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ITIL® certification levels: A comprehensive guide

02nd May, 2024
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    ITIL® certification levels: A comprehensive guide

    What is ITIL®?

    ITIL® is a library, a set of detailed practices for IT service management (ITSM). Earlier known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, it aims to deliver IT services concerning the needs of the business. ITIL® frameworks assist the companies in improving their ITSM and providing strong customer service.

    Certification Levels

    As there is a distinct set of rules to take into account, for the ease of students and organizations, ITIL® certification has been divided into five levels, starting from Foundation to Masters.

    The previous version of the ITIL® V3 was divided into 5 classes -

    • Foundation: This is the first-level certification course that teaches the fundamentals and general concepts, terminology, and elements practiced in the ITIL® Lifecycle.
    • Practitioner: This level aims to teach candidates how to adapt and adopt the skills of ITIL® during their daily work life. It is the most recent addition to the levels.
    • Intermediate: This is a more in-depth study of the previous stages. Here, different modules are taken up to teach the various approaches and plans executed by following the framework. This certification is considered as the common ITIL® qualification in many IT sectors.
    • Expert: This certification is considered as the esteemed qualification which depicts skills, expertise and a great understanding of the ITIL® framework.
    • Master level: This is the final stage of the certification, which proves a comprehensive understanding of the principles, procedures and exceptional methods of ITIL®. It also demonstrates the candidate's superior skills. The master’s certified candidate is considered to be the best among others due to their knowledge and expertise.

    As the level increases, the depth, value, and requirements of the certifications increase parallelly.

    The latest version of the ITIL® V4 is reportedly the most flexible and superior version released till now. The updates are highly valuable because they have been implemented after considering the feedbacks and reviews of 1000s of professionals.

    Since the problems are resolved through steps, this increases the credibility of the ITIL® framework and processes exponentially. Also, this version has been designed to be flexible and adaptable as per the ease of the employees and students.

    The transition from ITIL® V3 to ITIL® V4

    Now, we understand that there are some significant upgrades in ITIL® V4, but the question is, what about those who are currently enrolled in ITIL® V3 or have already passed the previous versions.

    For your concerns, AXELOS has addressed the transition issue and the process is rather simple. These are the best options as suggested by AXELOS on how a candidate can move from the older version of ITIL® to ITIL® 4.

    • Foundation course 

    For those who have started the certification course and have only reached the current Foundation certification, or have earned up to six additional credits, they are recommended to begin again with the latest version of the ITIL® 4. It's because of the changes that are mentioned, have been revised and upgraded. Therefore, it will be better for them to restart from the beginning as they will be in sync with the current updates.

    • Practitioner Course

    Since the student has just begun, if he/she has not collected more than 6 credits, it is advisable to join the ITIL® V4 foundation course and start from scratch. However, if they have collected more than 6 credits, it is advisable to continue with ITIL® V3 only.

    • Intermediate Course 

    The situation is rather tricky for those who are completing the intermediate level of the ITIL® V3. Since AXELOS doesn't want students to unnecessarily waste their valuable efforts, if students have collected more than six credits beyond the foundation level, they are advised to continue with their ITIL® V3 journey.

    It is also worth noting that the Transition module will not be released until the second half of 2019, so this gives students a fair time to collect their required credits.

    • Expert Certification 

    Students who have already achieved a minimum of 17 ITIL® Credits and have attained the level of Expert level will have the choice of practicing the ITIL® 4 Managing Professional (MP) Transition module when it is published.

    This will enable them to join the stage of ITIL® Managing Professional (MP). Following this, all they need to do is to join the ITIL® Leader Digital & Strategy module. It will assist them in achieving the ITIL® Strategic Leader (SL) designation. By this stage, they will be eligible to apply for the ultimate level of ITIL® Master.

    Below are the required credits and details on the transition path -

    ITIL® V3 Certification Level

    The Path for transition to V4
    ITIL® V3 Foundation

    Simply take the ITIL® V4 Foundation to transition to the new ITIL® certification.
    ITIL® V3 Practitioner
    1. Take ITIL® V4 Foundation and further modules in the area of interest to become ITIL® specialist or strategist

    2. Continue with ITIL® V3 certification until you gather 17 credits and become eligible to take ITIL® MP level

    ITIL® V3 Intermediate

    Continue collecting credits from ITIL® V3 certification and when credits reach 17, you can give ITIL® MP module

    ITIL® V3 Expert

    Simply take ITIL® V4 MP module to transition to new Expert level of ITIL® V4

    What is the ITIL® certification path level?


    Many candidates have a doubt on what the eligibility criteria for the ITIL® certification is. Before proceeding to the certification path, let's get this doubt cleared. There are no prerequisites required for taking the certification course. It's just suggested that the candidate should have some past experience in the IT sector.

