You've never heard of these 5 classes — but their areas of study will boost your pay in the future


If you want the excitement of working in a growing industry, like renewable energy or artificial intelligence, you could try to strike out on your own as an entrepreneur. But maybe you don't quite have the skills for those hot industries that promise higher pay and more growth.

The good news is that there are a host of new courses you can take and areas to study, which you've maybe never heard of — but that will put your resume at the top of a hiring manager's resume pile. Keeping your skills fresh is increasingly important as industries turn over or face existential crises: "The current shelf life of technological skills is less than five years, [making] it crucial for individuals and employers alike to boost their skill sets," said Sarah Tilton, senior regional director of coding bootcamp academy General Assembly's New York office, in an email.

Mic pored over new course offerings at top online instruction sites like Udacity and Coursera — and examined reports on in-demand jobs requiring a specific new skill, — to come up with a list of five classes you can take to set sail on a fresh career. We used salary tracking site Paysa and job listing site Indeed to estimate expected salaries. Some, but not all, of the courses are free.

1. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies

If you've been following the news, you know the price of the cryptocurrency bitcoin has soared recently. But if you've really been following the news, you know that bitcoin is just the tip of the iceberg for a technology with much more potential: the blockchain.

The blockchain is the distributed digital ledger that records all transactions in the cryptocurrency universe, making payments faster and more secure. It's now being adopted by major banks like JPMorgan that are looking to modernize their banking systems. (Still not sure what it is? This video explains it really well.)

Coursera has partnered with Princeton to offer a free 11-week bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies class that will teach you everything from how bitcoin mining works to the hottest up-and-coming alternative cryptocurrencies — known as altcoins. Stanford and Berkeley both offer similar courses for enrolled students, and MIT is planning one as well.

"The number of blockchain ads on LinkedIn is growing at more than 40 per cent a quarter," the Financial Times noted. "Almost 10,000 people on the site list blockchain as a skill, half of them in the technology industry and a quarter in the financial services sector." This is one class that can definitely pay off.

Average salary: $122,000

2. Machine learning

Machine learning involves teaching computers how to think. What that really means is programming them to analyze large datasets — for example, how to interpret a large set of images to find faces, analyzing reviews of goods and services and processing health data.

Coursera's 11-week, Stanford-designed class in machine learning (which costs $79) is one of its most popular: It's rated 4.9 out of 5 from 37,579 ratings. Through a series of video lectures, you'll learn the linear algebra you need to get started, how to optimize algorithms and implement neural networks — all with the goal of designing a program that can identify and recognize objects, words and digits in an image.

If you want to go really deep, you can take a free class in deep learning on the online site Udacity. Deep learning involves programming computers to come up with even more sophisticated analyses of datasets. Designed by Google, Udacity's deep-learning course has some prerequisites. So make sure to take those before diving in.

Average machine learning salary: $160,000

3. Virtual reality video production

More of a creative type than a math-head? Inc recently proclaimed 2017 "the year of online video," citing the advent of "miniature HD video cameras embedded in handheld, mobile smartphones," not to mention cloud-based storage and ultra-fast Internet. One 2014 forecast they cite predicts 74% "of all Internet traffic in 2017 will be video."

One need only look around the media landscape to see this playing out. After online media site Vocativ laid off all its editorial staff, it issued a statement saying it would exclusively focus on video content. "The tremendous success we’ve experienced since our launch in both long- and short-form video has positioned us well for this evolution," they said.

There are loads of courses (though not all of them are free) offered online and in-person teaching video editing and production. Lynda, LinkedIn's tutorial platform, offers a 35-hour course as part of its subscription plan.

Want to really get ahead of the curve? If you hope to specialize in virtual reality, Udemy has a free course that will help you select the right 360° camera rig, and learn scripting, shooting and distribution of content over 10 lectures with a VR industry pro.

Average salary: $78,850

4. Fitness instruction — for the future

For those hoping to spend less time in front of screens, and more time doing physical activity, the future is full of possibilities — fueled by new workout trends popping up all the time. And you can get ahead of the pack (and earn more money) by training to be an instructor in fresher, less saturated skills.

Pound, which was just voted the hottest new fitness course by Shape, turns drumming into exercise, using Ripstix, which are lightly weighted drumsticks engineered specifically for exercising.

"Instead of listening to music, you become the music in this exhilarating full-body workout that combines cardio, conditioning, and strength training with yoga and pilates-inspired movements," the Pound website says. Learn how to become an instructor here.

Besides Pound, there are other new fitness movements on the horizon: "Animal Flow" incorporates gymnastics, acrobatics, Parkour, capoeira and breakdancing, "all while staying low to the ground and engaging many muscles at once (think of the way a lion stealthily stalks his prey)," Shape says. Finally, "Groove" is for dance lovers who just want to get funky and do cardio.

Learn how to take classes here and here.

Average salary: $40,000+

5. Cannabis growing or "budtending"

Don't laugh! You can now enroll in certified courses taught by THCUniversity to work in the fast-growing cannabis industry. THCU says its more popular courses are growing courses, like horticulture specialist, and becoming a "budtender," which is something between a pharmacist and sommelier, but for marijuana, instead of for medicine or wine. They help customers or patients pick products that fit their needs. THCU has eight courses in total, at a price of $50 a month or $480 a year. States with legal marijuana sales or cultivation saw cannabis-related jobs increase at least 5% in January, according to THCU.

"The great thing about THC University is that they have partnered with some of the most respected names in the industry," reports. "This will absolutely take your resume to the top of the pile."

What's more, cannabis is also proving to be a particularly inclusive industry for women to break into.

Average salary: Master grower: $72,000; budtender: $12 per hour

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