Courses that are likely to become popular over the next few years

As the world of work develops, new opportunities are opening up across a wide variety of sectors, providing exciting and challenging career paths as well as a high level of financial reward. Courses and degrees that prepare people for these opportunities are likely to become increasingly popular and able to attract the brightest and the best to fill their spaces. For anyone starting or wanting to advance a career, it is well worth getting ahead of the curve by learning which courses and degrees are going to become increasingly competitive and considering if any are right for you.

Application process

Some things hold true no matter which course you do or whatever level you are at. Before applying, check the criteria first to make sure that you have all the relevant qualifications and experience. If universities and other course providers do have more applicants than places, they will be able to be selective, so consider what you can do to make sure that your application stands out.

Another decision you will need to make is where to study. With universities keen to meet the demand, you will be likely to have a number of options even for specialized courses, so take a close look at what these places can offer to ensure a good fit for you before committing to study. Also, check what the courses will cover, for even if more specialized areas do not yet have their own course, it is possible that a broader course will have several modules on the area that most interests you.

Even if moving is not possible, you do not need to limit yourself to courses within easy reach of your home. Many online courses are now of a high standard, rivaling anything that their in-person counterparts can offer. They can also offer a more flexible study program that allows them to fit in around other commitments such as work or family.

The list of competitive degrees and courses is endless, but here are some popular areas of study that are relevant for today’s world and will perhaps be even more relevant in the future.

Environmental science and climate change

As the world wakes up to climate change and the need to protect the environment, courses that address these issues are going to become increasingly important. With governments and businesses alike wanting to invest in green technology, new courses are being developed, such as environmental engineering, to prepare students for these opportunities.

Environmental science is quite a broad degree that can cover a range of areas from biology through to geography, and can be useful in preparing for a variety of careers or for further, more specialized study. For those already holding an environmental science degree, more specialized study could focus on a range of ecological studies such as energy and climate change or water management.

Atmospheric science, whether at a master’s or bachelor level, can prepare you for a career in meteorology. Covering topics such as ocean systems and weather patterns, these degrees are widely available.

Robotics and artificial intelligence

Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are just two of the technologies of the future that are likely to become increasingly important. These can prepare you for a wide range of careers both in the developmental sector and in any industries that use robotics or AI from transport to banking.

Already, some universities are offering degrees in robotic engineering and AI, and many more are including courses on these subjects as part of other engineering or computer degrees. With many predicting that AI will be the next great technological leap, it seems likely that courses that focus on or include AI will become highly competitive.

If you do not live near a university that offers these courses and are unable to move closer to one, you may think that a highly specialized, technical course such as Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) will be impossible for you to study. However, this is not the case. Kettering University Online offers an ECE Master’s degree online designed to meet the demands of the automotive and advanced mobility industry – the course has core modules including AI for autonomous driving and other cutting-edge technologies in mobile robotics. 100% online, this is an ideal option for working professionals who want to advance their careers into these new, exciting areas.

An option that works well with AI and robotics is computational linguistics. Learning how machines translate information, a computational linguistics course covers technology such as Siri and Alexa, looking at how they model our natural language. This technology is still fairly new, but it is likely to be something that advances in the future, making these courses a popular option for those interested in this area of computer development. If you have a good background in computer science and math, then this might well be the course for you.

Social media

Not so long ago, nobody would have known what social media was. Now, it gets used by almost everybody from individuals to businesses to charities to politicians. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. Over time, social media has evolved and will no doubt continue to do so, while it is also likely that the controversies will continue.

For those wanting a career in social media or who wish to advance their marketing skills, there are a number of options. A good marketing degree will cover elements such as social media, digital media and digital culture and provide a broad base of knowledge to help launch a career. However, already there are courses in those individual aspects of marketing, allowing students to specialize. As well as a career in marketing, being social media savvy is handy across a range of industries and will appeal to potential employers.

An advertising course is also likely to cover aspects of social and digital media. Advertising has long been important, but in the internet world, competition is fiercer than ever and businesses will be keen to attract good advertising graduates to help promote them.

Game design

Most students have to limit their gaming time to focus on their studies, so imagine being one of those lucky students whose course requires them to study gaming. Degrees in game design are relatively new but are popular, and so the number of these courses may well increase in the next years.

The gaming industry is huge and gets bigger every year, with developers continually creating new games for consoles, computers and mobile apps. It is also a fast-paced industry, delivering immersive gaming experiences to suit all tastes and interests, with enthusiasts keen for the next big development. Using cutting-edge technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality to enhance the gaming experience, gaming is likely to remain at the forefront of technological advances. It is hardly surprising that this exciting field of study should be highly popular.

Game design degree courses will offer modules on areas of game development such as coding, 3D modeling and animation and software development. These can be valuable skills in a range of IT-based careers such as web development, and can also provide a springboard into a career in game design with one of the big gaming companies such as Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony.

Medical courses

Medicine and nursing have long been highly popular courses, with skilled doctors and nurses permanently in demand. This is unlikely to change, and with an aging population, nurses are likely to be more in demand than ever, with the opportunity for medical professionals to specialize in the diseases common in old age. However, there are a number of courses related to medicine that are likely to be particularly popular, as our medical knowledge advances.

Epidemiology is a hot topic at the moment, for obvious reasons. Although very far from the first pandemic in our lifetime, COVID-19 is the one that has impacted on us all. Lockdowns, crippled economies and a high death toll are the price we have paid for this pandemic and something that everyone would want to avoid in future pandemics. Graduates with a good knowledge of disease progression, mitigation and biostatistics will be in high demand, and have good earning potential. As a result, this is a course that could become highly popular.

With the public continually wanting more and better cures, the pharmaceutical industry will be keen to attract bright graduates. Studying pharmacology remains a solid option for those interested in medicines. However, another option is biomedical engineering. As technology becomes an increasingly important part of medicine, a biomedical engineering degree will prepare students for a future at the cutting edge of medicine.

Another possibility that will appeal to those with an interest in both technology and medicine is health information technology. The storage and usage of patient information is an area of patient care that frequently lags behind other areas of medicine. With the medical profession keen to maximize the potential of information to enhance a patient’s prospects, this degree is one that may become increasingly important.


Technology is a fast-paced area of expertise, with advances meaning that areas of IT that didn’t exist just a few years ago have become vital, and with lucrative wages attached. Any courses that can support these roles will become hugely popular.

A good example of this is cyber security. Cyber security is an area that effects all levels of society. Individuals can be threatened with loss of data, financial information and scams, while companies can suffer security breaches that can tarnish their reputations for a long time. It is also vital on a national level, with the impact of a national security breach ranging from embarrassing politically to a life-threatening catastrophe. Any IT course that provides a good grounding in cyber security will bring its students a key advantage when applying for jobs. It will also provide long-term job security because as we become ever more dependent on technology, the need for the highest level of cyber security will continue to rise. For those already working in IT, this could well be a good area of study for further career progression.

Data science is one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. A course in data science works well with an array of other courses from business through to engineering, meaning that there may be many competitors for spaces. However, it is a course that will give you a range of career options upon qualification from healthcare to education to industry, and many more besides. Those who are more business-oriented may like to combine data analytics with business intelligence. If you have a good grounding in math and statistics, this course can help prepare you for a career in market research and analytics.

Making the decision

Choosing a degree or other course is a highly personal decision where you will need to take into account your skills and interests. However, for students applying today, there has never been such a wide variety of options. As well as courses covering areas of study that did not even exist 20 years ago, the rise of online courses has made study more accessible than ever. However, study is not restricted to the young. Flexible courses that fit in around work and family commitments make it straightforward to study for a change in career or to take further courses to enhance your career progression at any time of life.

The vast array of courses does also throw up some problems, as it has to be said that not all courses are equal. Before signing up for study, check their accreditation if they are linked to a profession and look into what positions their existing alumni hold, to get a clearer idea of where that study might take you. Time spent on research before you apply and accept a place on a course is time well spent. The right course will gain you respected, professional qualifications and will be a step on the path to an exciting, well-paid career.