Like many aspiring Accountants, you might want to learn Excel but worry that it will take too much time. Although it’s possible to gain a basic understanding of Excel’s interface and core functions in just a few hours, it can require additional time and study to master its more complex capabilities. It takes most Excel users approximately 18-20 hours to fully learn this spreadsheet application. However, this number depends on several factors. Keep reading to learn about how you can study Excel and find resources to help speed the process along.
What is Excel?
Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application that has been around since 1985. Excel can be used for a range of tasks, such as graphing or visualizing data findings, organizing raw numbers, performing basic and advanced calculations, and automating repetitive tasks. Because of this application’s robust capabilities and accessible interface, many professionals across industries use Excel on a daily basis to complete work-related tasks. Therefore, knowing how to use Excel is a must for nearly anyone who handles data.
What Can You Do with Excel?
Excel has hundreds of features and tools that help users organize, manage, analyze, and visualize data. The following are just a few of the tools and features that make Excel the go-to for professionals around the globe:
- In Excel, users can add or average numbers in cells, locate high, median, or low values, count cells containing numbers, and find a product by multiplying cells. It’s also possible to delete extra white space and truncate numbers by removing fractions.
- Excel can learn your patterns the more you use it so that it can organize your data and ultimately save time.
- Users can share workbooks with others in real-time to ensure that all collaborators have the most up-to-date version.
- It’s possible to work on Excel files from the web and mobile and desktop devices.
- Users can now add data right into Excel from a photo. The Excel app enables users to take a picture of printed data with their iPhone or Android, then convert this image into an editable Excel table. This helpful trick helps users avoid manually entering hard copy data and is made possible through Excel’s image recognition capabilities.
- Financial transactions can be imported into Excel so that users can organize and review their financial information and receive helpful insights toward making more informed financial decisions.
- Excel’s PivotTables help users perform analysis and summaries of datasets, regrouping spreadsheet data for more effective comparisons. By seeing data from different perspectives, it’s possible to get a more comprehensive picture of revenue sources and other vital information.
Average Time it Takes to Learn Excel.
Approximately one in eight people around the globe currently use Microsoft Excel. For those who have office jobs, about a third of their time at work is spent using this application. However, even though Excel usage is ubiquitous in the professional sector, most office workers haven’t had formal training with Excel.
While some people can learn basic Excel functions and features relatively quickly on their own, this is not always the case. Learning to work with this spreadsheet app can be challenging, especially if you don’t have previous spreadsheet experience or if you are new to working with large datasets. The good news is that if you want to become proficient in Excel basics, many educational resources are currently available to help you learn in a relatively short amount of time. Similar to any other acquired skill, the more time you spend working with Excel, the more familiarity you will gain with regard to its capabilities and features. Combining practice and time will also help you become familiar with Excel’s more advanced functions, which can take a bit longer to master.
Because of the vast range of tools and functions in Excel, some people estimate it takes approximately 18-20 hours to become proficient with this app’s advanced features. Others place this number at closer to 40 hours or the equivalent of a work week. Some learners take even longer to learn the application fully but then can easily perform a wide range of Excel tasks.
The speed at which one learns Excel depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Prior experience working with spreadsheets
- Whether you have a background working with data
- Technical expertise or training
- Knowledge of other Microsoft 365 products, such as Word or PowerPoint
- How fluent you wish to become using this app
- How you intend to study Excel, such as if it’s from YouTube channels, bootcamps, in-person or online courses, or on your own
If you are new to working with Excel, you likely won’t be able to learn all of this app’s features in just one day. However, it’s possible to gain familiarity with the interface and some basic Excel functions in just a few hours. For example, high school or college students who are taught to use Excel often receive just a few lessons on this application and can perform basic calculations like SUM, AVERAGE, and COUNT, as well as formatting and charting.
However, Excel is a robust application that offers more than just rudimentary functions. Hundreds of Excel features are available in this app that uses specific fields and professions. Some Excel learners are also interested in becoming skilled with advanced Excel functionality. Advanced Excel knowledge can pertain to creating PivotTables or dashboards, executing complex calculations, and conducting comprehensive analysis and subsequent visualization of data. Advanced Excel skills are useful for creating, recording, and modifying macros, as well as combining multiple worksheets or workbooks using features like Power Tables.
There are many benefits to learning advanced Excel skills, such as:
- Advanced spreadsheet knowledge can help you create effective business solutions.
- Those with advanced Excel training can make dynamic models, as well as structure and present datasets.
- Advanced Excel skills are handy when creating templates or financial statements.
- Learners who have mastered advanced Excel concepts can perform data simulations to forecast information like net income or investment returns.
- Advanced worksheet and workbook knowledge are useful for designing charts, tables, and graphs to convey research findings to non-technical audience members.
Because of the vast range of tools and functions in Excel, some people estimate it takes approximately 18-20 hours to become proficient with this app’s advanced features. Others place this number at closer to 40 hours or the equivalent of a work week. Some learners take even longer to learn the application fully but then can perform a wide range of Excel tasks with ease.
Tips for Learning Excel
The following are some tips to help you learn Excel, as well as how to approach this learning process:
- Don’t try to learn Excel all at once. If you sit down and expect to master this spreadsheet tool in one sitting, odds are you will become overwhelmed. Instead, begin with the basics, such as navigating the interface, formatting a spreadsheet, and performing basic equations. Once you’ve had a chance to practice with these fundamental components, you can move on to more advanced skills like conditional formatting or macros. Breaking this process up will likely lead to a better Excel foundation and increased retention.
