For today’s modern professional, it’s becoming increasingly crucial to continually grow and improve, throughout the life-cycle of your career. Yet as the demands in the workplace continue to increase the stress on employees and reduce free time outside of the office, how can we build our professional education and competencies in the minimal free time that we have?
Thankfully, the emergence of online learning has opened the doors for individuals with even minimal free time to access world-class education. This ability to learn “on the go”, has huge career implications for anyone that chooses to put the additional time in to increase their knowledge and better their careers.
Whether you’re a professional looking to climb the corporate ladder through an advanced degree, or simply looking to build additional skills through free online training, the options are becoming increasingly endless.
Let’s look into three ways to boost your professional education, even if you’re a busy, professional working full-time and balancing a crazy family dynamic.
1. Enroll in an online advanced degree program
As someone who is currently in the process of completing my Masters of Science degree in Information Systems at Northwestern University, I’ve experienced this first hand. After finishing my undergraduate degree in Marketing/Sales, I was looking for a way to build my experience in technology and become a more attractive job candidate in the future, yet I wasn’t sure the proper direction to take.
After conducting some significant research, I found Northwestern’s program, which can be completed both online/in-person. It offered me the flexibility to work from 7:30am – 6:00pm Monday-Friday, yet, still log-in to my laptop during the evenings to complete homework and class, without needing to travel to a classroom.
There are countless schools (and many big name schools) that are currently offering these types of degrees, from Northwestern University, Harvard University, Penn State, etc. It’s by no means the cheapest option in terms of advancing your professional career, but it might be the most “prestigious” track to take as you’re not only advancing your career but also adding a degree to your resume.
2. Take individual online courses from real Universities
Rather than completing an entire degree, another way to advance your professional education is to laser focus on specific competencies and skillsets. One of the best places to do this, is edX.org, which partners up with prestigious universities such as MIT, Harvard, UPenn and Cal Berkeley, offering 500+ courses.
These courses focus on everything from “Entrepreneurship 101”, “Introduction to Computer Science”, to “Autonomous Navigation for Flying Robots” (drones!). An increasing number of companies are beginning to hold weight in these classes (and the certificate that you receive upon completion), especially during the interview process.
These courses are especially useful if you’re looking to build an additional skillset, let’s say, in the field of software development. If the position you currently hold does not allow you to work with Big Data technologies and that’s the field you would like to get into, you can take one or multiple courses on edX.org to build your competencies in the field and make yourself more attractive to future employers.
3. Learn on Lynda, Udemy and more
Outside of established education institutions, such as the universities providing courses on edX.org, there are a number of companies that currently offer an extensive array of courses as well. Two of the largest and most comprehensive education sites are Udemy.com (recently raised $65 million in VC funding) and Lynda.com (recently acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion).
These websites have courses offered by both educational institutions, companies and individuals, in a complete variety of fields. The courses are anywhere from completely free to hundreds of dollars, but still much cheaper than the traditional higher education sector.
A great aspect of both of these websites is the review section, which allows current students to review the course and instructor, so you don’t end up wasting your time or money on a course that’s not as effective as advertised.
As the global workforce becomes increasingly competitive, employees must continually build and evolve their skills to stay ahead in their respective industries. Even if you’re a full-time employee, juggling a family life with a hefty work load, you can still find time to build up your professional competencies using these three suggestions.