ITIL vs. Agile Choosing Your Next Certification

ITIL vs. Agile: Choosing Your Next Certification

When it comes to project management, several certifications and frameworks can be used to improve one’s skills and knowledge. After completing your Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification, consider pursuing a complimentary certification in either Information Technology (ITIL) or Agile (PMI-ACP)® to further your expertise.

The many approaches to project management, including predictive, adaptive, and hybrid, have their strengths and weaknesses. However, they also share several commonalities. For instance, they each emphasize the importance of communication, collaboration, and leadership. They can also be used to improve the efficiency and quality of project management.

Of course, earning certifications takes time and effort to gain the necessary skills and knowledge and complete the exams. The concepts tested on the PMP®, ITIL®, and PMI-ACP® exams are all excellent tools and techniques that provide value to project managers. Which you should use depends on your role and the organization’s needs. This is why it’s crucial to understand which project management credentials are most relevant and valuable to your position and career.

Understanding the commonalities and differences in PMP vs. ITIL vs. Agile certifications can help you take your career to the next level.

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Deciding Between ITIL or PMI-ACP

ITIL relies on a set of best practices that help organizations manage their IT infrastructure and improve the efficiency and quality of IT services. Because the ITIL methodology primarily focuses on Information Technology Service Management (ITSM), it is ideal for IT operations professionals. This includes service desk processes and functions, process management, and ownership.

There are five levels to the ITIL certification:

  • Foundation
  • Practitioner
  • Intermediate
  • Expert
  • Master

There are no prerequisites to take the ITIL Foundation exam, but candidates can only progress to the higher levels after passing the Foundation exam. The more advanced ITIL levels may require professional experience to qualify.

Unlike ITIL, Agile project management is not solely focused on IT operations. Agile focuses on delivering results iteratively and incrementally. Agile project management uses short development cycles, or iterations, and close collaboration between teams and stakeholders. Today, project managers must learn about Agile principles when earning their PMP certification. This is because Agile and Hybrid concepts make up 50% of the exam. However, achieving the PMP certification is only the beginning for project managers interested in learning more about agile and even becoming PMI-ACP credential holders.

Earning a PMI-ACP certification is no simple feat, and an expert comprehension of Agile methodologies is essential. The PMI-ACP certification also requires that you have Agile project experience to earn your certification. To meet the PMI-ACP certification eligibility requirements, you must have earned 12 months of experience working on Agile teams or using Agile Methodologies in the last 3 years. The certification also requires you to possess General Project Experience before applying to take the exam. One thing to note is that the general project experience must have been earned in the last 5 years and can be satisfied with an active PMP or PgMP® certification. The final requirement to take the PMI-ACP exam is having 21 hours of formal agile training from an education provider like Project Management Academy[EA1] .

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Certification

A PMP credential holder understands the value of earning a globally recognized certification. It will boost your resume and help you stand out from other candidates, and ITIL is no exception.

There are many benefits to becoming ITIL Foundation certified, including the following:

  • Understanding ITIL’s key concepts and principles will help you better manage your organization’s IT services.
  • Learning how to align your organization’s IT services with its business goals can help to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Accessing a network of other ITIL Foundation-certified professionals who can provide support and advice.

The disadvantage of pursuing the ITIL certification is its narrow focus on enterprise IT service management. As an information technology-based accreditation, it’s less versatile than the PMP or PMI-ACP certifications. This could make it harder to move into non-IT leadership positions.

Like ITIL, there are many positive things to be said for becoming a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner®, including:

  • Gaining a solid understanding of Agile principles and practices can help you better manage projects.
  • Learning how to apply Agile methods to your projects effectively can help to improve the delivery of value to customers.
  • Accessing a network of other Agile-certified practitioners who can provide support and advice.
  • Earning a globally recognized certification will boost your resume and help you stand out from other candidates.

If there’s a downside to becoming a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® credential holder, it’s the amount of work it takes to get there. However, it’s worthwhile to invest your time and effort as it will have long-term positive implications for your pmp career.

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How These Certifications Compliment Your PMP Certification

The PMP certification is a natural starting point for project managers looking to demonstrate their knowledge through credentials. It establishes a baseline knowledge of project management skill sets (tools, techniques, artifacts) that can also be applied to the ITIL and PMI-ACP certifications. Both of these credentials rely heavily on a complex set of processes and tools to ensure a proficient and consistent execution of tasks resulting in a project-wide or even organization-wide boost in efficiency.

Although ITIL is specific to the IT industry, certification holders can still use the tools and techniques they learned while achieving the PMP certification in their IT project management efforts and beyond. ITIL wasn’t initially developed as a project management framework, but it still possesses practical project management concepts that can boost efficiency. A project manager can get the best of both worlds by taking advantage of the two frameworks and utilizing their resources to increase the likelihood of a project’s success.

When it comes to the PMI-ACP certification, it’s not required first to obtain a PMP certification. However, the core concepts learned as a PMP will help you become a better project manager and fulfill the experience requirements needed to take the PMI-ACP exam. Becoming a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner enables you to take the project management principles learned when earning the PMP certification and better apply them to projects in an adaptive environment.

Which Certification is Right for You?

Agile and ITIL have always focused on building products or services that meet customer needs and deliver high quality. They believe in keeping processes simple, acting quickly, and streamlining value delivery while offering a blueprint that maximizes value creation.

ITIL is the best option if your profession calls for IT Service Management to gain business value through customer services. And if you want to grow in technical leadership or management, then obviously, PMP certification stands as the right option. ITIL equips you with the skill of service-level delivery, and being a PMP credential holder gives you the skill of project management.

The PMI-ACP certification is suitable for project managers hoping to land a position leading a team running agile projects and coaching them to follow Agile practices and improve their performance.


Certifications are an excellent way to boost your professional profile. Before embarking on your certification journey, do some thorough research to understand what is available and whether it fits your needs. The PMP, PMI ACP, and ITIL certifications will immediately bolster your resume. Which credentials you pursue depends on your interests and which you believe will best serve your career.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO