How Long Does It Take To Learn Excel?

By Paul Smart •  Updated: 11/14/22 •  8 min read

Excel is one of the most widely used programs in the world with a recent survey stating that approximately 2 out of 3 companies in the US are still relying heavily upon this program to complete analysis within the company. As a result of this, excel is still considered to be an incredibly useful skill to learn. So if you need to start from scratch how long will it take you to learn excel?

How long it takes someone to learn excel is greatly dependent upon the level in which they wish to get to within the program. Generally there are four levels of skill within excel;

Beginner Level – Typically at this level people using excel can do basic calculations, enter data and format excel in an appropriate manner to create a simple spreadsheet. This level typically takes only a week or two to learn.

Intermediate Level – At this level people with excel can typically use some of the more challenging functions within excel which includes things like vlookups, sumifs, concatenates and string functions. Typically these skills can be taught and then a matter of a few weeks as well so in total I would suggest it is around 3 to 4 weeks would be a reasonable expectation to reach this level. 

Important: It is important to note that at the intermediate level there are many excel courses which give you a lot of extra junk which honestly is not all that useful so at this stage it is important to recognize what functions are important which is listed further down in the article.

Advanced level – At this level people are typically using pivot tables which are capable of completing mass data analysis on thousands of lines of data relatively easily and in some cases there also be low level automation of excel using recorded macros. 

To learn these skills to do basic analysis is not all that hard, however, there are quite a few little tricks with both of these functions which can only really be learnt by consistent practice. I suspected that again it would probably take a further 4 weeks to learn so in total to go from no knowledge of excel two advanced will take around 2 months.

Expert Level – At this level Automation can be done at a high-level using VBA code which is a programming language used at the back of excel and can be used to create quite complex systems if required. To become comfortable and proficient with code would probably take a further 3 months.  

However, in the case of VBA because there are literally thousands of commands to move from having a basic understanding of how to program in excel to really being able to solve almost any problems put in front of you does take quite a lot longer than the time stated above simply because you need to get proficient at solving enough problems within excel to know enough commands to create the systems desired.

What Are The Most Useful Functions Within Excel To Learn?

The levels above generally give you an idea of the progression that most people go through with learning excel, however, the reality is that most people will often already have the basic excel skills to start with due to exposure in things like school or work. The challenge is really to make sure that you focus on learning the most important and useful excel skills as this will fast-track your development.

Here is a list of the most important Excel functions in my experience:

Vlookup Is the most useful function in Excel in my view. This function works by calling data up Which can be useful for  merging two sources of data which is very common and also creating templates which automatically populate.

Logic Statements which includes the if statement which is the most important followed by and and or. These are particularly important for controlling when vlookups actually activate.

Concatenate is another really useful function primarily because it can be used to create unique lookup values which will help vlookup find the precise data that you are interested in.

String functions are also extremely useful in finding what is present in text in a systematic manner. There are several different functions within the group that can be useful such as mid left right and then string to name a few,

Sumif and Countif  which are handy functions which allow you to either count the number of times an item appears or some of these values together.

Filters which allow you to look at a large dataset relatively easily that is structured in columns.  This function is really easy to learn and will help you to find data in a large dataset. Filters are limited when compared to pivot tables but they are a good stepping stone toward using them.

Pivot Tables is one of the most useful functions within excel because it allows you to easily analyze hundreds and thousands of lines of data quickly and easily, and query the values within  the data. 

The basic use of these pivot tables is relatively easy, however, there are numerous functions within the pivot tables which can be used to make analysis of data even easier such as grouping functions or creating calculations within the pivot table themselves. Generally, most people find that they gradually learn about these functions as I have to do more and more in the pivot table. 

Tips For Accelerating The Develop Of Excel Skills

To develop your excel skills faster there are a couple of tips that we can give you which will help. The first most important tip is to make sure that you are practicing skills regularly. Generally, those that are most successful in developing the skills quickly will usually have a reason to develop these skills due to needs in the workplace.

When there is a need to solve an issue at work this is the point at which it provides an opportunity for you to practice skills by focusing on making sure that you develop the best possible solution for whatever it is you are trying to do at work.

However, due to the pressurized nature of most workplaces these days it may be necessary to come up with a temporary solution and then spend your time at home developing a more complete and better solution for whatever the issue is. If you do it will definitely develop your skills much faster.

The second really important thing to do is to pay close attention to what other people are doing with excel in your workplace as you will usually find that collectively within an organization there will be an amazing array of excel skills that you can draw from. The key here is to make sure that as soon as you see something done which you haven’t seen before make sure you walk away with that skill each and every time.  

This overtime will have a compound effect on how good you get at excel because those people that are very good at excel simply know many different functions and lots of shortcuts that can be connected together to create a seamless application or solution. 

Which Level Of Skill Should I Be Aiming For In Excel?

Being able to use excel proficiently is one of the most sought after skills within the job market today which means that you want to aim to get your skills as high as possible as this will allow you to differentiate yourself from the employees around your.

Generally, I would recommend, at the very least, to aim to reach an advanced level of excel which means being proficient in pivot tables, and the range of functions listed above. These skills will allow you to deal with the vast majority of data issues that appear in your workplace. 

However, if you really want to stand out from the crowd with your excel skills aim to learn to write VBA as that will allow you to have the capacity to effect the efficiency of a large group of people in an organization. 

To see a demonstration of what VBA can do watch the video the below from our view YouTube channel which will show the benefits of learning VBA and give some examples of where it has been used practically in a workplace to solve problems for entire departments. 

Relevant Articles

Paul Smart