Nearly every large technical product these days offers some sort of educational program to help you better understand the product and maybe become a power user. The reasons for doing this run from increasing advocacy and adoption rates, to building the platform’s overall utility.
Salesforce certifications are no different, except perhaps that these make up some of the most sought-after certificates at the intersection of sales and IT.
A 2016 report by Burning Glass found that Salesforce positions are growing at a rate of 1.3x faster than similar roles, and there were over 300,000 Salesforce-related positions posted from July 2015-June 2016.
While most of these required knowledge of the platform, a growing subset of positions require technical and operational knowledge that a certification would bolster (think Salesforce admin, app builder, certified technical architect, Salesforce consultant). Salesforce administrator and salesforce developer positions generally do not require certification, but certifications help recruiters and hiring managers benchmark your skills and determine commensurate pay.
Salesforce certifications come in all shapes and sizes, so nearly anyone who works in Salesforce and wants to learn more about the tool can find a certification that fits their needs. Everyone from a technical project manager running a service cloud project to the most complex developer interested in Salesforce admin certification can benefit. The current paths are:
- Salesforce Administrators
- Salesforce App Builders
- Salesforce Architects
- Salesforce Developers
- Salesforce Implementation Experts
- Salesforce Marketers
- Pardot Experts
There are currently 40+ Salesforce certifications available to earn. Each of these certifications requires the initial certification exam and then yearly product update exams to keep your knowledge current. Salesforce releases new features three times a year in the winter, spring, and summer, and the update exams coincide with these releases. Not all certifications require an update exam for every release.
Certification does not come cheap. The initial exams start at $200, but more technical exams for developers and architects are $400. Technical Architect board examinations cost $6,000 and include a free retake. All of this, of course, is before the update exams.
Depending on how critical your role and certification is to the company, discuss with your team the possibility of certification reimbursement. If you can implement projects during your education that show immediate ROI, your chances of getting reimbursed are much higher, so be ready to do some analysis and self-advocating.
According to PayScale.com, Salesforce Certified Administrators can make between $51,000 and $101,000 a year, depending on education and experience levels, and the average salary for certified developers passing a certification exam can climb even higher.
PayScale.com also mentions that Salesforce developers make a median salary of $87,000 a year. These Salesforce developer and app builder positions are also timeless since the Salesforce platform is always growing and changing to meet market and customer demands.
These Salesforce admin salaries climb higher because the certification process lets companies benchmark your skills against other potential job candidates. While you may know the skills you have because you use them in your job every day, a potential employer is less able to quantify a list of skills on a resume. A certified administrator will always have a leg up on an admin with “street smarts” alone.
Salesforce Certified Administrator certification shows that you have proven knowledge of the platform, and you can use this knowledge in a defined way that they can compare against other employees or candidates.
Education as a Living
Maybe you already make enough money (good for you), and you’re interested in more lofty goals, like continued learning. Gaining and maintaining a Salesforce certification may still be up your alley.
Depending on the certification you achieve, you will have to complete between one and three release certification exams a year to keep your certification current. Roles such as Salesforce technical architect, Salesforce app builder, and system architect are examples of roles with specific requirements.
Salesforce MVP Douglas Ayers cites this continuing education, and more specifically the studying and use of the platform as the most significant benefit he’s experienced from the certification process.
“I have benefited by studying up on topics that I don’t use as often and so become aware of features and options I might otherwise not come across in my daily job,” Ayers says. “With Salesforce’s three major releases a year, obtaining new and maintaining current certifications requires me to keep up with an evolving technology.”
Whatever your specialty, Ayers says using the platform helps before and after certification, “I first obtained the Salesforce Certified Administrator certification after being a full-time administrator for a year. As I gained more experience and more years on the platform, it was like a snowball effect, and I was able to tackle more certifications.
“I caution folks who pursue certifications purely for marketability to get their ‘foot in the door,’ because … it’s what you know that will help you keep [a] job and your reputation.”
Available Salesforce Certifications
Salesforce expertise remains one of the top in-demand skills in today’s marketplace, and there are no signs of waning. Many businesses see it as a core technology, with its accompanying applications making it an invaluable technological solution and a crucial automation tool for sales and marketing teams.
Key roles such as Salesforce administrator (requiring a Salesforce administrator certification), Salesforce Developer, and roles requiring Salesforce training to work as a platform developer or a marketing cloud developer are in high demand.
A current suite of available and in-demand Salesforce certification classes with Salesforce certification exams include:
- Salesforce Certified Administrator
- Salesforce Certified Advanced Administrator
- Salesforce Platform App Builder
- Sales Cloud Consultant
- Salesforce Service Cloud Consultant
- Salesforce Platform Developer I
- Salesforce Platform Developer II
- Salesforce Certified OmniStudio Developer
- Salesforce Architect
- Salesforce Certified Application Architect
- Salesforce Certified Technical Architect
- Salesforce Marketing Cloud Administrator
- Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Specialist
Process Improvement Through Salesforce Sharing
The Salesforce community is dedicated to Salesforce-certified sharing learning and improvement of the Salesforce platform as a whole to the betterment of all users, as evidenced by both the proliferation of the users groups that meet and share knowledge, the time invested in certification preparation for learning Salesforce, participating in Salesforce certification training, and earning the certifications themselves.
While sales and the B2B space can be incredibly competitive, the Salesforce community thrives because the members work to make the platform more powerful and easier to use.
Salesforce offers Salesforce University in addition to Trailhead — a series of Salesforce training courses that teach people to use the platform out-of-the-box and make those modifications that build upon the platform’s power. You can extend your knowledge by completing the Superbadges and Projects on Trailhead as well.
Let’s be honest here, certifications are nice, but your boss will want to know how your Salesforce training and certification actually improves your company’s use of Salesforce. Your certification requires that you actually use the tools and understand them.
Ayers says, “Nothing is a substitute for real-world experience. In the Salesforce certification exams, a question may have three answers that are technically possible on the platform but only one answer is the most practical and recommended solution. It is hard to learn these nuances simply by cramming for an exam or studying flashcards.” Salesforce training may act as a solid knowledge foundation of the Salesforce platform, but real-world experience will solidify exam questions into actionable knowledge.
The experience you gain studying for the certification exam will feed off of the knowledge you learn as you actually use the product, and vice versa. If your intentions are pure, and you learn the system to make daily use better for your team, you’re going to get more out of certification than if you’re just chasing that big paycheck.
The Best Swag
To reward their certified users, admins earning a Salesforce admin certification, and developers earning a Salesforce developer certification, Salesforce does not hold back on the swag. The above picture came from the personal stash of our own Salesforce admin certification guru, Keith Lee, and that’s just what he had in his desk.
The company gives away much of this swag — stickers and books and badges and socks, lots of socks — at the annual Dreamforce conference, where Salesforce folks from all over the world show up to talk about Salesforce compared to other industry CRM software. Folks love swag, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s instrumental in building and maintaining the Salesforce brand.
Salesforce certifications can cost you or your company a lot of money to initiate and maintain, but the ROI for you and the company will more than prove its worth. Ayers warns that certifications aren’t for everyone. “If you are a business user, sales rep, support agent, or executive, these certifications may not prove valuable unless you’re super interested in how to manage the platform,” he says.
Education for its own sake is great, but don’t expect your company to reimburse you for a skill you don’t use daily to improve their bottom line. If you have the opportunity to expand your Salesforce admin or platform developer skills, not only will you increase your company’s productivity, you’ll develop lasting skills.
Want more information about the Salesforce CRM platform and what is available to you? Visit this site to learn more.