You’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t rely on Excel to some extent. Mastering the program can be an invaluable professional skill, whether you’re launching a new business, trying to improve an existing business, or looking for a career position.
Excel is a data analysis tool created by Microsoft. It can handle complex tasks, from comparing data to presenting it in a variety of modes. You enter the information, and Excel does the rest of the work for you.
Of course, you have to know how to tell Excel what you want it to do. Classes abound online, and many are tailored to allow you to learn at your own pace. Most accommodate students who are already at least a little familiar with the program, but some start with basic instruction for beginners. You can start there or jump ahead: there's no need to rehash tasks you’re already familiar with.
We’ve gathered a list of some of the best programs available for a variety of needs and across a range of students.
The 7 Best Online Excel Classes of 2020
- Udemy’s Microsoft Excel Class for Beginner to Advanced Learners: Best Overall
- edX's Analyzing and Visualizing Data With Excel: Best on a Budget
- Macquarie University’s Excel Skills for Business Certification: Best for Businesses
- Rice University’s Introduction to Data Analysis Using Excel: Best for Beginners
- GoSkills’ Microsoft Excel Classes—Basic and Advanced: Best for Students on the Go
- Ben Currier’s Excel Exposure: Best for Visual Learners
- Purna 'Chandoo' Duggirala’s Chandoo.org VBA Classes: Best Overall Experience
Udemy offers a variety of online Excel classes, but this one covers everything from A-to-Z.
It spans a significant range of experience levels across four classes: Microsoft Excel 101 is appropriate for beginners, Microsoft Excel 102 provides intermediate training, and Microsoft Excel 103 covers advanced learning. Finally, there’s the Master Microsoft Excel Macros and VBA if you really want to dig into learning how to automate your daily to-do list. Covered topics include interactive PivotTables and charts, VLOOKUP, SUM, IF, and INDEX, and MATCH.
What makes this class a standout is that it does all this without requiring a significant time commitment of a month or more, as some other courses do. And, you’re not necessarily done when you complete the course because you’ll have lifetime access to on-demand videos and numerous other downloadable resources.
The cost is around $150, and you’ll receive a certificate of completion to add to your resume. Note that Udemy is known for occasionally slashing prices from time to time. It also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The class is taught by Microsoft’s Excel Product Team: You can’t do much better than that for expert instruction. And, with its affordability, it definitely has an edge.
The course covers a decent array of topics, including PivotTables and charts, and it’s designed for those who are already at least a little familiar with Excel. Throughout the lessons, you will get an introduction to the latest versions of Excel.
You’ll get a Professional Certificate bearing Microsoft’s logo upon completion of the class, and here’s the best part: You can apply for financial assistance to help offset the roughly $99 cost.
The class spans six weeks. Microsoft indicates that you’ll want to dedicate two to four hours a week to learning.
Macquarie University’s Excel Skills for Business Certification is available through Coursera, and it also includes four courses: Essentials, Intermediate I, Intermediate II, and Advanced. Its focus is on addressing business problems—or rather, having Excel do so for you. Topics include Macros, Pivot tables, data forecasts, and building dashboards—everything your business needs to help it thrive.
You’ll have to commit to six weeks of learning at a pace of about two to four hours a week for each course, so this one is a serious time commitment. But you can start by taking just one class, and you can set your own deadlines. Macquarie also offers financial aid and provides a free option as well if you don’t want certification. You can review the course content online at no charge.
Macquarie University, in Australia, has been around for more than 50 years, even before Bill Gates got around to creating Microsoft in 1975, and it claims to be one of the top 1% of universities worldwide. Its graduates are among “the most sought-out professionals in the world.”
“Introduction” says it all about Rice University’s contribution to our list. You’re not looking to immediately launch a rocket from your desktop or laptop: You just want some fundamental knowledge of and familiarity with Excel so you can move on to launching rockets later. Rice says its class is appropriate for “those who have very little functional knowledge of Excel.”
The course teaches the basic uses of spreadsheets, but if you want to learn more, you can. Introduction to Data Analysis Using Excel covers almost everything from PivotTables to VLOOKUP. The class spans four lessons, and the first one—for beginners—is the one we particularly like. It’s well-paced and provides a little hand-holding.
You’ll then move on to organizing data, then to filtering, and more complex tasks. The class is a top pick for walking you through knowing almost nothing to being fully prepared to tackle advanced options after you’ve started out with and mastered the first three courses.
Plan to commit to one to three hours a week for four weeks. The class is part of the university’s Business Statistics and Analysis Specialization, and it’s free (sort of). You have to be a Coursera member to enroll and that requires a subscription (around $29 to $99), but you’ll get a certification.
For those who prefer to learn on the move, GoSkills’ classes are ideal. Microsoft Excel Classes—Basic and Advanced makes our list because it’s available on IOS and Android devices. It teaches all the basics on your phone.
This class is appropriate for beginners, but it also teaches topics like PivotTables and VLOOKUP. You can devote as much or as little time to learning as you like without adhering to a set schedule, testing yourself along the way through the use of various exams and quizzes. Overall, the class takes close to five hours, with lessons of about 30 minutes each. Most of the videos are less than six minutes long.
