How to Move from Salesforce Administrator to Salesforce Certified Developer

salesforce certifiedSo you’ve experienced being a Salesforce Administrator and would like to learn more about the platform. Luckily for you, the Salesforce Certified  certification is a great way to learn more about Salesforce, and it’s a natural progression from the administrator certification.

The admin exam focuses more on Salesforce as a whole, including security (roles and profiles), user administration, GUI and the Sales and Service Clouds. The developer exam expands your existing knowledge by customizing the standard Salesforce platform with fields, validation rules, custom apps, custom objects, business logic and the data model of Salesforce. Don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with some of these terms; a lot of this will become second nature to you.

Outlined below are a few of the broad sections featured in the Salesforce Study Guide, including the data model, business logic, data management and user interface, as well as what you will need to study for each section (“Aim to answer these questions” below each section) and what this means if you’re moving from an admin to a developer.

Data model
Studying for the developer certification exam will teach you a host of new terms on what a data model is and how this fits into Salesforce, but as an admin, you are already modeling data when you create a new custom object or work with a lookup field. Understanding the data model of Salesforce is just getting to know how different objects, fields and relationships affect each other and which is the best to choose for a specific situation, such as lookup fields versus master-detail.

Just for your interest, below is a conceptual data model of account, contact, opportunity and opportunity products. You can see how each object interacts with each other. If you would like to see this for yourself in your own org, go to Setup > Schema Builder.

dev 1

Aim to answer these questions:

  • What is a junction object?
  • What are the differences between a lookup field vs. master-detail?
  • Do you understand the differences between parent and child records? Where do related lists play a part in this?

Business logic
As an admin, you may not be familiar with this term, but it’s something you will be using day in and day out as a developer. Business logic are the rules and workflows of how a user interacts with a database. Examples include using Salesforce workflow rules to automate business processes and validation rules to enforce data integrity. Salesforce has a host of more specific features to help us define business logic in our organizations such as approval processes, entitlement management, visual workflow and formula fields. We can even use Apex code and Visualforce to extend the platform when “clicks” fail us and we need to code.

To master understanding business logic and Salesforce, you will need to understand all the standard features listed above and their limitations. You will also need to know how to test these features and monitor that they are all working. Salesforce also expects you to know for the developer exam: “At what point will standard features fail us and we have to move to code?”

Aim to answer these questions:

  • Can a workflow’s use field update across objects? What are the limitations?
  • Can formula fields be used across objects? What are the limitations?
  • I want to update all child objects when the master object is changed; can I do this with a workflow field update?

Data management
The administrator exam should have given you a nice introduction to data management; mainly, what are the features and limitations of getting data into Salesforce? The developer exam will expand on this slightly and dedicate 10% (six questions) to data management.

Salesforce will expect you to know the features and limitations of both the import wizards and the data loader. They will expect you to know the differences and when you should use one over the other. Remember, Salesforce is known to be a bit tricky and give you two plausible answers; the key is in choosing which one is better suited. You will also need to know how each one of the data loader features work – insert, update, upsert and delete – and how they interact with the database.

dev 2

Aim to answer these questions:

  • How is update different from upsert?
  • What are external IDs used for?
  • Why might the data loader be better for some types of data upload?

User interface
By now, you should be a master of the Salesforce user interface, but it never hurts to brush up on some of the features and limitations. Like most of the Salesforce certified developer exam, Salesforce wants to test what can and can’t be done with standard features.

Some of these features are going to include tabs, apps, details pages, list views, related lists and more. Again, Salesforce is looking for when standard features cannot do something, as well as basic knowledge about what these are. Similar to the business logic section, you will need to know when Visualforce has to be brought in to achieve a requirement. Salesforce also lists sites as an area to be tested on, so it’s good to get a rough idea about what these can achieve and when you would need to use a site.

Aim to answer these questions:

  • Do you need a tab for every object?
  • Can you have one column of fields on a page layout instead of two? What about three?
  • Can you update fields from a list view?
  • Can you display images on a list view?

Additional resources
As always, sign up for a developer org, as you will need a place to test out all of these features without getting into trouble. Additional resources include:

  • Read through the Workbook. If you are unfamiliar with any of the features or just need a refresher, the workbook is a great place to start.
  • Check out Fundamentals, which is a huge resource for all features.
  • Try out my Developer Quiz to test your knowledge.

Ben McCarthy is a certified Salesforce admin and developer. He writes the popular Salesforce Blog, Salesforce Ben. Ben has a wealth of experience in the Salesforce ecosystem as a Business Analyst, Head of CRM and Certified Sales Cloud consultant.


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