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What are the Essential Excel skills for a Data Analyst?

The Big Question is “What are the essential Excel skills for a Data Analyst”? The initial launch of MS Excel in 1985 for macOS-based systems and the following year’s rollout in 1987 for windows have made MS Excel immensely popular with multiple job profiles and firms looking for individuals with the essential excel skills to help them handle issues related to data management. MS Excel had captured the market since its initial release and continues to do so, even after 34 years of its primary launch. It continues to dazzle its users by rolling out updates every quarter and every alternate year comes up with a new version of its subsidiary software the MS Office, which includes certain updates in the rest of the tools showcased in the MS Office arsenal, but a definite update in its Excel contraband.

What is MS Excel?

MS Excel is the most popular and widely used spreadsheet application employed across the globe. The application allows its users to record, arrange, extrapolate, and visually showcase large contents of data in a much simpler form through graphs, charts, pie charts, etc.

This content is designed to educate the audience on advanced excel skills for data analysis, tips, and suggestions on how essential excel skills for business analysts can help the user to become better whilst employing or utilizing this tool in their job domain. So, here are a few tips and tricks for our audience to use while employing excel skills in demand to make them look like a pro:-

1.  Grasping the implications of ‘Functions’ & ‘Formulas’

The basics of conquering MS Excel is to understand the employment and utilization of ‘Functions’ & ‘Formulas’ which are extremely useful when handling mass data in MS Excel.

‘Formulas’ are calculations that the user creates and can employ or pull or make use of the ‘Functions’ which are pre-fabricated in the Excel application. Essential excel skills are generally performed to extract and summon data needed for further analysis of the data being worked on.

‘Functions’ are predesigned formulas being integrated into MS Excel by the developers at Microsoft to help the users indirectly employ these functions and generate the results that the users are looking for.

2.  Learning the use of shortcuts

The use of shortcuts in excel is highly recommended by seasoned professionals all over the world as an essential excel skill. MS Excel is an extremely keyboard-friendly application and allows the operator access to its key features with shortcuts integrated with the application.

All the users need to do whilst working on a sheet is to press ‘ALT’ and Excel shows the shortcuts to the features the user wishes to employ or use while working with any data being stored in an MS Excel sheet. E.g., as soon as the user clicks on the MS Excel application, they are redirected to a page that allows the user to start on a blank sheet, take a tour, and many other options. To make use of the shortcuts press ‘ALT’ and you would be displayed the following.

On pressing the ‘H’ button on the keyboard the user may access the Home features options as shown in the following picture

on pressing ‘Y+2’ the user may start working on a new Excel sheet with further shortcuts to the other functions on the new Worksheet, as displayed in the picture

3.  Smuggle Data from websites

Conquering this skill may help the user to make workflow efficient and quick. If ever the user comes across a website with a large mass of data that may prove useful in the current assignments that the user might have been employed or working in the data present on the website may be converted to useful data.

To employ this function of essential excel skills:-

  1. Click on the ‘Data’ tab and
  2. Choose the ‘From Web’ option in the ‘Get & Transform data’ pane
  3. On choosing the above-mentioned option
  4. A new dialog box would appear which would require the user to enter the URL of the website from where the user wishes to Import the data.

4.  Auto Filter

This feature allows the user to arrange a large pool of data using essential excel skills as per the basic requirements like alphabetical, ascending, descending, etc. To employ this feature the user may:-

  1. Choose the data they wish to filter
  2. Go to the ‘Editing’ pane of the Home ribbon
  3. Choose the ‘Sort & Filter’ option to align the data as per the user’s specification

5.  Auto Sum

Mastering this feature comes extremely handy in scenarios post essential excel skills training where the user might be dealing with multiple calculations. There are two ways the user may employ this feature:-

  • At the end of the column on the blank cell after the last data cell of a column press ‘ALT + =’ while the blank cell is highlighted to get the sum of the numeric values being fed in the column or row.


  • In the ‘Editing’ pane of the Home, ribbon click on the ‘∑’ symbol to employ the auto sum feature at the end of the column or row.

6.  Auto Fill & AutoCorrect

To become more efficient when working in excel, complacency or mastery in the utilization of essential excel skills and these two features allow the user to use less time typing data that exists in a sequential series i.e., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc, or to employ automated spell check to any data manually or directly fed into the sheet.

To enable or use the AutoCorrect feature select the cells, columns, or rows you wish to employ the Autocorrect or the ‘Spelling’ feature and press ‘F7’.

To employ the AutoFill feature, the user needs to select one or more fields of data in cells adjacent to each other and drag the mouse to the required cells in which the user wishes to have the data entered as soon as the cursor changes to a ‘+’ sign on taking the cursor of the mouse to the bottom right side of the cell.

7.  Expose Formulas

This is another essential excel skill that helps the user to explore or uncover the formulas or functions being utilized in a worksheet. To gain a better understanding of how a certain conclusion was reached and met in Excel. This feature comes in handy if any workbook or worksheet needs to be run through or revised to zero down on any discrepancies which may decide the outcome of the sheet.

To reveal the formulas being implied in a worksheet all the user needs to do is press the ‘CTRL + ~’ buttons and it will display the formula implied in the given sheet. E.g.

There are several other features in excel which help to understand why excel skills are important in the job market and what excel skills are employers looking for. And when the user will grasp and master it with practice, will help the user with a better understanding of MS Excel either through an advanced excel skills checklist or through advanced excel skills for data analysis. Eventually, with practice, the user will develop a knack for data processing and management with precision & efficiency without devoting surplus amounts of time to do the same.

Conclusion on Essential Excel Skills:

Essential Excel skills are a prerequisite for several A-listed firms in the market. To score a well-paying job with any of these organizations, the operator should have clarity on ‘What excel skills are employers looking for?’. The clarity of these topics can only be achieved by live examples, assignments & projects which implicate the use of essential excel skills through a physical or Online Microsoft Excel course with Analytics Training Hub.


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