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11 Coursera Specializations to Boost Your Tech Career

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When you’re trying to break into the tech industry (or move up the next rung on the ladder), nothing can sabotage you faster than being too general.

The fact of the matter is, nobody wants to hire someone who has a surface knowledge of ten coding languages and fifty tools. They want to hire experts who can skillfully handle a specific role.

That’s where Coursera comes in. Coursera is an online course platform with offerings from universities around the world. This is one of the things that differentiates it from other programs: real professors teach these courses.

The other thing that sets it apart is that more than just individual courses, Coursera offers specializations.

Specializations are focused programs that allow students to develop expertise in a particular area. At Coursera, there are two pricing options with all specializations: you can pre-pay by purchasing all courses at once and save 10%, or you can pay per course, purchasing each individually. All specializations also end with a Capstone Project, where you get to apply your skills in a real-world situation. Upon completion of a specialization, you’ll receive a certificate.

Below are 11 popular specializations that relate to web development, programming, mobile development, and data science. Following the list, there is more information about the certification process at Coursera and whether it has any “real world” value.

Specialization #1: Full Stack Web Development

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/full-stack

full stack specialization

Want to build fully functional web applications? Then this Full Stack Specialization is for you. Inside this specialization you will learn how to build complete web solutions using a variety of development tools. On the front end, you will learn HTML/CSS, JavaScript/JQuery, AngularJs and Bootstrap, among others. On the back end, you’ll learn how to implement NoSQL databases using the popular MongoDB while working in a Node environment.

As a bonus, this specialization will touch upon mobile app development using the Ionic framework and Cordova. The Capstone Project will allow you to create a “fully functional web and hybrid mobile application with back-end support.”

University taught at: Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Level: Intermediate (some related experience required)

Price: $474 USD ($79 per course)


  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (4 weeks, 3-4 hrs/week)
  • Front-End Web UI Frameworks and Tools (5 weeks)
  • Front-End JavaScript Frameworks: AngularJS (4 weeks, 5-6 hrs/week)
  • Multiplatform Mobile App Development with Web Technologies (5 weeks)
  • Server-side Development with NodeJS
  • Capstone: Full Stack Web Development

Specialization #2: Ruby on Rails Web Development

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/ruby-on-rails

ruby on rails specialization

This five-course specialization has been designed to teach you how to build web applications with HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails, and SQL plus NoSQL databases. You will also explore some advanced topics like security and HTTP/RESTful access patterns. In the final Capstone Project, you’ll develop a Photo Tourist web application that will allow users to show off photos and information from trips as well as find photos and information from trips taken by others.

University taught at: Johns Hopkins University

Level: Intermediate (some related experience required)

Price: $474 USD ($79 per course)


  • Ruby on Rails: An Introduction (3 weeks, 2-3 hrs/week)
  • Rails with Active Record and Action Pack (5 weeks)
  • Ruby on Rails Web Services and Integration with MongoDB (5 weeks)
  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for Web Developers
  • Single Page Web Applications with AngularJS
  • Capstone: Photo Tourist Web Application

Specialization #3: Java Programming: An Introduction to Software

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/java-programming

This specialization is meant for beginner-level students wanting to learn the basics of developing software. Topics covered include algorithm development, data representation, debugging, HTML/CSS, JavaScript and Java.

It’s an ideal starting point for aspiring software engineers who wish to gain a better understanding of programming fundamentals. By the end, you’ll have created your own functioning mini-project.

University taught at: Duke University

Level: Beginner (no prior experience required)

Price: $395 USD ($79 per course)


  • Java Programming: Programming and the Web for Beginners (4 weeks, 3-5 hrs/week)
  • Java Programming: Solving Problems with Software (4 weeks)
  • Java Programming: Arrays, Lists, and Structured Data (4 weeks, 3-5 hrs/week)
  • Java Programming: Principles of Software Design (5 weeks)
  • Java Programming: A DIY Version of Netflix and Amazon Recommendation Engines (4 weeks, 3-5 hrs/week)

Specialization #4: Java Programming: Object-Oriented Design of Data Structures

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/java-object-oriented

java programming specialization

This four-course specialization will further your existing programming skills by showing you how to develop interactive software using object-oriented programming principles. You will learn to maximize your Java skills and “implement data structures and algorithms” to efficiently organize large amounts of data. To take your skills up a notch, you’ll practice analyzing your own code–and to further increase your marketability, you’ll get experience in navigating the job search process as a software engineer.

