If you landed on this post, then you’re probably wondering if it’s time to get that Salesforce cert you’ve been eyeing.
First. If you’ve been wrangling your org’s Salesforce instance “unofficially” for at least a few months (if not years), definitely stick around.
Or, maybe you don’t have a lick of professional Salesforce experience yet and want in. You’re in good company too. 👋
The Salesforce ecosystem has changed since I got my first certification (Salesforce Certified Admin) back in 2017. Since then, the certification options have ballooned…along with the number of people trying to get them.
So if you’re on the fence, or just want a mental checklist! Here are all the things to consider before sitting for that Salesforce exam.
7 Considerations For Your Next Salesforce Certification
1. Your Reason for Getting Certified
What’s driving you to do this now? Got a job search coming up? Want to establish yourself as a Salesforce professional, or demonstrate your knowledge on a certain product? Or maybe you’re in it for the learning, and treat your certs like Pokemon: gotta catch ’em all.
Figure out what you want from your next cert, to inform the rest of the items on the list.
p.s. If your goals are career-centric (finding a new job, getting a raise, etc…), then do your homework! Figure out what your target Salesforce job market looks like, so you know your investment is worth it
2. Which Cert To Prioritize
Many get their start with Salesforce Certified Admin: the OG of Salesforce credentials, and a very common pre-requisite for jobs + other certs in the ecosystem. But now there are more junior certs, product specific-certs, and even general methodology ones. (Salesforce Ben has a great list of them all here.)
If you don’t already know which cert to go for, think about your answer to #1. Prioritize the cert that makes the most sense for where you’re at & where you hope to be.
p.s. If you’re seeking a Salesforce job, don’t assume that all certs carry equal weight. Some are more widely recognized than others, and go further depending on the specific type of role you’re pursuing. (But many peeps do start with Salesforce Certified Admin)
3. Your years of experience
How long have you been managing your org’s Salesforce environment? What about any specific cloud products?
No matter if you have 10 weeks or 10 years of experience, you still need to study. But having a solid background in whatever cert you’re aiming for helps cut your prep time.
p.s. Salesforce used to recommend 6 months experience minimum before sitting for the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam. But today, many job seekers seek certification even without that formal work experience
4. Your capacity for studying
Some exams require more prep than others. Having sat for 3 Salesforce exams myself (and passed), I can say that none was a walk in the park! So think about work and personal obligations. How much time can you give to studying on a weekly/monthly basis?
As for how much time you need…it really depends on both the person & the exam. But a combo of focused study + practice tests can help you determine where you stack & what’s realistically needed.
5. Your willingness to maintain your cert
Passing the exam is the hardest part! But once that’s over, you’ve still got to maintain your credentials at least once per year.
Fortunately, most (if not all) maintenance can be done for free on Trailhead: Salesforce’s e-learning platform. And speaking for my certs, I can say the maintenance is fairly easy. But it’s still something to consider, especially if you hope to hold many certifications down the line.
6. Paying exam (& potentially retake) fees
In an ideal world, your employer foots the exam bill for you. But if not, consider whether you have the budget to schedule the exam AND what you’ll do in the event you need to retake. (As of this post, retakes typically cost 50% of the exam fee. And it’s pretty common for folks to fail an exam the first time.)
Pro tip: there are many ways to find discount codes for certification exams. Nonprofits can get 50% off their cert exams (see this thread to find out how). You can also typically get a discount by participating in a free Salesforce Certification Day (like a free, one-day crash course)
7. Paying for exam prep
Everything you need to know for the basic exams should technically live on the Salesforce Help Site. But the Help Site is massive: without a guide, it’s daunting to sift through. (I do find the Trailhead Exam Guides really helpful for organizing, though the trails/modules alone won’t cut it for studying.)
All to say, you may want to invest in some prep materials. E-courses, study guides and practice exams are a few options. And keep in mind that your options don’t have to be outrageously expensive (think hundreds of dollars) to be effective!
p.s. Some paid resources I found helpful include Michael Wheeler’s certification class (which I took in 2017) and the exams from Focus on Force (which I used for my Advanced Admin cert back in 2020, in combination with the Salesforce Help Site)
At the end of the day, know what you want
Salesforce certification is an awesome professional milestone, if & when you decide to get there. But as we established, it does cost!
Ultimately, it’s a question of resources & motive. Get real about why you want this and what you have to give – in terms of time & financially – to the process.