April 11, 2022

A CEO Explains How to Learn Power BI (Step-By-Step) in 2023

Why learn Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is one of the most widely used data tools on the planet. 50,000 companies worldwide use Power BI to clean, transform, model, and visualize their data.

Power BI usage has been growing quickly, with over 80,000 open jobs on LinkedIn. Most business analysts and data analysts use Power BI regularly. By learning Power BI, you can accelerate your career and become a data professional.

The best way to prove your Power BI skills to employers is by getting certified as a Microsoft Power BI Data Analyst. Getting certified lets employers know that you can work with Power BI features like DAX, the M language, and the Power Query editor.

To get certified, you'll need to take the PL-300 exam (an updated version of the DA-100 exam). To pass the PL-300 exam, you'll need experience working with all aspects of the Power BI interface.

If you want to stand out in job interviews, you should also build a project portfolio. A portfolio will show that you can do complex analysis in the real world.

In this post, we'll go over 5 steps to gain real-world Power BI experience, get certified, and build a portfolio. It will take work and effort, but if you follow these steps, you'll be able to start a new data career.

How to learn Power BI and get certified

Power BI has a friendly graphical interface, but there's a lot of complexity beneath the surface. It's easy to watch videos or read tutorials and assume that you've learned Power BI. But to pass the exam and get job-ready, you'll need hands-on skills.

The best way to build hands-on Power BI skills is to create projects. Projects mirror real-world data analysis, and will help you gain experience doing everything from loading data to cleaning data to visualizing it.

In our 5 steps, we'll show you how to learn hands-on Power BI skills by building projects. With hands-on skills, you'll be prepared for the PL-300 exam and for job interviews.

If you want to learn more quickly, we've also collaborated with Microsoft on a series of Power BI courses that will teach you everything you need to pass the PL-300 exam.

Step 1: Get familiar with the interface

The first step in learning Power BI is to install it and get familiar with the interface.

Luckily, Power BI is a free download from Microsoft. Power BI only works on Windows, so if you aren't using Windows, you'll need to run Power BI in a virtual machine.

Once you install Power BI, you should familiarize yourself with the main pieces of the interface. Here are some resources that will help you with this:

Don't spend too much time on the interface. Your goal should be to get started working with real data as quickly as possible.

Step 2: Build some visualizations!

Your next step should be to develop some visualizations in the Report View using clean data sets. You want data sets where you don't have to do much modelling or data cleaning.

This will give you experience importing data and creating reports. Here are some data sets that you can use to create visualizations:

  • Wine reviews - reviews of different wines from around the world
  • NBA player data - this contains the FiveThirtyEight RAPTOR rating for NBA players

These datasets don't require much data cleaning to make some interesting visualizations.

You can also use these references to learn how to build visualizations in Power BI:

Step 3: Model and clean data

Once you understand how to build visualizations, you can do more complex analysis with Power BI. This involves building data models, calculating values with DAX, and cleaning data with the Power Query Editor.

These features will seem complex at first, but you can learn them one by one, by building projects.

Here are some data sets that you can use to explore data modeling and data cleaning:

  • Olympic athletes - this has information on Olympic athletes from 1896 to the present. you can model the relationship between two files - noc_regions.csv and olympic_athletes.csv. You can also combine these datasets with additional datasets, such as country population.
  • FIFA data - this contains player ratings from the popular football video game FIFA. You can combine this dataset with other datasets, like country population, or gdp.

If you want a walkthrough of how to analyze these datasets, we've created video walkthroughs to help you:

You can also use these references to learn how to model and clean data in Power BI:

Step 4: Publish your reports

When you're using Power BI in a job setting, you need to be able to share your analysis across your team. This is done using the Power BI service.

Once you create reports in Power BI desktop, you'll be able to publish them to the Power BI service and share them with others.

To practice publishing your results, you'll need to sign up for the Power BI service, and become familiar with the interface. These resources can help:

Step 5: Build a project portfolio

Once you understand all of the main features of Power BI, you'll need to be able to pull all of those skills together into an end-to-end workflow.

This workflow involves:

  • Finding a dataset and loading it into Power BI
  • Cleaning the data with the Power Query Editor
  • Modeling the data and building relationships
  • Calculating any needed columns using DAX
  • Creating visualizations and reports
  • Publishing those reports

Make sure that you complete this end-to-end process with several datasets, so that you can fully understand how to use Power BI and all of the features.

You'll also be able to use the work you do for these projects to create a portfolio. A portfolio is a compilation of projects that you've completed that you can highlight to employers on your Github profile, your resume, or your personal website.

Here are some places to find datasets you can use for your portfolio:

  • Data.gov - a great place to find US government datasets
  • NOAA - you can download weather data to analyze from this site
  • Statista - you can find a lot of market research and economic datasets here

Getting certified

Once you've become familiar with all of the key Power BI features and completed several end-to-end projects, then you'll be ready for the PL-300 certification exam!

The main skills you'll need for the exam are:

  • Preparing the data (importing, cleaning, transforming data)
  • Modelling the data (designing a data model, using DAX, optimizing performance)
  • Visualizing and analyzing the data (creating reports, enhancing reports, and identifying trends)
  • Deploying assets (Managing files and workspaces)

You can see more detail about the skills the exam will assess here.

If you've followed the steps above, you should have all of the main skills you'll need to pass the exam!

How long will it take to learn Power BI?

After reading these steps, the most common question we have people ask us is: “How long does all of this take?”

It can take anywhere from 1 to 6+ months to learn Power BI and get certified.

We’ve watched people move through our courses at lightning speed and others who have taken it much slower. It all depends on your desired timeline, free time that you can dedicate to learn Power BI and the pace at which you learn.

Luckily, our interactive Power BI course was created for you to go at your own speed. And we collaborated with Microsoft to make sure that you learn everything you'll need to pass the PL-300 exam and get job-ready.

Vik Paruchuri

About the author

Vik Paruchuri

Vik is the CEO and Founder of Dataquest.