University taught at: UC San Diego

Level: Intermediate (some related experience required)

Price: $395 USD ($79 per course)


  • Object Oriented Programming in Java (6 weeks, 4-6 hrs/week)
  • Data structures: Measuring and Optimizing Performance (5 weeks)
  • Advanced Data Structures in Java (5 weeks, 1-3 hours/week)
  • Mastering the Software Engineering Interview
  • Capstone: Analyzing (Social) Network Data

Specialization #5: Data Structures and Algorithms

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/data-structures-algorithms

If you are serious about pursuing a career in software engineering, this specialization is for you. It's a deep-dive into algorithms—one of the toughest areas for newbies to grasp. This specialization will show you how to design as well as implement them. Unlike other specializations, here you have the choice of two different Capstone projects developed by industry partners Computer Science Center and Yandex.

University taught at: US San Diego

Level: Intermediate (some related experience required)

Price: $426 USD ($79 per course)


  • Algorithmic Toolbox (5 weeks, 4-8 hrs/week)
  • Data Structures
  • Algorithms on Graphs and Trees
  • Algorithms on Strings
  • Advanced Algorithms and Complexity
  • Capstone: Assembling Genomes and Finding Disease-Causing Mutations

Specialization #6: Responsive Website Development and Design

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/website-development

This specialization is a great primer for modern full-stack web development. In it you’ll study UX design, frontend development (HTML/CSS, JavaScript), the full-stack Meteor.js framework, and more. You will also explore advanced concepts such as APIs, data visualization, and animation. By the end (you guessed it) you’ll have built a functional interactive web page.

University taught at: University of London

Level: Beginner (no prior experience required)

Price: $474 USD ($79 per course)


  • Responsive Website Basics: Code with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (4 weeks, 2-4 hrs/ week)
  • Responsive Web Design (5 weeks)
  • Introduction to Meteor.js Development (4 weeks, 1-3 hrs/week)
  • Web Application Development with JavaScript and MongoDB (4 weeks, 1-2 hrs/week)
  • Responsive Website Tutorial and Examples (4 weeks, 1-2 hrs/week)
  • Capstone: Website Development and Design (6 weeks, 3-5 hrs/week)

Specialization #7: Web Design for Everybody

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/web-design

web design specialization

This beginner-level specialization is perfect for those who want to learn web design and front-end development fundamentals. You will learn basic design principles, HTML5, CSS3, responsive design, and how to utilize JavaScript on the web. The final Capstone Project requires you to build your own professional portfolio.

University taught at: University of Michigan

Level: Beginner (no prior experience required)

Price: $385 USD ($49 for the first course, $79 for courses 2-4, and $99 for the Capstone)


  • Introduction to HTML5 (3 weeks, 2-4 hrs/week)
  • Introduction to CSS3 (5 weeks)
  • Interactivity with JavaScript (5 weeks)
  • Advanced Styling with Responsive Design
  • Capstone: Web Design for Everybody

Specialization #8: Python for Everybody

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/python

This four-course specialization will teach you fundamental programming concepts with Python. You’ll learn about data structures, how to access web data, and databases—all with Python. The specialization culminates in a Capstone Project where you’ll design and create your own application that can retrieve, process, and visualize data.

University taught at: University of Michigan

Level: Beginner (no prior experience required)

Price: $415 USD (Courses 1-4 are $79, the Capstone Project is $99)


  • Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) (7 weeks, 2-4 hrs/week)
  • Python Data Structures (7 weeks, 2-4 hrs/week)
  • Using Python to Access Web Data (7 weeks)
  • Using Databases with Python (6 weeks)
  • Capstone: Retrieving, Processing, and Visualizing Data with Python

Specialization #9: iOS Development for Creative Entrepreneurs

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/ios-development

This specialization will introduce you to the basics of iOS development. You’ll become fluent in “Objective-C and UIKit and SpriteKit user interface concepts,” as well as learning how to “leverage networking, security, audio, video, location, and sensor frameworks.”

The specialization culminates with a Capstone Project where you’ll create a networked game that relies on sensors on the phone. You can even put your final app in the iTunes store (as well as having something tangible to show future interviewers/clients).

