Should you take an online course to improve your career prospects?

If you are wondering whether taking an online course will improve your career options, then wonder no more. In this post, I’m exploring the pros and cons of online courses when it comes to your career!


Over the past few years, the popularity of online courses has continued to grow. According to Research and Markets, the global online education market is predicted to be worth over $286 million per year, by 2023. With technical capability on the rise, along with increased access to high quality online study options, it is no surprise that people are flocking (from the comfort of their own homes) to complete online courses, in the hopes that it will improve their career prospects. Depending on the course you select, you could be eligible to receive tuition from qualified teachers, as well as community study offerings, which allow you to build in accountability and collaboration. So, does that mean you should rush out and purchase an online course? Maybe. Let’s explore the pros and cons. 

Reasons you should consider taking an online course

1. An online course could make you more employable

If you can demonstrate on your resume that you have completed an online course, you are showing future employers that you are dedicated to your own personal development. You can also use online course options to upskill in certain areas, which mean you can develop expertise or even pivot your career path. Of course, not all online courses are created equal, so if you’re thinking about online study as a means to improve your employability, then be sure to sign up with a reputable training organisation and consider whether the qualification is nationally recognised. 

2. An online course could improve your skillset

Online study can be a great way to upskill. Whether you’re thinking about one of the accounting courses TAFE has to offer, a writing course offered by The Open University or or a course created by a private course-creator, you have loads of options to learn new capabilities. Showcasing your in-depth knowledge about a particular subject could help you stand out from the crowd when it comes time to find a new job. It could also help you to become more persuasive when asking for a pay increase or change of duties. 

3. Your employer may be willing to support you

We’ve spoken before about how remuneration and benefits isn’t just about the remuneration. You have to also consider the benefits! Financial study support or study leave could be an attractive option for you. It offers you the chance to learn new skills or hone your craft, whilst also receiving support from your employer. Study support is definitely not guaranteed and shouldn’t be considered a given, but if you put together a smart business case about how your study will benefit your work, your employer may find it hard to resist. (As a side note, a lot of my clients have their career coaching paid for by their employers through study support schemes - if you’re interested in finding out more, let me know!)

4. There are so many different online course options to choose from

As we’ve already established, the online course industry is huge. You can literally take an online course in anything. From crocheting to business communications, to confidence building and so much more. The internet has become out friend (for real, though) and the learning options really are endless. The beauty of this is that online courses are also offered at all different price points. The cost of studying is really no longer a barrier. Online education is accessible to almost everyone. 

5. The online learning options are incredibly flexible

I mean this in multiple ways. Firstly, lots of courses are open and available with life-time access. This means you can take your time in completing it, or complete the course multiple times. Also, online courses are delivered through all different kinds of mediums, so if you learn best in the car, try an audio option. Want to look into the whites of your trainer’s eyes? Select an option with video lessons. Prefer to read? They have options for that, too. There are even online courses that have an in-person component so that you can complete practical work and connect with your study community at various stages throughout the course. Cool, huh?

Let’s explore the pros and cons of online courses for your career!

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1. Taking an online course requires self-motivation and accountability

When you take an online course, you often don’t have classes to attend, which means you have to do the work in your own time. And with competing priorities, like kids, work, television, socialising and Candy Crush, this can be a hard task. If you aren’t able to motivate yourself, taking an online course may not be a good option for you. However, in saying this, there may be ways that you can create your own accountability (like signing up for an accountability partner) that will help you to stay on track. To find out more about your accountability style, check out this quiz.

2. You don’t get as much social interaction with an online course

Now, as we’ve already explored, this is changing. Online course creators are wising up to the fact that community makes studying more collaborative, interactive and enjoyable. So group assignments, Facebook groups, online forums and other activities may be included. But online interaction is never going to be quite the same as meeting someone face to face. If you like social interaction when you’re studying, you might be better off looking for a face-to-face study option in your area. 

3. Some online courses don’t hold the same credibility

Nationally-recognised qualifications are always going to hold more weight than courses that aren’t recognised. So, it’s important to really think about what you’re trying to achieve by taking an online course. If you’re genuinely taking it to upskill or develop your knowledge in a certain field, the training organisation doesn’t really matter. But if you’re looking for credibility, then opting for a recognised qualification from a reputable training company will always be a better option. 

So, there you have it!


About the Author


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.

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