Main image of article How to Become a Salesforce Developer

With some 150,000 organizations using Salesforce’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform, and the company projecting revenue to double from 2021 levels by 2026, there appears to be no shortage of opportunities for aspiring Salesforce developers.

In fact, the need to design, code and implement Salesforce applications across a wide range of industries has produced thousands of open positions for developers and driven compensation higher and higher. Glassdoor puts the median pay for entry-level Salesforce developers at $105,255—not too shabby.

Given the upbeat future of the Salesforce economy, there may never be a better time to make a career pivot to Salesforce development. We asked two pros who started with little to no coding experience how they managed to learn this specialty and navigate a career transition. Here are their tips.

Build the Foundation

Although Maurice Hickman chose SQL for his initial self-taught foray into programming after exiting the military, in retrospect the Salesforce developer and technical analyst for BioFire Diagnostics says that becoming a Salesforce admin first is the better way to go. 

Blanca Leon-Carter credits her two years of admin experience with giving her the fundamental knowledge and confidence to move to the “programmatic side of things.” She went on to become a Salesforce MVP and currently works as principal consultant and DevOps architect for Slalom.

As an admin, you’ll learn how the system’s data model and navigation work, and you’ll also gain experience managing and administering the configuration of the CRM. Plus, seeing how users interact with the system will position you to design, code and implement Salesforce applications as a developer.

Most importantly, seeing how other apps were developed helps you consider the problems you’ll need to solve as a developer, such as whether you should implement a feature with declarative tools instead of programmatic tools. In Salesforce, you can use declarative features (clicks) or programmatic tools (code) to develop functionality, Leon-Carter explained. Generally, using the point- and-click interface is faster for building products and the code is easier to maintain.

Taking a step back and looking at the apps from a developer’s perspective will help you discern the difference between good and bad code, learn best practices, and figure out how to automate business logic. Being able to take a scalable, sustainable approach to developing code will ultimately determine your effectiveness and success as a Salesforce developer.

Jump Right into Apex

The good news is that you don’t need to learn another object-oriented language before tackling Apex, a proprietary language developed by Salesforce.

However, because everyone's approach to learning is based on a mix of strengths, styles and preferences, it’s important to consider what skills will be taught (and which teaching methods will be used) when selecting a training program. Leon-Carter recommends starting with Trailhead, which offers free, self-guided learning paths and a playground where self-directed learners can hone their skills and complete challenges.

Salesforce sets limits on the architecture, so feel free to practice and apply new skills and concepts as you go, she added.

Going the self-taught route requires diligence and sacrifice, Hickman warned, because it will be four to five months before everything starts to click and up to 24 months to become proficient. But he encourages aspiring developers to stick with it because learning is cumulative: “You’re understanding more than you realize.”

If you prefer instructor- or community-led training, and have the funds and dedication to chart a new course, then invest your time and money in Apex Academy or Trailhead Academy.

No matter which direction you choose, Salesforce offers a number of services designed specifically to support you in your journey. For instance, you can find a mentor or coding partner by attending a Trailblazer community meeting, users’ group, or conference. Also, check out Apex Hours, a one- stop platform and YouTube channel for learning Salesforce skills and technology.

All you need to bring is an aptitude for solving problems and an attitude for overcoming challenges, because there are lots of people willing to help out.

Prove Your Skills

Providing specific examples of your abilities is the key to landing your first job as a Salesforce developer.

Create a playground to complete hands-on challenges and try out new features and customizations and showcase what you’ve learned. Or receive badges and prizes by participating in Trailhead Quests throughout the year. Or share samples of work you have done directly from a GitHub repo to demonstrate you can do a particular job.

Come up with a personal or professional situation that could best be managed through a CRM, such as a job search, wedding, major trip or remodeling project, then create an app to track your contacts, communication histories, follow-ups, deadlines and so forth.

Grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers by creating a short video explaining what you did and why and sharing it on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Although certification is voluntary, completing a certification prep course or webinar led by Salesforce instructors or taking a practice exam can help you ace an interview. Plus, earning a certification is a great way to enhance your résumé and prove that you are qualified to work as a developer.

Even better, the more certifications a Salesforce developer has, the more they can earn. According to Indeed, Salesforce developers can expect as much as a 40 percent pay raise with certification, depending on their area of expertise.