Personal Finance

7 In-Demand Skills You Can Learn Online

What do a rock band, an investigative journalist, and a big box retail manager all have in common?

They likely worry about the profitability of their industry, in large part due to the internet.

When paired with the rapid increase of automation, it sometimes feels like almost all of our traditional industries are dying out. According to the World Economic Forum, automation will start shaking up the economy by 2020, and 35% of skills that are currently important will have changed in merely five years.

But for every job the World Wide Web has destroyed, there are several it has created. It has opened entirely new fields, from programming to ecommerce, that are like nothing we’ve seen before.

Job openings are climbing and the economy is on the rise. But these changes mean that problem now isn’t one of lack of jobs, it’s a lack of properly skilled candidates. Employers largely claim that there is a skills mismatch between what they need and what potential candidates provide.

All this means is that workers need to adapt to new needs. Creativity, for example, will become the 3rd most important skill required to thrive in 2020. It’s been shown that creative thinkers possess a skillset that’s useful in today’s economy and crucial for tomorrow’s. Many technical fields use creative skills such as collaboration and problem solving, and programming, web development, and data modeling are all on the rise.

Luckily, the internet makes it easy to learn just about anything from anywhere. Here are seven in-demand skills that you can learn online to increase your earning potential:

7. Project Management

Project management is the application of various systems and methods to a series of projects that ensures that companies and teams meet the objectives of each project. These skills are used heavily in finance, technology, and engineering.

People management, critical thinking, and coordinating with others were still high on the list of important skills in 2020. Plus, automation suggests that the workplace will only become more and more project-based, so project management will be relevant for a long time.

Where to learn it: The Project Management Institute offers a number of online courses and certifications.

Average pay increase: 7%, according to

6. Foreign Languages

While translation software exists, anyone who has tried to use Google translate knows that it’s far from perfect. In our globalized economy, learning a second (or third) language is incredibly valuable in nearly every industry.

For example, social workers who speak Spanish see about a 5% increase in their pay, while Mandarin will give you a huge advantage in the business world. If you learn one of the languages that the U.S. government’s list of “critical languages”, a wide range government jobs will open up to you.

Where to learn it: Rosetta Stone is a tried and true favorite in terms of software, but for websites, Duolingo (free) and Busuu are favorites that offer more interaction with native speakers.

Average pay increase: Anywhere from +$67,000-$128,000 in lifetime earnings, according to The Economist

5. Photography & Design

Using these skills as supplements to other professional backgrounds is increasingly popular. Every successful business has an online presence, there’s not a company in the world that doesn’t use designers or artists in some way, from logo and website design to product photography.

Learning basic photography, photo editing, video production and editing, Adobe software, and especially web design can help you snag better jobs, and they can also help you make money on the side.

Where to learn it: Adobe offers training courses, Don’t Fear the Internet offers web design courses for the artistically-inclined, and Lynda offers photography courses.

Average pay increase: If you use your skills to make money on the side for 10 hours each week, each month you could bring in an extra $2,360 doing web design, $993.20 doing graphic design, $609.60 doing photography, $1,072 or doing video production, on average.

4. Writing

Finally, that creative writing degree might come in handy! The internet may have made it more difficult for journalists to make a living, but it opened up a whole new world for bloggers and copywriters. If you can write well, you can help your company increase sales. If you can tell a story, you can capture customers.

Not just that, but writing skills are important in nearly every industry. A study by Grammarly in which they surveyed LinkedIn found that professionals with fewer grammar errors in their profiles achieved higher positions and more promotions.

Finally, writing positions aren’t in danger of being outsourced like many other tech jobs, because they can’t be performed by people who aren’t exceptionally fluent in English.

Where to learn it: Purdue offers online professional writing courses, and online courses in copywriting and blogging are a dime a dozen. Just make sure to research the program first.

Average pay increase: The average starting salary for bachelors-degree holders is $45,000, while the average starting salary for Copywriters is $55,000, which means a +$10,000 annual increase.

3. Data Analysis

Big data has been a big buzzword for a while, and it’s not going anywhere. Data analysis and mining skills such as SAS (Statistical Analysis System), web scraping (a process of “scraping” the web to extract large amounts of data to be analyzed), and data modeling are incredibly valuable in a number of industries.

Where to learn it: While these skills can be learned on your own, udemy offers a data mining course, SAS offers training, and a number of outlets offer data modeling courses.

Average pay increase: People with SAS skills see a 17% increase in pay, and those who can data model see a 5% increase in earnings. Web scraping, or data scraping, is surprisingly easy to learn if you know how to code, and can result in a 5% increase in income or more.

2. Digital Marketing

Everything is going digital. Online business is booming, and internet-only stores managed to outsell big box retailers last year. So, naturally, marketing is going digital as well. People with solid search engine marketing skills, such as SEO, are in high demand, as are people who know how to leverage social media marketing to skyrocket brand awareness.

Where to learn it: Not surprisingly, the internet is littered with SEO and digital marketing courses. Do your research before paying for one, or learn these skills on your own.

Average pay increase: People with search engine marketing skills typically see a 5% pay increase.

1. Programming

You’ve probably heard it from someone before: learn to code! Knowing coding languages is just as important as knowing a foreign language nowadays. People with web development skills, software developers, and especially people who know how to develop mobile applications are always in demand, and can often charge a pretty penny for their skills.

Where to learn it: Codecademy and Khan Academy are two popular options.

Average pay increase: Ruby on Rails and Java are two commonly recommended languages to learn for a pay boost. The former offers a 13% increase and the latter a 9% increase.

How are you improving your skills through online courses?

About the author

Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and “digital nomad” specializing in small business, entrepreneurship, career advice, real estate, travel, arts, and culture. She’s written for outlets as varied as Rawckus Music and Arts Magazine, Itcher Entertainment, Sweden Tips, Houzz, Hometalk, JobHero, Tico Times, and Eugene Weekly. Thanks to a three-year stint in a travel job, a knack for mining great deals, and credit card churning, she has not paid for a single flight since 2012, despite her constant travels. You can find her on Twitter @LizzieAldrich or her website,

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