Businesses around the world rely on smart data analysis to run their companies, and no data analytics system quite compares to Tableau. The software – which allows users to explore, visualize and use data to improve decision-making – is one of the most popular and widely used in data analytics and business intelligence. While learning Tableau can be relatively easy even for beginners, hiring managers and business leaders want to know that potential hires are qualified and capable of using the platform. This is where Tableau certification comes in.
(Courtesy of Tableau)
Tableau offers certifications for users with a range of experience and goals. Each certificate shows that the user is proficient in varying levels of skills needed for data analysis and an understanding of the software itself.
The two main categories include three certifications in Tableau Desktop, Tableau’s primary tool for analyzing data and creating visualizations and dashboards; and two certification levels for Tableau Server, the version that lets organizations host Tableau to provide analytics capabilities to employees. To receive certification, users need to pass an exam administered by Tableau. Certification is an industry-accepted measure of your ability to use Tableau.
Tableau offers five main certifications. Those for Tableau Desktop are geared toward business analytics professionals using Tableau for data analysis and visualization. Certifications for Tableau Server are for IT professionals responsible for system administration and deploying Tableau in an enterprise setting.
For Tableau Desktop, certifications are the entry-level Desktop Specialist, the intermediate Desktop Certified Associate and the advanced Desktop Certified Professional. For Tableau Server, there are the foundational Server Certified Associate and the expert Server Certified Professional.
The highest-level, professional certifications have prerequisites. For example, you’ll need to be an active Desktop Certified Associate to test for the Desktop Certified Professional certification.
Tableau also offers two certifications for partners like resellers and consultants. These certifications are for those who need to prove skills beyond the technical knowledge covered in the standard certifications and are not intended for the general public or the average user. Unless you’re already a Tableau partner, you don’t qualify.
Desktop Specialist Certification
The Tableau Desktop Specialist certification is for those who have fundamental skills with, and an understanding of, Tableau Desktop and data analytics. Tableau recommends that users have at least three months of experience with Desktop before taking the exam, but you can get that while preparing for the test. This certification validates skills like connecting to data sources, preparing data, exploring and analyzing data, sharing insights, and timeliness.
There are no prerequisites for the Desktop Specialist exam. The test, which is available in seven languages, takes one hour and includes 30 multiple-choice, multiple-response and hands-on questions. You can take the exam remotely, and it’s automatically scored.
Unlike other Tableau certifications, the Desktop Specialist Certification has no expiration.
Desktop Certified Associate Certification
The next level up is Tableau Desktop Certified Associate, which is for those who have a comprehensive understanding of Tableau Desktop’s functionality and at least five months of experience with the product. The exam tests users on fluency with data connections, organizing and simplifying data, field and chart types, calculations, mapping, analytics including trends and forecasting, building and utilizing dashboards, and timeliness.
The exam has a two-hour time limit, but you should plan for extra time to set up for it. The 36-question exam requires a passing score of 75% and contains multiple-choice, multiple-response, true/false and hands-on questions. Like the Desktop Specialist exam, it’s available in seven languages. You can take the test remotely, and it’s automatically scored.
This exam has no prerequisites, but the certification expires after two years, at which point you’ll need to retest.
Desktop Certified Professional Certification
This exam tests users on visual best practices, storytelling and advanced technical skills like detailed calculations, connecting multiple data sources and data restructuring. Because the content is more complex, the test is longer, with a three-hour time limit. It’s graded pass/fail by a committee with multiple graders. The exam is only offered in English.
Tableau suggests that users have at least one year of experience with the software before attempting the exam. The title is valid for three years.
Server Certified Associate Certification
System administrators and consultants working with Tableau may be interested in the first of two Tableau Server certificates: Server Certified Associate. This certification is aimed at IT professionals with a comprehensive understanding of Tableau Server running in a single-machine environment. Tableau suggests that users have four to six months of experience before pursuing this certificate.
The exam tests users on minimum hardware and software requirements, licensing, server processes, data source identification, network infrastructure, installation best practices, server configurations, security, server administration and troubleshooting. Like the Desktop certificate exams, timeliness is a component; the test has a 90-minute time limit and consists of 80 multiple-choice, multiple-response and true/false questions that are automatically scored. The exam can be taken remotely in seven languages.
If you pass with at least 75%, you’re awarded a title that is valid for two years.
Server Certified Professional Certification
The Server Certified Professional certification is for more advanced Tableau Server users. It’s geared toward system administrators, system architects, IT professionals and consultants who have a comprehensive understanding of Server in both its single-machine and enterprise configurations. Tableau suggests at least nine months of experience before taking this exam.
The Server Certified Professional exam validates expertise in data source identification, installation best practices, security, system architecture, scalability, hardware migrations and more.
The Server Certified Professional exam is quite a bit longer than the other certificate tests, running at seven hours. You must also be an active Server Certified Associate to take this exam. The test consists of hands-on and short essay questions, and a committee grades it pass/fail based on a rubric and best practices. Unlike the other exams, you can only take this exam in-person at a testing site, and it’s only available in English. Because of COVID-19 safety precautions, Tableau is not administering this exam at this time.
