Although the job market has become friendlier to the employee and the contractor, it’s still—and always will be—competitive. Staying relevant is difficult in a world that seems to change every day, but with the right online professional development courses, you can do it.

So, how exactly does lifelong learning help with career progression? And how can online courses and certificates make a difference and pay themselves back many times over? That’s exactly what we’re going to examine today.

First and foremost, we’ll discuss what online professional development is and why online learning platforms have seen such growth in recent years. We will then discuss how elearning enhances careers before offering six upskilling opportunities you should consider today.

Understanding the Concept of Online Professional Development

Online professional development courses are a form of education that takes place over the internet. While some courses are self-paced, meaning you participate on your own schedule, others are instructor-led, where you are learning live with an instructor and other students. Self-paced courses are short and targeted, providing you with the skills you need at the time and place of your choosing. Instructor-led models often take a deeper dive and require you to be available at a scheduled time.

Either way, online learning resources are particularly valuable for those who want to stay updated in their fields on an ongoing basis. They’re affordable and can help you gain a new skill set.

The Benefits of Online Professional Development

Maintaining a professional development habit is an excellent way to remain competitive and enhance your career. So how exactly do online professional development courses enhance careers? Several ways:

  • They help you gain new skills or improve existing ones.
  • They make your resume stand out from the competition.
  • They provide networking opportunities with classmates and professors.
  • They help you to fit professional development into your existing life.
  • They increase your time management skills and technological fluency.
  • They give you access to industry professionals.

For these reasons and more, online professional development has become ever more popular—and that’s not just anecdotal.

The Growing Trend of Online Learning

Since its inception, online learning has grown massively.

“Online learning is the fastest-growing market in the education industry—it has grown 900% since its creation in 2000,” says the consulting company Devlin Peck, adding that “[t]he number of online learning users is expected to increase to 57 million by 2027.”

Perhaps even more saliently, for our purposes, “Online learning can increase student and employee retention to as much as 50%,” and “Online learning and training can improve employee performance by 15% to 25%.”

That makes it a solid bet not only for employers but also for employees who want to make a good impression by increasing their knowledge base and making themselves a better investment for current and potential employers.

That said, which courses should you consider?

Online Professional Development Courses and Certificates

If you’re looking to switch careers entirely, then your online learning path might be clear. You’ll need a new knowledge base and a new set of skills to make the transition.

However, if you’re looking to enhance your current job or career, then the choice might not be as obvious. Which courses will help you stand out from the competition and improve your career prospects? Which are worth your time?

First, ensure the classes align with your field. Taking a course “just for fun” is fine as long as you don’t expect it to make much difference to your career. Also, remember not to go overboard: take one class at a time and do the job well, then take another. 

Still not sure where to start? Here are six great courses and certificates to consider depending on your field.

1. Agile Certificate

Agile is one of the most popular project management methods today. It rests on the concept that development and other processes are more effective when you tackle it in rapid stages, with continuous implementation along the way to help you work out the bugs, rather than waiting till the end.

Today’s employers are in love with Agile because it gets results in fields like design, IT, advertising, marketing, and even healthcare. If you want to make your career stand out, then an Agile certificate could be the ticket.

2. Ambiguous Loss Certificate

Today’s fast-paced world has a cure for many ills, but not all. In recent years, we’ve come to understand that ambiguous loss – the loss of a loved one without closure – can result in serious emotional turmoil for the person left behind.

People in the psychological, medical, and social work fields can improve their ability to compassionately meet patient’s needs with an ambiguous loss certificate to help them better understand the needs and feelings of patients.

3. Human Resource Generalist Certificate

Human Resources (HR) is an ever-growing and well-paying field. Whether you are already working in the field or interested making it your career, a human resources generalist certificate can give you the skills you need to make a difference, both to your career and to the lives of others.

4. Leadership Essentials Certificate

Many careers call for leadership skills, yet we’re not all inherently blessed with or have been taught them. If that’s you, a leadership essentials certificate could help advance your career significantly.

In these online courses, you’ll learn how to communicate with other people effectively, prioritize tasks, influence others positively, support teams and individuals, and trust in your own leadership potential.

5. Mindfulness at Work

The benefits of mindfulness practice are backed by an impressive amount of research. It can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and even help you deal with pain.

If you find yourself mentally checking out at work, a mindfulness at work course could help. This simple but meaningful course will help you regulate your emotions, stay present, think outside the box, and communicate better than ever.

6. Wellbeing & Resilience for Health Professionals

Since the pandemic, many people have come to understand the impact of burnout on health professionals, yet what can you do about it? An online course geared toward your own well-being can help you remain resilient and love your career over the long haul.

How to Choose the Right Online Course for Your Career

Taking a haphazard approach to professional development is unlikely to enhance your career all that much. As with anything in life, employers are looking for quality over quantity. Rather than seeking every potential course that might pertain to your field, get targeted by:

  • Brainstorming and outlining exactly what skills or knowledge you want to gain.
  • Considering the relevant factors, such as cost, duration, and course reputation, before selecting a provider.
  • Determining which format—self-paced or instructor-led—best meets your needs and learning style.
  • Choosing quality courses and programs from a respected provider.

This last point is of particular importance. Not only is the respectability of the program provider crucial to people reviewing your resume, but it also helps ensure you’re adding the right skills and expertise to your existing knowledge base.

Learn More, Today

Are you ready to learn more about valuable professional development courses that will get you where you want to go in work and life? The University of Minnesota is here to help with a massive catalog of online courses.

Feel free to peruse these courses at your leisure, sign up for one or several, and get in touch with us if you have questions. We look forward to hearing your success story!