Posted 03/26/2013 7 minutes
Written by: Brad Zomick
Business & Management
Microsoft Excel Power Users: 6 Jobs You’re Qualified For

Today, Microsoft Excel may very well be the most used business software on the market. It has broad applications, from simple data entry to complex problem solving, that are used to make important business decisions. Thus the trademark green “X” for Excel is synonymous with money, and in fact most of the data being shuffled around an Excel spreadsheet really just boils down to dollars and cents in profit.

Microsoft estimates that 5 – 10% of Excel users are using the more complex features of the application to create business insights, and these formula and function gurus can be considered programmers of sorts. It’s no surprise these “Excel programmers” are earning more than their colleagues. So if you like problem solving, data analysis, and the idea of making some big bucks, you may want to study up and become an Excel power user. Here are six careers that require heavy usage of Microsoft Excel and a glimpse into what these people are doing in the popular spreadsheet software:

Investment Banking Analyst

Starting Salary: $58,386/year (does not include bonus)1

Investment Banking

Investment Banking is one of the most sought after careers for graduates.

Ever since the book “Liar’s Poker” was published in 1989, analyst positions at investment banks are probably one the most sought out jobs for new graduates. A career in investment banking is a guarantee of solid income potential for life. An investment banking analysts does many things2 but typically spends most of his time working on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) or initial public offering deals (IPO’s). Each deal requires a pitch book to convince the client that the transaction is a good idea, and it is typically the analyst who does most of the work to put together that pitch book. A large part of that is done in Microsoft Excel, where the analyst takes information from financial statements like the income statement and balance sheet and inserts them into transaction analysis, leveraged buyout, valuation, and discounted cash flow models.

Aside from modelling, analysts also spend time using Excel graphing functions to insert graphical depictions of their models in Powerpoint decks and Word documents. While the money is good, the work can be grueling.3 It is easiest to get in to an analyst program just out of school. However, those looking to make a transition mid-career may find it easier to find work in a boutique investment firm.

Management Consultant

Starting Salary: $70,676/year

Management consultants

Management consultants are hired guns that work with companies to help make big strategic decisions.

Management consulting, recently popularized by the Showtime comedy-drama, “House of Lies,” is another coveted job for new grads that delivers a solid career track. Management consultants are hired by Fortune 500 companies4 for help with business strategy cost minimization, and revenue maximization. Once the services of a consultant are enlisted, the first thing that is done is a comprehensive of analysis of the issue at hand and all of the data involved. There is substantial variation in each project so entry level consultants can be called upon to do anything from financial modelling to complex data analysis requiring regression analysis and segmentation of data using pivot tables. Just like banking, aspiring management consultants can expect long work hours.5 Also similar to banking, landing a job with the big three consultants (McKinsey, Bain, BCG) is best attempted right out of school. However, many opportunities are available with boutique and specialty consulting firms.

Accountant

Starting Salary: $44,965/year

Accounting Accountant

Being an Accountant is about more than just filing taxes.

When you hear the word accountant, most people think ‘taxes’. While most don’t view accounting as a particularly exciting career path, it is the backbone of most business operations, and consequently accountants are always in demand. The range of duties performed by accountants is quite numerous. Entry level accounting positions are typically engaged in recording and auditing transactions, but things get more interesting for experienced accountants who are engaged in costing analysis and production of financial statements. Believe it or not, there can be some cool and interesting accounting jobs,6 like being a special agent for the IRS or a CFO. At the end of the day, everything an accountant does is all about dollars and cents and best way to calculate that bottomline is to organize those numbers is a spreadsheet.

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Marketing

Starting Salary: $50,232/year

Marketers Marketing

Marketers have taken on a bigger role with the advent of the Internet.

Marketing is a field that has undergone extensive digitization in the last ten years. As a result, marketing positions now run the gamut in terms of their requirements: some are very creative, while others are highly analytical. Regardless of the role, marketing is still a fun and exciting career where excel has plenty of application.7

Traditionally, it is the marketer’s job to find new market opportunities and convey value of products, both areas where excel can come in handy. In terms of discovery, Excel is a great tool for analyzing the results of market surveys and uncovering new opportunity. In terms of conveying value to customers as well as internal stakeholders, visual representation of benefit, such as charts and excels graphing functions are an ideal way for marketers to communicate internally and to customers. Finally, in online marketing, data is critical for areas like SEO or conversion optimization that boost a company’s marketability online.

Business Intelligence Analyst

Starting Salary: $55,591/year

Business Intelligence (BI)

The BI Analyst makes sense of unorganized data to help make important decisions.

A business intelligence analyst is responsible for helping managers make informed business decisions, in order to sustain or improve a company’s competitive position. The analyst will process whatever past and present data is available and try to identify trends, strengths, and weaknesses. This role — analyzing business intelligence and turning that data into actionable decisions, is one of the most important new roles to business today.

In a nod to BI analysts and excel power users everywhere, Excel 2013 now includes PowerPivot (an extension on the Pivot Table feature) “in the box,” according to a recent Q&A on BI software review website Software Advice discussing new features in Excel 2013.8 PowerPivot was formerly an add-in but is now integrated into Excel. The PowerPivot has strong application in business intelligence, the science of analyzing data to spot trends in business. This new feature has transformed excel into a programming platform that allows business intelligence professionals to sort through large amounts of data and find otherwise hidden trends. According to Robert Collie, former Microsoft Developer and CTO of Pivotstream, “The PowerPivot drains about 90 percent of the manual grunt work out of Excel, freeing the Excel pros to think in much more proactive ways, and to produce richer insights.”

Management

Starting Salary: $41,168/year

Managers Management

Managers control budgets and resources and make sure projects get done on time.

It’s no surprise that there are plenty of applications for managers to use excel. A manager is always controlling and planning various aspects of a business, from inventory and human capital, to resources and budgets, thus there is a lot that can be done in excel. Managers are likely to be engaged in all of the types of tasks listed above – financial modelling, data analysis, market analysis, and financial statement preparation — as well as project management,9 which covers resource, labor, and inventory tracking. Managers may just be the ultimate excel power user.

Bottomline: Learn Excel, Make Good Money

These jobs and career tracks are really just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds if not thousands of functions and formulas available in Microsoft Excel that make organizing and interpreting data easier. Every company is different and can use excel to help decipher the important metrics in their sector, thus there there are a seemingly infinite number of jobs where some knowledge of excel will come in handy.

In short, if you understand how to use Excel and create valuable insights for your company, you will be a valued employee, and can expect to be compensated accordingly. While it would be pretty hard to become an Excel power user overnight, you can learn the basics in a day with some online Excel courses. If you are looking to learn the more advanced features there are some great online Microsoft Excel courses available, so don’t wait. Pick a course and start getting skilled up!

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Footnotes
  1. Salary figures used in this article are national averages from Salary.com.[]
  2. http://econ.duke.edu/uploads/assets/FEP/ib%20tasks.pdf[]
  3. www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-analyst-life-worst-day[]
  4. Why Do Companies Hire Management Consultants?[]
  5. Day in the life of a management consultant; archive[]
  6. Surprisingly Exciting Accounting Careers; archive[]
  7. A Day In The Life of a Product Marketing Manager; archive[]
  8. Q&A with Rob Collie: Is Microsoft Excel the Next Great Business Intelligence Solution? by Michael Koploy; August 1, 2013; archive[]
  9. Use This Excel Spreadsheet For Project Management, LifeHacker; archive[]

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