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Salesforce Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

Salesforce Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths
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Salesforce.com holds the gold medal when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) products. You'll find Salesforce products and services in use across a wide swath of industries, from automotive and healthcare, to nonprofits, retail, media/communications and finance.

Initially offered as sales automation software, Salesforce is now best-known for its Intelligent Customer Success Platform, which provides cloud solutions for sales, communities, service, analytics, marketing, platform, apps, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. [Read related: The Best CRM Software 2018]

Salesforce also offers several other cloud-based products. One is Heroku, a platform as a service (PaaS) solution. Another is Force.com, a more specialized PaaS built specifically to integrate custom apps with Salesforce's clouds. Salesforce also offers Data.com (a cloud-based business directory), Desk.com (a cloud-based help desk system for small businesses) and Pardot (for business to business marketing automation), among other solutions. These days, with GDPR going live in May 2018, businesses may find Salesforce’s Pardot offerings – which include auditing and configuration tools to aid compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – particularly compelling.

Unlike other programs, you won't find certification tiers or hierarchies, such as associate, professional or expert, within the Salesforce certification portfolio. Instead, Salesforce certifications focus on various job roles, or tracks, common among Salesforce professionals:

  • Administrators
  • App Builders
  • Developers
  • Architects
  • Specialists (implementation experts)
  • Marketers
  • Pardot Experts
  • Consultants

Salesforce presently offers 25 credentials, most of which target Consultants and Architects.

Most Salesforce certifications are achieved by passing a single 60-question, multiple-choice exam. Depending on the certification, you can expect its exam to last between 90 and 120 minutes. Exams for Administrators, App Builders, Developers, Marketers, Consultants, Pardot Experts and CPQ Specialists are highly affordable, with first attempts priced at $200 and retakes at $100. Many Architect certifications fall into the Architect Specialization category, and those exams cost $400 each (retakes $200). However, the pinnacle Architect certification – the Salesforce Certified Technical Architect – requires a special Review Board Exam, and costs $6,000 (retakes $3,000).

Training is not required for Salesforce certifications, but comes highly recommended. You'll also find there are few, if any, prerequisites involved for most Salesforce certifications. When present, prerequisites are simply other Salesforce certifications.

Candidates can take proctored exams at a testing location or take online exams from home or work. Either way, candidates must sign up for certification exams through Webassessor (through Kryterion Global Testing Solutions).

Salesforce revamped its approach to Architect certifications beginning in 2016 to more closely align them with current and emerging customer needs. Upon visiting the Salesforce Architect Certifications page, you'll find nine certifications (up from four in early 2016):

  • Salesforce Certified Technical Architect
  • Salesforce Certified Application Architect
  • Salesforce Certified System Architect
  • Salesforce Certified Data Architecture and Management Designer
  • Salesforce Certified Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer
  • Salesforce Certified Identity and Access Management Designer
  • Salesforce Certified Integration Architecture Designer
  • Salesforce Certified Mobile Solutions Architecture Designer
  • Salesforce Certified Sharing and Visibility Designer

Architect certifications form a pyramid, with Salesforce Architect Specialization certifications creating the foundation. These are the Designer credentials, as well as a few other closely aligned Salesforce certifications. Salesforce considers the Designer credentials to be the building blocks for a career as a Salesforce Architect and are designed to validate specific areas of expertise. Salesforce Domain Architect certifications  ̶  the Certified Application Architect and the Certified System Architect  ̶  recognize breadth of platform knowledge in multiple connected specializations. Domain Architect certifications are achieved when a candidate meets specific requirements  ̶  namely, a set of four specific Specialization credentials.

 

At the top of the pyramid is the Salesforce Certified Technical Architect, the crème de la crème of the Salesforce architect portfolio. This pinnacle credential recognizes professionals who implement and design custom customer solutions on the Force.com platform.

To obtain this designation, you must first earn both Domain Architect credentials. At that point, you're qualified to take the Salesforce Certified Technical Architect Certification Review Board Exam. During the exam, you will be provided with a hypothetical scenario, with detailed customer requirements, and be asked to present and justify your recommended architecture solution. Candidates must complete each task in order and may not move on to the next item until the prior task has been successfully completed.

For more information, see the Salesforce Architect Program FAQ.