- Practice with real-world examples. Those who work with Excel don’t do so in a vacuum; instead, they take data from the real world and use this platform to perform all kinds of analyses on it. That’s why it’s a good idea to practice using real-world data, even if it’s a basic monthly bill-paying spreadsheet for your own personal use. Learning how to clean real data, organize it, and begin to analyze it will pay off down the line when you are presented with larger datasets.
- Learn shortcuts early on. One of the most helpful features in Excel is the wide range of keyboard shortcuts available. Not only are these helpful for quickly executing calculations or creating tables, but they also can save you hours of manually searching through rows and columns to look for certain values. Start by learning just a few basic shortcuts, such as copying, pasting, and printing. Then, move on to more complex shortcuts, such as adding borders, applying the currency format, or grouping items on a PivotTable.
- Consider why you want to learn Excel. As you begin your Excel studies, it’s good to periodically remind yourself of why you wish to learn more about this application. If, for example, you’re interested in learning Excel for your own use, or are looking to have an overall understanding of this app’s basic tools and functions, then your approach to learning may be a slower, more drawn-out process. On the other hand, if you are already an Excel user who needs to learn more complex, specific features to help you meet a pressing work deadline, you may instead opt for online tutorials and videos pertaining to just that one aspect of Excel. Ultimately, the amount of time you spend studying Excel, and the way you learn this application, will be determined by your goals for working with spreadsheets.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Over half a billion people around the world currently work with Excel. This means that chances are someone you know and likely work with has trained with this application. There’s no need to learn it alone. If you find yourself in a bind or are not grasping certain concepts or functions, don’t hesitate to reach out to a coworker, friend, instructor, or family member for guidance.
The more time you spend working with Excel, the more spreadsheet skills and tricks you will acquire. So, don’t be intimidated by this application’s robust capabilities; instead, take your time getting to know the ins and outs, and soon you will be creating professional-grade spreadsheets.
Level of Difficulty, Prerequisites, & Cost
The time it takes to learn Excel depends on many factors. Although most consider Excel a reasonably straightforward, easy-to-learn application, the process can be a bit more challenging for beginners who don’t have prior experience working with spreadsheets or data. For those looking to perform basic Excel tasks and become familiar with the interface, it likely will take several hours to acclimate to this app. If you are interested in becoming proficient with more advanced Excel functions for work tasks, you will likely need to devote upwards of 20 hours to master this software fully. Enrolling in an online or in-person Excel class can help to reduce the time it will take to become Excel-proficient.
Before learning Excel, it is helpful to review rudimentary mathematical concepts, such as basic algebra. A solid foundation in math can help you quickly learn and retain Excel formulas and shortcuts, leading to more effective spreadsheet use. In addition, you may also wish to familiarize yourself with the Microsoft 365 suite of productivity applications before working with Excel. Since Excel integrates with other Microsoft apps like PowerPoint and Access, the more you know about the Microsoft family of apps, the better prepared you will be to work with Excel.
Excel is currently available from Microsoft for $160 a year, or $6.99/month if you purchase it as part of the Microsoft 365 suite of applications (which also includes access to Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneDrive). Excel can be downloaded directly from Microsoft via a digital download.
Read about how difficult it is to learn Excel.
Watch a Free Excel Online Course
If you aren’t ready to dive into an entire Excel course but are instead looking for an overview of how to work with this spreadsheet app, you can get started learning Excel for free online. Noble Desktop, a top education provider, currently offers this free introductory Excel course. It provides an hour of instruction on practical Excel skills, such as splitting and joining text, navigating shortcuts, inserting screenshots, and removing duplicates.
Read more about free Excel videos and online tutorials.
Learn Excel with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop
Are you looking to learn how to use Microsoft Excel, the industry-standard spreadsheet application? If so, Noble Desktop currently offers a variety of Excel courses in NYC and live online. Classes are available for those new to Excel and for learners who regularly work with this spreadsheet application and wish to improve their skills. In addition, in-person and live online Excel courses are available through Noble Desktop or one of its affiliate schools. A variety of course options are offered, ranging in duration from three hours to two days and costing between $229 and $1,099.
Noble Desktop’s Excel Bootcamp provides an excellent option for those who want to master core Excel concepts, such as working with PivotTables and What-If Analysis. Students who enroll in this rigorous, 21-hour course can elect to study in person in Manhattan or learn in the live online environment. This small class comes with the option of a free retake and covers a variety of Excel concepts applicable to the business world.
- Although it takes only a few hours to learn Excel’s basic features and become familiar with its interface, most learners study this application for 18-20 hours to fully understand its many capabilities.
- If you want to learn Excel, it’s helpful to practice with real-world examples and break the learning process into smaller steps. Start with the basics before attempting advanced calculations.
- It’s important to ask yourself why you want to learn this application to determine how best to study it. Whereas learning Excel for personal use and basic scheduling tasks may only require a few hours if you need spreadsheet skills for your current job, more advanced Excel training may be necessary and is available by enrolling in a bootcamp or online course.
- Like any newly acquired skill, the more time you spend working with Excel and practicing with data, the more skilled you will be working with spreadsheets.