18 Most Valuable Skills to Learn Online in 2021

These are the most valuable and in-demand skills anyone can pick up online.

"Skills matter more than degrees."

― Elon Musk

According to a recent report by LinkedIn Learning, the economy is currently undergoing an upskilling and reskilling revolution. We are already seeing many of the highest-paying jobs in the modern economy turning into “super jobs” that require a broad swath of skills from employees. And, skill-based recruitment is already overtaking the old credential-based hiring methods we’ve grown accustomed to.

As a result, traditional credentials such as Ivy League degrees are being disregarded by employers. Puzzlingly, though, university degree costs continue to skyrocket. Degrees in Ivy League universities such as Columbia University cost an average of $59,430 and the overall cost of college has increased by 25% in the last 10 years.

Jason Wingard himself, the dean of professional studies at Columbia University, admits that credentials and Ivy League degrees don’t matter as much as they used to. According to him, nowadays “it’s all about (the) competencies that you possess.

Instead of evaluating college degrees and GPAs, employers nowadays focus on checking whether applicants have the necessary sets of competencies to thrive at their job. Or – in other words – whether applicants have learned the skills needed to succeed in their role.

Virtually all of the most sought-after skills in the modern economy are skills that you can learn online. Through video tutorials, free online courses, any online certification programs you can turn your career path in whichever direction you desire. By doing so, you can reap the benefits of the upskilling and reskilling revolution.

These are the 18 most valuable skills to learn online:

  1. Speed reading
  2. Blockchain
  3. Data Science & Data Analysis
  4. Productivity
  5. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  6. Digital marketing
  7. Affiliate marketing
  8. Email marketing
  9. Programming
  10. Copywriting
  11. Public speaking
  12. Graphic design
  13. Grant writing
  14. Photography
  15. Adobe photoshop
  16. Video editing
  17. Accounting
  18. Investing

1. Speed reading

Woman reading
I’ll start off this list with a skill that all of us possess – reading. While I’m sure all of you know how to read on a basic level, it’s likely you have never mastered reading in a quick and efficient manner – a practice that’s called “speed reading”. Many of the world’s thought leaders, business owners, and researchers are masters of speed reading, and it’s clear why. Take for example Bill Gates, an avid book reader. He reads 150 pages per hour and 15 books in a week while maintaining a 90% retention rate. He has also stated that reading remains his main way of learning new things and testing his understanding. Bill Gates is one excellent example of speed reading skills being used with maximum efficiency. His reading speed seems out of this world to the average person. However, speed reading is a skill that can be learned and developed just the same as learning a new language or cooking. It requires time, dedication, and effort – but anyone can do it. And everyone who does benefits tremendously. Here are a few superb speed reading classes worth taking a look at:

2. Blockchain

In a nutshell, blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that enables the verification of transactions between two parties in an unhackable, transparent, and permanent way. The word “blockchain” was popularized by the explosion of cryptocurrencies in the 21st century. However, the practical uses of blockchain technologies stretch far beyond virtual currencies.

A wide range of industries has already adopted the usage of blockchain technologies. According to Business Insider Intelligence, global spending on blockchain in the healthcare industry is expected to grow at a 7-year CAGR of 70.5%. Bringing another example, the World Food Program is using blockchain technologies to track food distribution among tens of thousands of refugees.

Blockchain has the potential to disrupt virtually all modern industries. Businesses across all industries will be hiring blockchain developers sooner or later, and that is why it’s another one of the most essential and valuable skills that can be learned online.

If you’d like to learn the ins-and-outs of blockchain, I recommend taking a look at the following online courses:

3. Data Science & Data Analysis

Data science, the “sexiest job of the 21st century“, is one of the most future-proof and lucrative career choices one can make. All corporations nowadays require a team of data scientists to keep up with the competition, and as the rise of “big data” continues, data scientists that are able to make sense of all this data will be more necessary than ever.

With a median salary of $59.06 per hour ($122840 per year) and projected 10-year growth of 15%, data science & analysis a no-brainer when it comes to picking up a new skill.

There are two main career paths you can take if you want to take a deep dive into:

Data science

This career path involves deciding what questions need to be asked regarding the available data. More often than not, data scientists possess programming experience and are experts at mathematical modeling.

