Beginner’s Guide to Salesforce Certification

Beginner_39_s_Guide_to_Salesforce_Certification

There are two questions that I get asked on a regular basis:

“Do I have the skills to become a Salesforce Administrator?” and “I want to get my Salesforce certification. Should I go Admin or Developer?”

After seeing an increased number of these questions over the past few weeks, I figured that I would provide some details around certification that would answer these questions for you and provide enough context to help you make an informed decision.

On Being a Skilled Salesforce Administrator

5 Steps to Jump-Start Your Salesforce Career is by far the most popular post on Admin Hero. If you take a moment to read through the hundreds of comments, you’ll notice that the question of whether an individual has the experience to become a Salesforce Administrator gets asked a lot. And for those that don’t have prior experience in Salesforce or CRM, it’s a valid question.

While responding to a commenter a while back, I felt like I had to express to the individual that being a great Salesforce Administrator doesn’t require a whole lot of learned skills. Any experience you have had in the past, regardless of what it is, will play into your role to some degree. Here was my response:

 

On Being a Skilled Admin Small Quote

In my own personal experience, this is true. If you need additional validation, just read the stories which are a part of the Origins series; where Salesforce Administrators tell the story of how they got into Salesforce. You’ll notice a common theme. Every Administrator who provided their story had a background in something other than Salesforce an took on the challenge to learn the platform. They come from all walks of life, fell in love with Salesforce and committed to become awesome at their new found passion.

So, if you are wondering if you have what it takes to become a Salesforce Administrator, let me tell you that you do! You just need to light a fire under your butt to get the drive and motivation burning within in order to take the leap and go for it.

Salesforce Certification & Your Career

Being a certified Salesforce professional is, of course, very important. I’ve talked about this in The Importance of Salesforce Certification. Data shows that the majority of companies are requiring at least a base level certification in all of their job postings.

The Denver User Group has conducted an annual salary survey for a few years now and we have seen that the general salary lift you can expect (in Denver of course) when going from zero to one certification is close to $20,000 a year! There is no doubt that you should become certified if you want to play in the Salesforce space for a while.

But of course, if you have decided to get certified, the next step can be confusing. There are multiple certifications and related classes, little information on how the certification process works and seemingly very few resources to help you understand the next steps and how to prepare. So, let’s see if I can provide some insights into your Salesforce Certification options.

Administrator vs Developer Certification

These are the two most popular certification tracks offered by Salesforce.

The Administrator track currently comprises of two certifications: Salesforce Administrator and Advanced Administrator. There are no prerequisites for the Administrator exam, but you must have successfully passed the Administrator certification in order to take Advanced Administrator certification exam.

Salesforce created what I would consider a middle layer which is called an App Builder and is meant to test your knowledge and skills around building out solutions, and leveraging things like Lightning to customize reports and dashboards and leverage Lightning Components to create custom apps for desktop and mobile. The App Builder certification would be what I would suggest after the Admin Certifications and before the formal Developer certifications. There are no prerequisites.

On the Developer side, Developer I (1) and Developer II (2) are much more focused on the concepts of knowing code (Apex and Visualforce), development lifecycles, and related best practices.

While the hierarchy of the certifications in each track are straight forward, there still seems to be confusion on how the two overlap. What is the real difference between the two tracks?

What’s the Difference?

The Admin certification focuses more on the day-to-day areas of Salesforce. For example, it will test you on your understanding of the Salesforce security model; how to best manage users, setting up features like Territory Management and even how to create workflow rules. The Advanced Admin Certification focuses on similar concepts, but takes it to a more complex level.

The App Builder exam is meant to test your knowledge as an Admin as it relates to solving problems declaratively using components and best practices. It’s all declarative development, but you still need to know when and/or where code would be appropriate.

On the Developer side, these exams are focused on Apex and Visualforce, their best practices, use cases, and security.

What I Recommend

Personally, I recommend that every Salesforce Administrator take the Administrator, Advanced Administrator and App Builder certifications. Between the three, you’ll demonstrate an understanding of Salesforce features and functionality, along with a knowledge of the Salesforce database structure and how to build with it.

If you prefer to go down the Developer track, I would still suggest starting with the Administrator track and then move into the Developer track since all of the Administrator track certifications will still be relevant to you and that knowledge will go a long way in helping you pass your Developer certs. But, since there are no prerequisites for Developer I (1), you could start there and move on to Developer II (2).

How to Study for Certification

Before doing anything, head over to the Certification page on the Salesforce website. There you’ll find all of the details of the certification program, official Salesforce training being offered in your area, and access the Certification Verification tool which allows you to check the validity of a person’s certifications.

