Standard Deviation in Excel: A Complete Guide

Investors, portfolio managers, and financial advisors rely on standard deviation as a key measure of risk. As businesses, researchers, and individuals navigate through vast databases, they seek reliable tools to gain meaningful insights and make informed decisions. Over the years, Excel has established itself as a widely favored and user-friendly tool for data analysis, continuing to remain relevant and valuable in various fields.

Become an Expert in Data Analytics!

Post Graduate Program In Data AnalyticsExplore Now
Become an Expert in Data Analytics!

What Is Standard Deviation?

Standard deviation is a statistical measure that quantifies the amount of variation or dispersion in a set of values. It indicates how much the individual data points in a data set differ from the mean (average) value of the data set. Here's a breakdown of its significance:

  1. Measure of Spread: Standard deviation helps to understand how spread out the numbers in a data set are. A low standard deviation means that the data points tend to be very close to the mean, while a high standard deviation means that the data points are spread out over a wider range of values.
  2. Calculation: The standard deviation is the square root of the average of the squared deviations from the mean.
  3. Applications: It is widely used in the fields of finance, research, engineering, and many others to measure variability or risk. For example, in finance, a higher standard deviation of stock returns signifies higher volatility.
  4. Normal Distribution: In a normal distribution, approximately 68% of the data is located within one standard deviation from the mean. About 95% falls within two standard deviations, and roughly 99.7% is contained within three standard deviations.
  5. Standard deviation is a crucial tool in statistics for comparing the reliability of different datasets and for any statistical modeling or hypothesis testing.

Learn The Latest Trends in Data Analytics!

Post Graduate Program In Data AnalyticsExplore Program
Learn The Latest Trends in Data Analytics!

How to Find Standard Deviation in Excel?

To calculate the standard deviation in Excel, you can use several built-in functions, depending on the type of data set you have (sample vs. entire population). Here's how to do it:

1. STDEV.S (Standard Deviation for a Sample)

Use STDEV.S when your data represents a sample of a larger population. This function calculates the standard deviation using the "n-1" method, which is the sample standard deviation.

Example Formula:


Where "range" is the range of cells that contain the data.

2. STDEV.P (Standard Deviation for a Population)

Use STDEV.P when your data represents the entire population or you want to calculate the standard deviation using the "n" method, which is the population standard deviation.

Example Formula:


Where "range" again represents the cells containing your data.

Steps to Calculate Standard Deviation in Excel:

  • Input Your Data: Enter your data into a column of cells in Excel.
  • Select a Cell for the Result: Click on an empty cell where you want the standard deviation result to appear.
  • Enter the Formula: Type =STDEV.S() or =STDEV.P(), depending on whether your data is a sample or a population.
  • Select Your Data Range: Click on the first cell of your data, then drag to the last cell, or type the range (e.g., A1:A10) into the formula.
  • Press Enter: Excel will calculate the standard deviation and display it in the cell you selected.


If you have data from A1 to A10 and it represents a sample, you would write:


And if it's a population:


This approach allows you to efficiently compute the standard deviation for various types of data, helping you analyze the spread of your data in statistical and practical applications.

Formula Examples to Calculate Standard Deviation in Excel

Example 1: Calculating Sample Standard Deviation


You have test scores from a class of students and want to calculate the variability of scores as a sample of a larger population.


Scores: 85, 90, 88, 73, 92

Excel Formula:



Assume the scores are entered in cells B1 through B5.

Example 2: Calculating Population Standard Deviation


You manage a small team and have collected data on the number of sales calls they make each day. Since you are considering the data for the entire team, you treat it as a population.


Calls: 10, 12, 9, 11, 14

Excel Formula:



Assume the call numbers are entered in cells B1 through B5.

Example 3: Sample Standard Deviation with Logical Values


You are analyzing survey data where respondents answered "True" or "False" to whether they are satisfied with a service, and you wish to include these logical values in your variability calculation.



Excel Formula:



Assume the responses are entered in cells B1 through B5.

Example 4: Population Standard Deviation with Mixed Data Types


You are evaluating a small project team's performance scores along with their bonus eligibility (marked as TRUE or FALSE) and need to calculate the population standard deviation, including these mixed data types.


