Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin

Are you Salesforce Certified? Do you want to be? Either way this is the master guide for you.

This guide will:  

  • Explain the Salesforce Certification System

  • Walk you through the process to get your first certificate in 6 weeks

  • Share essential AppExchange apps to increase Salesforce’s usefulness and adoption

  • Give best practices for managing your Salesforce data

  • Go over how to maintain your Salesforce Admin

We wanted to cover a lot things in this one guide, so if you're looking for one thing in particular, you can use the table of content to jump around

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Table of Contents

Navigating the Salesforce Certification System

Beginner’s Guide to Being a Salesforce Admin in 6 Weeks

Essential AppExchange Apps

Salesforce Admin Best Practices

What You Need to Know About Maintaining Your Salesforce Admin Certificate

Navigating the Salesforce Certification System

Salesforce certificates fall under three main categories: Admin, Developer, and Marketer.

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin

Those three categories break down into five different tracks.

Admin Track: If you’re already working towards the first Admin test, then you’re almost halfway to having all the admin certificates. Admins work on managing Salesforce and tend to be front-facing. You optimize Salesforce for your users and company, and interact with your company to know things can be improved. You’re going to be building reports, dashboards, and workflows.

App Builder and Developer Tracks: Despite it’s name, the app builder track builds off of the point-and-click capabilities of the platform instead of code to design and create custom applications. As you become more advanced you will work with Apex and Visualforce to increase your company’s customization when going down the developer track.

Marketing Tracks: There are actually two directions for marketing: Marketing Cloud specialization and Pardot specialization. You’ll master email and social marketing methods and best practices for marketing workflows.

Implementation Tracks: Want to be able to help customer implement and set up their own Sales Cloud or Service Cloud as well as scaling them as needed? Then these certifications are what you’ll want to have.

Technical Architect Track: This is the hardest track to accomplish. You’ll be working with multiple platforms and integrations. Few people achieve this level of Salesforce capability.

Now you know the different directions you can specialize in.

But what does it take to pass the Salesforce Admin test? We’ll walk you through how to go from zero to Salesforce hero in 6 weeks.

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin

Beginner’s Guide to Being a Salesforce Admin in 6 Weeks

Jumping into a Salesforce certification plan can be daunting, because of the mass amount of information available, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Having the first Salesforce Admin (201) certificate is one of the best starting points for Salesforce. If your job involves the CRM in some way, then studying and taking the exam will give you a deeper understanding, and help you in your day-to-day interaction with the system.

People who are Salesforce certified are also more likely to find jobs they like, and be paid a higher salary. Potentially as much as 20k a more annually after passing the exam. However, you shouldn’t do it just for the money. With the amount of investment needed for the certificate, you’ll want to have at least some interest in learning Salesforce, or else you’ll hate and suffer through the whole experience.

That said, a lot Salesforce admins say they fall in love with the system and are highly satisfied with their jobs. But where do you start? (If you’re already a frequent Salesforce user and familiar with the system, keep week 1 and skim week 2.)

Note: This process requires daily work and studying, but it’s proven to work. Several of our employees have followed this method while studying for their admin certificates. They all passed.

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin

Week 1:

Assuming you have zero background in Salesforce, or even CRMs in general, spend this first week understanding why Salesforce is a useful piece of software as well as what it provides its customers.

Watch videos, read blogs, and if possible talk with others already working in the space. If you are already working in Salesforce or have experience with comparable CRM’s feel free to jump into week 2.

Relevant Links and Videos:

Self Check:

What services does Salesforce provide?

What position/knowledge level do you want to obtain inside of the Salesforce space?

Week 2:

Use most or all study time to watch videos that go through basic Salesforce functionality and how an admin role will interact. Many of these have exercises that you can follow along with at a later time in your own Salesforce dev org, but it’s recommended to watch the first time through without this distraction. You can revisit in later weeks when you have set up trailhead and are getting your hands dirty.

Take in as much as you can, and listen for not only what the instructor is doing, but why they are doing it. Often times there is more than one solution to a problem, but only one will be the best practice. Knowing these distinctions are what makes an ideal Salesforce admin.

Relevant Videos:

Self Check:

Give 3 examples of problems businesses can solve with Salesforce.

Practice Test Time!

Are you ready to take the actual test yet? No. So why take a practice test? Why should you take the exam when you don’t know anything? Because the experience will give the correct expectations for the real exam. You need to have a  score over 65% in order to pass. Practice tests will tell you how you did, but Salesforce itself only tells you if you passed or failed.

It’s one thing to know that the test is 90 minutes and 60 multiple choice questions. It’s another thing to realize those questions have D. Some of the Above and E. None of the Above as answers. You can’t count on narrowing questions down and guessing. You need to know your stuff. The questions are designed to be difficult, and sometimes take a few moments of careful thinking to realize exactly what it’s really asking.

Taking the practice exam will also give you an idea of how much you’ll need to study if you have previous Salesforce or similar experience. You might be certified for other software, but that likely won’t help much, since Salesforce is a product unto itself.

