Going back to school to seek additional credentials in a professional field is a tried and true path to furthering your career goals. However, a traditional university education takes a significant investment of resources that may be scarce for many people, such as time, scheduling accommodations and cost. For non-traditional learners, online courses can be an accessible, cost-effective alternative to increasing your skills and earning potential.

Convenient and Relevant

If you can’t or don’t want to complete an entire degree program at this stage of your career, taking online courses that directly relate to your current skill set can prove to your superiors that you’re committed to keeping your professional skills sharp and up-to-date. Because many online courses are either self-paced or allow for a great deal of schedule flexibility, you can usually enhance your professional credentials without the financial and family burdens of taking time off for school.

Making the Most Out of Unemployment

Completing relevant online courses is a meaningful way to explain any existing employment gaps in your resume to potential employers. This can reassure a recruiter that you’ve stayed fresh in your skills while making good use of your time off. Taking time off to further your expertise in your field is a much easier sell to a hiring manager than just a long unexplained period of unemployment.

An Edge Among Your Peers

If you work in a field where many of your peers have similar educational backgrounds and experience levels as you, differentiating yourself as a candidate to potential employers can be a challenge. If you’re already employed, it can be equally challenging to distinguish yourself from your similarly credentialed peers when being considered for a promotion. Enhancing your skills with online courses can give you a differentiated edge during hiring decisions and distinguish your skill set in a competitive job market. Regardless of your chosen professional field, online courses are an accessible way to make yourself stand out among the crowd.

Displaying Desirable Traits

Online courses don’t have the same degree of teacher oversight and structure that traditional classes have. Successfully completing online courses that pertain to your career can be a way for you to display that you possess a certain level of self-motivation, discipline and passion necessary for online learning success. Making the time and the effort to enhance your professional expertise through online classes also shows a would-be employer that you’re continuously keeping your skills fresh and cutting-edge. This kind of commitment requires a sincere commitment and passion for the best practices in your industry – all qualities that employers look for in exemplary job candidates.

Online courses give non-traditional learners an accessible and usually affordable avenue to grow their business expertise and gain important career-enhancing skills. If you’ve been struggling in a job search, or if you’re just looking to move past your current position in your field, taking online classes may be a worthwhile professional investment that can turn your job prospects from good to great.