Salesforce has one of the best self learning products in the industry with Trailhead. It’s so good you should browse Microsoft’s learning website and see if you notice any similarities. It’s created a point of entry for anyone with some determination to start setting up an org and run with it.
This post is going to go over my personal certification sequence recommendation for a newcomer to the Salesforce industry. If I was in the financial services industry, I would specify this is not financial advice, and don’t buy stocks based on what I say! This is my personal opinion from almost a decade in the Salesforce economy.
Step 0: Salesforce Certified Associate (optional)
Launched in September 2022, this certification now precedes Certified Administrator as the entry point into this ecosystem. I truly only recommend this if you’re either completely green to Salesforce or within your first year of working in an environment with it. Certification is not everything, but it can serve as tangible milestones to display you’re making progress.
It covers truly the basics: Salesforce Ecosystem, Navigation, Data Model, Reports & Dashboards. This is the easiest material you’re going to cover in a certification, but I like extending the accessibility to those who really put in the effort to start their Trailhead journey.
Personally, next time I hire a junior candidate where my expectation is 0-2 years of experience I’ll require seeing this one on the resume because I believe beyond the content of the exam itself, passing this one is a signal you’re committed to learning.
Step 1: Administrator & Platform App Builder
These two certifications are the foundation of any Salesforce professional no matter what your role is. Understanding how the platform works and more importantly “wants to work” is critical for developing scalable solutions. I wish even developers would spend more time with the fundamentals because it’s all too common to start working in Salesforce coming from other object oriented languages with an expectation it works the same.
It’s not necessary to spend a ton of time explaining this one, as Certified Administrator is the gold standard. It covers the platform essentials, entry level Sales and Service processes, some data management and process automation. This certification is not the key to a job, but it will get you past some resume screeners and serve as the launchpad for further learning.
If I’m hiring a Salesforce admin, I’m going to eyeball whether or not this certification is on the resume. The reason is the highest weighted section is automation. Most day to day Salesforce work is going to revolve around “business logic and process automation”. These days, if you cannot manage Flows you’re not qualified for a Salesforce admin job. Hot take maybe, but it’s reality. Even developers these days aren’t solely creating code, because Salesforce’s “clicks not code” functionality continues to improve.
Pro Tip: Take Platform App Builder as soon as you can after Administrator, because the content overlap is significant. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not pairing these tests together! Who doesn’t like a good two for one?
Step 2: Sales & Service Cloud Consultant
There’s a little bit of “Choose your path” at this stage of your development. If you don’t have a job yet in the Salesforce ecosystem, your roadmap should hit both of these. Even without on the job experience, the content on Trailhead combined with the playgrounds is more than sufficient to get end to end cloud exposure for both Sales and Service.
The reason you want both is these two clouds represent the supermajority of how real companies use Salesforce. Yes, there is a massive suite of products now from Mulesoft to Tableau to Slack etc. but the meat and potatoes of the business is here. Companies that want to hire Salesforce professionals are almost certainly using these clouds.
Pro Tip: Service Cloud is actually the largest cloud now!
There’s going to be companies that only have one of these clouds, but in the 21st century no one is employed at the same company for their entire life and no company sticks with a software solution forever.
You need to be comfortable navigating the features of these two clouds. These clouds have enough depth to last a career, and no one expects you to know everything, so you’re going to want to be familiar with the capability so you’re comfortable navigating the problems (or opportunities!) thrown your way.
Step 3: Business Analyst
Another relatively recent certification, Certified Business Analyst, launched in July 2022 that focused on the less technical aspects of the Salesforce platform and more on how teams come together to make things happen.
The exam outline consists of the following: Customer Discovery, Collaboration with Stakeholders, Requirements, User Stories, User Acceptance. Those who have been in the industry for a while might find these concepts somewhat simple. In fact, when this certification was launched LinkedIn was flooded with same day passes. It was so egregious you’ll notice the passing score for this one is 72%, higher than its peers, which Salesforce raised out of the upper 60s almost immediately.
For industry newcomers however, this certification is going to familiarize you with how to work within the context of an organization with typical roles of admin, developers, team managers, product managers, etc. This is “low key invaluable”. If you’ve never worked in this setting before or have no prior education, learning about stakeholder management and general order of operations is going to accelerate both onboarding into a new job and raise your overall confidence level.
Step 4: Advanced Administrator
This certification is actually more niche than you’d think. In the old days, Advanced Admin was that top shelf milestone that left few other certifications to clear afterward. This was before all the tracks we have today with Architect, Developer, Marketer, etc.
The reason I still like this one is because it’s truly that “level 2 Administrator” certification and it forces you to get familiar with some of the more powerful features of the Salesforce platform. By the time you’ve passed all previous certifications in this list, you’re going to be ready to tackle the content in this one. It’d be ideal to have some on the job experience by this point, but if not it shouldn’t deter you.
Do person accounts come up often in the real Salesforce economy? Not really, but you should know about them! Security and Access, Object and Applications, and (even more) Process Automation are all essentially equal weighted in this exam, and it’s going to just take the more entry level concepts you passed in Administrator to the next level.
What do you do after this group of certifications? It’s going to depend on multiple factors. If your company uses Marketing Cloud for example, and you have the opportunity to get exposure there, you should be taking steps to getting Marketing Cloud Administrator. Nothing propels career growth faster than being able to combine practical experience with certification.
Pro Tip: Certification ≠ Job, but Certification + Experience = 📈
Beyond that, it’s really what interests you most and what you want out of your Salesforce career. With the exception of Business Analyst, all of these certifications are required if you were going to work in support at Salesforce itself, so this really establishes the foundation upon which you can build an even more specialized career.