Here’s here of the best practice tests to take:

Week 3-4

Jump in!  Salesforce has their training Trailhead course that’s free to go through. Everyone lists it as the best way way to learn the majority of what you need to know. It’s well-done, adds an element of gamification, and is great no matter what your background.

Make a trailhead account and start running through the modules. It walks you through spinning up your own dev org and then providing problems to be worked through. You are able to connect your accounts so that each problem can be checked and if any errors occur will point you in the right direction.

This is your first chance to put what you have been learning into a tangible environment. Trailhead will give you the most realistic experience of working in Salesforce and lets you start to memorize where settings and pages are located. This same dev org can be used to follow along with videos in the previous weeks if you want to try more real world problem solving.

Relevant Links:


Self Check:

What is the difference between a master-detail relationship and a lookup relationship?

Who sees what? How do page layouts, roles, and profiles control data security?

Week 5-6

Remember that practice exam? It’s time to hit the tests and quizzes. After knowing how to move around and problem solve in an admin environment it’s time to prepare for the certification exam. There are countless sets of flashcards and practice exams that will help you study for the certification format.

Download the current study guide hosted by Salesforce to see topics and weighting on the test. Look at each topic and the relevant knowledge articles, and if you are consistently missing questions from the same topic you can re-study.

Salesforce offers expensive courses, but you’re already more than capable of passing the exam!

Once you are comfortable with all practice questions it's time to prove your knowledge and take the exam.

If you fail the first time, don’t panic. It happens. Brush up on the areas you were weak in, and try again. You’ll get it!

Relevant Links:

Self Check:

Are you scoring 90%+ on each exam?

Do you know Salesforce limits? (workflow rule limits, data and app limits, etc)

Took the exam? Got the certificate? Congratulations! You’ve conquered a huge challenge on your way to mastering Salesforce!

What are Essential AppExchange Apps for Your Org?

You’ve got the certificate and Salesforce is fantastic. But it doesn’t do everything. In fact, for your average user, it’s only a place to log and reference information. It’s primarily a tool for managers. Salesforce knows this. That’s why the AppExchange exists, so other companies have the chance to power up your Salesforce org, and expand its usefulness, so everyone in your org benefits from it.

However, the huge number of apps on the platform (and growing everyday!) can make it difficult to know what you truly need. We wanted to share the ones that stand a cut-above the rest, but aren’t quite as famous as say Conga or DocuSign (seriously, use digital documents and signing).

With these apps you’ll be able to optimize your sales performance, integrate Salesforce with your inbox, send automated text campaigns, map your Salesforce data, and improve your project management.

You’ll be gaining customers faster and retaining them longer. Not to mention everyone at your org will think Salesforce is more useful than they initially thought. That’ll increase usage and adoption of Salesforce as an overall platform. Perfect for an admin.

*Note: All of these apps can work in your inbox with the use of Cirrus Insight’s Inbox Apps feature, so you’ll be able to make sure they are accessible and helpful for everyone*

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin


Salesforce is great for keeping track of your customers, but LevelEleven is how you track and motivate your sales team. LevelEleven helps you realize what events are best for your business and helps your sales team pursue the most beneficial goals.

The trick is using and tracking analytics to keep everyone motivated and moving forward. You work better when someone’s keeping score.

Sales reps gain personalized analytics, historical trends, and peer comparisons to motivate your team with a healthy amount of competition. Salesforce gives you ton of data, but LevelEleven is how you use that data to drive your business forward.

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin

Cirrus Insight

The value of your Salesforce org depends on data going into it. You need your salespeople to constantly be feeding Salesforce for it to grow. But sometimes they’re not the best at adopting the new software. Or maybe they simply wish it didn’t slow them down from selling as much with data entry.

That’s where Cirrus Insight comes in. It places Salesforce in the inbox (the place where your reps already live), so your team can add and edit information without disrupting their workflow with needing to use a whole second system.

You’ll be able to sync your email and calendar with Salesforce while also enjoying a host of productivity features such as being able to book meetings with a single email and tracking your sent emails and links. Your team won’t realize how much they needed Cirrus until they trial it.

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin

SMS Magic

Does your business text? It’s one of the easiest ways to communicate with your clientele. Also one of the best ways to get responses, or make sure you make in front of their eyes (so many unopened emails).

How about texting through Salesforce? SMS Magic lets you automate SMS and send text campaigns with workflows and schedules all through Salesforce and using Salesforce Workflow rules. It’s the essential way to have your business text. Your marketing team can schedule bulk messages to go out exactly when they want, or set up a message campaign to more than 50,000 records.

Anyone who replies will automatically be logged in your org, so the conversation goes both ways. If your business does or could benefit from the ability to text, this is the app you need to do it.

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin


Salesforce provides all the data you need on the locations of your clients. But it doesn’t map it, analyze it, or help you optimize your traveling. It tells you the who, but not the where.

