Prerequisite Skills

A look at the prerequisite skills for the Penn State Smeal Master of Professional Studies in Supply Chain Management.

Microsoft Excel, Quantitative Methods, and Financial Accounting Proficiency

The following skills are pre-requisites for success in the program:

  • Intermediate-level skills in Microsoft Excel
  • Proficiency in applying quantitative methods to formulate, analyze, and solve management decision-making problems
  • Proficiency in applying fundamental financial accounting concepts to business management problems.

For a self-assessment of your Excel skills, please review this list of Excel operations you should be comfortable performing. If you are not, then you need to increase your skill level to where you can. If you know nearly all of them, then a little searching on the internet should be enough to teach you the couple you may be missing. If you are unfamiliar with several, then a course may be in order.

  1. Excel Menu Navigation
  2. Create Basic Formulas
  3. Absolute and Relative Cell References
  4. Basic Formatting (including customizing headers and footers, page formatting for printing)
  5. Conditional Formatting
  6. Paste Special
  7. SUM()
  8. Cell Formatting
  9. Number Formatting
  10. VLOOKUP()
  11. COUNTIF()
  12. Creating Basic Charts
  13. SUMIF()
  14. F4
  15. IF()
  16. Cumulative Sum
  17. MAX() and MIN()
  18. AVERAGE()
  19. Goal Seek and What-If
  20. RANDBETWEEN()
  21. Names Ranges/Name Manager
  22. Rounding

Microsoft Excel Resource

Harvard Business Online offers a course for improving your Microsoft Excel skills: Introductory Spreadsheet Modeling, which teaches students how to use Microsoft Excel 2013 (very similar to 2016) as both a reporting tool and a modeling tool for solving business problems. It is appropriate for both beginning and experienced users of Microsoft Excel. The course begins with an in-depth tour of the Excel environment and includes many helpful shortcuts and tips for mastering the functions in Excel. Students apply this knowledge to creating spreadsheet models, powerful tools for analyzing data and making business decisions. The course is set in a fictional bakery specializing in French pastries. Students use the features of Microsoft Excel to study product costs, determine pricing, and track payroll. They build spreadsheet models to help make informed business decisions. The course closes with the Monte Carlo simulation, a tool for understanding the effect of uncertainty on business decisions. Course topics are presented in a highly interactive format with narrated animations and self-correcting exercises designed to engage students in the learning process and help them understand complex concepts quickly. Microsoft Excel worksheets are included to assist students as they work towards mastering the subject matter. The course includes pre- and post-assessments.

The time needed to complete the course is 4-6 hours, depending on the student’s experience with the material. To access the course go to: https://hbsp.harvard.edu/import/598262. Through this link the price is $45, 50% off the public price.

Quantitative Methods Resources

Quantitative Methods, another online Harvard Business course, is an introduction to using statistical methods to solve business problems. The course teaches statistics from a management perspective and places special emphasis on developing the skills and instincts needed to make good decisions and become a more effective manager. The course is set in Hawaii at a fictional resort hotel. Students act as consultants hired to develop statistical models to aid the management team in making decisions for running the hotel. Students use sampling and estimation techniques to determine guest satisfaction levels and they analyze the risks and returns in investing in a new business venture for the hotel. Course topics are presented in a highly interactive format with narrated animations and self-correcting exercises. Microsoft Excel worksheets are included to assist students as they work towards mastering the subject matter. The course includes pre- and post-assessments.

The time needed to complete the course is 20-50 hours depending upon the student’s experience with the material. To access the course go to: https://hbsp.harvard.edu/import/598266. Through this link the price of is $75, 50% off the public price.

Another useful quantitative methods resource is the book: Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data by Charles Wheelan.  The book is available on Amazon for about $17. 

Financial Accounting Resource

A third online Harvard Business course, Introductory Financial Accounting, is an introduction to the fundamental concepts of financial accounting in a management context. The course describes the business activities for Global Grocer, a small retail franchise specializing in gourmet foods and specialty kitchen implements from all over the world. In the course, students follow the story of Global Grocer from its inception through the first year of operation. The course teaches students how accounting systems are used to record the day-to-day economic activities of a business and places special emphasis on understanding accounting terminology. Students learn fundamental accounting concepts and then apply those concepts in a detailed examination of the financial statements used to describe the business. Throughout the course, students are presented with real-world challenges that require them to interpret the financial data to find answers.

The course objectives are to understand (1) basic financial accounting terms and concepts; and (2) the financial statements--balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows--that firms use to describe their businesses.

The time needed to complete the course is 10-12 hours, depending on the student's experience with the material. To access the course go to: https://hbsp.harvard.edu/import/598256. Through this link the price is $45, 50% off the public price.

Other Resources

Another very useful resource is http://www.lynda.com.   Lynda.com provides access to over 1,700 video courses covering a wide variety of software and business subjects, including Microsoft Excel.   There are a variety of membership plans that enable you to choose from monthly or annual, basic or premium, depending upon your needs. 

Anyone that has a Penn State Access Account userid and password may access Lynda.com for free. Access Accounts may be obtained following admission to a Penn State degree program.