3 Ways Online Courses Can Help Jumpstart Your Career

girl on laptop at cafe
Ezra Bailey

With tech sector job growth projected to increase by 22% through 2020, you may be preparing for your big break into tech. The question is: where should you turn if you don’t have quite enough experience for the position you want?

It’s easier than ever to jump start or fast-track your career—on your own time—without having to go back to school and without paying big bucks. With online learning resources readily available, tech skill development is accessible the same way your favorite music is available on Spotify and your favorite shows are on Netflix.

Don’t believe me? Check out these three ways an online course can get your budding tech career off the ground.  

1. Learn from the best

Many online learning platforms like edX among others offer tech courses from top colleges and universities – entirely for free. MOOCs (massive open online courses) allow you to join a class of peers from all over the world and learn directly from the most qualified and distinguished professors. You can access the content for free, and the quality of the course will be the same as if you were sitting right in the classroom.  

Even without an opportunity for face-to-face interaction, you can connect with professors and peers from all over the world through discussion boards to personalize your learning experience. Engaging with professors and curriculum from schools like Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Berkeley through MOOCs is a fail-safe way to develop the tech skills needed in today’s workforce.

2. Take a series of courses – or find that RIGHT one

You should keep in mind that the right online course for you might actually prove to be several courses. Taking a few courses in one dedicated area of study will show that you’ve really mastered a certain skill, and help you stand out even more to hiring companies.

For this reason, the big players in the MOOC world have designed series of courses to make learners extra-qualified for potential employers.

A couple top universities that offer technology-specific course series are Columbia and UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley’s course series teaches you the fundamental skills needed in the software development industry, including Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, ​and Agile. Completing a whole series will show employers that you’re immediately ready to add value to the team.

If you’re sticking to just one online course, many options will focus on skills relevant to just one job in particular, such as Georgia Tech’s Artificial Intelligence for Robots. Courses like this are great for someone already immersed in the field of robotics, but if you’re just starting out in the tech industry, taking courses like Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science (CS50) could be a better option. Introductory courses like CS50 typically cover a lot of ground and give you exposure to multiple paths into programming. Then you can make a more informed decision as to where you’d like to go from there. 

3. Spread the word

Spreading the word to your professional network and to potential employers will elevate your credibility and visibility in the workforce.

From attending career fairs to updating your LinkedIn, every topic of conversation and credible skill counts. And when it comes to landing an interview, you’ll want as many proof points as possible that show off your qualifications—and you’d be surprised at what a few extra bullets on your resume can do.

Casually mentioning that you took an online course won’t always be enough. However, many online courses offer credentials through verified certificates awarded upon completion. For a small fee, you’ll be able to show credible, verified proof that you’ve mastered those skills you’ve worked so hard to gain.

Once you’ve successfully passed the course and paid for your verified certificate, there’s nothing holding you back from putting it on your resume and including it on your LinkedIn profile.

Adding the certification to your LinkedIn is easy:  Go to “Edit Profile”, above your profile summary where it suggests “Add Section,” and select “Certifications.” From there, just enter the name of the course, the name of the MOOC platform (under “Certification Authority”), and the URL that’s listed at the bottom of your certificate.

With online courses so affordable and accessible, there’s nothing stopping you from launching your new career. Just remember: the resources are out there for you. Break into tech by using trusted online courses to make it happen.

About the author:

Scott is the Global Talent Acquisition leader at edX focused on strategic, operational, and executive level support in talent initiatives. He is experienced and recognized in building, motivating and rewarding talent teams, and implementing sustainable talent programs and processes that support and drive business goals.