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Learn VBA

A Comprehensive Guide to Start Learning VBA

VBA, or Visual Basic for Applications, is a programming language used across Microsoft Office programs, such as PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. Microsoft launched VBA in 1993 as a replacement for Excel’s macro language. Since then, it has become a widely used language for automating various Excel tasks and customizing other Office applications.

VBA, or Visual Basic for Applications, is the programming language used to customize various Microsoft Office applications and automate repetitive tasks. This flexible language was created by Microsoft and functions entirely in the Microsoft Office environment. If you’ve always wanted to learn VBA but can’t figure out how to get started, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll learn more about the various ways to learn VBA, free resources to take advantage of, and the types of careers that commonly use VBA.

What is VBA?

VBA, which is short for Visual Basic for Applications, is the standard programming language Microsoft created to be used in several Office programs, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. VBA provides Microsoft users additional customizable features beyond those typically included in Office apps. Although VBA isn’t a stand-alone program, it can alter various graphical-user-interface features, including menus, dialogue boxes, and toolbars. Additionally, VBA has applications for automating different computer calculations and processes, accessing Windows APIs, and designing user-defined functions.

Because VBA is an event-driven tool, it can tell the user’s computer to execute one or more actions. To do so, you create custom macros (which is short for macroinstructions) by entering commands into a module devoted to editing. Macros are comprised of various characters whose input causes an output (an additional series of characters) that is capable of accomplishing different computing tasks. When using a Microsoft app, VBA allows users to perform various functions that extend beyond word processing or spreadsheet management. By using macros, Microsoft users can make repetitive tasks easier to accomplish. There’s no need to purchase VBA software separately since it’s included with Microsoft Office.

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What Can You Do with VBA?

VBA, or Visual Basic for Applications, is Microsoft’s internal programming language for apps like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. This versatile language allows users to further customize Office applications beyond the options typically available using host apps. VBA functions by manipulating features of the graphical user interface, like dialogue boxes, menus, and toolbars. It also has applications for creating user-defined functions and automating computer calculations and processes. 

Because it is an event-driven tool, you can use VBA to instruct the computer to perform one or multiple actions. By entering commands into an editing module, Office users can create custom macros or sets of characters that, when entered, result in a new output that can perform specific computing tasks. A few examples of repetitive tasks VBA can automate are data cleaning and formatting, capitalizing text, creating a table of contents, merging multiple worksheets, and solving complex calculations.

One of the main benefits of working with VBA is that almost all operations that users can perform in Microsoft Office with a dialogue box, keyboard, or mouse can also be accomplished using VBA. And, when something is done with VBA once, you can execute it just as efficiently hundreds of times. In addition to using VBA to perform everyday tasks faster, it also has applications for adding functionality to different Office apps, as well as interacting with those who use your documents in a manner that’s specific to your professional needs. Those working with VBA can write code to accomplish tasks like displaying a pop-up message reminding users to save their work to a specific network drive.

Careers that Use VBA

Because Microsoft Excel is widely used for data management across industries and professions, VBA knowledge is essential to many jobs. Marketing Analysts rely on this programming language to create customer segmentation models and understand their customer's buying habits. They also use this language to analyze customer surveys and create customer satisfaction dashboards. In addition, Human Resources Analysts also work with VBA for many daily tasks. They use it to analyze HR data and create reporting procedures based on attendance and time and prepare dashboards and reports that will be used for quarterly management reviews.

VBA knowledge also has applications for those working with sales compensation analytics. Professionals can use this programming language to apportion commission payments based on organizational compensation protocol, create financial reports that differentiate between the actual and projected payouts, and create sales incentive models. Supply Chain Analysts also work regularly with VBA to study procurement data to ensure that warehouses are prepared for new items to be stocked as necessary. They also work with VBA to study vendor performance and track forecast purchasing. VBA is also a standard tool used by Investment Banking Analysts for financial modeling and valuation analyses. Business Intelligence Analysts rely on VBA to establish key performance metrics and create analytical data views that showcase actionable insights to stakeholders.

Why Learn VBA?

Learning VBA opens many professional doors for those working in data analytics and can also help individuals advance in their current data-related careers. It has many applications for those who work with spreadsheet programs such as Excel. Because it can create automated solutions to many of Excel’s more tedious manual processes, VBA knowledge is an asset that spans professions and industries. Compared to other coding languages, VBA is easy to learn because it incorporates many intuitive features. Unlike other programming languages that require add-ons or additional software, VBA comes fully integrated into Office programs.