And, yes, you’ll earn a certification. You can start with a seven-day free trial before settling on one of two available subscription plans, which cost around $29 per month or about $199 if you sign up for a year.
Not everyone thrives on reading textbooks—even online—which is why Excel Exposure is an ideal pick when it comes to video-based learning. The course is short and self-paced, and it covers a good variety of topics. Written courses are an option, too, if you don’t wince at that type of study. The “Master Workbook” involves working directly in Excel.
Excel Exposure costs around $147 for approximately 40 lessons, but it offers many free lessons as well. And, this class isn’t stagnant: Excel Exposure is constantly adding new lessons. Its website offers a comprehensive list of what’s available, including courses that won’t cost you anything and others that are tagged “premium.”
This class is also appropriate for beginners, but many of the offerings accommodate intermediate and advanced learners as well. Certification is available, and Excel Exposure has indicated that 93% of its students pass.
Chandoo says his goal is to “make you awesome in Excel,” and his online VBA Classes go a long way toward getting you there. VBA stands for “Visual Basic for Applications” and happens to be Excel’s programming language. If you know VBA, you can make Excel sing.
It’s a complex topic, but Chandoo prevents it from feeling intimidating. He offers a blog, forums, how-to guides, and a free e-book on creating charts. The program is learning at a relaxed, enjoyable pace, and it accommodates those whose first language isn't English. Really, Chandoo makes learning fun.
You can get your feet wet at no charge, then soar to expert-VBA-level from there. Start with basic Excel functions and then learn to write and debug VBA code. Chandoo has been awarded the Microsoft MVP award four times.
You can access his basic classes for free, although he charges around $97 to $347 for more advanced learning, depending on how long you want to study. Paid classes require memberships that last from six to 12 months. Chandoo offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you have a month to change your mind after you sign up.
How We Chose the Best Online Excel Classes
Seeing is believing, so we explored various websites to find out which ones appealed most to various readers’ concerns, including budgets, goals, and their level of existing experience. Then we reached out to John Livezey, an Information Systems and Aviation adjunct instructor at Atlantic Cape Community College in New Jersey, for his opinions. He’s taught Excel for years in “live” classrooms.
What Are the Features of an Online Excel Class?
Livezey points out that the online learning option works best if you’re a self-motivator. You can set and keep your own goals and objectives. And, these classes offer a variety of formats that you can tailor to your own tastes, from mobile apps and visual learning to online textbooks.
Optimal classes should explore a range of topics, from the absolute basics of working in Excel to mastering VBA and PivotTables. Udemy, Excel Exposure, and Macquarie all touch on VBA, while Chandoo provides a comprehensive, in-depth VBA study. Some classes offer ample supplemental resources that remain available to you forever, such as Udemy.
The best classes feature at least four levels of learning, depending on the experience you go in with and acquire along the way.
What Are the Benefits of an Online Excel Class and Why Take One?
Positions that require superior and advanced digital skills have increased significantly in recent years. The Council on Foreign Relations reported in April 2018 that these positions increased from 5% to 23% by that year with the addition of approximately 32 million jobs in the United States alone. The number of jobs requiring little or no digital skills plummeted by 26%.
Of the 13 million or so new jobs created since 2010, about 65% require at least medium skills in this arena.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Excel Class?
Plan on devoting one to three months to the class you choose. Rice University and GoSkills offer four-week classes. Microsoft and Macquarie University require six weeks, while Udemy defines its courses in hourly spans. In any case, these are online courses so you can learn at your own pace with certain restrictions. But, you might have to finish by the end of a “term.”
Will I Receive a Certificate for Completing a Class?
“If you’re learning to add to your resume and help land a new job or position, I would enroll in a program with a recognized completion certificate,” Livezey says. All of our choices above offer certificates, although some have a catch.
Chandoo.org requires that you specifically ask for a certificate, but this is simply a matter of clicking on the “Request Certificate” tab. The functionality isn’t available until the 12th week of enrollment, however, and this requires signing up for a membership.
Microsoft lets you take classes for free, but you’ll have to pay for the certificate after completion. Likewise, Macquarie provides a free option if you don’t want certification.
How Much Do Online Excel Classes Cost?
You can take many classes for free if you’re learning for your own edification, if you’re starting your own business, or if you already own one. But again, you’ll have to pay if you want a certification to add to your resume.
GoSkills offers the least expensive option at around $49, but we’ve tagged Microsoft as being the best on a budget, even though it will cost you slightly more for that certificate (about $99). Financial support is available, and you get what you pay for. Other classes can cost in the neighborhood of roughly $150.
What Software Will I Need?
Most of these classes were designed and created using older Excel software. Udemy’s course was created using Excel 2013, but it says that the program works with the 2019 version.
Microsoft’s class is based on Excel 2016, so it’s a little more up to date than Udemy’s class, but it does accommodate older versions of the program. You’ll need Windows 7 or later for this one.
The one drawback we see with Rice University’s offering is that this class is based on Excel 2010, although it does accommodate newer versions.
Check for requirements with any class you’re interested in because they can vary.
Council on Foreign Relations. “Independent Task Force Report No. 76.” Accessed September 13, 2020.