On the Salesforce Certification site, you’ll find an up-to-date study guide. This guide is more of an outline of the exam with topics that will be covered and the weight of each topic. The higher the weight, the more questions will generally be asked on the topic. Print out the study guide and use this as your sherpa. Determine the areas on the outline that you are not proficient in and begin focusing in on those areas.

Now that you have an idea of what is on the exam, here’s how to prepare.

Official Training Programs

Salesforce offers a great training class for every one of it’s certifications. It should be noted that the intent of these classes is not meant to prepare you 100% for the exam. While the classes do cover a decent amount of the exam competencies, you will still be responsible for filling in the gaps. While I personally have found value out of these classes, they can be price prohibitive.

Partner organizations, like Stoney Point and K2 Partners now offer similar classes at a fraction of the cost and are a good alternative if the budget is tight. However, be careful when selecting a partner organization. You want to ensure that they have a good track record and former class participants found the content helpful and worth paying for.

There is a free version of a training program offered by experienced Salesforce professionals and I’ll cover this more in the Community resources section below.

Self Study

Those of you who are real go-getters may be more inclined to study at your own pace using Salesforce’s extensive documentation. Help & Training and is a great way to focus your attention on specific features or functionality of Salesforce. You may also want to see what is available on the Salesforce Developer site where all of the workbooks and technical documentation for Salesforce is housed.

Regardless of the study method you choose, self-study will be a part of your learning process. Be sure that the information you are using is accurate by sticking with the official Salesforce resources as much as possible.

Community Documentation

There is an endless amount of certification study material available. From sites like Admin Hero to YouTube, there is an endless supply of information. However, I want to provide you with a healthy dose of caution. There are great community resources available, and there are others that are not so great.

Focus your efforts on the Success Community and well-known community resources like Admin Hero. Check out my Resources page for a list of community sites and resources that I think are accurate and well worth your time. In addition, you may also want to consider joining the community-led Salesforce Certification Study Group.

This group is run by Certified Salesforce community members who volunteer their time to facilitate a virtual study group. There is a formal program which lasts about 16 weeks and includes homework which you complete on a weekly basis in your own Developer org. Once every week, you’ll meet with your other study group members and the facilitator and talk about your homework, have the ability to ask questions and so on.

This group does a phenomenal job at helping other community members pass their certification exams so take a look if that is something that interests you.

If there is one thing I want you to be wary of, it is the practice certification exams.

These tests tend to be out of date, are not real Salesforce exam questions and can lead you into a situation where you experience a false positive. What I mean by that is that you could “pass” the test exam, feel confident in your knowledge, then go right into the actual exam and fail. That is because these practice exams tend to not be accurate.

Words of Wisdom

I hope that this information has been helpful and cleared up some of your questions. Getting started down the certification path is exciting and daunting at the same time. Before the post ends, let me encourage you to get moving; to make your dreams a reality.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t pass the first time. I failed my first certification exam and nearly lost my Admin Certification when I failed two of my three maintenance exams. But I buckled down, did the hard work and succeeded in earning (and keeping) not just one, but three certifications.

Please don’t feel like you need to rush into getting your certification either. Give yourself about 6 months of learning before you even tackle an exam. A certification is meaningless if you don’t know how to use the information you were tested on. Volunteer with an organization or shadow a successful Salesforce Administrator. You’ll learn so much more by doing this than you will with self-study alone.

When you’re ready to tackle your exam, consider your location options, including taking the exam at home!

So with that, go and be great! You are going to make an awesome Admin Hero!

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Steve Early
Guest

While I will admit that some of the practice exam questions can be out of date, I found that taking practice exams was extremely helpful in getting me accustomed to the kind of questions I might expect to get on the certification exam. If you resist the temptation to assume that the “right answers” are actually correct, you can use practice exams to your advantage. I encourage people to research the practice exam answers to determine whether they are indeed correct. You’ll learn a lot about why something is right or wrong and that too will be very helpful.

Sravanthi
Guest
Sravanthi

It’s so helpful for who want’s to join in salesforce thank u..

Simran
Guest
Simran

Hi Brent,

Thank you so much for this emboldening post !! Every time, I read your posts, I get inspired to learn Salesforce with zeal and vigour.
You rock man \m/ !! A true (Admin) Hero 🙂

Jhomann Careon
Guest
Jhomann Careon

Hi Brent,
Thanks for you blogs and tips. I just started my new job today as a Salesforce admin and keen to begin my salesforce certification training. I know weird right…I landed a job without being certified. Anyway, I will be learning thru trailhead and collecting the badges. My question is, by completing trailhead and collecting badges, does that warrant a Salesforce certifcation? Or is it separate?

