Learning new skills can help you stay current in your field, take your career to the next level, or allow you to transition to a different path. Unfortunately, many training programs are prohibitively expensive, and if your company doesn’t pay for this education, you may feel stuck.
You want to learn more, but you can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars.
Don’t give up — you have options.
The following seven education resources offer top-quality classes at prices that you can afford. Check them out to see if one is right for you.
There’s a reason Coursera is at the top of the list. The platform offers a variety of programs designed by some of the top colleges and experts in each field. They offer individual classes for around $29 to $99, but you can also earn a specialization certificate by taking a cluster of classes for just $39 to $79 a month. The site also offers fully-online, university-recognized degree programs, though the cost of those programs starts at $15,000.
Courses include online lectures and assignments that are either auto-graded or peer-reviewed. You’ll also be able to participate in online discussions with others taking the class.
Consider starting with the University of California at San Diego’s Learning How to Learn course. Here, you’ll learn skills that will propel you forward no matter what else you choose to study. If you’re interested in a specialization, look into the Introduction to Project Management or Leading People and Teams paths. Each has just four courses to follow and results in a certificate that will boost your resume.
The edX platform is similar to Coursera in that it offers courses recorded at some of the best universities and colleges around the world, including Harvard, MIT, and the University of Hong Kong. Certain courses are also developed by companies and organizations like Microsoft and the Linux Foundation. However, edX is a non-profit education institution. Many courses are free, but those who want to earn a certificate or recognition that they’ve taken the course must pay a fee.
edX has a more options in the humanities than other platforms, but those courses may be applicable to people in certain industries. For instance, the Italian Language and Culture or Global Sociology courses by Wellesley College might be good choices for someone who’s traveling internationally for work. The site also offers tech-focused classes, like Introduction to Java Programming from the University of Hong Kong.
Courses are usually self-paced and can take several weeks to complete. The free courses are best for those who are highly motivated to learn on their own. Since you don’t have anyone checking your assignments, it’s easy to let the courses sit on the back burner if you have other responsibilities. Those earning certificates, though, are more likely to remain motivated.
Udemy operates on a slightly different concept. Anyone can create a course on their area of expertise, and instructors are paid a percentage of the cost of the course. Unfortunately, this means that there are plenty of people who have dubbed themselves “experts” and created courses to make some money. Those who can market themselves tend to do well. As a learner, you have to sift through the noise and read reviews to find courses that are well-developed. The good news is that most courses are quite affordable, especially when the site has one of their frequent sales. At these times, you can pick up a $200 course for less than $20.
Udemy works well for people who want to pick up some specific skills. For instance, you might be interested in the Microsoft Excel – Advanced Excel Formulas & Functions course or the Ultimate Photoshop Training course. You can also find fun classes like music or makeup classes.
4. Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning
Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning are essentially the same education platform. They are ideal for those seeking professional development because they’re entirely focused on business-related classes. You can take courses in programming, business, web development, photography, and design. Rather than purchasing individual courses, users pay a monthly fee and have access to the entire catalog. You can earn certificates for completing certain courses.
One unique aspect of this platform is that it recommends courses based on your interests. It pulls some of these interests from your LinkedIn account, but you can also manually add interests from your account settings page. This feature helps you easily access the types of classes that will help you improve your skills.
You pay the same amount no matter how many courses you take, so the Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning platforms are best for those who have the time to take multiple classes. If you’re only watching an hour a week, you might find better value with other sites. They do offer a free trial month, though, so you have nothing to lose.
Udacity started out offering college courses from Stanford to the masses but has now evolved to focus on vocational education. However, it offers a variety of very unique choices, including learning paths in things like artificial intelligence, virtual reality tech, and robotics.
The site offers a number of free courses, including Developing Android Apps and Localization Essentials. However, the site is known for its “Nanodegree” programs. This offers series of courses specially designed to prepare you for a career in a hot field, such as the Self-Driving Car Engineering program. It’s a good opportunity to take a highly-concentrated course to transition to a new field, and many of the programs offer mentorship.
Since these programs are designed by companies that focus in these industries, you can be certain they focus on the skills companies are looking for in job-seekers. The downside is that these programs have a relatively high price tag. Check out the program you’re interested in to see how much it will cost.
Mediabistro is designed for media professionals, so the courses are focused on topics that appeal to those in this industry, including courses on writing, editing, marketing, and communications. You might improve your writing with the Grammar & Punctuation course or delve deeply into Social Media Marketing. This is a pay-per-course model, with each course costing around $50 to $150.
Writers and journalists may be interested in joining the site’s AvantGuild. The cost is $89 for two years, and it offers you access to instruction on how to pitch specific magazines and easily access the mastheads and editorial calendars of a variety of different publications. Members also receive a discount on courses.
It’s important to note that while all of the other websites focus solely on presenting different courses, Mediabistro also lists freelance job opportunities and has a blog that provides valuable information on a variety of topics of interest to media professionals. Courses are just a part of their business model.
7. Community Colleges and Community Resource Centers
In today’s connected world, it’s easy to forget there may be plenty of learning opportunities right in our own communities. When you take these in-person classes, you can meet face-to-face with the instructor and with other students in the class. Many people prefer learning in this way.
Community colleges typically offer affordable options, especially for those seeking out certificate programs. Costs vary greatly, but in-district tuition averages $3,340 per year, according to the College Board. This tuition allows you to take as many as five or six courses each semester. A single course tends to cost less than $150 per credit-hour. That’s not a high price to pay if it helps you advance in your career or make a transition.
Local community centers and libraries also sometimes offer affordable in-person options. These programs generally cover specific computer programs like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, but you might also be able to find a language or project management course. Costs vary, but you should expect to pay around $10 per session.
What’s Your Next Step in Education?
As you can see, there are a wide range of education options available for those who wish to pick up some new skills. You can work at your own pace and within your own budget — while creating real opportunities to change or advance your career. The key to making it work for you is to find a program that teaches you exactly what you need to learn. Which course are you going to start with?