Understanding and Pursuing ITIL Certification
To me, ITIL certifications are more like those that aim at the practice and improvement of IT, rather than at specific technology areas in which professionals wish to establish certain bodies of skills and knowledge. Thus, although it’s chock-full of important technology bits and pieces, it’s more of a generalized "how to do IT right" kind of a thing.
In other words, is not a "how to be a [technology] specialist" kind of thing (where [technology] could be cloud, virtualization, database, AI/ML, software development, and so on). In a perhaps odd way, it’s more like a project management certification (such as the various PMI stalwarts, including CAPM, PMP, and more) or an IT architect certification (such as The Open Group’s ArchiMate, TOGAF. Open CA, and others).
The object of these kinds of certs is to verify that canidates can follow specific practices and methodologies; that they can "do IT" in the context of a well-established framework and set of best practices. Those who pursue such credentials will be expected to master highly technical sets of skills and knowledge.
The ITIL Story, and Its Parent: AXELOS
A good place to start learning about ITIL and its various versions and levels of certification is at AXELOS.com. A joint government and private sector effort launched in 2014, largely to codify and professionalize longstanding projects to increase the rigor and professionalism of IT practice, AXELOS is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of certification training company PeopleCert (acquired in 2021).
The organization describes itself as “dedicated to being the world’s most respected provider of global best practice” (emphasis theirs). Their proposition is that those who adopt best practice in IT and business can “increase profitability, grow market share, and quickly respond to changes and changes in their business environment” (source).
PeopleCert is also positioned as “the global leader in the delivery of examination and accreditation services” (same source). ITIL Certifications come in four levels, with a variety of specialist elements at Level 2, and other certs at the entry level (ITIL Foundation) and professional level (ITIL Managing Professional and ITIL Strategic Leader), capped off with the ITIL Master credential (and some extension modules off to the side).
All of this is depicted as follows on the AXELOS website:
In general those seeking to develop and demonstrate ITIL savvy, start at the bottom of the preceding diagram and work their way "up the stack" to levels of increasing coverage and responsibility. Most IT pros will progress from Foundation-level training into one or more of the specializations and extensions.
Team leads and architects are most likely to venture into the ITIL MP (and possibly also, the ITIL Master) levels. IT management types will gravitate toward the IT Strategic learning credential, and probably stop there.
You can find links to all the ITIL certs, their requirements, related training and resources and more, on the ITIL home page. The Foundation cert is a great component in any IT professional’s bag of tricks, and is likely to help them do a better job of working in their field no matter what that field might actually be.
Climbing further up the ITIL ladder is for those who really want to understand and take advantage of best practices, approaches, and methods for putting IT to work for best business results and outcomes. Thus, it’s likely to appeal to those whose career tracks will take them into technical leadership or business/technical management positions in IT.
For a great introduction into and perspective on these certs, check out this ITWire story entitled All You Need to Know About ITIL 4 Certification. I highly recommend this overview. It should provide food for thought, if not impetus for planning out a new addition to your skills and knowledge inventory in IT. Good stuff!