Course Spotlight

5 New Specializations that Teach You Future-Proof Skills

By Denton Zhou | Updated September 3, 2017 | First published August 31, 2017

In this spotlight, we look at five highly-anticipated specializations designed to teach you skills that employers demand. Made up of 4-6 courses each on average, they offer learners an opportunity to dive deep on a subject and build expertise in real-world techniques.

The courses we've chosen in this spotlight are unique to the others we've published in that not only are the skills they teach future-proof—i.e., relevant for many years to come—we think you'll be able to apply them no matter what your field is.

Note: While some of these courses are free individually, there are costs associated with receiving certificates for entire specializations. You may purchase courses individually at $79/course or, through OpenCourser, subscribe to specializations at $49/month.

Let's jump in to the recommendations.

Deep Learning & AI

From self-driving cars to warehouse robots, AI is on the cusp of transforming our world. Learning about its inner workings won't just help you stay ahead of the automation curve, it could very well shape how you work in the future.

When we first took Professor Andrew Ng's Machine Learning course, we were pleasantly surprised. Not only were the techniques it taught powerful, they were also accessible to anyone, even for someone who didn't know much math or programming. It was also the first time anyone from around the world could take a course from Stanford University.

That course came out in 2011, and although it still ranks today as one of the most enrolled courses on OpenCourser, it's long due for an update.

Enter the Deep Learning Specialization, a series of five AI-oriented courses.

It's taught by leading AI expert Andrew Ng, who left his post as Chief Science Officer at Baidu to set up, an initiative that hopes to help millions learn not only the fundamentals of AI, but to help them deploy the latest tools and techniques that have sprung up in the field.

Whether you're curious about what the frontier of AI looks like or you're thinking about forging a new career in AI, you'll benefit from this specialization.

New sessions kick off monthly, with the next one starting September 12. Enroll now or learn more by exploring this specialization's component courses:

  1. Neural Networks and Deep Learning
  2. Improving Deep Neural Networks: Hyperparameter tuning, Regularization and Optimization
  3. Structuring Machine Learning Projects
  4. Convolutional Neural Networks
  5. Sequence Models

Digital Marketing

If you're in any industry that sells and distributes products and services, there's a good chance you'll find appeal in what digital marketing has to offer: a potential customer base that exists as far as the Internet reaches.

Digital marketing goes far beyond just setting up a website or Facebook page and telling your friends about it. It's about following best practices, running experiments, ranking on search engines, and understanding data and analytics to inform your next move and land your next hundred, thousand, or million customers.

The Digital Marketing Specialization, taught by industry experts through the University of Illinois' iMBA program, is designed to help anyone get started and excel in digital marketing. As of 2016, it ranked in the Top 10 of all specializations. Since the launch of its first course, Marketing in a Digital World, its instructors have helped hundreds of thousands of online course learners master digital marketing.

Spread the word of your product or service to millions, fast. The next session of Digital Marketing kicks off September 20. Enroll now or learn more by exploring this specialization's component courses:

  1. Marketing in a Digital World
  2. Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals: Marketing Analytics in Theory
  3. Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals: Marketing Analytics in Practice
  4. Digital Marketing Channels: The Landscape
  5. Digital Marketing Channels: Planning
  6. Marketing in an Analog World (October 2017 Release Date)
  7. Digital Marketing Capstone

Financial Accounting

Financial accounting is an essential cornerstone of all businesses and organizations, but unless you're in a business role, you probably haven't had any formal training in it.

The Financial Reporting & Financial Statement Analysis Specialization seeks to change that. You'll come out of this specialization with a solid foundation for gauging a business or organization's health—a valuable skill to have.

Investors, for example, use principles taught in these courses to gauge the financial health of a publicly traded company. Business owners and entrepreneurs use financial accounting to figure out how to manage their funds, assets, and liabilities to survive and thrive.

Millions of professionals use financial accounting as well, either because their jobs demand an intimate knowledge of it or because they work side by side with those who work in a finance role. Knowing financial accounting means knowing the core of what keeps businesses and organizations ticking.

This highly anticipated specialization just kicked off with Accounting Analysis I with new modules slated for release in the coming months. Enroll now or learn more by exploring this specialization's component courses:

  1. Accounting Analysis I: The Role of Accounting as an Information System
  2. Accounting Analysis I: Measurement and Disclosure of Assets
  3. Accounting Analysis II: Measurement and Disclosure of Liabilities (February 2018 Release Date)
  4. Accounting Analysis II: Accounting for Liabilities and Equity (April 2018 Release Date)
  5. Accounting Analysis Capstone: Comprehensive Financial Statement Analysis (June 2018 Release Date)

Data Analysis with Python

If you spend a lot of time working with data or information, you may want to set aside some time for University of Michigan's Learn to Program and Analyze Data with Python Specialization. Here's why.

Data is messy. Tools like Excel exist, sure, but sometimes you need a Swiss Army knife that's a bit more versatile, a bit more powerful.

Python, with its simple-to-follow syntax and powerful libraries (most are built-in, I might add!) helps you clean that data in a snap. With the help of a few external libraries, it's also extremely capable at churning out clean reports and charts that you wouldn't hesitate to throw in front of your boss or a client.

This Specialization teaches Python first as a programming tool and then primarily as a tool for data analysis. One way it sets itself apart from other courses that teach Python are the interviews it's conducted with experts—the founder of Python, for example, and influential trailblazers who built the Internet as we know it today.

You'll learn how Python works, how to use it to source data from the web, store it in databases like SQL (way more efficient than an Excel sheet—trust me!), and putting that a data to use through analysis and visualization.

Enroll now or learn more by exploring this specialization's component courses:

  1. Programming for Everybody
  2. Python Data Structures
  3. Using Python to Access Web Data
  4. Using Databases with Python
  5. Capstone: Retrieving, Processing, and Visualizing Data with Python

Build Apps that Run Everywhere

Ever think up that amazing app idea in your head and think, "wow, someone should really make this?" Rather than wait for someone else to get started, why not build it yourself?

A specialization from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Full Stack Web and Multiplatform Mobile App Development, hopes to streamline the learning process in a way that's unique among online courses.

Recently refreshed and updated, the course teaches everything you need to create your own apps.

In sequential order, you'll learn to develop using a set of frameworks and technologies, like Bootstrap, Angular, Node, and NativeScript—technologies that work everywhere. Rather than learn how to build apps for a web browser, an app for Android, and an app for iOS separately (which alone would take hundreds of hours, if not more), you learn to leverage technology that helps you write code once and deploy for any device.

This won't be a walk in the park, but it's a good place to start if you've ever been serious about learning app development.

Enroll now or learn more by exploring this specialization's component courses:

  1. Front-End Web UI Frameworks and Tools: Bootstrap 4
  2. Front-End JavaScript Frameworks: Angular
  3. Multiplatform Mobile App Development with Web Technologies: Ionic and Cordova
  4. Multiplatform Mobile App Development with NativeScript
  5. Server-side Development with NodeJS, Express and MongoDB

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