When pursuing new job opportunities that are a little bit out of scope for the skills you currently have, you might turn to online education to fill in the gaps. In this article, I’ll discuss the big question of “Can online courses help you get the job that you want?”
Recent History of Online Learning
Now before I answer the big question at hand, I want to clarify that the online courses I’m referring to are the “non-degree” variety. There are online masters programs that you do over the course of 1-3 years and you get an actual degree. This video is about all the other online courses out there that you can take to gain more skills.
That said, let me give you some context on online learning.
Online courses are all the rage right now, but that’s actually been the trend for many years starting with companies like Coursera that first offered a ton of course content, free, from some of the most established universities in the world, including your Ivy Leagues here in the US like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc
At the time, the model was purely about setting up these partnerships and getting content out to folks that were passionate about learning, but simply aren’t able to attend for a variety of reasons.
Of course, you didn’t really get anything to show for it at the time, but again, the purpose was to learn.
Online Learning Today
Fast forward to today and there has been an EXPLOSION of online education offerings with platforms like Udemy, Udacity, EdX, Coursera, and many universities and other institutions are beginning to offer online courses as well for anything from business analytics to coding to artificial intelligence / machine learning.
And what you now get for all this learning you do, is a certificate of completion. You learn, you complete assignments, and you get the certificate. In most cases, you pay for the education and the certification, which effectively is proof that you did actually go through this material.
Here’s where it gets interesting…
There’s a world out there of certificates to get that cover just about any skill; price ranges anywhere from $15 which you might find on Udemy, all the way to a few thousand dollars that you’d find from top universities (Ivy League included) that offer maybe 8-12 week long programs of online learning (sometimes blended w/ in-person).
Can Online Courses Lead to Your Next Job?
Now that you know that, the question is, can these online courses help get you a job?
The answer is unequivocally, YES.
However, are online courses just as valuable as getting a degree in a certain field? For the most part, no. Online courses will be complimentary to the education you already have, but they won’t carry the same weight.
Here’s the kicker though: there are some fields where in completing the online courses you create a portfolio of work. Think coding or graphic design, where you have some visible representation of your work that you can share widely or with a prospective employer.
In instances like that, if you have accumulated a body of work that clearly demonstrates your competency in a field, and if its of sufficiently high quality, then it can certainly pay off without the need for a degree.
Apart from those fields, here’s the case I make for online coursework –
When you’re independently pursuing more education to better yourself, and you have a certificate to show that you’ve engaged with the content, completed the assignments, etc, at minimum, you signal to prospective employers that you’re always looking to improve and become more valuable to any organization that brings you onboard and you’re doing this on your own – no one is forcing you to get more educated and gain more skills.
It shows curiosity and it shows drive, more than anything, which are tremendously valuable assets for any company and those are traits you can’t teach.
Skills, on the other hand, can be taught, and presumably you would’ve gotten them in the online coursework, but depending on the subject and the institution you got the certificate from, the certificate may or may not carry a lot of weight, but again, it can be complementary at least to what you already have for education and work experience.
I’ll put it to you this way, if a company had to decide between two candidates where, let’s say hypothetically, everything is equal, and the only difference is one candidate had taken some online coursework on a subject relevant to the job, and that candidate can prove it with a certificate, speak in detail about what they’ve learned, how they might apply it – 9 times out of 10, that candidate will win out.
When it comes to pursuing opportunities, it’s in your best interest to seek out ways to improve, be more valuable, and have an advantage in the job market.
Like technology, we, ourselves, have to update and adapt to stay relevant in an always changing business environment, which is why I give online courses, 2 thumbs up!
A few resources for you to explore:
Online Learning Platforms
University-offered Non-degree Online Programs (examples)