3. Register for courses. Once you finish the required trailhead badges, you are able to unlock registration for the actual Salesforce classes. These classes will depend on what path you want to take and what certification you want to obtain. The "Salesforce Administration" certification is a good baseline to follow, no matter what path you lean towards afterwards, and you can always get more certifications! A helpful tool for determining what you want out of your Salesforce career can be found HERE.
This is a little tricky when registering for the courses through Vetforce. The classes are one week long, Monday-Friday from 9AM to 5PM every day. They cost around $2500-$3000 each normally, but completely covered through Vetforce. Forever grateful. Based in Monterey, the closest "in-person" class was in San Francisco, and that was just not going to work out with commuting there everyday (3 hrs one way) or getting a hotel for the week, so luckily they offer Virtual classes as well! The only kicker is that each virtual class only allows two Vetforce students in at one time, so as you can imagine, these are full up into the future.
I actually tried to take the "Advanced Administrator" course before the "Beginner Administrator" course because the beginner course waitlist was over 2 months long and I already had a few years of experience in Salesforce from my first job out of college, but I DO NOT RECOMMEND. The best thing to do is to wait for your spot in the beginner course because they cover extremely important information (only found in the course) relevant to taking the exam. I learned that the hard way after taking the exam after only taking the advanced course and failing by ONE QUESTION, then having to go back, get on the waitlist for the beginner course, and take the exam again. I passed the exam after that, by the way.
4. Exam time. You can choose to skip taking a course and go straight to taking the exam, however, I found the class to be the most beneficial before taking the exam. It is a 60 question multiple choice exam timed within 105 minutes. I wish it was as easy as it sounds, but it has those "A and B, B and C, all of the above, none of the above" questions that really get ya and force you to know what you're doing. It is usually $200 to take, but Vetforce covers the cost of your first exam via exam voucher ($100 after that). For more info on the exam process, check it out HERE.
The first time I tried to take the exam I had opted for the in-home version where cameras must be placed on me at all times (thinking it would come through my mac webcam) while I took it through my own computer. After reading all the info and downloading all the secure software, I sat down 15 minutes early to open up the exam and get logged in, but when I tried to open it, it kept showing error messages saying “two cameras were not found”. It turns out, you have to have two cameras facing you from the front of your computer and the back of your computer so they can see that you have no visible notes around you! Serious stuff! I obviously freaked out and called them crying saying I didn't know and either they felt really bad for me or this happens often, because it wasn't a big deal and I they just rescheduled me to take the exam at an in-person testing center... learned that lesson real fast. The downside was that the nearest testing center was in San Jose, about a 1.5 hr drive one way without traffic. All part of the process I guess!