Salesforce certification guide: Your path to a lucrative career

Salesforce certification is a great way to get ahead by proving your skills on one of the hottest CRM platforms today. Our guide to the most valuable technical Salesforce certifications will help you kick-start your Salesforce career.

Salesforce certification guide: Your path to a lucrative career
REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Salesforce is one of the fastest-growing, most in-demand skillsets today. From software developers, to solutions architects, to project managers and marketing and sales professionals, Salesforce skills pay off for a wide array of roles.

If you’re looking to land a new job, earn a raise or secure a promotion, Salesforce certification is a great career move, says Meagan Humphrey, director of sales operations at IT recruiting and staffing firm Mondo.

Following is a guide to Salesforce’s wide array of certifications and how achieving one or more can help take your career — and take-home pay — to the next level.

Career benefits of Salesforce certification

“Salesforce certifications offer three big value adds,” Humphrey says. “They increase your marketability in a tight IT job market by allowing you to become a subject matter expert. They offer flexibility in that you can get certified in just a few hours, days or months and you can control your own career path. You can get just one or a bunch of certifications. And the more certifications you add, the higher salary or hourly rate you can command.”

Generally speaking, Salesforce roles range from the technical (architects, developers, implementation experts) to those related to marketing and sales, such as marketing and sales cloud specialists.

IDC research from 2016 predicts that the Salesforce ecosystem will create 1.9 million “direct” jobs — those within the Salesforce customer base — and as many as 2.8 million “indirect” jobs — positions created in supply and distribution chains connected to Salesforce customers — by the year 2020.

The demand for these roles is already present and won’t be slowing down soon, says Alexandra “Gigi” Neuenfeldt, tri-state and national sales manager for Mondo.

“The demand from the market is really high — demand for developers who can build on and around existing Salesforce platforms, Salesforce administrators, project managers with Salesforce experience, Salesforce training specialists, Salesforce solution architects,” Neuenfeldt says. “Our clients need talent for everything from low-level reporting professionals to high-level developer skills to integrating Salesforce tools and to architects and solutions developers that specialize in customizing the platform to their organization’s needs.”

Salesforce jobs and salaries

A 2017 report from Burning Glass found more than 300,000 job postings between July 2015 and June 2016 that called for Salesforce skills. These roles ranged from those requiring basic understanding of Salesforce’s products to more complex software development roles, with a small but growing category of jobs specifically designed around Salesforce skills, as companies are developing positions to build and maintain Salesforce applications.

Salesforce skills also pay well, the report shows. Jobs that request Salesforce skills pay on average more than $70,000 per year, with Salesforce developers commanding $100,000 on average, according to Burning Glass. Salesforce sales roles offer 8 percent higher salaries than other sales roles, and IT roles that require Salesforce skills carry an 11 percent salary premium. Advanced skills, such as Visualforce and Sales Cloud, command salaries over $100,000.

Professionals can get training and earn “badges” to prove their competency in several areas like security, data integration and business analytics through Salesforce’s Trailhead training platform, says Neuenfeldt, which can help prospective employers notice their skills.

“No matter what your background — technical, marketing, sales, administrative — we feel these are really valuable skills that pay well and have a good future outlook and we don’t think the demand is going away,” she says.

Salesforce certification overview

Salesforce offers a variety of certifications targeted at a range of job functions, including:

  • Administrators
  • App builders
  • Developers
  • Architects
  • Consultants
  • Marketers
  • Pardots
  • Specialists

Most tracks offer individual certifications that may be earned to demonstrate generalized or specific expertise in a given domain. The Salesforce Architect track, however, is unique in that candidates can earn individual certifications or they can bundle together these earned certifications (aka specializations) in pursuit of higher-tier certification, such as the Salesforce Certified Application Architect or the Salesforce Certified System Architect. Professionals who pursue both of these architect tracks can then achieve the pinnacle Salesforce Certified Technical Architect.

Salesforce administrator certifications

Salesforce offers two levels of administrator credentials. Both focus on administrative functions, including defining user requirements, customizing the Salesforce platform, and helping users to get the most out of the solutions.

Salesforce Certified Administrator

Candidates should have extensive knowledge of Salesforce customization and configuration and be skilled at managing users and getting the most out of the platform’s capabilities. The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions in 90 minutes. To pass, you need to know how to: manage users, data, and security; maintain and customize Sales Cloud and Service Cloud applications; and build reports, dashboards, and workflows.

Price: $200; retake fee, $100

Prerequisites: None

Recommended courses: Administration Essentials for New AdminsAdministration Essentials for New Administrators and Certification, Certification Preparation for Administrator

Salesforce Certified Advanced Administrator

Candidates should have experience using the advanced administration capabilities in Salesforce and be highly proficient in designing advanced reports, dashboards and automation processes. The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions in 90 minutes. To pass the exam, you need to know how to: leverage the advanced administration capabilities of Salesforce; optimize and extend Sales Cloud and Service Cloud applications; design advanced reports, dashboards, and business process automation.

