How to Learn Power BI: An Overview

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about Power BI as a top business intelligence software, including the various ways professionals use it today and the steps you can take to begin building your skill set on Power BI.

[Featured Image] A woman sits at a laptop and takes an online course on how to learn Power BI.

Organizations of all types and industries must manage ingesting large quantities of data daily. This places an increased focus on business intelligence to pull key insights from your data by organizing it and building reports to showcase important information. Today, you can leverage software featuring artificial intelligence, automation, and application programming interfaces (APIs) to optimize your business intelligence processes. These business intelligence tools make gathering, cleansing, analyzing, and building visualizations from your data sets more efficient, enabling you to make informed business decisions for your organization.

While many similar business intelligence software exist today, Power BI is consistently one of the top choices due to its ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and ability to integrate easily with other key applications and software. To help you on your journey of developing professionally in business intelligence and utilizing Power BI, it is helpful to first understand what Power BI is and why it is important in many use cases, the types of professionals who utilize it, and the specific steps you can take to learn the software.

What is Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is a business intelligence software that allows you to link several data sources and produce dynamic, informative insights for your organization. Business intelligence, in general, describes any software that manages data from your company and gives you the functionality to generate visualizations. These visualizations come in various forms, such as dashboards, graphs, and reports. One of the main advantages of using business intelligence software, like Power BI, is its ability to organize data from different sources, whether semi-structured or unstructured, and it provides you with a platform to analyze these data sets.

As a top business intelligence software option, Power BI effectively provides these key functionalities and enables you and your organization to derive impactful insights from your collected data to inform key business decisions. The three basic components available for your use within Power BI are:

  • Power BI Desktop: The Windows application of Power BI available for your desktop

  • Power BI service: A software as a service (SaaS) application available online

  • Power BI mobile apps: Mobile applications from Power BI available for Apple iOS, Android, and Windows

Why is Power BI important?

Organizations need tools like Power BI to generate insights and key trends from their data and share this information throughout their company. This allows a business to grow, commit to a data-driven culture, and leverage its data sources to find actionable items that inform critical business decisions.

While many similar business intelligence software exist, Power BI is a top choice among a wide array of professionals due to its ability to generate real-time insights, create and share reports and dashboards rapidly, and connect to numerous sources of data as well as its inclusion of machine learning and artificial intelligence concepts. Even with all these features, Power BI does not have a large learning curve to get started, as it has a simple setup process and various built-in features for common services. 

As of 2020 data from Microsoft, 97 percent of Fortune 500 companies trust Power BI to help them generate insights and make effective business decisions based on their data [1]. Another area of importance for Power BI is the familiarity and sense of comfort it provides if you are experienced with other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Excel. From the familiar look of the interface to the available integration capabilities, Power BI lessens the learning curve for individuals new to business intelligence software. 

Who uses Power BI?

The uses of Power BI vary depending on your type of role and your goals for using the software, as different types of professionals utilize elements of Power BI that fit their situations and what they need to accomplish. The ability of Power BI to have broad use cases showcases its importance and flexibility as a business intelligence software. A few common examples of different users of Power BI include:

  • Business decision makers: As end-consumers of Power BI reports, decision makers use the Power BI service to explore and review the dashboards and reports created by their teams to inform decision-making. Decision makers commonly look for key insights or trends found in the dashboards.

  • Data analysts: Data analysts use Power BI to transform data sets, create models, and generate impactful visualizations from their analysis. Data analysts utilize features such as data analysis expressions (DAX) and Power Query to aid their work, and Microsoft even offers a specific Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification.

  • Administrators: In this role, you work with Power BI to configure and monitor the resources for your organization. You may handle billing administration, user administration, or other duties to manage permissions, assign licenses, and create user groups.

  • Consultants: Consultants involved with various organizations may use Power BI to fully understand a business’s overall performance and inform their decision-making. A company may also hire a consultant to implement and build business intelligence and other data solutions on Power BI for them.

  • Business users: Business users utilize Power BI to make sense of data efficiently to drive effective decision-making, through reviewing and performing analysis on dashboards and reports created by colleagues.

