5 Online Certificates That Will Make You Competitive In The Job Market

It’s not easy landing a well-paying job straight out of college anymore, or maybe it was never really easy. More and more college graduates find themselves settling for unpaid internships well into their second or third years out of college. Not only is it exhausting and discouraging, but it can also be near impossible to stay afloat financially if you’re in a similar situation. It’s terrifying to confront the idea that, maybe your degree (or even multiple degrees) isn’t enough, but we’re here to tell you that’s not the case at all. It just means you have to work a little harder, hustle a little longer and study a little more.

Yup, you read right: we think you should hit the virtual books, so to speak. Online certifications offer anyone—not just college graduates—the opportunity to strengthen and prove their expertise in specific areas of work. On your resume, these stand out as more focused than a degree program and can really set you apart from the crowd. Dr. Jude Miller Burke, workplace psychologist and author of The Adversity Advantage: Turn Your Childhood Hardship into Career and Life Successwarns that today’s cutthroat job market makes online certifications an absolute must. She adds, “It's essential to provide employers with proof that you have technical skills beyond a diploma. Especially for students pursuing creative fields such as social media, marketing, advertising or public relations, knowledge of HTML and CSS, Adobe, Illustrator, InDesign, Google Analytics and SEO are crucial to your success.”

That’s why we’ve put together a list of online certifications you should look into if you’re interested in building your resume and kicking some job-hunting butt.

Google Analytics

Google’s Analytics Academy promises to help professionals learn how to use all of Google’s measurement tools effectively; successful candidates will be able to grow their businesses online and understand and leverage statistical data about customer usage and engagement.

This is especially attractive for those interested in digital marketing, e-commerce and influencer branding. As a millennial or Gen Z-er, you might be thinking, “I already know most of this stuff, why should I bother?” But Bradley Shaw, digital marketing and online consulting expert, explains, “Customers do business with people they trust and one way to gain this trust is through authority. Accreditation or certificates can establish your authority in your field.” Shaw has completed multiple Google certificates, including Google AdWords, which he says have given him useful behind-the-scenes knowledge. 

While all of these Google-related certificates are of course offered by Google, you can find pages and pages of third-party, online prep courses within just a few seconds. Keep in mind that much of the information can be accessed for free, but the actual Google Analytics Individual Qualification examination costs $50. Still, it’s a good idea to have at least one of these tech-accolades on your resume in today’s job market.

Social Media Marketing

More than just Google certificates, online certifications in digital and social media marketing tools are always a good idea. Alice Bedward, marketing executive at Randstad MENA, says that after losing her job a few months ago, she turned to online certifications to learn some new tricks of the trade. She used HubSpot Academy to find courses that cover everything from inbound marketing to growth-driven design. “After being laid off from work in early January, I completed several [of these] certifications in order to improve my chances on the job market. Both the certificates and the course content came up during recent interviews, and ultimately strengthened my standing as a candidate for multiple marketing roles,” she says. Now, she helps people find jobs in the Middle East!

Project Management

Why project management? Well, for one, it’s applicable in almost every line of work and project management certifications are recognizable worldwide. PMP (Project Management Professional) training is available online directly from the Project Management Institute or from third-party organizations and even accredited universities. The program culminates in a 200-question multiple-choice examination that candidates must complete within four hours, but you’ll certainly be better off for it.

Valerie Streif, senior adviser at thementat.com, explains that earning your project management certification “can instantly set your resume apart from others, giving you a competitive edge not only to get the job in the first place but to quickly move and secure a promotion that puts you in charge of other people. Project managers can earn six-figure salaries.” She’s right; the Project Management Institute reports that people who are PMP-certified earn an average of over 20 percent more than their colleagues.

HTML/Programming

You know this is a must when there are summer camps all over the country dedicated to teaching children how to build and design websites of their own. It’s no longer a skill reserved only for tech moguls. That’s why becoming certified in HTML or CSS will never be a waste. Both will allow you to create your own website or manage an existing website for your company with ease and professionalism. You can learn both of these through a number of online programs, like Lynda.com or General Assembly; some universities even offer them as integrated options in your degree program so shop around to find the method that works best for you.

While these are not programming languages (HTML is a mark-up language and CSS is a style-sheet language), when used together, they can produce a simple but effective website. Programming languages, like Java and C#, are also useful for app development; they allow you to create programs that process complex arithmetic and logic problems, which means that, even if you’re not a programmer by profession, this is a useful office skill for data entry and database management. Potential employers will be impressed by your technological prowess and you’ll be able to do a lot more with your devices and your time.

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)

Hear us out with this one. You never know when the opportunity to travel to an exciting, faraway country might present itself. If and when it does, you want to be sure you can support yourself throughout your travels. Teaching English as a second language in a foreign country is a great way for young, educated explorers to see the world, experience new cultures and push the boundaries of their comfort zones. It's also a helpful asset if you're thinking of joining The Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. Particularly if your bachelor’s degree is in the arts, this certification suggests that you’re open to unique challenges. Plus, if you’ve just graduated college and you’re not quite sure what your next step should be, having your TEFL certification might present an excellent and rewarding way to spend your gap year while earning some extra cash.

Related: 7 Reasons Student Leadership Is So Much More Than A Line On Your Resume

Of course, there are tons of other online courses and certifications available, many of them even more specific to your area of interest. If you’re looking to add a new skill to your resume or simply show off one that you already feel confident about, Dr. Burke says, “Ideal places for new grads to start would be Udemy, Coursera, and Code Academy.” There are also websites like EdX and FutureLearn that let you take online classes from real, accredited universities worldwide for free. In fact, Shaw points out that many online certifications are entirely free. The point here is simply, you’re never too old (or too young or too busy or too accomplished) to learn a new skill; save yourself the time and learn it online, then get the certificate to prove it!