Salesforce offers six certifications designed specifically for Salesforce professionals engaged in customer-facing roles and who design and implement solutions in their respective area of expertise. Available Salesforce Consultant certifications include:

  • Salesforce Certified Sales Cloud Consultant: A person with this certification designs and implements Sales Cloud solutions, including application and interface design, as well as manages and designs analytics for tracking purposes.
  • Salesforce Certified Service Cloud Consultant: This certification recognizes individuals who design solutions for contact centers, as well as analytic solutions for metric tracking.
  • Salesforce Certified Pardot Consultant: This certification aims at professionals who review business requirements, and then design, implement and maintain Pardot solutions.
  • Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant: This certification validates a person's ability to configure and implement Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email application tools, as well as troubleshoot platform issues.
  • Salesforce Certified Community Cloud Consultant: A person with this credential implements Salesforce Communities applications, as well as helps customers configure and manage communities and troubleshoot platform issues.
  • Salesforce Certified Field Service Lightning Consultant: This certification recognizes professionals who design Salesforce solutions for customers and who administer and configure Salesforce applications on customer premises.

Salesforce offers several certifications aimed at administrators and developers, as well as those who work with Pardot and CPQ:

  • Salesforce Administrator certifications: This category includes the Salesforce Certified Administrator and the Salesforce Certified Advanced Administrator. The Certified Administrator certification targets experienced Salesforce professionals responsible for building reports, managing dashboards, workflows, security, data and users, and maintenance of Salesforce applications. The Advanced Administrator certification is designed for Salesforce administrators with extensive experience and advanced knowledge of Salesforce applications and how to leverage features for optimal productivity. The Advanced Administrator takes the lower level Administrator credential as a prerequisite.
  • Salesforce App Builder certification: Salesforce offers a single certification for professionals who build apps — the Salesforce Certified Platform App Builder. This certification is specifically designed for professionals who work with the Force.com platform and build, design, deploy and customize Force.com apps.
  • Salesforce Developers certifications: Three certifications are available  ̶  Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I and II, and Salesforce Certified Commerce Cloud Digital Developer. The Developer I and II credentials target Salesforce professionals working with the Force.com platform. Validated skills include building and programming Force.com platform apps, leveraging Visualforce and Apex to develop custom apps, and the ability to design custom app data models, logic, interfaces and security. Developer II credential holders are also able to develop solutions for complex interfaces and implement best practices. A Commerce Cloud Digital Developer has full stack experience developing e-commerce solutions.
  • Salesforce Pardot Expert certifications: Pardot credentials include the Certified Pardot Specialist and the Certified Pardot Consultant (described previously in the Consulting certification section). The Pardot Specialist certification is geared toward professionals who manage marketing workflows (build, design, implement) on the Pardot platform.
  • Salesforce Certified Marketing certifications: Salesforces offers three Marketing credentials – the Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant (described more fully in the Consultant section), the Certified Marketing Cloud Social Specialist, and the Certified Cloud Email Specialist. The Certified Marketing Cloud Social Specialist targets professionals using Social Studio to create posts as well as analyze conversations and prepare related reports. The Certified Marketing Cloud Email Specialist targets professionals who use the Marketing Cloud Email application to create campaigns, design emails, use email automation and track email data.
  • Salesforce Certified CPQ Specialist certification: This certification recognizes professionals who implement Salesforce CPQ solutions, as well as design and build quoting flows to meet customer requirements and troubleshoot platform issues.

As the number one CRM company in the world, Salesforce professionals are in high demand. CRM professionals will not only find demand for Salesforce skills across all industry sectors but will also find a requirement for qualified and skilled Salesforce professionals in a variety of job roles.

How many Salesforce jobs are out there in the real world? The answer is “Plenty” A quick search on Glassdoor.com reveals more than 3,600 jobs for Salesforce professionals, including positions for administrators, engineers (hardware, software, platform, IoT, integration), developers, analytics, cloud professionals, technical support and more.

Job opportunities aren't limited to technical roles, either. Numerous Salesforce positions are also available for project managers and program directors. It's safe to say that Salesforce is here to stay and, regardless of your area of interest, you're sure to find opportunities in that niche.

If you're looking for Salesforce training, Salesforce University should be your first port of call. Here, you'll find a variety of learning options, including traditional classroom training, self-paced learning, virtual classrooms and private workshops.

Salesforce training courses are organized into two categories:

  • Classes by Cloud: sales, service, marketing, analytics, community and Salesforce1 platform
  • Classes by Role: administrators, end users, developers, marketers, developers, technical architects, service and sales management, and solution designers

Each certification's web page provides links to recommended training, an exam guide and sample questions. The exam guide also includes links to pertinent, documentation, tip sheets and user guides for those who want to attempt the certifications on their own without engaging in formal training. In addition, you can find study guides and online training courses through third parties by searching the internet.

Those interested in Salesforce Architect certifications should explore the Salesforce Architect Journey page and read the associated (and free) training guide before attempting a Specialization certification.

Additional reporting by Mary Kyle and Kim Lindros. 

Ed Tittel

Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written for numerous publications, including Tom's IT Pro, and is the author of more than 140 computing books on information security, web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.