Certifications / Career

Associate vs. Administrator: Which Salesforce Certification Should I Take?

By Christine Marshall

With the growing demand for skilled professionals in the Salesforce ecosystem, obtaining relevant certifications has become essential for individuals seeking to advance their careers.

Two popular certification paths within Salesforce are the Salesforce Associate and Salesforce Administrator certifications. However, deciding between them can be a challenging task – especially for those new to the Salesforce platform.

In this article, we will explore the key differences and advantages of each certification to help you make an informed decision based on your career aspirations, skillset, and personal preferences.

Salesforce Associate Certification

The Salesforce Certified Associate is a relatively new entry-level certification, aimed at Trailblazers with 0-6 months of Salesforce experience. This certification removes the emphasis on hands-on practical expertise, and instead validates and empowers those with foundational Salesforce knowledge.

This knowledge includes understanding what a Customer Relationship Management platform is for, what business needs it solves, and how the Salesforce product suite can be used to transform and automate business teams and processes.

The Salesforce Certified Associate is designed to prepare Trailblazers for a career in Salesforce by validating foundational Salesforce knowledge, including what Salesforce is, what Salesforce does, and how the platform solves business needs.

Having taken the exam myself, I would not say that this is an ‘easy’ exam – there were plenty of tricky questions, including several that were more technical than I expected. This exam is a good way to become certified fairly quickly but does not prepare you to be a Salesforce Administrator.

As it is still a relatively new certification, I do not believe there is enough awareness around this certification at present, and it may not be recognized by recruiters or hiring managers.

The exam is split into four topics:

Key information:

  • The exam consists of 40 multiple-choice/multiple-select questions.
  • You will have 70 minutes to complete the exam.
  • The passing score is 62%.
  • The exam costs $75 to take and retakes are free.
  • The exam can be taken online or at a testing center.
  • There are no prerequisites to take this exam.

I would recommend this certification to anyone assessing if a career in the Salesforce ecosystem is for them, or anyone already committed to pursuing a Salesforce career, but perhaps at the very beginning of this journey. It would also be very suitable for those with end-user or super-user experience, looking to make the move towards becoming a Salesforce Administrator.

If you already have hands-on administration experience, you may want to proceed straight to the Administrator certification.

READ MORE: Salesforce Associate Practice Exams

Salesforce Administrator Certification

The Salesforce Administrator certification is considered the baseline credential for any admin. Passing this exam will showcase your knowledge of Salesforce features and best practice configuration. Once achieved, it will provide employers with the confidence that you understand how to administer, maintain, and extend the Salesforce platform using custom functionality.

This certification is often considered the bare minimum and is well recognized amongst recruiters and hiring managers. It validates your expertise in managing user accounts and profiles, maintaining data quality, configuring automation, creating reports and dashboards, and ensuring the overall health of the Salesforce org.

The exam is split into seven topics:

Key Information:

  • The exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions.
  • You will have 105 minutes to complete the exam.
  • The passing score is 65%.
  • The exam costs $200 to take and retakes are $100.
  • The exam can be taken online or at a testing center.
  • There are no prerequisites to take this exam.
  • This exam is a prerequisite to many other exams.

I would recommend this certification to anyone looking to get into the world of Salesforce that already has a solid understanding of the Salesforce product suite and ecosystem. It’s also perfect for those ‘accidental admins’ to validate their expertise, or anyone already working as an existing Salesforce Admin without being certified.

Practice exams:

Comparing the Certifications

When deciding between the Salesforce Associate and Salesforce Administrator certifications, it is essential to consider your career goals and existing experience.

The Associate certification focuses on validating foundational Salesforce knowledge of products and services, the Salesforce ecosystem, and theoretical understanding of administrative tasks – such as where to find your company information or how to create a report.

It can be hard to assess whether or not a Salesforce career is for you. There is a plethora of information available that can be overwhelming to those new to Salesforce. That’s why the Associate certification provides a great way to follow a clear, guided path to help you decide if a career in the Salesforce ecosystem is something you want to pursue.

In comparison, the Salesforce Administrator certification is more in-depth – with a far greater breadth of topics and features, and the requirement to be able to configure requirements according to best practice. It empowers you with the knowledge and skills necessary to configure the platform, maintain data integrity, and support end-users effectively.

The Salesforce Administrator exam is notoriously tricky and can take a long time to study for. The Salesforce Associate can bridge the gap between complete beginner and certified professional – helping you gain knowledge and skills that will be applicable to the Admin exam, as well as your Salesforce career in general.

Global Skills Shortage

The global skills shortage and an increasing number of vacant Salesforce roles demand that we find more resources, and there are only so many highly experienced professionals to go around!

The Salesforce Associate may not facilitate you to go ‘under the hood’ of Salesforce, but it will educate and empower you to advise and enlighten a business. Once a business and its end users better understand the art of the possible, they may be inspired to invest in the individual to become a certified Salesforce Professional!


Choosing between the Salesforce Associate and Salesforce Administrator certifications depends on your own goals and where you are in your Salesforce career. Ultimately, both certifications have their unique advantages and can complement each other in your professional journey.

It is worth considering your long-term goals and the skills you wish to develop before making a decision. Whichever path you choose, obtaining a Salesforce certification will undoubtedly enhance your career prospects and enable you to contribute effectively to organizations leveraging the Salesforce platform.

Overall, if I had to choose one, I would choose to do the administrator certification. If you are ready to take the admin exam then you should be able to pass the associate with relative ease. Therefore, if you have the time and financial ability – I’d say it’s worth taking both.

In reality, certifications don’t guarantee that someone is ready to perform a Salesforce role; however, the practices you learn by completing certifications are invaluable. It’s also worth pointing out that competition can be quite fierce for Salesforce jobs, and having several certifications can help you stand out. So, good luck!

The Author

Christine Marshall

Christine is the Courses Director at Salesforce Ben. She is an 11x certified Salesforce MVP and leads the Bristol Admin User Group.

Leave a Reply