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Best Practices

Preparing for Salesforce Admin Certification: For Nonprofits

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.

Salesforce CertificationIn 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 Success Pack (NPSP), Volunteers for Salesforce 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.”

Once 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. Sign up for a free Developer ORG from You can try anything out in your Developer Org as you are studying and keep your Production Org pristine. It will also allow you to work through the hands-on challenges in Trailhead (see below).

  2. Download the Salesforce Admin Certification Test Study Guide.

Training / Studying

  • Trailhead is a free learning tool from Trails are guided learning paths through modules and projects that help you cover the most ground in the shortest amount of time. Consider them your personal game plan for exploring new skills.
  • offers Instructor-Led Courses from Salesforce University at a 50% discount. For Admin certification, you would want to take Administration Essentials for New Admins (ADM-201). Even with the discount, the cost of these classes typically start at $2,000.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Certified on Demand: A paid, 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: A paid service that includes 5 practices exams.

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 customer, you are eligible for a discount on Salesforce training and certification. Read more at: Salesforce Training Options for Foundation Customers.