Data: 78, 82, TRUE, 88, 85, FALSE

Excel Formula:



Assume the performance scores and bonus eligibility are entered in cells B1 through B6.

How to Enter and Execute the Formula in Excel

  • Enter your data into the specified cells (e.g., B1 to B5).
  • Select an empty cell where you want the result to appear.
  • Type the formula corresponding to your data and analysis type (e.g., =STDEV.S(B1:B5) for a sample).
  • Press Enter to execute the formula and display the standard deviation.

Become an Expert in Data Analytics!

Post Graduate Program In Data AnalyticsExplore Now
Become an Expert in Data Analytics!

How to Add Standard Deviation Error Bars?

Adding standard deviation error bars to a chart in Excel is a great way to visually display the variability of your data. Error bars can be added to most types of charts, including line, bar, and scatter plots. Here's how you can add standard deviation error bars to your Excel chart:

Steps to Add Standard Deviation Error Bars in Excel

  1. Create a Chart:
  • First, enter your data into Excel and select it.
  • Go to the Insert tab.
  • Choose the type of chart that best fits your data (e.g., a column chart or scatter plot).
  1. Add Error Bars:
  • Once the chart is created, click on it to ensure it is active.
  • Go to Chart Tools on the ribbon, which will appear when a chart is selected. You’ll see two new tabs: Design and Format.
  • Under the Chart Tools, click on the Design tab.
  • Look for the Add Chart Element dropdown menu in the toolbar.
  • Hover over Error Bars, and then select More Error Bars Options... from the list.
  1. Choose Standard Deviation:
  • In the Format Error Bars pane that appears, you can choose the error bar options.
  • Select Standard Deviation to display the error bars that represent the standard deviation of your data.
  • Decide whether you want the error bars to apply to the whole series or just a specific data point within the series.
  1. Customize Error Bars:

You can set specific parameters for how you want the error bars to appear:

  • Direction: Choose which way the error bars should extend from the data point (e.g., both directions, minus, plus).
  • End Style: Decide whether to cap the error bars with a line.
  • Error Amount: Choose "Fixed value" or "Percentage" if you need specific adjustments, though typically selecting "Standard Deviation" adjusts this automatically based on your data.
  1. Formatting:

You can also format the appearance of your error bars (color, line type, width) by right-clicking the error bars directly in the chart and selecting Format Error Bars from the context menu.

  1. Review Your Chart:

Once you’ve added and configured your error bars, review the chart to ensure it accurately represents the data variability.


If you have monthly sales data in cells A1:B12 (where A has months and B has sales figures), and you create a column chart from this data, following the above steps will help you add standard deviation error bars that visually represent the variability of sales each month.

Adding standard deviation error bars helps in providing a clear, visual representation of the data variability or uncertainty, which can be particularly useful in presentations or reports where you need to display the precision or reliability of your data.

Why Is Standard Deviation Useful in Spreadsheets?

Standard deviation is a critical statistical tool used in spreadsheets for several reasons, particularly because it provides a quantitative measure of variability or dispersion around the mean (average) of data sets. Here are key reasons why standard deviation is especially useful in spreadsheet applications:

1. Measuring Data Spread

Standard deviation gives you a clear picture of how spread out the data points are in your dataset. This is crucial for understanding whether the data points are clustered closely around the mean or scattered widely.

2. Identifying Outliers

By quantifying how data points deviate from the average, standard deviation can help identify outliers — values that are significantly higher or lower than the rest of the data. This can be particularly important in fields like finance or quality control, where outliers can indicate errors or unusual conditions.

3. Comparing Data Sets

Standard deviation allows comparisons between different data sets, even if the means are different. For example, comparing the standard deviations of test scores from different classes can help educators understand which class has more consistent performances versus which one has more variability in student outcomes.

4. Risk Assessment

In finance and investing, standard deviation is often used as a measure of risk. A higher standard deviation indicates a higher variability in investment returns, suggesting a potentially higher risk. Investors use standard deviation to assess the volatility of stock prices, mutual funds, and other financial instruments.