Another reason many professionals are interested in learning VBA is to improve work quality. When multiple employees are working on the same repetitive tasks, they may each use a different procedure to do so. VBA incorporates an automated system, reducing the margin of error and allowing tasks to be completed much faster than would otherwise be possible. Since work can be finished faster and with fewer errors using automated macros, it’s a cost-cutting skill that can drastically improve workplace efficiency and lead to a quicker investment return. 

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How to Learn VBA

Learning VBA has never been easier, thanks to the number of study options currently available. There are a variety of in-person or live online VBA courses offered by top educational providers. Students who enroll in these courses can choose to study from their own space or use the provided computer labs equipped with the most up-to-date software. In addition, live online VBA classes provide many of the same benefits as in-person studies, such as access to an expert instructor in real-time and hands-on training. Because you can complete live online coursework remotely from your home or office space, it doesn’t require commuting to and from campus, battling traffic, or searching for parking. Noble also offers a tool to help interested learners locate VBA courses close to home.

Another way to study VBA is to study this programming language asynchronously. Self-paced VBA classes are a good alternative to in-person or live online study for those who need to balance learning VBA with full-time work or family commitments. Because asynchronous study is pre-recorded, it can be completed from any location, at any time. This means that learners can gain an overview of what VBA is, as well as the basics of this language, without having to take part in regularly occurring classes. However, because learners cannot access an instructor to field questions or provide guidance, it can be challenging to learn more complex programming concepts in this format. 

For those who aren’t quite ready to commit to a full-time course or pay for self-paced VBA study, free learning options are also available, such as tutorials, blog posts, guides, and seminars. Because Excel users rely on VBA to automate various spreadsheet tasks, you may want to brush up on your Excel skills by watching Noble Desktop’s free Excel seminar, Top 10 Beginner Excel tricks You Need to Know. This free, pre-recorded webinar provides viewers with time-saving Excel tricks, such as splitting and joining text, using autofill, repeating commands, inserting comments, removing duplicates, and inserting screenshots. Noble Desktop also has a YouTube Excel channel with more than 70 short videos on useful Excel topics, such as naming cells and ranges, using count functions, and applying basic number formats.

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Free Introductory VBA Course Online 

If you’re looking for an overview of VBA but aren’t ready to commit to regularly scheduled meetings, you can start learning more about Excel and VBA for free online. In Noble Desktop’s Top 10 Beginner Excel Tricks You Need to Know webinar, participants receive an hour of instruction on fundamental Excel skills, such as autofill, absolute cell reference, data validation, and Excel shortcuts. This pre-recorded webinar provides a beginner-friendly overview of this industry-standard spreadsheet app and is a great first step toward learning more about Excel. 

Other top educational providers also offer free instruction on VBA and Excel. Coursera’s Excel/VBA for Creative Problem Solving Specialization is a set of three classes that provide learners with specialized instruction on VBA and other Excel topics. This beginner-friendly specialization teaches participants how to solve creative problems using VBA and create professional VBA projects to demonstrate VBA skills. In addition, LinkedIn Learning currently offers Excel: Macros and VBA for Beginners, a 40-minute lecture on how to use VBA and create macros for cutting down on the time needed to complete repetitive Excel tasks.

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Level of Difficulty, Prerequisites, & Cost 

VBA is a coding language that’s relied on by millions of people around the globe for automating various tasks in Microsoft Office. This language is considered to be one of the easiest coding languages to learn for those who don’t have a background in computer science. It’s likely that if you have experience working with Microsoft products such as Excel, you already have a basic knowledge of VBA, perhaps without even realizing it. One of the best parts about learning VBA is that you don’t have to master its syntax but need only to understand the logic behind the macros you create. With the help of Excel’s Macro Recorder, it’s possible to record actions with the keyboard or mouse, save them, then run a macro to perform this action as often as needed. 

Some skills can expedite the learning process if you’re interested in studying VBA. Those with a background with basic analytical skills often acquire VBA faster than those who don’t have prior experience working with analytics. Familiarity with coding or object-oriented programming can also make learning VBA faster and easier. In addition, basic familiarity with Microsoft 365 products, such as Excel, is a benefit when studying VBA since most people who learn this language use it for Excel-related tasks.

Because all Microsoft products share a common programming language that comes with the application, purchasing Office 365 products will include VBA for no additional cost. Microsoft Office 2021 Home and Business is available as a one-time purchase for $250. Microsoft 365 Apps for Business costs $8.25/user/month, and Microsoft 365 Business Standard is offered for $12.50/user/month.

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How Does Learning VBA Compare to Other Languages?

