How to Showcase Online Courses in Your Resume and Cover Letter

How to Discover What Career Will Make You Happy

These days, you can learn anything online. From YouTube tutorials to full-on doctoral degrees, the world of online learning is vast indeed.

And while it’s one thing to learn how to change your own brake pads or bake a cake from an online tutorial, developing professional skills is a whole other ball game – isn’t it?

Well, not exactly. Of course, earning a web developer certification requires a lot more commitment and drive than learning how to trim your cat’s claws. But online courses, certifications and degrees really can do a lot to improve your career prospects, if you know how to play them up in your application materials.

Keep them relevant, put them in the right place and show how you’ve used the skills you’ve learned, both in your cover letter and on your interview.

List Online Classes in the Right Place

Online courses or certifications you’ve completed can beef up your resume and convince employers you’ve got the skills for the job. But you need to know how to present them in your resume.

How you present online courses you completed will depend on what, if any, credential you received at the end of the course. 

For example, if you completed an online master’s in school counseling, you can just present that degree the same way you would a degree earned the old-fashioned way.

Assuming you attended a reputable program – which, of course, you did – there should be no practical difference between the degree you earned and the degrees conferred upon students who attended classes on campus.

The same theory also works for graduate certificates and certifications you earned online.

Many organizations offer professional certification programs online. And you don’t need to mention the format in which you took your certification courses in your resume.

If you’re asked about the format in an interview, you can talk about it then.

But what if you took a single online class, or a handful of them, that don’t add up to a credential, but that still taught you skills relevant to the position? You can include a “Professional Development” section under your work history, after your education.

Include the platform (for example, edX or Coursera) and the format (for example, massive open online course, or MOOC). Then, list the name of the course, the institution where the course was taught, the year you took the course and a brief explanation of the skills you learned. 

Avoid listing intro-level courses, especially if you’re applying for a position for which they’re looking for an expert. Adding intro-level courses to your resume can make you look inexperienced, even if you’re not.

Stay Relevant

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This probably goes without saying, but only list online courses that are relevant to the position for which you’re applying.

In addition to listing relevant online courses on your resume, use your cover letter as an opportunity to discuss how you’ve used what you learned in your career so far.

Have you used the knowledge to complete projects at your previous position or to perform volunteer work? Have you won any competitions or successfully completed any professional challenges?

Discuss these in your cover letter, especially if you’re using online courses to make a career change. Or if the skills you learned in your online courses are relevant to the skills mentioned in the job posting.

Be Prepared to Talk About What You Learned

Employers are often impressed by candidates who have the personal motivation and work ethic to complete online courses. But they’ll definitely want to discuss the skills you’ve learned and how you’ve used them in your job interview.

Be prepared with answers to questions about what projects you’ve worked on, how you’ve used online courses to further your career and how you think your skills would benefit the company.

Whether you want to develop new skills to stay relevant in your field or make a complete career change, online courses can give you the tools you need.

These days, you can take classes at any university in the world, online, for free or cheap. And these courses can boost your career – if you know how to sell your new skills to employers.

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