Here are some of our favorite online data science courses:

Data analysis

This career path involves answering those questions that the data scientists put forth. Data analysts identify trends in the data through broader statistical analysis, and they help make conclusions in the bigger sense.

Here are some of our top-rated online data analytics classes:

4. Productivity

Productivity is a skill that can support any industry and life path.

One of my favorite mental performance coaches, Jim Kwik, teaches in his “Superbrain” online course that small changes in your daily life can achieve remarkable results in the long term. Instead of setting goals and dreams for yourself, focus on building a system around yourself that enables productivity to thrive naturally.

Learning to be productive in the digital age will enable you to achieve remarkable results in less time, and without sacrificing your personal life. Productive work, coined “deep work” by author Cal Newport, is a skill that is becoming highly sought-after in today’s economy. Those employees who are able to stay focused and productive for extended periods of time are becoming increasingly rare. Naturally, this also means that these same employees get rewarded accordingly.

If you’d like to learn productivity online, I recommend the following free online resources and productivity courses:

5. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Although search engine optimization (SEO) has been around since around 1997, it’s a skill that has evolved and changed multiple times since its’ inception. At its’ core, it involves improving a website’s organic (non-Paid) search engine traffic. Sounds simple enough, but with over 200 assumed search engine ranking factors (assumed because no one really knows), optimizing websites becomes a complicated task.

However, it’s a complicated task worth undertaking. That is because well-optimized websites can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in passive income. And, skillful SEO-s can offer their optimization services to an ever-growing list of clients on the Internet, as more and more businesses enter the digital realm with their websites and/or e-commerce stores.

That is why SEO continues to be one of the most valuable skills you can learn today. Whether you’re looking to establish an agency, create websites for yourself, or offer optimization services as a freelancer on the Internet – learning this skill will pay for itself tenfold. Especially if you combine it with some expertise in Google Analytics, web development, and marketing.

If you’d like to add SEO to your set of skills, consider enrolling in one of the following online classes:

6. Digital marketing

“Digital marketing” is a rather broad term, I must admit. This term could technically encompass any type of marketing efforts done through electronic channels. Yet, it’s THE most discussed form of marketing of the 21st century.

The global spending on digital marketing is approaching $100 billion, and that number is going to keep growing. Fast. Social media marketing budgets, in particular, have grown at a stupendous pace. In the U.S., social media marketing spending has grown from US$15.63 billion in 2016 to US$48.94 in 2021 (and a projected US$56.85 billion in 2022).

It’s clear why this is happening though. The never-before-seen levels of personalization achievable in digital marketing (particularly social media marketing) make advertisements that much more impactful. Digital ads tend to reach the right customers at the right time, place, and mindset – and that’s why companies are willing to shell out billions of dollars to get their ads out there.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has recommended businesses to spend 50% of their marketing budget on digital marketing. But, as the widespread adoption of the Internet continues, you can expect smart businesses to focus even more of their avenues on digital means specifically.

If you’d like to develop digital marketing skills, you have numerous online class options to choose from:

7. Affiliate marketing

In a nutshell, affiliate marketing involves promoting other people’s products to earn a commission from each sale. And, affiliate marketing spending in the United States is due to reach 8.2 billion dollars by 2022.

This gives marketers a unique window of opportunity to earn vast amounts of income without ever having to spend time and money on developing a product.

Combined with SEO, affiliate marketing truly becomes a force to be reckoned with. Some of the highest-earning affiliate marketers earn tens of thousands of dollars of passive income per day, and they do so year-after-year.

To learn affiliate marketing online, enroll in one of our favorite affiliate marketing courses:

8. Email marketing

Email marketing – are we back in the 1990s?

Here’s a quick fact for you – the first email marketing campaign was done in 1978 by Gary Thuerk, a computer salesman. Through an email sent to 400 recipients, he was able to bring in $13 million in sales.

Quite the return on investment!

Replicating his results might be a difficult task in the 21st century, but email marketing has not gone and is not going, anywhere – anytime soon. Nowadays, half of the world’s population uses email, and this continues to hold a large window of opportunities open for marketers.

A well-functioning email marketing campaign can achieve remarkable results in a short period of time. And, it requires a relatively small amount of time, money, and effort to do – at least when compared to traditional marketing campaigns such as TV commercials or billboards.

