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ITIL Foundation & ITIL Certification Portfolio • The #1 Guide

This is the ultimate guide for helping you understand the ITIL certification exams: ITIL Foundation, Practitioner, Intermediate SOA RCV OSA PPO, ITIL Expert, ITIL Master.

Many of you have thought about going to an ITIL Certification, but maybe you don’t have a clear idea of which ITIL Certification will fit you better. In this article I will help you to understand the AXELOS best practice portfolio with regards to ITIL Certification Exams.

AXELOS, the owner of the ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) framework, uses the term ‘Qualification’ Scheme instead of ‘Certification’ Scheme. They do this by trying to differentiate companies that get ‘certified’ (for example in ISO 20000) from professionals that get ‘qualified’. In any case, Professional Certification is de facto term used in our industry, and therefore I will use both terms in this article.

ITIL Foundation Certification/Qualification Exam

This ITIL Certification/Qualification Exam is the entry level for ITIL. The ITIL Foundation Certification is for anyone that wants to start on the ITIL qualification path. In a single exam it covers all the knowledge in IT Service Management discipline. So as you can imagine the ITIL Foundation Certification is a very general overview, but more knowledge is required to become an ITSM (IT Service Management) practitioner and apply it in real world.

ITIL Practitioner Certification/Qualification Exam

This ITIL Certification/Qualification Exam was initially developed in ITIL v2. When ITIL v3 was introduced, they changed this denomination to Intermediate. Recently in 2015, AXELOS has gone back and relaunched the ITIL Practitioner Certification for the current ITIL 2011 Edition certification exams.

The reason for going back to the ITIL Practitioner Certification is because the ITIL Intermediate exams are all about specialization. There was not a general purpose ITIL intermediate certification (although there was the MALC, it had a different purpose).

ITIL Intermediate Certification/Qualification Exam

This ITIL Certification/Qualification is a long list of ITIL certification exams. It is a requirement to have passed the ITIL Foundation certification in order to apply for any ITIL Intermediate Certification.  There are two ITIL Intermediate paths:

  • The Lifecycle Modules: there is an ITIL Certification Exam for each of the ITIL books, those are, Service Strategy (SS), Service Design (SD), Service Transition (ST), Service Operation (SO), and Continual Service Improvement (CSI)
  • The Capability Modules: there are also four ITIL Certification Exams for Service Offerings and Agreements (SOA), Release Control and Validation (RCV), Operational Support and Analysis (OSA), and Planning Protection and Optimization (PPO).

ITIL Expert Certification/Qualification Exam

This ITIL Certification/Qualification is a credit based certificate based on completing an Intermediate path and passing a final exam:

  • The Managing Across The Lifecycle (MALC) Module: this is a certification exam that aggregates all the knowledge acquired over your intermediate path and integrates all the ITIL Service Management Lifecycle.

For becoming an ITIL Expert you are required to complete 22 credits. ITIL Foundation provides 2 credits. ITIL Lifecycle Modules provide 3 credits each. ITIL Capability Modules provide 4 credits each. Finally, the MALC Module provides 5 credits.

ITIL Master Certification/Qualification

This ITIL Certification/Qualification is a very unknown certification. I mean ‘unknown’ based on the scant information that AXELOS provides about it. According to AXELOS for becoming a ITIL Master only the following is required:

  • having reached the ITIL Expert level
  • having worked in IT service management for at least five years in leadership, managerial, or higher management advisory levels.

Based on this, almost every ITIL Expert would be eligible to become an ITIL Master, because 5 years of ITSM experience is very easily accoumplished by any ITIL Expert.

Alternatives to ITIL

There are also other great options to ITIL. has developed, with a worldwide community of Service Managers, new Professional Certifications for expanding ITSM knowledge skills:

  • Certified Professional in ITAM (IT Asset Management): this is a new growing IT discipline that will boost your Service Manager career in IT Asset Management (CLICK HERE for more information)
  • Certified Professional in IAM (Identity and Access Management): as security becomes more and more critical for business, IAM professionals get more recognition. The SM’org CPIAM certification covers all the skills required for mastering Identity and Access Management (CLICK HERE for more information)
  • Certified Professional in IM (Incident Management): useful for any IT professional involved in IT Service Management that wants to master his/her Incident Management skills (CLICK HERE for more information)

I hope that I have helped you in making your decision. And finally, I want to wish you luck and great success in your IT Service Management career. Cheers!