| 4 min read

In the Battle of Certifications vs. Experience, Which Wins Out?

It's a topic fiercely debated in the world of Salesforce; certifications vs. experience. Indeed, with 25 credentials currently offered by Salesforce, the rise of certifications in the ecosystem has caused quite a stir amongst professionals and clients alike.

But, what do certifications mean in the Salesforce ecosystem? It’s a topic that dominates conversation, whether certifications are now the cornerstone of the Salesforce ecosystem, and just how important they are to professionals.

Importance of certifications

As specialist Salesforce recruiters, it is clear that the Salesforce ecosystem is now more competitive than ever before, so it’s no wonder that we often speak to candidates about how many certifications they have, and how they’re looking to advance this number.

But, from a personal perspective, what are the benefits of getting certified today?

Knowledge

It’s pretty simple, but if you take the time out to gain a Salesforce certification – or five – you’re expanding your knowledge base about the platform. Clearly, there is a lot you can know about Salesforce, and choosing to certify provides you with a guaranteed route to gaining some of this knowledge. 

Remain up-to-date

Along a similar vein, getting certified will help you stay current in a world that is constantly changing. If Salesforce is known for one thing, it’s the speed at which it adapts and updates and – although this makes it an exciting ecosystem to work in – this also means that you can find your knowledge out of date pretty quickly. 

Hands-on experience

Salesforce certifications are designed to provide you with hands-on experience; their material includes industry-relevant live projects, case studies, and scenarios intended to echo potential real-life situations. Even if you have extensive experience as a Salesforce professional, the likelihood is that you won’t encounter every situation out there. Choosing to certify therefore provides you with extra ‘experience’ that you can bring to your business, or a potential employer, to show that you are well versed in navigating the Salesforce landscape.

Planning

A by-product of gaining a Salesforce certification, although not the most obvious outcome of certification, is advancing your ability to strategically plan your time and resources. With a deeper understanding of the platform, you will become proficient in navigating through the application and handling customer and business requests with rapid efficiency.

Optimise

Even after deciding to implement Salesforce, many companies face problems of not knowing how to optimise the platform – meaning they are not using it to its full potential and are often missing a large part of the platform’s functionality. With a Salesforce certification in hand you will be best placed to educate your current business – or your future employer – on how they can best use the platform, get to most out of it, and to increase their ROI. 

Money talks

It’s a simple fact – those with Salesforce certifications get paid more than those who aren’t certified. In 2013 the average salary of a Salesforce expert without any certification was $69,000, whereas a certified Salesforce expert pulled in around $89,950. That’s a $20,000 pay hike from a single certification. And if these results are from 2013, imagine the difference that you can get in 2018, when the need for Salesforce skills is so high that it is now the 7th most in-demand software skill…

So, what does the ecosystem think? 

When speaking to candidates, we often find that the presence of certifications is one of the things that is first highlighted in their CV or during a conversation, whereas clients are often quick to question whether a potential candidate is indeed certified.

But that doesn’t answer the question as to whether certifications should win out over experience during your career.

On one side of the fence sit those who contend that if you have the experience there’s nothing stopping you from taking the cert. Coming from a 7x certified Salesforce consultant, it is indeed arguable that getting certified is really just a matter of putting your money where your mouth is.  In agreement with this, a Salesforce Senior Manager maintained that “Experience should be more important than certifications, but I am still struggling to understand why someone with such amazing experience doesn’t just go and take the certification

Taking that point even further was a 3x certified Salesforce Consultant, who saw certifications as a measure of a professionals’ commitment to the platform, as well as demonstration of their motivation and capacity to learn which, arguably, are core soft skills any employer would be on the lookout for. So, do certifications represent more than technical skills?

Are they actually a demonstration of a professionals’ commitment? Indeed, with maintenance exams being free, another of our candidates questioned why an individual wouldn’t be motivated to get certified and invest in their career in this way.

On the flip side, is the argument that if you’ve spent all those years gaining experience and climbing the Salesforce ladder, why should you be required to get a piece of paper to say you can actually do the job? It’s an interesting counter-argument, put forward by a Project Manager in the ecosystem, and demonstrates exactly why this is such a controversial matter in the industry.

So, building on that, there’s the fact that rather than acting as proof of your experience, certifications can actually act as a baseline of understanding for professionals in the ecosystem. This is a view echoed by a Business Analyst who put it succinctly when he said: “Certifications deliver core concepts, whereas experience solves business problems

Indeed, a lot of responses to our questioning came up with a similar response; namely, it’s a strong combination of certifications and experience that lead to a great Salesforce professional. Founder of SalesforceBen.com, Ben McCarthy, noted that the two very much go hand in hand with each other, whilst a Certified Implementation Specialist commented that it’s a ‘breadth versus depth’ issues.

Generally, certifications in any discipline are designed to give the holder breadth of understanding, whilst experience is likely to provide evidence that an individual has gained a deeper understanding of said subject. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that certifications themselves weren’t viewed to be a key indicator of a strong candidate, with one Platform Manager maintaining that the ‘test and evaluate accordingly’ approach is best used when it comes to weighing up the clout of certifications against experience. 

Refreshing to see, however, was the fact that no-one – either on the client or candidate side of the debate – said they would completely disregard a candidate due to a lack of certifications. Indeed, many commented that they are happy to keep an open mind and not discount someone on this basis, with some even going so far as to say that certifications were actually over-rated and real-life experience itself counts a great deal more when it comes down to it.

 

So, in the question of certifications vs. experience, it seems that one doesn’t win out over the other. Rather, that by combining the two you can build a pretty good-looking resume and career in the Salesforce world.

Although you’ll always get people on either side of the fence, from our research it seems that a lack of certifications won’t hinder your career prospects, whilst racking up all 25 won’t guarantee to open all doors. Instead, you should focus on building up a strong background and experience in the Salesforce ecosystem and – if you are able – pepper your resume with a certification or two just to add to your cause…