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Preparing for Salesforce Admin Certification

By April 2, 2015

colleen_mcarthyby Colleen McCarthy, Director of Marketing at Exponent Partners.

Salesforce offers several certifications to codify and prove your skills in administering Salesforce. This can be a great opportunity to learn more about Salesforce and/or bolster your career options by demonstrating your Salesforce knowledge to potential employers. In fact, the demand for Salesforce professionals in all sectors is growing faster than the supply. The most common certification is the entry-level Administrator Certification. It is the broadest, and many think the hardest certification, because of the vast amount of content you are expected to know.

For nonprofit users, the Salesforce Administrator Certification exam can also be a challenge because it is not nonprofit-oriented. It doesn’t include any questions about the Nonprofit Starter Pack, NGOConnect or other common nonprofit configurations or use cases. It is based on traditional, for-profit, mostly business-to-business (B2B) usage of Salesforce including some objects and features that many nonprofits will never use.

Nevertheless, many nonprofit administrators still opt for this certification because it gives you strong foundational knowledge of how Salesforce works and give you an extensive understanding of Salesforce “under the hood.” Other available certifications include:

  • Advanced Administrator
  • Sales Cloud Consultant
  • Service Cloud Consultant
  • Developer
  • Advanced Developer, and
  • Technical Architect

Salesforce CertificationOnce you’ve decided that you want to get certified, it’s important to dedicate time to studying for the exam. While you only need to get 65% right on this 60 question test, it’s a difficult exam covering all aspects of Salesforce – including the most obscure. A sample of certified administrators indicated that more than two-thirds spent over 25 hours studying for the exam in order to pass. Luckily there are lots of resources out there that can help, and you’ll likely need to use more than one! Here’s a list of those resources:

Getting Started

Before starting to study, you should access these two free Salesforce resources:

  1. First, sign for a free Developer org from Salesforce. You can try anything out in your developer org as you are studying and keep your Production Org pristine.
  2. Then download the Salesforce Admin Certification Test Study Guide.

Training / Study Resources

In-Person Training


  • Instructor-Led Courses: Offered By Salesforce and discounted by The first class to take would be Administration Essentials for New Admins (ADM-201). These classes start at about $2000 with the nonprofit discount.

Online Live Events


  • Instructor-Led Courses are also available as web classes


  • Girlforce Study Groups: Girlforce is a community-led group seeking to empower women in the nonprofit Salesforce community. They offer free study groups lead by nonprofit Salesforce experts once a quarter, open to anyone seeking their certification. Preference is given to nonprofit women, but all are welcome! Study groups are peer-led and facilitated by someone holding the requisite certification. Online web conferences are hosted once a week for the Admin Certification. You can learn more about Girlforce through their Power of US Hub group, or by joining Girlforce Study Groups in the hub.

Online Resources


  • Certified on Demand: An online subscription-based study guide designed specifically for the Admin Certification. It leverages proprietary content and also content freely available on the web and covers all topics that could be included on the exam. Some content is available without a subscription.
  • Certification Practice Exams: It includes 5 practices exams.


  • Help and Training in your Salesforce instance: Just click on the “Help and Training” link in the top right hand corner of your instance to get access to online video modules about many aspects of Salesforce. Note that some are only available to customers who have paid for a Premier Success Plan.
  • Trailhead: Currently in beta, Trailhead is another free learning tool from Salesforce which walks you through specific topics. These modules tend to lean a bit more towards the advanced topics so all are not appropriate for the Admin Cert.
  • Flashcards, Quizzes, and Practice Exams: There are numerous practice exams, virtual flashcards sets, and quizzes floating around the internet. These are valuable resources, but are sometimes not validated. Some questions may have incorrect or out-of-date answers. There is a community curated list of many of these resources, and you can search on Quizlet, Flashcards+ from Chegg (mobile app), Bulkified, Cram and ProProfs.

Offline Resources


Maintaining Your Certification

Once you’ve passed for Admin Certification, Salesforce requires you to keep up your certification by taking three online, release-specific exams within a 12-month period. Expect to dedicate some time to maintaining your certification, but the follow-up quizzes are open book, shorter, and much simpler that the initial certification exam.

As a Foundation customer, you are eligible for a discount on Salesforce training and certification