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Most Important Tips to Become Certified Salesforce Admin

There are two common questions we are asked most frequently.

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

After seeing these two questions cropping up at an amazing regularity over the past few months, we decided to provide some details about Salesforce certification and give enough context for helping aspirants take a more informed decision.

Salesforce Admin Certification & Your Career

Being a Salesforce certified professional is of course both important and rewarding if you want to pursue a career in cloud computing. Studies have revealed that most companies insist on at least a basic level certification for all job openings.

In an annual salary survey conducted by Denver User Group for some years now, it has been noticed that the general lift you can expect in the state, while going to one from zero certification, is around $20,000 a year. There’s no doubt that Salesforce certification has a key role to play in your career if you want to stay in the space for a while.

But once you have decided to get a certification, the next step could be confusing. There are several certifications and related classes, and limited information on how the Salesforce certification works. There is also a dearth of resources that help you understand the subsequent steps and how to prepare for the certification.

Let’s see whether we can give you some insight on Salesforce certification options.

Developer versus Administrator certification

These are the two most popular certifications offered by the cloud computing service.

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The Admin track is presently comprised of two certifications: Administrator (ADM201) and Advanced Administrator (ADM211). ADM201 has no prerequisites. But you must successfully pass the ADM201 level to take the ADM211 certification.

salesforce admin

The same is true for developer certification as well. Force.com Developer (DEV401) and Force.com Advanced Developer (DEV501) comprise the Developer track. While there are no prerequisites for DEV401, you must successfully qualify the test to get the DEV501 certification.

It’s all quite cut out and dry. But the confusion happens whenever you attempt to “cross the streams”.

Let’s say you get the ADM201 certification. You now want to earn the DEV501. This is not possible unless you earn the DEV401certifiction. However, once you get the ADM201 certification, you can appear for the DEV401certification sans any issues.

The hierarchy of certification in each track is pretty straightforward. But the confusion on how the two overlap doesn’t seem to end.

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So what’s the difference?

The Salesforce Admin certification largely focuses on the daily areas of the cloud computing system. For instance, it’ll test your understanding of the security model, how to manage issues in the best possible way, how to create the workflow rules, and installing features like territory management and others. The Advanced Admin Certification also focuses on identical concepts. The only thing is that it’s a bit more complex.

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About the Developer Certification, especially DEV401, the examination will test your skills and knowledge on “declarative development”. This is how most Salesforce administrators build the configuration in the cloud configuring software. It’s not codes but clicks. For instance, how does one create a custom field and object? How do you resolve a business issue by using configuration? While you may not need to know codes for the examination, you must know when the code will be used, and when it’s a proper solution, in addition to or in place of declarative development.

Recommended courses

What we recommend

We suggest that all Salesforce administrators take the Developer, Administrator, and the Advanced Administrator test. Between all these three certifications, you will get a superb understanding of the functionality and features of the application, besides a thorough knowledge of the application’s database structure and how to build upon it.

You can begin with the ADM201 or DEV401 test. Either of the two is fine. Many prefer taking the ADM201 first, followed by ADM211 and then DEV401. But there is no sacrosanct rule. You can begin with the one which is most comfortable to you or what makes the most sense, depending upon your career goals.

Studying for the certification

Before beginning your preparation, just go through the certification page on the website of Salesforce. You’ll find all details about the certification program there. You’ll also get information on the official Salesforce training being offered at your area, and access the “certification verification” tool that allows others to check a party’s certification.

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The updated study material is available on the Salesforce certification website. The guide is mostly an outline of the examination that includes the topics to be covered and the weight allotted to each topic. Print the study guide and use it as a ready reference material. Determine the areas that you aren’t proficient enough and start to focus on these areas.

Once you get a fair idea of the examination, it’s time to begin your preparation.

Official training programs

Salesforce offers great training classes for all of its certifications. Please note that these classes won’t prepare you fully for the examination. Yes, the classes does cover a good amount of exam competencies, but the examinees still have to fill in the gaps. Most examinees have found the program to be extremely helpful. But they could be price prohibitive.

Several partner organizations, like Stoney Point and others, offer such classes at a fraction of a cost of Salesforce. They are all good alternatives if you are on a tight budget. But be very careful when you select a partner organization. Ensure that it has good track record. Ask former participants whether they found the content useful and it was worth to pay for.

There’s a free training program offered by some experienced Salesforce professionals. It’s more exhaustively covered in the community resources section to follow.