If email marketing sounds like a skill you’d like to acquire, enrolling in an online class is an excellent way to go about doing so:

9. Programming

Woman programming

Similarly to “digital marketing”, “programming” is an ambiguous term. Sorry about that.

However, considering the vast amount of coding languages that exist today, it became necessary to bring them all under the umbrella of “programming”. Otherwise, this article would’ve ended up being bloated into nothing but “the best programming language skills to learn”.

But, which coding language should you learn?

In 2020, HackerRank polled more than 100,000 software engineers to find the answer to this exact question. They wanted to know what language resulted in the best salaries. What they found was that Perl had the highest average global salary at $84025.50, followed by Scala and Go.

Programming is one of the best skills for online learning, as online programming schools have the unique benefit of being able to use in-browser coding editors for teaching lessons.

Here are some of our recommended online coding courses:

10. Copywriting

Copywriting has always had an important role in the business world.

Yet, with the widespread adoption of the Internet and all businesses becoming publishers in one form or another, the skill of copywriting has increased in demand. Every business nowadays requires a blog post every now and then, an industry white paper, or someone to send out a promotional email once per week.

Copywriters can cover just about anything, but in the world of copywriting, the most difficult part can be getting your foot in the door. While experienced copywriters with many years of experience behind their backs can earn a lucrative income, it’s not always so easy to get started.

Developing top-notch writing skills takes time and effort, and if you have no writing portfolio or resume to show for yourself, you might find it difficult to find writing work.

Yet, despite that, I consider copywriting to be another highly sought after skill in today’s world – a skill anyone can learn online (but one that not everyone can master).

Here are a few excellent options for learning copywriting through video courses:

11. Public speaking

Giving a speech

Developing public speaking skills is one of the most valuable abilities one can develop. Not only are public speaking skills valuable for employers, but they are also indispensable in daily life. Having clear articulation, engaging people, communication skills, mastering body language – all these skills are crucial to anyone hoping to succeed in both the personal and the business world.

If you have a partner or close friend, I suggest taking a free online course and practicing public speaking with each other. You’ll soon find that as your communication skills improve, people around you will start to treat you with more respect. People love listening to someone with a logical, authoritative, and clear manner of speaking.

Thus, if you want to add something to your skill set that will improve all aspects of your life, from business to romance, consider learning public speaking.

Here are some of the top-rated public speaking courses on the Internet:

12. Graphic design

Graphic design continues to be one of the most desired design skills that teams are looking to hire. As more brands get started on improving their online presence, one of the first things they require is a strong visual identity.

That is where they often realize they need a graphic designer. Someone who knows how to use their creativity and design thinking to see far beyond a business logo and to see the bigger picture of a cohesive visual brand strategy.

Through graphic design, companies can improve their brand messaging, drive conversions, create marketing materials, and more. Without an in-house graphic designer, brands tend to lack a cohesive visual identity. That is why graphic design continues to be a great skill to learn and improve upon going into 2021 and beyond.

When it comes to learning graphic design, there are numerous creative directions you’ll have to choose from. Logo design, product design, font design, animation – all of these skills can be learned online with the help of an online course.

If you’re interested in learning graphic design online, I recommend you check out Skillshare. Out of all online learning platforms, they have the best selection of creativity courses to choose from. And, with the Skillshare extended free trial you can use the platform to take online courses for free as long as you finish them before your trial runs out. And, that’s relatively easy as Skillshare courses tend to be short and content-packed.

Here are some of the best graphic design courses you can take online:

13. Grant writing

Grant writing, on a high level, is a skill that can bring infinite opportunities and that has led to numerous major success stories.

At any point in time, you can expect to find thousands of available grants online. It’s only a matter of writing grant proposals for the ones you or your business is eligible for.

Yet, writing grant proposals is not as easy as ticking boxes – it requires expertise, experience, marketing knowledge, and even a touch of creativity. That is why only a select few grant writers are able to truly master the skill set that is required for writing top-quality grant proposals.

And, those able to learn this skill in a proficient way can reap the immense benefits. Experts in grant writing can work full-time as grant writers, writing grants for businesses, non-profits, and various other organizations. Or, you can take this skill and apply it to start your own organization. Either way – the possibilities are nearly limitless.

