 4 modules that must be completed:

  • ITIL Specialist: Create, Deliver & Support

  • ITIL Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value

  • ITIL Specialist: High Velocity IT

  • ITIL Strategist: Direct, Plan, and Improve

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 Strategist: Direct, Plan & Improve

  • ITIL Leader: Digital & IT Strategy

ITIL Master

ITIL Master is the highest ITIL certification designation. Once you complete the ITIL Foundation, Managing Professional, and Strategic Leader streams, you will be eligible to complete the ITIL Master certification. This certification is designed for expert professionals and should only be pursued when mastery of the ITIL framework has been achieved.

ITIL extension modules

You can also access two specialised 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 organisations 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 organisation strategies and work with teams.

Strategic Leader exam

After passing the Foundation exam, you can also earn the ITIL Strategic Leader certification. It consists of passing the following exams:

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

  • ITIL 4 Leader Digital and IT Strategy module: This module helps leaders learn how to develop digital strategies throughout their organisation. and requires passing 21 of 30 multiple-choice questions on a 60-minute closed-book exam. 

Master exam

To complete this certification, here are the following requirements: 

  •  Five years of relevant experience

  • Submit a relevant proposal and work package that meets guidelines designed to demonstrate your expertise

  • Complete an interview with an ITIL assessment panel

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

Taking an online Professional Certificate can be a great way to explore new skills, build your resume, and become job-ready. To begin your career in IT, consider taking the Google IT Support Professional Certificate on Coursera. You will learn valuable IT skills such as delivering day-to-day IT support, installing new programs, troubleshooting existing bugs, and using valuable systems such as Linux. Upon completion, gain a Professional Certificate that you can share on your LinkedIn profile or CV. 

Article sources

  1. Global Knowledge. “Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills and Salary Report, https://images.globalknowledge.com/wwwimages/web/salary-report/current/it-skills-salary-report-2021-skillsoft-global-knowledge-en-ww.pdf.” Accessed August 16, 2023.

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