HDS is reader-supported and we may receive compensation from affiliate links on this site at no extra cost to you—learn more
The right skills can transform your career and your life, and you can learn them flexibly and cost-effectively through high-caliber online courses.
What skills are in demand?
According to LinkedIn, the highest demand skills in the 2020s are in tech-related areas such as blockchain, analytics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and coding.
These skills are what you need in a world where the digital experience is an important and growing part of our lives.
Also in demand are soft skills, which help to differentiate ourselves in an increasingly automated world. These include creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence.
The right skills can lead to great employment opportunities
The marketplace for skilled talent is fiercely competitive.
Large corporations like IBM are looking to fill ‘new collar jobs‘ in areas like coding, data analytics and AI.
Employers are also focusing on skills training rather than traditional qualifications. Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM in 2016, has said that “IBM does not always require a college degree .. What matters most is relevant skills.“
A recent World Economic Forum report on the future of jobs found that the skills in highest demand in 2022 and beyond will be in data analysis, AI, machine learning, software development and digital transformation.
Practical skills are what freelancers and entrepreneurs need
Skills benefit contractors, consultants, freelancers and entrepreneurs as well as salaried employees.
A recent survey by Upwork found that the most common type of freelance work in the US is in skilled services such as programming or consulting. More than half of US freelancers would replace their entire college education with skills training that’s more relevant for their current work, according to the survey.
The promise of data analytics and AI
Skills in data analytics and AI (or “data science”) are amongst the highest-demand skills today. They are sought after by employers and are valuable for freelancers and entrepreneurs in a digital economy.
Data analytics refers to analyzing data to extract information or find answers to questions. It covers a broad scope of techniques including math, statistics, coding and other ways to manipulate and make sense of data.
Skills in data analytics are versatile and can be used in a variety of applications. They are fundamental to the growing needs of a digital world.
Data analytics is also integral to the development and deployment of AI.
AI is a technology that has already become a part of our daily lives—from healthcare to finance, retail to logistics and more. AI is helping to make our lives more productive, efficient and effective every day.
AI covers a variety of knowledge areas including machine learning, computer vision and natural language processing.
At HDS, we’re dedicated to bringing you practical knowledge about skills in demand, with a focus on tech, data analytics and AI.
You can learn the skills you need through flexible and cost-effective online courses (MOOCs)
MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are an excellent way to learn in-demand skills today. They’re flexible, cost-effective, practical and offer recognized qualifications across a variety of disciplines. They also offer the convenience of online learning.
Popular MOOC providers include EdX, Udacity, Coursera, Treehouse and GoSkills. Each offers a wide selection courses. They are highly regarded for their content and are taught by some of the world’s best practitioners.
As MOOCs, all of the following providers offer courses that have flexible delivery modes, including video-on-demand, course notes and access to forums and groups.
EdX offers a wide range of courses in numerous subject areas, including comprehensive data science courses to boost your skills in data analytics and statistics.
Many of the courses are free, with paid certification add-ons.
EdX was jointly founded by Harvard and MIT and offers courses from these and several other high-caliber institutions.
Udacity offers a variety of courses in tech-related areas, including a range of excellent courses dedicated to AI.
There are many free courses on offer, but the most comprehensive courses are offered through ‘nano degree’ programs. These are medium-term learning programs (6-12 months) that require a monthly subscription.
Coursera offers a wide range of courses from high-caliber institutions and is one of the most popular online course providers today.
There are 11 course categories ranging from Arts and Humanities to Computer Science and Personal Development.
Many courses are free, however, like EdX, to earn a certification either a one-off cost or ongoing subscription is required.
Coursera was co-founded by Andrew Ng, a Stanford Professor and prominent practitioner in AI.
GoSkills offers a range of acclaimed courses for meeting a variety of personal and professional goals.
GoSkills also has a subscription-based model and offers a 7-day free trial with unlimited access to learning content during the trial period.
An interesting feature of GoSkills is their focus on short, bite-size lessons to make learning easier—this has been shown to be a very effective learning approach and has helped to make GoSkills a much-loved learning platform.
Skills vs traditional college courses
Traditional courses such as college degrees or diplomas are becoming less relevant for today’s needs. While they have value as an educational foundation, they are expensive, require a large time-commitment and tend to lack flexibility.
Futurist Mike Colagrossi notes that college enrolments in the US are falling due to antiquated systems and fading relevancy. The future will be geared towards skills rather than degrees. And these skills will increasingly be gained through flexible, online, self-study learning options.
A recent survey by Glassdoor listed 15 top companies, including Google, Costco and Hilton, that no longer require college degrees.
In fact, many of the world’s best universities, including Stanford, MIT and Harvard, now offer comprehensive MOOC programs.
In today’s digital and connected world, more and more people are turning to MOOCs to fill the gaps in their learning and to gain cutting-edge skills—this is the future of learning.