  • Developers: Power BI developers leverage various advanced software features, such as Power BI APIs or embedded dashboards, to create and maintain unique applications for their organization. Another feature accessed by developers is custom visuals.

  • Report creators: As someone who creates reports, you utilize Power BI desktop to connect your data sources, transform and cleanse your data, generate visualizations, and build reports to share with key organizational stakeholders.

  • Solution architects: Solutions architects on Power BI focus on a few key elements of designing and building an effective business intelligence platform for their organization. Areas of focus include data ingestion and preparation, data warehousing, intelligence semantic models, and machine learning models.

Is Power BI difficult to learn?

In general, Power BI is not difficult to learn and gain the basic skills you need to begin using the tool. Training for about four to six weeks can typically prepare you to start working on Power BI effectively. However, you may encounter some difficulties while learning Power BI with some of the more advanced elements of the software. DAX is one example of a challenging feature to learn. These operations become especially difficult to learn when they do not resemble Excel formulas you may already know.

To make your learning experience easier and more efficient, it may help you to have background knowledge in relevant topics related to the skills you need for Power BI. For example, since Power BI is a Microsoft product, having experience with Microsoft Excel and its prominent functions can ease the learning curve on Power BI. Other relevant topics that may help you learn Power BI are the basics of business and data analytics, such as statistics, data modeling, and data visualizations.

Can I learn Power BI by myself?

Yes, many resources are available to help you learn Power BI independently. Microsoft provides a host of free tutorials and guidance documentation with guided learning opportunities you can participate in at your own pace, using Power BI as you follow the tutorials to get hands-on experience. You can also learn through articles and videos readily available online and published books. Take a more detailed look into how you can learn Power BI next.

How to learn Power BI

It's helpful to leverage available resources to help you build confidence using Power BI and build your skills in business intelligence. Resources available may include training courses, certifications, video content, and online communities.

Take Power BI training.

The Microsoft official website offers a wide array of resources for Power BI training. These tutorials and work samples allow you to engage in guided learning to build your skill set and learn critical topics for utilizing Power BI as a professional. The topics covered in popular courses offered on Microsoft include consuming data with Power BI, creating analytics reports, and designing semantic models. Microsoft additionally has learning collections or Power BI learning paths to help you reach your goals, such as designing effective reports and dashboards.

Complete a Power BI course or certification.

To help you advance in your business intelligence career, completing relevant Power BI certifications and professional courses is a useful option to build your skill set in data analytics. While many courses in Power BI exist for you to explore today, one of the top options to pursue is the Microsoft Power BI Data Analyst Professional Certificate, delivered by Microsoft on Coursera. Microsoft also offers official certification, such as Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst Associate.

Watch Power BI videos.

You can find demos and tutorial videos on various Power BI topics online. A popular location for this type of learning is on YouTube, where instructors post videos teaching you how to build data models, use Power Pivot, and create dashboards, for example. Microsoft also specifically has a YouTube channel dedicated to posting content to help you learn Power BI through a video format.

Join the Power BI community

The full community of Power BI users totals over one million members [1]. On the Microsoft website, Power BI has its dedicated forum where you can view recent news and announcements from the Microsoft Community Success Team and interact with other Power BI users to answer their questions, ask questions, or contribute to discussion posts on various related topics. You can even become involved with generating new ideas for Power BI and vote on proposed enhancements on the Power BI Ideas website.

Getting started on Coursera

To learn more about Power BI and take your first steps to master this powerful business intelligence software, completing a course or receiving a relevant certificate is a great place to start. On Coursera, you can enroll in some of the top courses in the world.

Check out the Microsoft Power BI Data Analyst Professional Certificate. This course features the ability to learn the most in-demand business intelligence skills to prepare you to attain a job in this field within five months. You can learn how to connect data sources, transform your data, and prepare Excel data for analysis.

Another relevant course worth checking out to aid your learning is Getting Started with Power BI Desktop by the Coursera Project Network. Taught at a beginner level, this course provides a brief, two-hour introduction to importing and transforming data on Power BI Desktop. A core feature of this course is its focus on hands-on learning and tutorials on creating visualizations with your data.

Article sources

  1. Microsoft. “Driving a data culture: from insight to action,” Accessed May 28, 2024.

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