Salesforce Certifications: Choosing the Best Pathway for Earning Them

For many companies, Salesforce functions as a de facto nervous system, helping power sales, customer service, analytics, and more. For those technologists tasked with keeping a Salesforce setup running, it also requires a good deal of technical knowledge. Many of these technologists also have a number of Salesforce certifications created by the company. 

Right now, Salesforce-related jobs are in demand. According to Emsi Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, employers mentioned Salesforce skills in 732,376 job postings over the past 12 months; the need for Salesforce skills is expected to grow 4.1 percent over the next two years. Salesforce is also mentioned in conjunction with a variety of jobs, from software developers and engineers to business analysts and marketing specialists.

If you want a Salesforce-related job, can you simply rely on mastering the software, or will you need certifications? Will recruiters and hiring managers bother with your application if you don’t have Salesforce certifications? We spoke to some experts to find out.

What are the best Salesforce certifications?

“It all depends on the job you are seeking,” notes Daniel Peter, Salesforce Practice Lead at Robots and Pencils. “For example, a developer should have PDI (Platform Developer I) and PDII (Platform Developer II) certifications, and then can layer on JavaScript Developer I to help stand out a bit.  Admins will want to focus on certified Admin, Advanced Admin, and consider Service or Sales Cloud to help them stand out.”

There are a lot of Salesforce certifications, with more being added every year:

“It might be quite easy, and normal, to get overwhelmed with the options available,” says Nabila Salem, President at Revolvent Group. “Thinking about the role first and looking for which certifications will make you more employable and add more value to you as a candidate is an effective way of ensuring you’re not working towards certifications that might not be the best option for your professional goals.”

Matt McGuire, Salesforce Consultant at Robots and Pencils, reminds us Salesforce’s Trailhead platform is the go-to source for official Salesforce certifications—and should guide your certification path (pun intended). “Salesforce has different career paths and picking one of these paths often guide your certification path,” he says. “Administrator is a great foundational certification for all career paths and is often a prerequisite for other exams, so this would be an excellent place to start.  Then the career paths start to branch off - Developer (Platform Developer I & II), Consultant (Sales Cloud Consultant, Service Cloud Consultant), and so on.”

Which certifications do you need for a career using Salesforce?

At least one of our experts has a surprising answer to that question. “You don't need any,” Peter says. “If you have great experience and know your stuff and can convince a company to hire you, you can have a great career in Salesforce without ever being certified. However, if you plan on working for a Salesforce Partner rather than a customer, having certifications becomes more important, as Salesforce looks at the certifications of its partners.”

This is critical advice. As a company builds a closer relationship to Salesforce itself, certifications for employees become more important. At larger companies, certifications are also a good way to assure recruiters and hiring managers that you have the Salesforce skills necessary to run a sprawling, highly customized system.

“The Administrator certification is a must-have credential for a Salesforce career,” McGuire tells Dice. “If you really want to stand out, Advanced Administrator is much less commonly held, and shows a great breadth of platform expertise.  Regardless of which career path you choose in the Salesforce ecosystem, being a great administrator will make you even more effective at whichever role you choose.”

Which Salesforce certifications are in demand?

The quick and honest answer? It depends on your career path. When you venture beyond the entry-level certifications, McGuire says, “Field Service is Salesforce’s fastest growing product over the last few years, and there is also significant demand for CPQ right now, so either Field Service Consultant or CPQ Specialist would be wise choices.”

Peter adds: “In my opinion, the architect certifications are the most in demand, in this order: Certificated Technical Architect, System Architect, Application Architect, B2C Solution Architect, B2B Solution Architect. After those, I would say PDII and Advanced Admin as they are core skills with a lot of demand.”

What are the required skills to get a Salesforce certification?

“Even though it’s not easy, there are technically no prerequisites to sit for the Platform Developer I credential exam,” Salem reminds us. “However, it’s safe to say that some development experience will be advantageous.”

Curiosity, problem-solving, and a focus on results are all key for Salesforce developers,” Salem adds, “as you’ll be spending most of your day translating business requirements into solutions. Plus, these soft skills tend to set you apart in today’s job market too.”

Peter advises going at your own pace. There really are so many pathways through learning, experience, and certification.  Start with what you are good at or what you enjoy.  Grow those skills, and then take the leap to the next area when you are ready.”

How much does a Salesforce certification cost?

Salesforce has dozens of certifications available. Most are $200; some advanced certifications like the Salesforce architect certification cost $400. The Certified Technical Architect certification is $6,000 because it requires a review by a panel of judges.

You can get a few discounts, though. “Candidates who have failed an exam can re-take it for a 50 percent discount,” McGuire notes. “Often you can win free exam vouchers that range from $40 to $200 by attending Salesforce community events, by participating in free Certification Days webinars, and by winning Trailhead Quest contests. Exams also must be maintained once per year. The maintenance is free and can be done at your leisure on Trailhead, taking about 15 minutes.”