5. Quality Control

Businesses use standard deviation to monitor quality. For example, in manufacturing, the standard deviation of the dimensions of components can be tracked to ensure they meet the required tolerances. Consistently low standard deviations are indicative of a controlled and effective manufacturing process.

6. Scientific Research

Researchers use standard deviation to summarize the results of experiments and studies, providing a sense of how much confidence they can have in the data collected. It helps in understanding the reliability and validity of the data and conclusions drawn from it.

7. Normalization

Standard deviation is used in data normalization processes, such as calculating the Z-score (standard score) of a data point. This score tells how many standard deviations an element is from the mean, helping to standardize data from different sources or scales to be comparable.

8. Performance Tracking

In performance management, whether in sports, business, or education, standard deviation can help track consistency and fluctuations in performance over time. This can inform coaching, training, and development efforts.

Implementation in Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets offer built-in functions to calculate standard deviation easily, which makes them accessible even to those who are not statistical experts. This simplicity in calculation, combined with the powerful insights it provides, underscores the utility of standard deviation in spreadsheet environments.

By using standard deviation in spreadsheets, you can perform complex data analyses, present data more effectively, and make more informed decisions based on quantitative data assessments.

Learn The Latest Trends in Data Analytics!

Post Graduate Program In Data AnalyticsExplore Program
Learn The Latest Trends in Data Analytics!

Standard Deviation vs. Standard Error

Standard deviation and standard error are two important statistical terms often used in data analysis, but they serve different purposes. Here's a table that outlines the key differences between standard deviation and standard error:


Standard Deviation

Standard Error


Measures the amount of variability or dispersion around the mean of a dataset.

Estimates the variability of the sample mean relative to the true population mean.


The square root of the average of the squared deviations from the mean.

The standard deviation divided by the square root of the sample size.


Used to quantify the spread of data points in a single sample relative to the mean.

Used to quantify how accurately the sample mean represents the population mean.


A larger standard deviation indicates a wider spread of data points from the mean.

A smaller standard error indicates that the sample mean is likely to be closer to the population mean.


Useful for understanding the distribution within a set of data.

Important for making inferences about the population from which the sample was drawn, such as in confidence intervals or hypothesis testing.

Dependence on Sample Size

Does not depend directly on the sample size—reflects the actual variability in the data.

Decreases with increasing sample size, as the sample mean becomes a more accurate estimate of the population mean.

Learn over a dozen of data analytics tools and skills with Post Graduate Program in Data Analytics and gain access to masterclasses by Purdue faculty and IBM experts. Enroll and add a star to your data analytics resume now!


Standard deviation is an essential statistical metric widely employed across various fields, enabling researchers, analysts, and executives to make informed decisions, identify trends, and understand data variability. The standard deviation formula in Excel is a vital resource for data analysts, scholars, and leaders across different sectors. For those interested in deepening their knowledge of data analysis tools and techniques, including standard deviation, the Post Graduate Program in Data Analytics offers comprehensive training. This course can enhance your understanding and skills in data analysis, preparing you for a range of professional challenges and opportunities.


1. How do you calculate standard deviation on Excel?

To calculate standard deviation in Excel, enter your data into a range of cells. Then, use either =STDEV.S(range) for a sample or =STDEV.P(range) for a population, where "range" is the cell range containing your data.

2. Do I use STDEV P or STDEV s?

Use STDEV.P if your data represents the entire population or you need the population standard deviation. Use STDEV.S if your data is a sample of a larger population and you want to calculate the sample standard deviation.

3. What is the formula for STDEV s in Excel?

The formula in Excel for calculating the sample standard deviation is STDEV.S. You use it by entering =STDEV.S(range) in a cell, where "range" includes the cells with your data.

4. How do you calculate SD?

To calculate standard deviation (SD), first find the mean of your data. Subtract the mean from each data point, square the results, and average these squares. Finally, take the square root of this average.

5. How do you calculate 2 standard deviations in Excel?

First, calculate the standard deviation using STDEV.S(range) or STDEV.P(range). Multiply this result by 2 to get two standard deviations. You can combine these steps in one formula like =2*STDEV.S(range).

About the Author


Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

View More
  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.