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

Certifications vs. experience, a topic fiercely debated in the world of Salesforce. 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. So, certifications vs experience which wins?

What do certifications mean in the Salesforce ecosystem? It’s a topic that dominates conversation. Are certifications 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. As a general rule of thumb, Salesforce is known for the speed at which it adapts and updates. Although this makes it an exciting ecosystem to work in, it also means that you can find your knowledge is out of date pretty quickly. 

Hands-On Experience

Salesforce certifications are designed to provide hands-on experience. The materials include 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. Certified candidates can provide additional insights for businesses. They also demonstrate that a candidate is 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 part of the platform’s functionality. Certifications mean knowledge, which can help businesses to optimise the platform. 

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. If these results are from 2013, imagine the difference now, when the need for Salesforce skills is so high.

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. 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.

Are certs actually a demonstration of commitment?

On one side 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’s arguable that getting certified is a matter of putting your money where your mouth is.

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 a 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?

With maintenance exams being free, another of our candidates questioned why an individual wouldn’t be motivated to become certified.

On the flip side, is the argument that if you’ve spent all those years gaining experience, why should you be required to get a piece of paper to prove you can do the job? It’s an interesting counter-argument and demonstrates exactly why this is such a controversial topic. Rather than acting as proof of your experience, certifications can actually act as a baseline of understanding.

The perfect combination

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’ issue.

Generally, certifications are designed to give the holder an understanding of the topic. Whilst experience is likely to provide evidence that an individual has gained a deeper understanding of said subject. Therefore, it’s not surprising that certifications aren’t necessarily seen as an indication of a strong candidate. One manager maintains that the test and evaluate’ approach is best used when it comes to weighing up certifications against experience. 

It was refreshing to see that no one would completely disregard a candidate due to a lack of certifications. Many people commented that they are happy to keep an open mind when it comes to certs. Saying that certifications are over-rated and the experience itself counts a great deal more.

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. However, racking up all 25 won’t guarantee to open all doors. Instead, focus on building up your experience and pepper your resume with a certification or two just to add to your cause.

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