Those who work with VBA often use this programming language to automate tasks. Python is another popular coding language that people can use to automate repetitive actions. Some individuals who work with data can benefit from moving from Excel’s VBA to Python. Both languages are considered excellent languages for Data Analysts to work with for programming purposes, although they differ in some crucial ways.

Python is an object-oriented, open-source, interpreted programming language incorporating dynamic semantics. This language’s highly readable syntax is considered easier to learn than other programming languages. It is commonly used to create applications and websites, as well as to perform data analysis and automate various processes. Python comes out ahead of VBA for some data analytics tasks because it’s cleaner and offers better version control. Because VBA was designed exclusively for use in the Microsoft Office environment, particularly Excel, it has a more narrow range of automation capabilities than Python. Those who need to perform more complex automation are better off working with Python, which can handle much larger datasets than VBA. However, for those who are working exclusively in Excel, VBA is likely a better option.

The time it takes to learn VBA and Python depends on several factors, such as the learning method you select, your prior programming experience, and your basic familiarity with data analytics. On average, it’s possible to learn core Python programming skills in just a few weeks. However, most experts estimate that it will require between two to six months to fully become familiar with Python’s extensive libraries. On the other hand, students can learn VBA in a solid week of studying or over two months of gradual learning. Mastering more advanced VBA coding techniques can take significantly longer.

How to Decide the Best Way to Learn VBA

Learning VBA can open many professional doors and lead to more opportunities within a current data role. Deciding which learning format is best for you will ultimately depend on what you intend to use this skill for. If you are new to using VBA and are interested in an overview of this language, a free introductory-level class or online tutorial is a good starting point. These courses are often pre-recorded so that they can be watched later, making them an excellent option for those balancing various professional and personal commitments. Free online content is available from top educational providers like Udemy, Coursera, and Noble Desktop, which provides instruction specific to VBA and topics like Top 10 Beginner Excel Tricks

A live online or in-person VBA Bootcamp is available for learners interested in developing a working knowledge of VBA to grow within their current careers or to plug a skill gap. Bootcamps provide hands-on instruction on fundamental VBA concepts, such as Excel automation and real-world applications of macros. They can help learners grow from beginners to skilled programmers with a command of VBA. Many bootcamps are offered in the in-person and the live online environment, allowing students to select the learning environment most suited to their current schedule or preferred mode of learning. No matter which format you choose, bootcamps will provide access to an expert instructor who is available in real-time to answer questions and offer guidance as you learn. Although bootcamps typically cost between several hundred and several thousand dollars, their instruction can be invaluable to your professional journey. 

Certificate study in VBA and Excel is also available for those looking to begin a different career or pivot to a new industry. In addition to certificates devoted exclusively to VBA, other learning options provide a broader understanding of data analytics and how Excel can be used when working with data. Noble Desktop’s Data Analytics Certificate is one such learning option. Students receive in-depth instruction on several industry-standard data tools, languages, and apps, such as Tableau, Python, SQL, and Power BI. Certificates tend to be the most expensive VBA learning option and generally cost thousands of dollars, but some include added perks like professional mentoring and the option of a free course retake. Not only does earning a certificate help you to stand out from other job applicants, but it demonstrates to employers that you have acquired a solid foundation with data skills that will make you an asset to any organization.

Learn VBA with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

A great way to learn about VBA is to sign up for in-person or live online VBA coursework. Noble Desktop’s Excel Programming with VBA Bootcamp is a hands-on course that teaches students fundamental VBA concepts, such as applying macros to real-world situations and performing Excel automation for repetitive tasks. This class is offered in the live online format and in-person in Manhattan. Although prior VBA knowledge isn’t necessary to take this course, participants should have intermediate Excel skills, such as familiarity with VLOOKUP, IF statements, and PivotTables. All participants have the option of a free class retake to brush up on course material. 

If you’re looking to learn more about how VBA is used in Excel, Noble also offers several live online and in-person Excel courses. Excel Programming with VBA teaches students how to create macros that automate Excel tasks, even ones in which the data isn’t consistently formatted. For beginners, Excel Level I: Fundamentals is also available, which covers essential Excel functions, formatting, and printing procedures. Excel Level II: Intermediate provides students with instruction on core Excel concepts, like summarizing data using PivotTables, functions such as VLOOKUP and SUMIFs, and performing Sort & Filter on databases. In addition, Excel Level III: Advanced is geared toward those with a solid background in using Excel but who want to learn complex database functions such as INDEX and MATCH, creating macros, and using What-If Analysis.

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