A college education is expensive, a huge investment of time and effort, and sometimes, not the right path. In fact, one Harvard expert has reported that for every 100 young people who start college, only 25 get degrees and good jobs. About 45 drop out, and 30 graduate but end up under- or unemployed. But if you--or your kid--are bent on earning a bachelor's degree, how can you stack the deck to make sure an attractive job waits on the other end of four (or more) years? Take some advice from Sarah Franklin, the GM of Trailhead, a free online learning environment created by Salesforce, who has made it her mission to help educate students at any age or expertise, on today's most sought after skills to land their dream jobs at any company. Here are her words about the top five skills she believes every student should master before graduation.

1. Learn to code.

Today, every company is a tech company, which means every kind of business, from beauty to banking, has a need for individuals who know how to code. If you learn to code, it will be a huge asset to you throughout your career, and even if you're not planning to become the master developer, having that skill on your resume can increase earning power and make you more attractive to employers. We at Trailhead offer a beginners developer class, where you can learn the tools and technologies that power development on the Salesforce platform. There are also tons of other free resources online, including GitHub's 500 free programming books that cover more than 80 different programming languages.

2. Learn how to develop for AI.

Artificial intelligence is currently a $15 billion industry, and is expected to grow to more than $70 billion by 2020, meaning that employers are eager to hire people who understand its business value, and how to develop for it, so they can keep ahead of the competition. Adding the ability to understand and develop for AI to your skillset will take your resume to the next level. Check out some free, online courses such as Coursera's class hosted by Stanford University on Machine Learning, to get skilled-up on AI and machine learning on your own time.

3. Know Agile.

Agile is an iterative approach to software development that focuses on continuous releases and incorporating customer feedback with every revision. Agile is the industry standard for building and shipping high-quality software, allowing teams to move faster and adjust to changing market trends. Today, large organizations are looking for ways to apply agile to entire programs, creating a strong demand for talent in the market. My team has partnered with Atlassian to bring agile courses that will provide the skills needed to build and run agile teams across any business. Here is the best place to get started.

4. Understand the importance of data and analytics for business intelligence.

Companies are investing more of their time and money into interpreting their customers' data to garner business intelligence and gain a competitive advantage. Learning to take data and interpret it to create insights that you can use to make better business decisions, is a skill that employers are avidly seeking in today's data-rich environment. Visit edX's class "Knowledge Management and Big Data in Business" to start building your business intelligence skills and begin taking the steps that will differentiate you from other job seekers.

5. Embrace public speaking.

The fear of public speaking is said to plague 75 percent of the population, meaning that people who speak well publicly are few and far between. Being able to master this skill, whether it be in front of a class of your peers, or in a boardroom of superiors, is an important ability to have. Use the time you have left in school to practice talking in front of groups as much as you can. This will help you feel more comfortable speaking to potential new colleagues during the interview process and will ultimately help you present your ideas in the workplace without losing your cool. Our team created a course that will help you face your fears and learn to present like a pro.

Published on: Sep 17, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.