Online courses offer career advancement

Lots of workers – 29 percent according to a recent survey by Spherion Staffing – are worried that they don’t have the skills to get ahead.

There’s ample evidence, though, that many workers, including those who’ve already racked up college and post-graduate degrees, are taking courses to keep their skills marketable. “Across the board, from entry level jobs on up, there’s increasing demand for skills,” explains Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Even a Ph.D.,” he notes, may need a course to “keep ahead of new processes.”

Additionally, Carnevale says, employers will spend an estimated $177 billion for formal training programs. And one cannot estimate how much individuals spend because there’s a vast landscape of training options.

When LinkedIn Corp. recently announced its second quarter results, for example, a big earnings spike came from the company’s recent acquisition of, which offers 3,700 courses, accompanied by 150,000 online video tutorials. Individuals can purchase courses, as can businesses and other groups.

Among the most popular offerings, according to the site, are business tutorials, like “Excel 2013 Essential Training” and “Project Management Fundamentals.”

Similarly, providers like Coursera, edX and Udacity are offering a burgeoning number of online courses, says Carnevale.

Coursera, for instance, is offering many new classes this fall that were developed by colleges and universities in partnership with businesses, this fall – particularly tech and financial firms.

Sometimes, job course requisites are clear. “There are industry-based certifications, earned by successful completion of a specific course or courses, that are prerequisites for various positions,” says Carnevale.

Outside of industry certification, it’s hard to know whether a course will connect to a specific career goal. “If you can, ask other people who took the course,” advises Carnevale.