Is Microsoft Excel Hard To Learn?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 01/29/19 •  9 min read

Microsoft Excel is used to build everything from simple shopping lists to advanced spreadsheets used for statistical analysis. Given all of its capabilities, is Microsoft Excel hard to learn?

Microsoft Excel is an incredibly powerful tool because it is so flexible.  The key to learning Excel is to take baby-steps.  As you walk through learning the basics of Excel, you will graduate on to more advanced features, becoming proficient to the point where your new-found skillset is needed.

Wouldn’t you like to learn Excel to the point where you become the “Go -To Guy” for Excel questions that come up in the office?  At first glance, Excel can feel very intimidating, but let’s simplify it and see what is needed in order to learn Microsoft Excel so that you can become both proficient and productive while using it.  As an added bonus, I’m going to recommend 3 online courses for you to seriously consider as you endeavor to learn Excel.

Microsoft Excel Is an Incredibly Powerful Tool

As briefly mentioned already, the power behind Microsoft Excel is in its flexibility.  This is the heart of Microsoft Excel. Whoever uses it, from the inexperienced to the professional, it serves both by allowing them to organize data and analyze it.  It was designed with the grade-school student as well as the Accountant, and everybody in between.

The power behind Microsoft Excel is in its flexibility

Excel can help the student stay organized and show him what his GPA is in real time.  It can also help an Accountant serve his client by keeping their books in order, saving the Accountant hundreds of man hours in preparation.

The fact that the same tool can meet the simple needs of a fourth grader and all of the complexities found in an Accountant’s office is astounding.

So how does one start, and how long will it take to learn Microsoft Excel?  Let me answer that question by asking you this question: How long does it take to learn to ride a bicycle?  Just like anybody can learn to ride a bicycle, so too, anybody can learn to use Excel.  The more you ride your bicycle, the more confident you’ll become in riding it.  If you choose to take up mountain biking, and become a downhill racer, in time you can grow into that. Similarly, in learning Microsoft Excel, should you choose to become an accountant, you can also grow into that.

First Things First

It’s important to remember that Astronauts first threw paper airplanes.  In other words, if you want to get accomplish anything, you have to grow into what you want to become.

One of my all-time favorite movies, “What About Bob”, was released in the summer of 1991.  In this movie, Bill Murray (Bob), is the patient of Psychologist, Dr. Marvin, (Richard Dreyfuss).  “Bob” is afraid of everything, even afraid to leave his own house.  Dr. Marvin tells him that in order to break out of this fear, he needs to take “Baby Steps”.

Dr. Marvin says, “For instance, when you leave this office, don’t think of everything you have to do in order to get out of the building.  Just think of what you have to do to get out of this room, and when you get to the hall, deal with that hall, and so on.

When tackling Microsoft Excel, it may appear overwhelming, especially after hearing what one can accomplish in using Excel, such as creating charts and graphs.  Like “Bob”, You may even be gripped with fear at the thought of learning Excel, but you can do this, if you simply take “Baby Steps”.

People are not born as adults.  They grow through infancy, toddlerhood, their pre-teen years and into their teenage years.  They then become young adults, and enter into adulthood.  Similarly, you don’t become an accountant the first time you pick up Microsoft Excel.  You grow into it by taking baby steps.  Before you know it, you will be walking through Excel, and eventually running circles around your peers.

Running circles around your peers is definitely a place that you want to be.  That person is the one who can bring order to a business, settle books, and resolve issues.  That person is the one who gets hired, and makes good money because he adds value and can save the company money.  A “number cruncher” is a business owner’s best friend.

Focus on Being Proficient, Not on Obtaining a Certificate

Before we move on, I want to encourage you to focus on being proficient.  Take the time to learn what you study, and don’t speed through the learning process.  If you race through learning Excel, you won’t learn as much as you could.

You have to fight the urge to learn fast.

If you don’t discipline yourself to pace yourself, ensuring that you thoroughly understand every concept taught, you’ll end up with a certificate that shows that you completed a course, but it will be empty, because you won’t know how to do what the certificate says that you have learned.

To make the point, let’s say you were to take a pot-roast and let it marinate all day long in a crock-pot all day at just the right temperature.  By the time dinner arrives, that pot-roast will have filled the entire house with an aroma meant for a King.  It will also taste so much better, than if you took that same chunk of meet and threw it in the microwave for 18 minutes.  Sure, you could eat the pot-roast that came out of the microwave quicker, but would it taste as good as if it had marinated all day long in a crock-pot?

Take your time in learning Excel.

The same principle applies when approaching learning.  You will be rewarded tremendously in ways that you can’t imagine right now.  For example, if you take your time to thoroughly understand a given lesson, and go over that same lesson two or three times just to make sure that you can reproduce the solution on your own, when real-life situations come, (and they will), you will be able to use that which you learned to resolve issues.

When you really know a concept with in Excel, you will not only be able to show someone else, but you will be able to teach them, so that they in turn can teach someone else.  When you are able to communicate a concept you have learned in Excel to that degree, then, and only then, should you move on to the next lesson.

Where Can I Learn Excel

Thus far, I’ve talked at great length as to the importance of intentionally learning Excel at a slow pace, one in which will allow you the ability to thoroughly grasp each concept taught so that you can teach them to others.

As promised, I’m going to recommend 3 websites where you can take an online course at your own pace with no pressure.  In no particular order, here they are.

Regardless of where you learn Microsoft Excel, I encourage you to take ONE course at a time, and again, learn the course you take until you can teach it to someone else.  Then, move on the next course. and both offer intermediate and advanced courses on Excel for you to grow into.

Why Is It Important To Take An Instructor Lead Course on Microsoft Excel?
An Instructor lead course in important because the student can grow into what is being taught.  After one learns one concept, they can then build upon that concept.  If you do not take instructor lead courses, you have no idea what you should learn next, or why you should learn that concept next.

Should I Learn Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets?
Microsoft Excel is the standard, and is by far the authority when it comes to spreadsheets.  Additionally, there are far more resources available to you in learning Microsoft Excel over any other spreadsheet program.  When educators train students, they teach the student Microsoft Excel.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.