The importance of continuing education as a part of job success and career advancement can’t be overstated. Top performers at any company get the praise, promotions, and pay raises they deserve not because they got lucky, and certainly not because they did solely what was expected of them. Instead, they put in the extra hours on the weekend to learn something new, both for their own ambition and for the sake of their work performance.

With education options more numerous and easily accessible than ever, taking a course or two in a topic that can advance your career (and potentially give you a certification) is a no-brainer. And with services like Coursera offering courses taught directly by university professors from across the world, your high-quality education options are endless.

Coursera offers all their courses on a variety of topics for free, but they also provide a guided specialization track that consists of 3-5 courses on a broad topic for a fee. These specializations give you an overview of a topic and proceed to drill down into the nitty gritty over the course of a few months. At the end, you receive a specialization certificate, and you’re ready to use your new knowledge on the job.

Free Coursera courses are a great option, but if you have the means to invest in a specialization, you should give it a shot. Here are five specializations you should consider to advance your career.

Excel to MySQL: Analytic Techniques for Business - (LINK)

If data and statistics are a big part of your career track, whether in your current job or in a future promotion, then this in-depth specialization on analytic techniques is for you. Whether you need someone else to run the numbers for you, or you struggle with your Excel or MySQL-fu, Excel to MySQL will teach you how to use all the tools available for number-crunching.

With five courses that run the gamut from how to run data analysis in Excel, to how to communicate data visually, all the way to how to manage databases, you’ll get a full, deep dive into the world of statistics and data. A capstone project will have you using all your newly learned tools and skills to increase profits for a hypothetical company.

Coursera Career Education

Digital Marketing - (LINK)

In recent years, marketing has been transformed by new tools, platforms, and targeted data collection. Smartphones, connected wearable devices, and the Internet have fueled a revolution in the way companies reach their customers. As a result, a lot of the old principles of marketing have been supplanted by a “new way” of doing things.

If you want to make a career shift into digital marketing, or if you want to stay up to date on the latest in marketing tech, tools, and strategies, this specialization is your ticket. Over five courses and a capstone project, you’ll learn all about analytics in digital marketing, how to use the tools and platforms available to digital marketers, how to understand and cater to your digital audience, and much more.

Social Media Marketing - (LINK)

Maybe you’re a small business owner who wants to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter, and more to grow your business. Or maybe you work for a company whose social presence is lacking or non-existent. Whatever your situation, learning social media marketing principles and tactics is a great way to become an indispensable part of your organization. Using social media, you can increase your company’s reach, find new customers, and develop a smart, savvy online brand presence.

The social media marketing specialization will teach you everything you need to know about the various social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc…), and how to grow an online presence. It will teach you to pinpoint your online audience, listen to what they are saying and asking for, and respond in a targeted, social manner. You’ll understand what type of short- and long-form content performs best, how content becomes viral, and how to build a smart social media plan. In the end, you might even become a social media guru.

Foundations of Business Strategy - (LINK)

Learning the principles and foundations of business strategy can enrich your career no matter what your actual job is. Whether you’re a software engineer, a marketer, a salesperson, a research scientist, or any other profession, understanding key business principles can help you interact better with your clients, your manager, other teams in your company, and even company executives.

The business strategy specialization will teach you how businesses plan for the present and the future, as well as and the logic behind the decisions executives make. Through examples and case studies from leading businesses, you’ll explore how industry leaders found success in their markets. And through this exploration, you’ll be able to apply these principles to your own company’s business growth strategy, regardless of whether you’re building it or are simply observing it from a seemingly-unrelated department.

Full Stack Web Development - (LINK)

One of the hottest and most in-demand career tracks today is software development. With a shortage of talented developers and a plethora of job openings from both startups and Fortune 500 companies, a successful transition into the world of software development can be a big career boost. If you have a bit of development experience already in you - maybe you built your own website or ran your own forum - then this full stack web development specialization will help you refine and advance those skills.

The full stack specialization will teach you, over five courses, how to code efficiently in HTML, CSS, and Javascript, how to build the front- and back-end frameworks for a web application, how to create an API, and how to build mobile-responsive apps. The capstone will drive you to demonstrate your learning by building and deploying a full web app.

Most of these specializations take five or six months to complete and will set you back around $300-500. If you’d like to give any one of them a try, you can either pay for a certification from individual course, or take the course for free with no certification. If you change your mind later, you can upgrade to any option.

Investing in your career is a smart move, both for your personal satisfaction and for your upward mobility. Coursera has dozens of specialization tracks you can choose from, so if you don’t see one you’re interested in here, don’t despair.

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