That’s where Geopointe comes in. You’ll be able to map everything, so you can better manage your territory, understand demographics, and plan your deliveries or travel.

A quick search and you’ll see everyone you service within a hundred miles of San Francisco. A couple clicks will give you the best route for all meetings in Chicago that day. Another few clicks and you’ll see how your customer demographics compare with US Census data, so you can see where your excelling and where focusing your efforts might be most productive.

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin


You made the sale. What comes next? You need to get your customer up to speed. Retention is huge issue for companies. You can sell all you want, but if people keep churning or are unable with their services, you won’t last long.

TaskRay makes sure your customers are always managed correctly. Your post-sales process is simplified and automated, so each project is dependably successful. TaskRay lets you easily see, collaborate on, and assign projects and tasks. It also integrates with Chatter to help keep everyone in the loop.

Reliable work processes are the key to keeping your Salesforce customers happy, and TaskRay is the easiest way to make sure you’re always on top of your work.

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin

Best Practices for Managing Your Salesforce Data

Being an admin isn’t easy. We’re going to share and review a few of the best pieces of advice based on our experience and Salesforce’s recommendations. (We’d like to note that Cirrus Insight can help with several of these best practices.)

1. Avoid the Worst Case Scenario of Nothing Flowing into Salesforce

Salesforce depends on data being entered. Ideally, your users and reps will take the time to add relevant emails and information directly into Salesforce. However, the difficulty of using a whole new system for data entry can be a barrier for information being sent into your org.

And not having anything in Salesforce makes it useless.

If adding an app will help your team adopt Salesforce, it’s worth it (we’ve found that adding Salesforce to the inbox heavily increases SF adoption). You can also use an email and a calendar sync to make sure that everything goes into Salesforce without your users needing to do anything. They simply work as normal and Salesforce fills with data (Cirrus Insight also offers Email and Calendar Sync as part of the app).

2. Take Advantage of Mobile Apps

Your need for Salesforce mobile apps varies based on the style of your org. But most orgs will have at least a few people who are likely to be traveling or frequently away from their computer while still needing to interact with Salesforce.

Having Salesforce always be accessible is a huge convenience for anyone in your company that wants to make sure important work can always get done easily. We expect to access everything while on the go. Salesforce isn’t any different. Salesforce has their own apps such as Salesforce1 and third parties such as Cirrus are able to bring Salesforce (along with other perks such as email tracking) on the go.

Remember, the easier it is for data to go into Salesforce, the more likely data is to flow into it.

3. Combine as Many Data Flows as Possible

Data can often end up being silo’d if your org uses a variety of different systems for collecting data. If your sales team is on Salesforce, but marketing uses a completely different database and program, you’re not going to have an accurate view of the sales process. The same goes for reps that might keep data and deals in their email instead of adding them to Salesforce.

Depending on how many various apps and services your company uses, you may be lacking information that should be in Salesforce. Luckily, most services have an integration or method for channeling data into Salesforce.

Master Guide to Becoming a Certified Salesforce Admin

What You Need to Know About Maintaining Your Salesforce Admin Certificate

Now seems like the perfect time to discuss the process to maintain a certification.

Wait, exam maintenance? Don’t you only need to pass the exam once to be certified? Well, yes. You only need one exam to gain your certificate. But Salesforce needs to make sure you’re keeping up with new releases. That’s where Salesforce Exam Maintenance comes in.

Salesforce created these certification programs to give a measurable scale of Salesforce knowledge to helps employees market usefull skills they have learned and provides employers a way to confirm a possible new hires background with the platform.

This seems straightforward, but Salesforce is adding new features multiple times a year, meaning those that have taken the test even just a few years ago will have been certified on features that have either been replaced or upgraded past recognition.


How Salesforce Certificate Maintenance Works

Enter certification maintenance. Depending on the certifications that you hold, you will be required to take a number of non-proctored online exams per year. These shorter exams focus on the changes that have been made for each release to ensure that anyone with a Salesforce certification has been tested on the most recent features. Salesforce also provides training and information needed to easily pass the short exams.

However, if one was to miss a deadline for these online exams the certification would lapse and they would need to start over in obtaining the certification with the full proctored exam. No one wants to go through that process again unnecessarily.

To stay up to date on your certifications, you will use the same webassessor account to schedule the maintenance exam. There is also an annual maintenance fee for your admin certificate of $100 (it’s another $100 if you also have a dev certificate).

When you take the exam, you can start it at any time of the day and are not required to work under a time limit. The tests are only a few questions and seem easy, but as a certification holder it is your responsibility to make sure you fully understand the topics that are being tested.

Remember, completing the exams provides you nothing if you don’t understand why the answers are correct. You worked hard to get certified, and maintaining knowledge of the platform is always easier than starting fresh down the road.

Make sure you keep up with the schedule for exams and don’t let deadlines pass you by.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through everything we have to share with you. Go forth and be the best admin around.