Should you spend the money on ITIL V3 certification?

There is a distinction between education and certification. If you want to learn about ITIL you can do that in several ways. If you want a certificate to say you have studied ITIL, is it worth it?

You can learn about ITIL in several ways:

  • Just by reading. You can build a good library for very little investment
  • Using online courses
  • Going to OGC-approved ITIL classes
  • Studying something related like ISO20000 or COBIT
  • Doing tertiary study in IT Operations or Service Management which these days often includes ITIL
  • Actually doing it - being involved in one or more ITIL transformation projects

But learning about ITIL seems to be a secondary interest for those going to class. Traffic to this blog and readings on the forums indicate people are interested in that little bit of paper (and lapel pin): the OGC ITIL certification.

It costs. You can do a Foundation exam without paying for prior training, but once you get past Foundation levle the training is compulsory and the costs rapidly mount. When times were good people paid. Times aren't so good now - is it worth the money?

If your boss is paying then it almost certainly is worth it. Exit here.

If you are paying then we look at why. A small number of eccentrics will do the certification for their own satisfaction but almost all will do it to get work, either permanent work or contracting.

In the context of prospective employers and/or clients:

  • some will blindly insist you be "current" i.e. they want to see V3 certifications
  • some won't know the difference between V2 and V3, or even that there are two versions. An ITIL certification is a certification
  • some will be wise enough to care more about experience than certifications. If you are a stranger then certification still helps. If you are introduced through word of mouth then less so.

I reckon the three groups are about equal size. So most of the time the piece of paper helps, but if you already have V2 certifications don't rush into getting V3 too without more thought.

But that is a generalisation across all candidates. What about you personally? Rank yourself on these questions:

  1. How well can you sell yourself? Do you need the help of OGC?
  2. How strong is your experience with ITIL? I don't think ITIL certification on its own proves enough to a potential employer: a few days training and a multi-choice exam? It just tells me you can talk the talk, not walk the walk.
  3. How strong is your experience in IT Operations in general? ITIL isn't magic, it isn't a mysterious art, it is just IT common sense.
  4. How strong a candidate are you overall? Knowledge of ITSM is only one aspect of any job
  5. How good is your network? Do you have a good reputation?

If you rank strongly in three or four of those, then you can probably get the work anyway without certification. If you've got the thousands to invest, then you'll probably get your money back and more in "additional" work but most of the time you won't know whether you would have won the work/job anyway. Before you spend one or more months' income on ITIL certifications (remember to factor in lost revenue etc in the total cost), consider whether there are better uses of the money. For example, you might be able to do a broader tertiary IT course for about the same money, and come out with a more substantial qualification at the end.

Me? My boss paid for my ITIL V2 Foundation years ago. I have no other ITIL certifications. I worked happily in ITIL consulting for over two years. lately I'm starving but that is because there is very little work around at all. Will I lose out against the ITIL Managers and Experts when there is some work? Sure I will. Often enough to make it worth investing the price of a car to get one? No. Not for me.


ITIL. The most pointless


The most pointless load of management gibberish know to man.

What a waste of 3 days I'll never get back.

Now to do my best to forget everything about those 3 days.

by posting about it on here?

by posting about it on here? That should help you forget it faster.

Fail troll is has failed.

IT trainers suck

a troll or just venting?

I think it might reflect on the standard of some of the trainers. Too many IT trainers suck. Subject matter knowledge alone does not make a good teacher (though of course it is one component)


Certifications have to do with credibility. If you are the IT Skeptic, your name is well known in the community where it matters, and you have the credibility to talk about ITIL with a level of authority that few others can match in your market.
I organized and paid for my v2 Service Manager's exam myself in 2001, and also paid for my v3 bridge in 2009 (including a flight). I don't regret it, and consider it an investment with a happy return.

Stranger in my own land

You know, I have never yet got work in New Zealand on the basis of my being the IT Skeptic. No employer yet has heard of me in that role. I get work based on my past deliverables and my word-of-mouth reputation as Rob England, and I suspect being the newsletter editor for itSMFnz doesn't hurt :)

but because I'm the IT Skeptic? nah! "Who?"


Depends, of course, upon your situation.

In our case, as a consulting firm, it is important because prospects include certification as part of their selection process.

For certain individuals in companies, the certification lends itself to the perception of expertise. That may help them quite a bit with providing leadership.

I recently attended the ITIL Service Manager to Expert course at the Pink Elephant conference in Las Vegas. What I particularly liked about it was the opportunity to give this a focus for a week and the opportunity to discuss some of these issues with a bunch of individuals that had a great deal to offer with their expertise.

One of the advantages of education classes vs. self-education is that one is forced to go through parts of the material that one might otherwise skip.

Cary King
Minerva Enterprises
Managing Partner


" prospects include certification". What do you think of my rule of thumb that only two thirds want certification and half of them don't differentiate between V2 and V3?
And the proportions would be dependent on how much selling is word of mouth? And how many prospects are government, who have to dot the "i"s regardless?

Don't necessarily agree

Re: half don't differentiate - perhaps the individuals asking for these certifications don't fully appreciate the differences, but they do, for the most part, I think, differentiate.

Re: proportions. Vendor selling, as you well know, is partially about framing the prospects conversation in a way that is beneficial to one vendor over another. If the dominant vendor selling the prospect can frame the discussion by setting the agenda to that vendor's advantage, they win the sale.
That being said, I believe that vendor sales guys do, actually and for the most part, believe that the product they are selling will improve the customer's lot.

Prospects will, quite reasonably, look for evidence they understand of quality of the individuals they hire to be advisors or employees. Certification is such an indication.

I would argue that some of the traditional procurement processes that purport to enforce fairness are actually quite dysfunctional - the highly controlled RFQ process, which doesn't allow for actual discussion is, for instance, rife with problems. I really hate guessing about client issues and priorties - I'd rather give away a lot of free consulting in the sales process and get it right.

Cary King
Minerva Enterprises
Managing Partner


My rule of thumb with RFPs is that most of them have already been won by whichever vendor - behind the scenes, unofficially - helped write it.

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