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Will ITIL Certification Help Me Get a Job?

By itself ITIL certification will only help you get in the door; you still have to prove yourself once you're there, writes ITSMWatch columnist David Moskowitz of Productivity Solutions.
Mar 30, 2010

David Moskowitz


I recently received this question from a reader: “I’m currently out of work (laid off from financial industry). Is there value in getting an ITIL certification? Do I have to be ITIL Expert certified?”

A quick search for the keyword "ITIL" at dice.com got over 1000 hits and a similar search at monster.com returned over 900 hits and over 600 at Career Builder. So, there is demand for ITIL certifications.These numbers represent an increase of about 200 per site since October, 2009 and the October numbers were about 10% more than the July 2009 numbers, so the trend over the last eight months is clear.

There is a market and ITIL v3 certification has some value. However, without some qualification that’s not really a complete answer to the question. As I mentioned in the article Is Getting Your ITIL Certification Worth it?, ITIL certification doesn’t say that you can actually do anything. It does provide an indicator to a potential employer that the individual with the certification has taken the time to validate a level of knowledge about ITIL and IT service management (ITSM).

All things being equal, you’ll have a better chance of getting the interview with the certification for those job postings that list ITIL knowledge or certification as part of what the employer wants. You’ll still need to have the rest of the background and experience in the posting, but you might not be considered without the certification.

Most of the postings list the salary as, “competitive.”So, I called several companies with job posting to try to get some idea what salaries might be offered. Where ITIL certification was listed as "nice to have" or a plus, the average likely offer for the successful senior level candidates was in the $100,000 range with an ITIL certificate and about $10,000 less without it. For lower level positions, the salary was lower, but the difference was still about 10 to 12 percent.

You don't need to be an ITIL Expert unless your goal is to mentor a team or manage an ITIL adoption effort or even become an instructor. If this is what you are after, then the ITIL Expert certification is worthwhile. Otherwise, consider the Intermediate areas consistent with your experience or aspirations. For example, if you have experience with an ITIL service desk, incident management, problem management, etc., consider either the Service Operation or Operational Support & Analysis certifications. Similarly, with a background in change management and related areas, consider either the Service Transition or Release Control & Validation certificate.

About the process

The ITIL v3 Foundation certification can be acquired through self-study, online or in-person class. Specific classroom or course time is not required for the Foundation level. Fellow ITSMWatch columnist Rob England (aka The IT Skeptic) has posted valuable resources to study, take, and pass the ITIL Foundation exam, on your own, for free here.

The Foundation certificate is a prerequisite to attend the mandatory class for any of the ITIL intermediate level classes. In addition, proof of intermediate class attendance is required to sit the certification examination. The ITIL v3 Foundation test focuses on recognizing and understanding key principles, terms, concepts, processes, functions, and key roles. This exam is a 40-question multiple choice exam. The passing score is 65% with 1 point per question. This means you’ll need to get 26 questions correct.

The intermediate exams focus on the ability to analyze service management as a practice. The Managing Across the Lifecycle exam adds the ability to take things apart and put them together in slightly different ways―what the syllabus for the course labels “Synthesize." The intermediate exams have eight short, scenario-based questions that use gradient scoring. Of the four possible answers for each question, one answer is worth 5 points, one is worth 3, one worth 1 point and one worth no points. Passing is 70%, or 28 out of 40 possible points. This means you must identify at least two of the eight possible 5-point answers to pass.

You can get more information about the ITIL qualification scheme from the official ITIL website

The ITIL examinations are based on material in the five core books, Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement. Most of the answers to the intermediate exams I found to be completely practical when taken in the context of the accompanying scenario. The questions may appear to be somewhat artificial, but that makes sense in the context of trying to isolate specific syllabus areas for a meaningful examination.

The best single piece of advice I can offer for any Intermediate level candidate is read the appropriate underlying material in the appropriate core volumes. Don’t expect to get it all from the class. I recall college professors who wrote the text books used in class told us to read the book because they couldn’t possibly cover everything in class. Excellent advice. Instructors for the Intermediate level classes can’t possibly cover everything in class either. In fact, the syllabuses for the Intermediate level exams suggest 12 hours to 20+ hours of self-study over and above the contact hours listed for each course.

Certification is a start

I’ve had a number of students tell me that after they were able to put ITIL certification on their resumes that the number of replies they got to job applications increased. That's great of course, but earning an ITIL certification isn’t a replacement for experience. Prospective employers will call if you meet all or most of their criteria―ITIL certification or knowledge is just one aspect they’re seeking. Certification won’t guarantee you a job or even an interview, but it might help your resume to get past the initial cut. You’ll still have to demonstrate your experience and capabilities meet needs of the hiring organization.

The students who actually got the job put effort into earning their certification. They didn’t study just to pass the test. They studied after taking the examination to make sure they really understood the basic concepts covered. Make your goal more than passing the test and you’ll have correspondingly more success in the job market.

David Moskowitz is a Principal Consultant at Productivity Solutions, a Philadelphia, PA-based consulting firm that helps its clients thrive in an ebusiness Web-based economy. He is a certified ITIL instructor and ITMS consultant. In these capacities, he has guided many successful projects. The goal for his efforts is to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of IT organization at the same time that the business recognizes IT as a strategic asset. His focus working with clients, for more than 25 years predating the formal naming, has been IT service management. David can be reached at davidm2@usa.net.

IT jobs, certification, ITSM, Moskowitz, ITIL v3

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