Bobby Capulong
Guest
Bobby Capulong

Brent, you’ve done a really nice job with this Beginner’s Guide to SFDC Certification and would agree with a lot of your points. I’m certain this will add value to those putting together a Certification plan.

I’m only now finding out about the proposed Developer Certifications changes being rolled out by Dreamforce ’15. In fairness to those planning, it might be something you’d consider amending to your guide:

https://www.salesforce.com/campaigns/success-services/developer-certification.jsp

http://certification.force.com/pkb/articles/Public_KB/FAQ-New-App-Builder-and-Platform-Developer-Credentials

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

I am considering using Trailhead to prepare for the ADM201 exam. I’ve been the system admin for my company’s org for about 18 months. In your experience, do you think Trailhead is an adequate preparation tool for this exam? Thanks for this incredibly helpful post!

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

Hi Brent, Thanks soo much for the advice. I’ve been trying to study on my own and have found it to be very confusing. Your post has some great information. It’s difficult because I am not a Salesforce Admin and I am trying to learn using the training that is available online. Hopefully I can practice enough and get started with my Admin201 certificaton.

RCH
Guest
RCH

Hi Brent — does one really need the recommended 6 months of OTJ admin experience before attempting the ADM201 certification? I’ve completed the 6+ hour Admin training online (with the 10+ hours of detailed exercises) and plan to do some more self-study. For what it’s worth, I’m a few levels senior to the Admin role but wish to have deep platform insight and certification, so I won’t be day-to-day but will be involved in the more strategic uses across our business. Said another way, do you see any harm in attempting to certify sooner than later? Having led the selection… Read more »

Richa Jain
Guest
Richa Jain

I did masters in commerce & Business Administration. Have 5 years of working experience. I would like start my career in salesforce. What are the basic steps for a fresher to start career in salesforce and from where should i start. Please suggest?

Richa
Guest
Richa

Hi Brent,

Can we do it online? If yes, kindly provide me the link for the same. And if no, Can you please tell me about the fee structure for the course. From where, I can learn this course (any institute or online class). What about the

Richa Jain
Guest
Richa Jain

What about the Certification?

Disha
Guest
Disha

Hi Brent,

Which amongst the two is a better option, sales force admin or a sales force developer? I’m completely new to this stream having no idea of what to choose between the two.Thanks!

Raj
Guest
Raj

Hi Brent ( A Salesforce Admin hero )

I’m working as Microsoft windows admin from last five years and I’ would like to move Salesforce Admin.
I’m yet to be start Salesforce training but before that if you can help me with some Salesforce admin self-study material or is there any websites available where I can get online study material to do my self-preparation for Salesforce Admin.

Thanks for your timings and advising us !!!!!!!!!!!!

Raj..

Angela
Guest
Angela

Hi Brent,
I have been a developer for many years. I am thinking to switch to Salesforce. I have been studying with the materials you mentioned above, watched youtube videos on dev 401, did the developer beginner trailhead, did quite a few practice exams from online. How do I know if I am ready for the exam?
Another question, after I pass the App Builder certification, how do I find a Salesforce job? Or is it possible to find a Salesforce job? Thanks.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Thanks for the advice Brent. I have my exam on Monday and while I’ve studied the course notes from the adm201 not sure where to look to fill the gaps but now I can lean on YouTube and trailheads. I am interested in what you said about the developer stream as I dismissed it thinking it was all code based! So great advice there. Thanks

Ammara
Guest
Ammara

Hello Sir,
Thanks a million for your useful and informative website.
I was wondering what programming languages one would need to know before jumping to learn to be a Sales Force developer please? Java? Html? Python? Could you please advise.

Many Thanks for your answer.

Yazz
Guest
Yazz

Beautifully written article Brent. Thank you for all of the insight as I am about to embark on my SFDC Career Path.

Aniket
Guest
Aniket

Thank you so much, Its very helpful for people like me who wants to get certification and dont know from where to start… How many attempts are available to pass the certification exam?

Vamshi
Guest
Vamshi

Hello Brent..How do you do ? Thats a great info.. Im an MBA finance with 5years exp as data research analyst..Plz tell me how far sales force admin can help my career grow..

Sarika
Guest
Sarika

Hi Brent,
Thanks for the info.. I’m an IT engineer fresher. Can I get job as salesforce administrator without any job experience?