    Now that we are clear with the most basic doubt, let's continue towards the path of certification.

    Certification Path

    This section will deal with the journey to the Certification Path. Throughout the certification course, there’s a certain number of ITIL® Credits awarded when you clear the levels through examination. These credits are the key to unlock the next level of certification or training.

    1. Foundation Course - 

    As discussed earlier, it is the introductory course to the ITIL® Service Management.

    • Training: Required.
    • Prerequisites: Not Required
    • Examination: Yes, Required
    • Awards: 2 ITIL® credits
    • Certificate: Yes.

    2. Intermediate Course -

    The next step after Foundation course. It consists of two streams and within those two streams are various modules.

    • Prerequisites: ITIL® Foundation Certificate.
    • Training: Yes, required
    • Examination: Yes. The credits earned after the examination will be presented in braces for every module.
    • Certificate: Yes, for each module

    Service Lifecycle stream modules: 

    • Service Design - 3 credits
    • Service Strategy - 3 credits
    • Service Operation - 3 credits
    • Service Transition - 3 credits    
    • Continual Service Improvement - 3 credits

    Service Capability stream modules: 

    • Release, Control, and Validation - 4 credits
    • Service Offerings and Agreements - 4 credits
    • Planning, Protection, and Optimization - 4 credits
    • Operational Support, and Analysis - 4 credits

    3. Managing Across Service Lifecycle – MALC

    The conclusive segment in the qualification system before obtaining the esteemed certification of Expert is the stage called - MALC.

    • Prerequisites: ITIL® Foundation. 15 credits (Intermediate level) + 2 credits. Hence, 17 credits in total.
    • Training: Yes, required.
    • Examination: Yes
    • Awards5 ITIL® credits
    • Certificate: Yes

    4. Expert Course 

    The highly valued certification which is the proof of superior knowledge and expertise.

    • Prerequisites: 
      • ITIL® Foundation
      • ITIL® Intermediate
      • 15 credits collected in ITIL® Intermediate level
      • MALC examination qualification
    • In Total: minimum of 22 ITIL® credits.
    • Training: Not Required.
    • Examination: Not Required
    • Certificate: Yes.

    5. Master Course 

    This stage doesn't have any training material or examination. By this stage, the candidate is expected to be the best among his/her peer group and apply all the frameworks and principles in real-life situations.

    • Prerequisites: 
      • ITIL® Expert certificate
      • Five years of experience in leadership or management position.
    • Training: Not Available
    • Examination: Rather than an examination, it's more like a collective review of the work. So, no examination.
    • Certificate: Yes.
     ITIL® StagePrerequisites

    IntermediateITIL® FoundationYESYESYES
    MALC-ITIL® Foundation
    - 15 credits in Intermediate
    Expert-  ITIL® Foundation
    - 15 credits in Intermediate
    - MALC
    - Minimum 22 credits in Total

    -ITIL® ExpertNODemonstrationITIL® Master

    Roles of the job
    ITIL Roles of the job

    The credentials of the ITIL® certifications will surely give your resume a big boost, but your success will solely depend on you. These are factors that help boost career impact:

    • Your professional experience.
    • Knowledge
    • The pace at which you absorb ITIL® concepts.
    • The interest you have in IT methods.

    Following are the roles that you can expect through ITIL® certification -

    • Process Coordinator

      • Experience required is a minimum of two years.
      • Level: Foundation-level to Intermediate-level
      • Responsibility: Assure that the administrative actions in a process are conducted as planned.
      • Change coordinator, Incident coordinator, and configuration analyst are few of the coordinator positions possible in ITIL®-based IT service management.
    • Managerial Role

      • Experience - At least eight years of working experience for a certified ITIL® professional.
      • Level - This is operated at the mid-management level.
      • Responsibility:
        • The role here is to ensure that activities in service management are in accordance with the given processes.
        • He/she will be managing the coordinators under you who will directly report to you.
        • The Manager is accountable for their actions and making sure that the work allocated is executed thoroughly.
      • Release manager, Problem manager, and service desk manager are some of the managerial roles.
    • ITIL® consulting role

      • Experience - This role of Process Consultant requires experience of ten years.
      • Level - An ITIL® certified professional.
      • Requirement - The candidate also needs to have certain different abilities with Observation skills being the most dominant traits. Also, they need great “Problem-solving’’ abilities.
      • Responsibility - 
        • An ITIL® Consultant must have great observation skills as this would allow him/her to notice inconsistencies in processes and immediately plan about optimization. The consultant must enjoy getting to the bottom of  all issues.
        • Their role is to observe every role assigned under them and guide them to execute the process as smoothly as possible.
        • This is among the most highly-paid and respectable posts in the industry.

