Should you master pmp or itil for project management certification

Should you Master PMP or ITIL for Project Management Certification?

As far as popular Project Management Certification credentials are concerned, the two most favoured ones are obviously ITIL Foundation and PMP. But then, which one is the better option between the two? Read on for a better understanding. 

Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification vs. ITIL Certification

Administered by the regulations and authorities of the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Project Management Professional (PMP) is an industry-recognized certification influencing the career graph of IT professionals in USA, Middle East, Australia, and parts of Asia such as China and India. 


The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) certification, introduced to those linked with IT service management by the United Kingdom’s Cabinet Office, defines procedures, processes, checklists and tasks that are useful in establishing interactions with a company’s strategies, delivering value, and maintaining compliance. The ITIL Foundation Certificate introduces key elements, terminology and concepts of the popular ITIL Service Lifecycle

Who are PMP/ ITIL Certification for?

Experienced project managers with a minimum of 3 years of experience totalling at least 4500 hours, and a graduate degree, may apply for PMP certification. They should have prior experience in directing and managing projects, along with being accredited with 35 hours of education linked to formal project management—either via classroom or online modes. 

As there are no prior education and training criterion required for ITIL certification, the same can be taken up by business managers, IT professionals, business process owners, or anyone else interested in IT. ITIL certification is also targeted by current PMP holders desirous of earning more PMP PDUs or gaining extra knowledge in IT service management modules.

PMP Examination Syllabus

The PMBOK® Guide or A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge forms the basis of the exam syllabus for PMP certification. It is a 600+ page publication with 5 performance domains dealing with:

  • Initiating the project
  • Planning for the project
  • Execution of the project
  • Monitoring and control processes of the project
  • Closure of the project

Additionally, the PMBOK Guide 5th Edition contains 10 knowledge areas:

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope Management
  • Project Time Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Human Resource Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholders Management

There are 47 processes in total for these knowledge areas. These processes are further defined with ITTOs or inputs, tools, techniques and outputs (650 in all).

ITIL Examination Syllabus

The five levels of ITIL for the purposes of complete mastery in ITIL are:

  • ITIL Foundation
  • ITIL Intermediate Level
  • ITIL Managing Across the Lifecycle
  • ITIL Expert Level
  • ITIL Master Qualification

ITIL Foundation certification exams encompass the under-mentioned components:

  • Service Management modules
  • ITIL service lifecycle
  • Generic definitions and concepts
  • Key models/ principles and selected functions/ processes/roles
  • Architecture and technology
  • Training and competence

Though recommended, formal training for ITIL Foundation Certification is optional.

Credential Renewal PMP vs. ITIL

PMP holders have to earn at least 60 PDUs for each 3 years of practice and apply for credential renewal. Failure to report to PMI leads to the cessation of PMP Credential.

On the other hand, as ITIL Foundation Certificate has lifetime validity, renewal is not essential. It is well advised to holders of ITIL Foundation Certificate to apply for ITIL practices related to IT service management only under supervision or guidance.

The Final Question: PMP or ITIL Foundation?

Both these certifications are not mutually exclusive and are dependent on the service industry that guides your career graph. For instance, project managers linked with the IT service management industry would benefit by both. Alongside, if a majority of players in your geographical location are looking for ITIL certificates as an essential application criterion for selection, go for the same. On the other hand, if they are adopting the PMBOK framework, then seek PMP credentials for gaining better opportunities.

Considered a tad more difficult than ITIL Foundation, which advances project managers to ITIL Intermediate and other levels, PMP is a big help when it comes to credential renewal or earning more PDUs. In most cases, IT service managers strive to obtain both these certifications for a more holistic profile. Moreover, if you are keen for long term growth within a company and desire to know more about the business aspects of IT, then PMP serves as a better bet. 

Which path would you choose, PMP or ITIL?

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