Veena
Guest
Veena

Hi Brent,
I am working as junior sales force administrator. I am planning to go for sales force certification very soon. But i am confuse with ADM201 & Platform App Builder. Are these both for admin or what is the difference? Which one is better for further career growth?Can you please suggest me for which exam should i go?

NIKHIL UPPAL
Guest
NIKHIL UPPAL

Sir ,i am still studying.i am doing Bachelors of engineering in India. I heard a a lot About salesforce and crm but i am don’t form where do i start with sales force. i am clear that i want tot be salesforce administration. I am new salesforce and doesn’t know any thing about it. I would be thankful to you if you could guide me that what should i do and from where do i start.

Fardin
Guest
Fardin

Hi Brent,
I have a 3.5Years of experience in PL/SQL developer.
So is this experience will help me in salesforce learning as i am intrested to change my technology to salesforce.
which will be good for me to take salesforce admin or developer as per my previous experience?

David Austin
Guest

Hi Brent – I’m a developer already, and I want to develop for Salesforce (mainly integrations for touchscreen kiosks and other venues), not do Admin, but I read elsewhere that you should get the Admin201 before you do any of the other certifications. So I’ve invested all this time training for that (not done yet though) … Based on what you’re saying it sounds like Admin201 might be a waste for me. Is that right? Does the Admin201 provide much basis for what I want to do? Say if I did the Admin201 since I’m probably only 1-2 weeks from… Read more »

Vasanth
Guest
Vasanth

Hi Brent,

I have Database Administration Career in the past and would like to switch to SALESFORCE ADMIN as my career.
Could you please let me know where can I get the training either through BOOKS (being suggested with Authors) and also Online Help such as YouTube etc.

Ramesh Sanga
Guest
Ramesh Sanga

Hi Brent,

Iam currently into Identity & Access Management domain (6+ years in Managerial role) & iam looking foward to take up ADM201 & ADM211. will it help me in taking up Managerial role in sales force.

Regards,
RK

SK Ramesh Kumar
Guest
SK Ramesh Kumar

Hi Brent,

Iam currently into Identity & Access Management domain (6+ years in Managerial role) & iam looking foward to take up ADM201 & ADM211.

will it help me in taking up Managerial role in sales force.

Also suggest the correct sales force training & certification for Identity & Access Management & GIS profile

Regards,
RK

kiran
Guest
kiran

Hi Brent,
I done i have 8+ years of experience in Sales now i want to stop the job in Sales and made come back into IT (I done MCA). I want to join sales force training and do the certification, so kindly suggest me what exactly i can do?

Satya
Guest
Satya

Hi Bret,

This maybe weird, apologize in advance but would need your help.

This is my story, I am Program Manager working on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and want to pursue opportunities in Salesforce. I have not worked on it earlier but have a good functional knowledge on CRM.

My question: Are there any certification for Salesforce Functional consultants and is it required to have prior experience on Salesforce ?

Thanks,
Satya

Ritvik
Guest
Ritvik

Hi Brent,

I am a MBA graduate and I have just begun my career(June 2016) as a functional consultant in crm domain. To go ahead with salesforce and build a successful career as a consultant, which certification would be best to go ahead with?

Maria
Guest
Maria

Hi, Brent!

Your article has been very helpful! I’m in a career transition and find that being experienced in Salesforce is just what I need! I have no previous background, but would like to be certified. I’ve been doing some research and start to understand what Salesforce is about…and it’s definitely something I would love to work with and be an asset to my employers.

My question is, do I need BOTH ADM 201 and ADM201C to prepare for the certification exam? Also, do I need prior experience to be certified?

Thanks in advance.

salesforce for nonprofits
Guest

Hello Brent, thank you for sharing excellent guide. Like me, this guide is very helpful for all newbie salesforce developer. I am definitely gonna read every single point when I start my salesforce development.

Thank you,
Tom Wood

Chris Nwanze
Guest
Chris Nwanze

Hello
First let me say this article has been most enlightening and has contributed greatly in my decision to become a saleforce admin.
I currently work in retail and customer service and i’m quite new to salesforce. i need advice on whether to get acclimatized with the classic or the lightening editions and which of them is and will be most relevant in the job field

Moyosore Fakeye
Guest
Moyosore Fakeye

When one is salesforce certified what needs to be done to keep the certification active. For example with the PMP every 3 years you need to do 60 hrs of education or training to stay certified. Is there such a scenario with the SF certs

venkat
Guest
venkat

Hello Brent,

Is salesforce good option for people who are new to IT field or from other professions who wanted to learn from scratch. Does a person’s age (say late 40s) will pose a problem in getting job.