    Below are the annual average salaries of the ITIL® certified jobs -

    Sr. NoRole

    Average salary per annum in USAverage salary per annum in India
    1Service Delivery Manager$82,795INR 1,366,982
    2IT Analyst$86,361INR 7,32,612
    3Asset Manager$88,552INR 539533
    4IT Project Manager$91,257INR 1,433,472
    5IT Manager$101,181INR 1082029
    6Engineering program manager$106,280INR 1819880
    7Senior  IT Project Manager$112,899INR 1,818,560
    8Service Transition$117,000INR 13,34,273
    9Service Operation$117,000INR 610,864

    Difference between ITIL® V3 & V4 certification levels

    Many students have one common question-- how exactly are the ITIL® V4 and V3 different from each other?

    ITIL® V3 was introduced in 2007. The version was revised with some changes four years later in 2011. Whereas AXELOS recently announced the completion of the latest version of the ITIL® V4. The first level of the newer version was released early in 2019 and the higher levels are scheduled to release in the second half of the year.

    The ITIL® 4 is built upon nine guiding principles. These were borrowed from the most contemporary ITIL® Practitioner Exam.

    guiding principles to ITIL Certification

    The essence was based on:

    1. Device for knowledge
    2. Concentrate on content
    3. Explore holistically
    4. Commence where you are
    5. Study directly
    6. Develop iteratively
    7. Associate
    8. Be fair
    9. Keep it simple.

    The ITIL® 4 works according to the need of public perception and needs. Because of this, customer feedback and satisfaction is a top priority for the new version.

    In addition to these principles, the ITIL® V4 has major updates like:

    • Exceptional integration besides other successful ITSM practices, including DevOps, Agile, and Lean
    • A broader focus on the meaning of customer experience
    • The superior combination of ITIL® and modern business practices
    • A community-driven focus to create the framework extra flexible and powerful.

    Also, there has been an inclusion of ITIL® Foundation and the ITIL® Master exams.

    ITIL® Managing Professional (MP)

    It targets IT practitioners working within technology and digital teams across businesses. They are not just limited to the IT departments. This course offers experience and expertise to run successful teams, IT projects, and workflows.

    ITIL® Strategic Leader (SL)

    This exam is planned for those who operate with “every digitally equipped assistance.” The objective of this course is to prepare the learner on how to use technology to deliver business procedure. It also explains the role of IT in the process.

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    ITIL® V4’s focus 

    The team developing the latest version includes industry experts, content writers, and specialists from the broader IT industry. This team operates on a global level to address all types of issues that the organizations face at different levels. More than 2000+ members have contributed to the evolution of this version.

    The focus is on the practical aspects of the industry. The course has been kept as compliant as possible to assist the organizations towards being better developed and integrated service providers.

    The most crucial change has been noticed in the foundation level of the version. Now the learners will have a strong base with the IT management from the start.

    Also, not only will this give the students an early advantage towards grasping the concepts but will make them more adaptable towards the end-to-end operating model for the production, outcomes and constant revisions to provide a much-advanced customer experience.

    The Service Value System (SVS) has also been heavily updated. It now gives a complete end-to-end scenario of what's happening behind the scenes during the business operations. This allows the students to get a better understanding and to contribute more to the process. The updated version has also incorporated concepts from the models like DevOps, Agile and Lean IT.

    A significant challenge was not to make it completely original from its previous versions as that will create chaos in the organization between the new and the earlier certified professionals. Keeping this in mind, the version has been designed to have better compatibility with the ITIL® V3.

    Ready to become a master in project management? Our PRINCE2 Foundation training online offers comprehensive materials and expert instruction to help you enhance your skills and achieve mastery in the field. Enroll now and take the first step towards elevating your career!

    So, what happens to the ITIL® V3?

    The best thing about certifications is that they never get too old, i.e., they do not have an expiration date. So once you have earned the credentials in your resume, it will be valid for a lifetime.

    Similarly, ITIL® V3 is equally appropriate and efficient as it has a global demand and a reach of thousands of professionals and students. This is the reason why the latest version has been made compatible with the ITIL® V3.

    The newer version is devised to satisfy the ever-growing needs of the digital environment. It looks forward to simplifying the complicated processes in the IT sector that used to consume a lot of effort as well as time. The results and outcomes of ITIL® will only be visible when they are applied effectively.


    Manikandan Mohanakrishnan


    Manikandan Mohanakrishnan is a highly skilled corporate trainer, consultant, and content developer with expertise in a wide range of areas including ITIL 4, PRINCE2, Agile/Scrum, PMP, DevOps, and soft skills. With a passion for delivering exceptional training experiences, Manikandan offers a comprehensive suite of training services covering service management, project management, business simulations, and more. With over 20+ years of experience, he has successfully facilitated numerous programs, including business communications, emotional intelligence, team building, and organizational change management. Manikandan's dedication to empowering individuals and organizations shines through his motivational talks and impactful training sessions.

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