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Salesforce Certified Administrator: Tips and Resources

The ‘administrator’ certification is a key milestone for anyone entering the Salesforce ecosystem. It is also important for anyone who is already working with Salesforce, but wants a deeper understanding. Employers recognise the certification and as a result it helps to open doors. 

You may wonder:

  • How hard is the exam?
  • How long will I need to study?
  • Do I need a degree, or a computer science background?
  • What are the costs?
  • Is the certification worth the effort?

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! I was the same in 2011 when I studied for this exam. They are common themes which have been raised when I’ve helped others work towards this certification too!

A colleague of mine, Mark Cadle, recently cleared the admin certification. In this post, we’ve teamed up to share our experiences and help you succeed with your admin certification. Let’s get started!

What does an admin do?

Admins play a key operational role in a Salesforce system (an org). This can cover a wide range of activities. For example: supporting users, problem solving, org setup, user management, security, customising, training, and creating reports & dashboards. You can read more here

By studying for the admin certification, you are learning skills which businesses need to get the best out of Salesforce. The key take-home is that earning the certification can help boost confidence and credibility.

About the exam

The admin certification seeks to test: 

… individuals who have experience with Salesforce and continuously look for ways to assist their companies in getting even more from additional features and capabilities… [it] covers the breadth of applications, the features and functions available to an end user, and the configuration and management options available to an administrator across the sales, service, and collaboration clouds

This certification covers the breadth of core Salesforce features. For example, Sales, Service and Collaboration clouds. Whilst this can seem daunting, don’t worry! It is not a memory test. Remember, the certification is providing a path to validate your understanding of Salesforce features and how to configure them. This is helpful, as you’ll draw on these skills in any admin role!

Having worked alongside an implementation partner building Salesforce, I wanted to get behind the scenes and see what I could create. The Exam was my first opportunity to see if I was worthy of the Salesforce world.

Exam format

As of the current release (Winter ‘23), the exam comprises 60 multi-choice questions, with an additional 5 non-scored questions. You will have 105 minutes to complete the exam. To pass, you need to score 65% (39 out of 60). The exam is closed-book (you cannot refer to any resources) and proctored.

Exam Structure

The exam has 7 sections, with varying weightings:

Winter '23: Salesforce Certified Administrator section weightings
Winter '23: Salesforce Certified Administrator section weightings

The three highest weighted sections are: Configuration and Setup (20%), Object Manager and Lightning App Builder (20%) and Workflow/Process Automation (16%). Together, they account for 56% of the questions. Sections relating to specific clouds are not ‘heavily’ weighted and not tested in depth. You will, however, need to be familiar with the core features, capabilities and use cases.

Check out the ‘online’ in the exam guide for additional information.

Prerequisites

There are no formal pre-requisites to take the admin certification. Salesforce recommends candidates have 6 or months’ experience as an admin to maximise the chance of success. This is not essential, but if you have no Salesforce background, give yourself more time to prepare.

Resources & Tips

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s share some tips and resources to help you get ready for your certification.

Resources for the Certified Admin exam

When I studied for the admin certification in 2011, only a handful of resources were available. In contrast, we’re spoilt for choice now! The resources you choose may well depend on your background and circumstances. For example:

I had been a Product Owner on a Salesforce org for about two years and worked with an implementation partner as they built our screens and functions. Having finished two big Salesforce projects, I was given the chance to get hands on experience and build myself, which really helped. I used Focus on Force too. I tried Trailhead but found it not as helpful. Six weeks later, I sat my admin exam.

Check out these resources (in no particular order):

  • Blogs (free/paid). Various blogs provide guidance/advice on the admin certification.
  • Focus on Force (FoF) (paid). Cost-effective study guides and practice exams. Instructor-led courses are also available.
  • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) (paid). There are various platforms out there, such as Udemy. Many of them have ‘admin’ content. This can be cost-effective.
  • Salesforce provides many resources! Here are some of the best ones:
  • Training Programmes (paid). Consider third-party training providers. For example, Supermums and Talent Stacker. Such programmes go beyond certifications and provide a community / ongoing support

Choosing your resources

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Each option varies in time required, cost, and scope. Consider the options and find what suits your needs best. For example, consider:

  • What’s your budget? If you are on a tight budget, you will prefer free or lower-cost resources such as FoF, MOOC, or perhaps the Salesforce Bootcamp etc
  • How much support do you need? If you want support through the certification and getting ‘work ready’, programmes such as Supermums and Talent Stacker could be ideal for you.
  • How fast do you want to learn? Self-study may take longer to complete, but is cheaper.
  • Your learning style/preferences. If you learn well from reading, Trailhead could be a good option. However, if you prefer interaction, discussion, or learn better through watching / listening, other options may be better. 

Remember, you can use multiple resources in your study. For example, certification days (if available) are always useful for revision. They can help you identify any areas you need to revise further.

For additional guidance on how to choose resources, click here.

Tips to help you prepare for and pass the exam

Hopefully, the above has given plenty of food for thought! Here are some tips to help you get ready for the exam. 

Pace yourself

Set yourself a realistic goal and hold yourself accountable. By doing so, you will maintain focus and keep pushing towards your certification, without burning yourself out. 

Don’t give up

The certification isn’t ‘easy’. Indeed, the admin certification has considerable breadth. Some topics may also take getting used to. That said, it is manageable and worth persevering with.

If you find a topic challenging, give yourself the time you need to learn it. Should you still be struggling, try additional resources or posting a message in the Trailblazer Community Feed. Most importantly, do not give up!

I found setup and configuration of a Salesforce system challenging. I didn’t need to know security settings in my role, but they are fundamental to the success of Salesforce.

Become a Salesforce associate

Salesforce Certified Associate

Salesforce released the entry-level associate certification in 2022. Whilst not a ‘professional’ certification or essential to become an admin, it provides background on what Salesforce does, terminology and key system areas. As such, it is a great foundation for anyone seeking to become a certified professional. The time, effort and costs are also less, making it a great place to start.

Click here to learn more about the associate certification. 

Get hands on

Being hands on will help with your preparation and learning. This is easier if you are already working with Salesforce, but if not, use every opportunity you have to try out concepts. For example, you can use ‘Trailhead playgrounds’ or creating your own Developer Edition Org. By doing so, you will consolidate your learning, which will help you both in the exam and in an actual system.

Yes, it is worth it. The knowledge that is gained from the learning and you feel like you are part of the Salesforce world. It gives you the confidence to go for more exams.

How do I register?

When you are ready, you can take the exam online or at a test centre. The exam currently costs USD $200, with retakes costing a further USD $100. See the exam guide for more information.

Summary

This post has looked at the Salesforce admin certification. Together, we have walked through the role of an admin, the exam’s format, structure, and pre-requisites, as well as resources and tips to help you prepare. Hopefully this has given you plenty of ideas to help you begin (or continue) with your Salesforce admin journey!

A big thank you to Mark Cadle for your contribution to this post!

If you found this blog post useful, be sure to follow SFDC Penguin on Twitter or LinkedIn for future updates.

Until next time, thanks again for reading! 🐧

Bonus Penguin Fact

When we think of Penguins, we tend to think of their black and white feathers. However, not all penguins in history have had this trademark tuxedo!

A giant prehistoric penguin, called Inkayacu Paracasensis is believed to have had reddish brown and grey feathers, as well as having scales!

Learn more about this giant penguin here

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