Going for self-study

The real go-getters are likely to be more inclined to prepare for the examinations at their own pace, using the cloud-based application’s exhaustive documentation. Help and training is a great way of focusing your attention on particular features and functionality of Salesforce. You can also check out what the Salesforce Developer website has to offer. This is where all the technical documentation and workbooks of the application are housed.

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But whatever method you choose, self-study will be a part of the learning process. But you must ensure that the information you’re using is accurate, by sticking to the official resources as far as possible.

Community documentation

There’s a seemingly unending amount of Salesforce certification study material available online. In fact, there’s an endless supply of information from sites like YouTube to Admin Hero. But here’s some healthy bit of caution. While there are some great community resources, there are others that aren’t so great. Remain wary of these.

Focus all your efforts on the Success Community and other dependable resources like Admin Hero. You may also join the Salesforce Certification Study Group community. The group is managed by members of the Certified Salesforce community, who volunteer their time for facilitating a virtual study group. There’s a formal program that lasts for about four months. It includes homework that you have to complete weekly in your Developer org. You can have a weekly meeting with the other members from the study group where the facilitator will talk to you about the homework, ask questions and so on.

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The study group does a great job to help other members in the community successfully complete their certification.

But if there’s one thing that you have to particularly wary of are the practice certification examinations. These tests are usually dated, don’t comprise real Salesforce questions, and may lead you to a situation where you can experience a false positive. You may pass the test, feeling confident about your knowledge, appear for the real thing and fail. This is because the practice test is nowhere near to what the actual test is.

How to pass the exam

While there are several paid training courses available on the Salesforce Admin exam, we believe that most aspirants can pass the exam by taking proper preparation. There are several Salesforce Administrators who offer consultancy on how to pass the exam.

Here are some useful tips that will be of help to you.

  • Review the study guide: Click on http://certification.salesforce.com/Administrators, and you will be able to download the free study guide. Go through the test outline and review all topics. If you’re not aware of the answers, you can get them at the Salesforce Learning Center.
  • Trailhead: This is a brand new website from Salesforce that has all types of training material. Visit https://developer.salesforce.com/en/trailhead.
  • Watch the video tutorials: Review all video tutorials on Salesforce.org. These videos are updated regularly and also provide a hugely helpful guide regarding the type of questions to be asked. We have often found that several of these questions have been directly taken from the tutorials. So, pay attention to these videos and take notes if required.

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Image source: pixabay.com

  • Target what matters: Keep in mind that the Salesforce Admin test is weighted and based on each of the sections. Use the 80-20 rule while choosing the topics for study. For instance, many Salesforce Administrators took 17% of the questions on customization, 13% on analytics, and another 13% on security and access. Allot more time and energy to the sections that will get you the highest return on investment.
  • Give time to yourself: Preparing for the Salesforce exam is something which you won’t like to do in a day or two. We recommend budgeting at least a month’s preparation to digest the concepts of each test section. Study for at least a couple of hours each day and slowly increase the time as the test comes closer.
  • Skip and review: The Salesforce exam comprises of 60 multiple select/choice questions that you have to answer in 90 minutes. Skip questions for which you have no ready answer, but review them after you have answered the remaining questions.

The number of questions could seem overwhelming at first. But a little preparation goes a long way to increase your odds of passing the test. Stay cool and calm as you get three attempts to pass the test. So don’t sweat if you fail in the first attempt.

  • Register for the exam: We always tell aspirants that they won’t pass the tests unless they register for it. Register now, even if it’s a session a couple of months away. Deadlines help things get going.

Desirable skills

Salesforce administrators use their knowledge of the cloud computing application for finding ways to drive user adoption and also generate a ROI on its implementation. Anyone can be a Salesforce Admin. But there are some desirable traits that must be considered before you want to become one.

  • Good communication skills for enabling you to work across all verticals in the company and help in user adoption.
  • Ability to build reports, workflow rules, and dashboards.
  • Ability in analyzing data and knowledge about security.
  • Open minded and innovative (there’ll always be tool for helping you increase your Salesforce ROI and also reduce the biggest challenges in using the application).

Wise words

We hope that the information has been of great help and cleared much of your doubts. Starting on the Salesforce Admin certification path could be both daunting and exciting at the same time.

Don’t get disheartened if you don’t pass the test the first time you appear. Many leading Salesforce Administrators had failed to clear the exam in their first attempt. But they didn’t quit in the middle. They came back better prepared and finally cracked it.

Also, please don’t feel that you have to rush to get your certification. Take about six months to a year’s time to learn before you even try to take an exam. The Salesforce certification will be meaningless if you lack knowledge of how to use the information on which you were tested. Try following a successful Salesforce Administrator. You can learn more by observing than you can do with mere self study.

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