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ITIL® Retains Rank Among Top 5 Most Popular and Top 20 Highest-Paying IT Certifications

May 17, 2017
Barry Corless

Employers are increasingly expecting experience AND certification when looking for new hires. Your certification is the badge that proves you speak a language. It’s your experience that proves you think in it.

The Global Knowledge 2017 IT Skills and Salary Report revealed that Cisco, Microsoft, CompTIA, IT service management (ITIL®) and security certifications are the most popular to obtain. This alludes to a certification’s resume-enhancing significance to the individual as well as the value they still hold to organizations sponsoring these educational pursuits.

More than 14,300 IT professionals participated in our annual survey. Twenty-one percent of all certified respondents hold an ITIL certification, which is comprised of IT best practices describing common approaches organizations can apply to strategic, tactical and operational activities. Professionals who have ITIL and IT service management (ITSM) certifications have an average North American salary of $93,601.

You may have heard about IT service management and ITIL being yesterday’s news, but the survey suggests you need to re-evaluate those rumors. The enduring value of ITSM credentials and practices have been championed by Gene Kim, one of the Godfathers of the DevOps world, who has said, “It is my firm belief that ITSM and the DevOps movement are not at odds. Quite to the contrary, they’re a perfect cultural match.”

How to Earn High-Paying ITIL Certifications

The ITIL certification program consists of 13 certifications that attest to the holder's knowledge—ranging from a baseline level of understanding to a deeper, more robust body of knowledge indicating overall mastery. For a visual depiction, view the ITIL certification roadmap.

Step 1: ITIL Foundation

In an ITIL certification program, the first credential to earn is ITIL Foundation. It’s an entry-level certification indicating individuals have general familiarity with ITIL terminology, the service lifecycle and key processes. ITIL Foundation is just that—foundational. It may also be the level at which you choose to remain, which puts you in good company. Over the last decade, roughly 200,000 people per year have earned this certification around the world. For many, it acts as the introduction for higher-level ITIL certifications.

Step 2 (Option A): ITIL Practitioner

ITIL Practitioner builds on the introductory knowledge gained in ITIL Foundation to help adopt and adapt the framework to meet the needs of your organization through a program of continual service improvement. The majority of ITIL courses focus on “what ITIL is.” This course covers service improvement and the vital “how to execute” skills.

Step 2 (Option B): ITIL Intermediate Certifications

Nine unique ITIL Intermediate certifications are available to take a deeper dive into the five ITIL lifecycle phases. The intermediate certifications are divided into two paths: lifecycle and capability. Intermediate lifecycle courses (one per lifecycle stage) are intended to guide an understanding of the value proposition of each lifecycle stage and how they interact from a strategic and tactical perspective. The more granular focus of intermediate capability courses are better suited for practitioners who are responsible for hands-on operations and service improvement.

Step 3: ITIL Expert

Nirvana for many is ITIL Expert where an all-around appreciation of the complete lifecycle has been developed. To access ITIL Expert, you must first gain 17 credits from the other ITIL certifications. You are then eligible to take the Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC) course. As you might expect, MALC requires individuals to pass a challenging exam. The ITIL Expert credential indicates a person has a strong understanding of ITIL and how it can be used with other best practices to help organizations improve.

Step 4: ITIL Master

The final accreditation level is more about the individual and involves no actual learning. In order to achieve ITIL Master, an individual is required to describe and defend real-life projects they have completed using ITIL best practices. You must already hold the ITIL Expert certification and have at least five years of experience in high-ranking IT service management positions.

What’s the Value of Achieving ITIL Certifications?

In terms of immediate, recognizable value for individuals, it pays to look at the basic ITIL Foundation, which has an average salary exceeding $93,000. Globally, ITIL certifications rank mid-range in the top 20 list of highest paying certifications. Salaries for several of the more advanced certifications such as ITIL Service Lifecycle: Continual Service Improvement and ITIL Service Lifecycle: Service Strategy exceed, on average, $109,000 and $105,000, respectively.

There’s no doubt we’d all like a little extra money, but beyond that, ITIL certifications hold noteworthy value for both individuals and employers. ITIL benefits are universal and can be put to use across industry verticals and work environments. An ITIL Foundation certificate is often the first hurdle your resume must clear in order to find that new role you desire. A lack of ITIL certification may result in your carefully crafted resume ending up in the trash because that’s the certification our organization values or needs! The value to the organization includes ensuring that services align to and meet the needs of the business, help to manage risk and service disruption or failure, and offer a stable environment to support business changes.

ITIL pairs well with related methodologies and frameworks that organizations often employ like more traditional Enterprise Architecture (TOGAF), Governance (COBIT) and Project Management (PMI). Equally, there is no denying that sound ITIL-based practices support many of the Cloud- and DevOps-based deployments now finding favor in organizations. Many of these frameworks work in tandem by providing structure around IT infrastructure to deliver predictable, repeatable results.

If you are looking to improve your service management capability by adopting a service culture and adapting the ITIL framework, Global Knowledge recommends viewing our complimentary white paper "ITIL Adaptation and Adoption: Where to Begin" as well as our complete ITIL and ITSM portfolio to begin planning your certification path.

Note: The data from this blog came from the 2017 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report.

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ITIL Certification Training

ITIL Foundation

ITIL Practitioner

ITIL Intermediate

ITIL Expert