The value of getting a certification is multifaceted, according to Ryan Sleeper, founder and principal of visual-analytics consulting firm Playfair Data and author of Practical Tableau. Passing the exam shows that you have a proficiency in business analytics best practices and serves as a differentiator on resumes, which could help you land a job or a raise, Sleeper says.
Tableau certification can have long-term benefits because the software is important to the fields of analytics and business intelligence and because its foundational features and interface have not changed much over the years.
“It’s got stability. This tool has got staying power. It would be worth the investment to do it now because you’ve still got several years to utilize those skills,” Sleeper says. “Data analytics jobs and Tableau-related jobs, in my experience, tend to pay a little bit above the market average. And I think investing the time and the certification fee will be well worth the investment when you actually get hired to do that job.”
Passing the exam is the goal, but preparing also means you’ll be focused on practicing and learning, which is valuable in its own right. That process is likely to introduce you to topics and skills you may not have come across beforehand.
How Much Does Tableau Certification Cost?
Tableau certification exams range from $100 to $800. The price includes one attempt at the exam, which is only available through Tableau. If you fail and want to re-test, you’ll have to pay for another exam. Here’s a breakdown of how much each exam costs:
- Desktop Specialist: $100
- Desktop Certified Associate: $250
- Desktop Certified Professional: $600
- Server Certified Associate: $250
- Server Certified Professional: $800
If you’re hoping to get a job using a Tableau certification as a selling point on your resume, you will probably need to cover the cost yourself. But for those already in data and business analytics fields, employers may cover or subsidize it. You’ll need to factor in other expenses including the costs of training sessions, books you might find useful and prep courses you choose to take.
How Will Certification Improve My Salary?
A 2020 survey of IT professionals from training firm Global Knowledge found that a majority of those who pursued certifications experienced better job performance and got higher salaries. While not focused on Tableau, the report found that respondents working in data, analytics and business intelligence with certifications had higher salaries than those with none.
Is Tableau Certification Worth It?
Depending on the kind of certification you plan to pursue and the job or raise you’re seeking, the benefits of Tableau certification can outweigh the costs. The more advanced certifications are quite expensive, but you can opt for the $250 Desktop Certified Associate certification or the $100 Desktop Specialist certification and still see benefits, according to Rajeev Pandey, a senior data specialist at AirAsia and Tableau expert who runs VizArtPandey, a blog dedicated to data visualization and Tableau.
“These certifications aren’t that expensive compared to the potential salary boost,” Pandey says. “If you pair them with the right skills, you can actually add a huge salary boost.”
If your employer is willing to pay or lend for the exam, there’s little cost other than the time needed to prepare for and take the test. But Pandey says certifications are not completely necessary.
“Certification gives you an idea of where you stand and what things you need to learn. But if someone doesn’t want to spend money on certification, that’s also fine and completely acceptable,” Pandey says. “As long as you’re good with data analysis and can build insightful and meaningful dashboards, I think that’s enough.” But he adds, “Everyone (should) pursue at least one Tableau certification if you are working as a data analyst.”
Are Data Analysis and Data Visualization Skills in High Demand?
U.S. News’ 2021 Best Jobs rankings place data scientist as No. 8 among the 100 best jobs, No. 2 in best technology jobs and No. 6 in best STEM jobs.
According to LinkedIn, the COVID-19 pandemic may have made some businesses lean more heavily on data scientists as they navigated uncertainty. Hiring for these roles has grown nearly 46% since 2019, according to the LinkedIn report. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that trend to continue.
Will These Tableau Certifications Help Me Get a Job?
Unless you already have a large body of work and relevant experience, you will likely need a way to demonstrate to an employer that you’re skilled in Tableau to get hired. One way to do that is with certifications, which show that you met a benchmark level of proficiency and were willing to go through the process to achieve the certification – that you put in the time and effort.
“It definitely has value to a potential hiring manager,” Sleeper says. “When they see the list of candidates, it really is a differentiator if you’ve got a Tableau certification on your resume.”
Daniel Murray, director of strategic innovations at InterWorks and the author of Tableau Your Data, says that having a good website, a blog and insightful content available on Tableau Public is helpful, but if you get that certification, at least the first level, it will help you get a job “without question. Because a lot of big companies want to hire people with Tableau skills, and any evidence you can provide that you actually already know them is a plus.”
How to Start Preparing for Certification Exams
If you’re new to Tableau, the company offers a “start your journey” page with free eLearning materials, advice and instruction videos to help you get started. These guides include an introduction to data literacy, as well as tutorials on how to navigate the Tableau interface and connecting to data. You can also get your feet wet with the free Tableau Public.
Each certification level comes with an exam prep guide, which includes the topics covered, sample questions and other relevant information you’ll need to prepare. Tableau also provides suggested instructor-led training for each certification level. But the live Tableau courses can be pricey, with some costing more than $1,000 per sitting. Tableau does have an alternative on-demand option through its eLearning subscription, with offerings for $5 per month and $10 per month.
Simplilearn has a Tableau certification training course for $599. A number of sites like Udemy also provide on-demand Tableau courses with expert instructors that cost less than $100. If you’re not ready to dish out that much, there is plenty of support online for Tableau, including blogs, forums, and users on Tableau Public.