University taught at: University of California, Irvine

Level: Beginner (no prior experience required)

Price: $294 USD ($49 per course)


  • Foundations of Objective-C App Development (4 weeks, 3-5 hrs/week)
  • Networking and Security in iOS Applications
  • Best Practices for iOS User Interface Design
  • Games, Sensors and Media
  • Toward the Future of iOS Development with Swift
  • iOS Capstone: Multiplayer Transreality Game

Specialization #10: Data Science

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/jhu-data-science

Data Science Specialization

This beginner-level Data Science specialization is a perfect introduction to the field. Inside, you’ll learn the concepts and tools necessary for success in the career. You’ll discover the right kinds of questions to ask about data and learn how to publish your findings. In the final Capstone Project you will create “a usable/public data product that can be used to show your skills to potential employers.”

University taught at: Johns Hopkins University

Level: Beginner (no prior experience required)

Price: $470 USD ($29 for the first course, $49 for all others)


  • The Data Scientist’s Toolbox (5 weeks, 1-4 hrs/week)
  • R Programming (5 weeks)
  • Getting and Cleaning Data (5 weeks)
  • Exploratory Data Analysis (5 weeks)
  • Reproducible Research (5 weeks, 4-9 hrs/week)
  • Statistical Inference (5 weeks)
  • Regression Models (5 weeks)
  • Practical Machine Learning (5 weeks)
  • Developing Data Products (5 weeks)
  • Capstone: Data Science (4-9 hrs/week)

Specialization #11: Big Data

URL: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/big-data

This specialization is about understanding massive data sets so you can make informed business decisions. As you go through the courses, you’ll learn how large sets of data are organized, analyzed, and interpreted, as well as mastering the basics of several software programs, including Hadoop and Spark. Moreover, you’ll learn about predictive modeling and how to communicate effectively with data scientists. If you’re looking to apply findings from big data to your business decisions, this specialization is for you.

University taught at: UC San Diego

Level: Beginner (no prior experience required)

Price: $444 USD ($49 for the first course, $79 for courses 2-6)


  • Introduction to Big Data (3 weeks, 5-6 hrs/week)
  • Hadoop Platform and Application Framework (5 weeks, 1-2 hrs/week)
  • Introduction to Big Data Analytics (5 weeks, 3-5 hrs/week)
  • Machine Learning with Big Data (4 weeks, 3-4 hrs/week)
  • Graph Analytics for Big Data
  • Capstone: Big Data

What if I want to take a single course, not an entire specialization?

There are many individual courses available on Coursera. You may take a single course on JavaScript, for instance, rather than complete a full specialization on web development.

Within specializations, you can sometimes enroll in an individual course without taking the others. However, some specialized courses have prerequisites and require you to follow the course list in succession to move to the next one. For example, the Capstone Project courses may require you to take the other courses in succession before signing up for the Capstone.

How does the certificate process work?

Before you take your first course, you start by recording a typing pattern. This allows Coursera to record and recognize your unique typing pattern to verify the person registering is the same person taking the class.

After that, you must use a webcam to take a photo of yourself. Then take a photo of your picture ID to confirm your identity.

Later when you submit coursework, you will be asked to provide another typing sample. This will be matched to your original one to verify your identity. When the course is over, you will earn your certificate.

Coursera takes these measures to prevent cheating, so employers and universities can trust that the person did the work.

Coursera student testimonial

What real-world value does a Coursera certificate actually have?

Does the certification of completion actually mean anything?

The short answer is: it depends on what you’re using it for, and who you’re showing it to.

For example, Coursera has been trying to get colleges to accept it as credit for some classes, but this is done on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, none of the larger universities seem to be are on board yet. Most of them are still requiring you to test out of a subject, regardless of your certificate.

Regarding employers, it seems to depend on the company and the job. If you can show a dedicated learning process AND you have the skills to back it up, an official, a verified certificate can be an asset.

Even better is pairing your certificate with work samples in a portfolio, or on your LinkedIn profile. (Coursera makes it dead simple to add certifications to your LinkedIn profile.)

If an employer can see that you spent money and time learning, and can provide evidence to prove you have the skills, it is worthwhile.

But a Coursera certificate alone, with nothing else to show, is not significant.

Ultimately, skills matter more than a certificate.

Don’t expect a certificate to replace actual ability.


Not everyone has the time or money to go back to school or attend intensive 24/7 bootcamps, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams. Courses and specializations are an affordable, flexible way to get the tech skills you need to create the life you want, little by little, every day.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive online learning experience, Coursera could be the right fit. Check out all of their offerings here.

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