Here’s a selection of good online grant writing courses:

14. Photography

Taking a photo

In the age of social media, good photography skills have become entangled with social status. The more “likes” and “follows” you have – the higher your social status. While that’s probably an overly simplistic statement, there’s no doubt that social media posts have a direct impact on one’s social status. And, perceived social status has been proven to impact one’s success (or failure) in searching for jobs.

Therefore, I would argue that in today’s day and age, photography skills can make or break a career – even if your area of expertise has nothing to do with taking photos.

Yet, professional photography goes far beyond social media posts. Those who are able to take captivating and unique photos can make a killing in the industry. Take Annie Leibovitz, for example. She is a world-famous portrait photographer with a net worth of US$20 million and she’s taken photos of artists such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Bob Marley.

Photography is a skill that can benefit your life and career in various unforeseen ways, and it can be learned online with relative ease through online classes, ebooks, and videos.

If you’d like to brush up on your photography skills online, take a look at the following online photography courses:

15. Adobe Photoshop

After you’ve finished taking your professional-looking photographs, you might be thinking – how can I take them to the next level?

Adobe Photoshop (or Adobe Lightroom) are the obvious answers here. Personally, I use Adobe Photoshop on a daily basis to create image content for E-Student. At this point, I can’t imagine what my content production workflow would look like without Photoshop.

If you too are in any way, shape, or form interested in digital content production, then learning Photoshop is a no-brainer. It’s critical software for web developers, graphic designers, photographers, and virtually any creative professional out there. By being proficient at Photoshop, you can create your own photo editing business or market T-shirts, or

If this sounds like a skill you’d like to develop, enroll in any of our top-rated online Photoshop courses:

16. Video editing

YouTube, the most popular video platform, has two billion monthly active users. Not only does it function as a social media platform, but it’s also a search engine. A search engine that is growing in popularity unlike any other.

More and more people are starting to rely on videos are their primary source of information, and this creates remarkable opportunities for content creators and video editors. Videos are overtaking text and image-based media, and that is why professional level video editors are becoming increasingly in-demand.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of video and film editors is projected to grow by 22% within the next 10 years. Considering many video editors work as freelancers rather than salary-based employees, that projection from the BLS becomes even more impressive.

If you’d like to dip your does into learning video editing through a free online course, I recommend checking out Taran Van Hermert’s YouTube channel. Taran is the main video editor for the massively popular Linus Tech Tips channel, and he creates one-of-a-kind video editing tutorials for aspiring video editors. Here’s one of his most in-depth free tutorials.

But, his content is largely focused on teaching advanced editors. Therefore, if you’re a beginner, check out the following online courses that are more suited to beginner video editors:

17. Accounting

Accountants in the U.S. earn a median of $34.40 per hour or $71,550 per year.

It’s one of the more ancient skills on this list, as even in medieval times people higher-up in the food chain required accountants to keep track of their financial records, incomes, and spendings.

The job of an accountant has never gone anywhere, and it’s more than likely not going to disappear in the near future. If you want a secure and steady career choice, then taking an online class in accounting is one sure way method of going about that.

If this sounds like a skill you’d like to learn, then consider taking an accounting course:

18. Investing

Investing is likely one of the most financially wise skills you can learn online. If you’re thinking that you don’t have large amounts of savings in your bank account for investment purposes, then you’re thinking about investing in the wrong way.

Investing is not only about buying and selling stocks, bonds, or options.

Once I learned the value of investing, it changed my entire outlook on finances. Every penny in the “present” seemed more valuable than ever before. And for the first time in my life, investing got me thinking about the future 20, 30, or even 40 years.

Investing is all about planning for the future – and everyone can learn a thing or two from it. That’s why I consider investing as another one of the most valuable skills you can learn in an online format.

If you’d like to learn to invest, there are excellent real estate investing courses and options trading courses out there:

Here’s a selection of some of our favorites:

Founder & CEO of E-Student

Sander has a background in medical diagnostics, a love for MOOCs, and a particular interest in evaluating online learning methods and platforms. His publications on E-Student have been cited in scientific journals such as the JML Journal of Medicine, Life and Annals of Medicine and Surgery, and the IEEE. He has also been featured in various news outlets such as The Baltimore Sun, Independent Australia, and RBK.