Price: $200; retake fee, $100

Prerequisites: Salesforce Certified Administrator status

Recommended courses: Administration Essentials for Experienced Admins 

Salesforce application builder certifications

There is only one certification on offer for professionals who design, build and implement custom applications on the Salesforce platform. This certification requires a more programming- and engineering-minded skillset than the Certified Administrator track.

Salesforce Certified Platform Application Builder

The Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder credential requires the ability to design, build and implement custom applications on the Force.com platform. This skillset involves extensive knowledge of the declarative development and customization functions available on the platform. The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions in 90 minutes. To pass the exam, you need to know how to: design the data model, user interface, business logic and security for custom applications; customize applications for mobile use; design reports and dashboards; and deploy custom applications.

Price: $200; retake fee, $100

Prerequisites: None

Recommended courses: Declarative Development for Platform App Builders 

Salesforce developer certifications

Salesforce developer credentials are for professionals with knowledge, skills and experience building custom declarative and programmatic applications on the Force.com platform. There are two types of developer certifications: the two-tiered platform developer credentials and one aimed at developing ecommerce solutions.

Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I

To pass this exam, candidates must know how to design the data model, user interface, business logic, and security for custom applications, and be able to develop custom applications using Apex and Visualforce. Candidates must also be familiar with the development lifecycle and have knowledge of the available environments. The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions in 105 minutes.

Price: $200; retake fee, $100

Prerequisites: None

Recommended courses: Programmatic Development Using Apex and Visualforce, Certification Preparation for Platform Develop I

Salesforce Certified Platform Developer II

Candidates must be experts in the advanced programmatic capabilities of the Force.com platform and data modeling so they can develop complex business logic and interfaces on the platform. The certification process has three components: a multiple-choice exam, a programming assignment and an essay exam.

To pass the exam, candidates must be able to design, develop, test and deploy easily maintainable, robust and reusable programmatic solutions. They must also be able to follow Apex design patterns and object-oriented programming best practices. The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions in 120 minutes. For the programming assignment, candidates must use Apex and Visualforce to create application components based on a set of preconfigured business requirements in 30 days. The essay exam consists of three questions related to the programming assignment solution that candidates must complete in 60 minutes in a proctored environment.

Price: $400; retake fee, $200

Prerequisites: Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I certification

Salesforce Certified B2C Commerce Developer

Candidates should be experienced full-stack developers for Salesforce B2C Commerce Digital. It is geared toward those who develop ecommerce solutions and are adept at setting up the development environment, working with the Digital data model, working with site content, using Salesforce Business Manager to perform site configuration tasks, using scripts to extend site business logic, interacting with external applications, optimizing site performance and troubleshooting. The multiple-choice exam consists of 60 questions in 105 minutes.

Price: $400; retake fee, $200

Prerequisites: None

Recommended courses: Developing for Digital I, Developing for Digital II

Salesforce architect certifications

For architects, Salesforce offers a three-tier system of certifications. At the base level are several designer-related certifications:

  • Certified Data Architecture and Management Designer
  • Certified Sharing and Visibility Designer
  • Certified Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer
  • Certified Identity and Access Management Designer
  • Certified Integration Architecture Designer
  • Certified Mobile Solutions Architecture Designer

Architects who have earned a specific set of certifications from the Designer, Developer and App Builder tracks can then pursue a Domain Architect certification as either Application Architects or System Architects. Salesforce Certified Technical Architects, the top tier, combine both Domain Architecture tracks, demonstrating knowledge, skills, and capabilities across all available domains.

Salesforce Certified Application Architect

This certification requires a deep understanding of native Salesforce features and functionality, as well as the ability to model a role hierarchy, data model, and appropriate sharing mechanisms. To earn this credential, architects must complete four certifications, each of which has its own associated exam and fee.

Price: No additional exam is required to receive this certification

Prerequisites: Salesforce Certified Data Architecture and Management Designer, Salesforce Certified Sharing and Visibility Designer, Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I (see above), Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder (see above)

Salesforce Certified System Architect  

The certification emphasizes system testing, governance and integration with external systems within an organization’s infrastructure. To earn this credential, architects must complete four certifications, each of which has its own associated exam and fee.

Price: No additional exam is required to receive this certification

Prerequisites: Certified Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer, Certified Identity and Access Management Designer, Certified Integration Architecture Designer and Certified Platform Developer I (see above)

Salesforce Certified Technical Architect

This “elite” architect certification requires a significant investment of time, energy and money. To achieve it, candidates need extensive experience, technical breadth and depth, presentation skills and the ability to synthesize Salesforce solutions that span the entire platform.

Candidates must possess broad knowledge across multiple development platforms and have achieved certification in all specialized domains. The certification draws on candidates’ ability to assess customer requirements and architecture in order to design secure, high-performance technical solutions.

To pass this exam, candidates must design a recommended architecture solution based on a fictional client with hypothetical customer requirements. You will be asked to explain and justify why and how you built your solution.  

Price: $6,000; retake fee, $3,000

Prerequisites: Salesforce Certified Application Architect and Salesforce Certified System Architect

Salesforce consultant certifications

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