Deeksha
Guest
Deeksha

Hi Brent

I have been certified as Salesforce adminstrator(201)…but the problem is I have no hands on for this I only know the concepts well which is why i am not able to apply anywhere for a job on this how would I overcome this

Aakash
Guest
Aakash

Hi Brent,

I am going to appear for DEV 401 next month.
Can you please suggest covering what all trailhead modules would cover up the major part asked in certification.

Regards,
Aakash

Parul
Guest
Parul

Hi Brent,

I read your posts and likes them. I have worked on Siebel CRM for past 6 years and now wish to change to Salesforce as I find it very fascinating.
I am not good at coding languages.. Like C++ , java or any.. What I understand by various posts is Admin role has less coding or no coding. Will that be a good choice over Saleforce developer??

Kindly resolve my confusion.

Regards

Parul Tripathi

Trying to move to Developer
Guest
Trying to move to Developer

Hi Brent,
I read somewhere or may be heard in the sales force podcast that they have some training for the developer that can be access from the application that is free for the customer. Do you have any idea about that. If yes how that can be access? What level of licenses is need for it

Habib
Guest
Habib

Brent I tried to sign up for Trailhead for free access a few times and keep getting an email:
Thank you for your interest in Salesforce.

We were unable to complete your request at this time because Salesforce is currently upgrading the template used to sign up your organization. Please try again soon.

Sincerely,

Customer Support
salesforce.com, inc.
The Landmark @ One Market, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94105

Mahesh
Guest
Mahesh

Hai Brent,
I am a php developer, i don’t know about sale force CRM . can i change the Technology. can give me Suggestion.

PAMMY
Guest
PAMMY

hi brent…i have completed MBA with HR&Mkt in 2012 later i married ,i dont have any experience but now i want to take challenge as sales force admin.so am i eligible for this certification and job?do i need any job experience to get this job?can i apply as fresher?your blog is real inspirational so i need your advice please….

PAMMY
Guest
PAMMY

hi brent,
your blog so inspirational and iam very impressed by your words so i need your advice.i have completed my MBA with HR&MKT in 2012 later i married.now i want to restart my career as SF admin but i dont gave any past experience on anything.so am i eligible for this certification and job?please give your suggestion to became as SF admin

Greg
Guest
Greg

Hi Brent – great article. I’ll seek out more of your blogs. I’ve worked in various areas of IT for over 20 years now (LINC/COBOL programmer at Home Shopping, HR/Accting installation/training, MCT, CNA, System Engineer, Master Technical Instructor @ JD Edwards & Oracle (both admin and development tracks), and implementation project manager). I’ve taken that past couple of years off to oversee a complete home renovation and take a few years off the road to spend time with family. Now that my renovation is complete and my son is getting ready to go off to college, I’ve decided to reenter… Read more »

kimleonard
Guest

Salesforce certification is necessary for every salesforce consultant but requires to follow some guides. I hope that this guide helps a lot for those who are looking to get salesforce certificate!!

Promila
Guest
Promila

Thanks Brent
your post came right on time.

John
Guest
John

Brent, This really is fantastic advice. I will be sure to visit the site regularly. I am a young professional less than out of college and into my career. I have been working at a B2B Marketing services corporation for some time and have been engulfed in the world of Marketing. I hope to get on a track that will soon enough lead me to a role as a CRM manager. With this being my intent, Can you speak to which certifications I should be targeting? Should I looki into passing ADM201 and ADM211 first, and then moving towards Marketing… Read more »

Stephen
Guest

Sounds like a great certificate to add if your organization uses sales force. I have a much better idea now what benefits a Sales Force certification offers now. Thanks for the guide!

Jason B
Guest
Jason B

Thanks for this post, Brent. (It obviously continues to help people after a couple of years!) My question is around expectations for prep. I currently am in a Salesforce training role with a business unit full of salespeople. I actually was a part of the SF implementation on this team and helped match up the tool with the business process. We have been in SF for almost two years. With that said, I’m hoping I can use Trailhead and some free online tools and be ready in a couple of months. 1 – Does that sound realistic with my current… Read more »

Ramakrishna
Guest
Ramakrishna

Thank you Brent it was really helpful for me as I’m preparing to join Salesforce. Just wanted to ask a question that ADM201certification is enough to join salesforce or do I need to go for both ADM201 and ADM211. Thank you for a great article.

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