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Last Updated on December 21, 2020
Upgrading your job skills and learning something new is always a great idea.
With our current reality, taking advantage of free skills training is something that everyone can benefit from. If you’ve been laid off or are out of work, training courses look great on your resume and can help you become a stronger candidate for certain roles.
If you are working from home, you might not have as much work to do (depending on your job) and are looking for professional development opportunities. Or maybe you are still working but realize that it’s time to make a career change.
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of ways to learn new job skills or refresh the ones you already have. And the best news is that it can be for free!
The ability to learn online has made education so much more accessible and affordable. Geography is no longer a barrier, and in a lot of cases, neither is cost.
But don’t overlook offline opportunities, either. Although these might be limited right now, some people prefer to learn in person so I’ve included some of these places here as well.
What Job Skills Should I Learn?
Well, what are you interested in learning?
What do you struggle with at work?
What skills do the top people in your industry have?
Your answers to these questions should give you a good place to start.
If you’re stuck, focus on learning soft skills or transferable skills. These are skills that are, as the name suggests, transferable to many different career fields and roles. They make you a stronger, more well-rounded employee.
- Leadership and management skills
- Problem-solving and critical thinking
- Communication skills
- Customer service
- Research and analytical skills
- Active listening
- Computer skills
You can learn both hard skills (technical skills) and soft skills for free.
What About Accreditation & Offical Recognition?
“Accreditation is a form of quality control, ensuring that institutions of higher education satisfy certain standards.” – Cappex
While the majority of free courses and training programs aren’t accredited, you don’t necessarily need them to be.
There are, however, certain job skills that are regulated and require official licenses or certificates. These are more common in the trades, health care, and teaching sectors, and are rarely free. You may have to go back to school and take a full program to learn these job skills.
For most of us though, taking a course or two is all you need to learn a new program or skill.
If you already have a certificate, degree, or diploma, any professional development you do will further enhance your background and make you a stronger employee.
There are also a lot of jobs where practical experience is more valuable or equal to education. So where you learned these skills doesn’t really matter, as long as you can do the job.
A few online platforms allow you to audit a class for free and then pay if you decide you want the certification, after all. (Auditing a class means you are part of the class but do not earn credit and do not have to complete the assignments, tests, and exams.)
Online Learning Platforms
Please be aware that some of these free platforms, unfortunately, require you to sign-up with a credit card. Most of the “free trial” offers do, too. If you decide to take advantage of these offers, please be sure to CANCEL your membership before the free trial ends, unless you choose to continue.
Prices mentioned are in USD and are accurate as of the date of publishing (but are subject to change).
This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more details.
Coursera: Free +
Coursera is one of the most popular platforms to find online courses ranging from beginner to guided projects to Master’s degrees. They have over 3,900 to choose from – 1,600 of which are free.
It’s easy to find the course you want, as the site is very user-friendly and searchable. There is a lot of information included on each course such as what skills you will gain, the approximate duration of the course, and a complete breakdown of the course syllabus. So you know exactly what you are signing up for.
There are also paid options on Coursera that range from $49 per course to $399 per year for Coursera Plus (unlimited access to courses, specializations, and professional certificates).
Choose from free online courses like:
- Modern Art & Ideas taught by the Museum of Modern Art
- The Science of Well-Being taught by Yale University
- Indigenous Canada taught by the University of Alberta
- Psychological First Aid taught by Johns Hopkins University
- Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills taught by the University of Michigan
Udemy: Free +
Most of the courses on Udemy cost $10 and up, but they recently revamped their learning marketplace to now include over 630 free courses.
The main topics of the courses fall under personal growth & wellness, productivity & professional skills, and essential tech learning. Which is exactly what we all need right now, whether we’re adjusting to working from home or looking for a new job.
Their popular free online courses include:
- A Mini Course on Time Management
- Introductory Photography Course
- 7 Scientifically Proven Steps to Increase Your Influence
- How to Use SMART Goals: Achieve More in Less Time
No up-sell with this site! OpenLearn is 100% free and includes more than just thousands of courses. There are also free educational articles, tv shows, radio programmes, and interactive activities for those looking for different ways to learn.
The website is also very easy to navigate and provides all the course details you need to find the right one(s) for you.
When you create your free account, you will earn a Statement of Participation or digital badge for each course you complete.
Some of their most popular courses are:
- Effective Communication in the Workplace
- Understanding Autism
- The Science of Nutrition and Healthy Eating
- Introduction to Bookkeeping and Accounting
- English: Skills for Leaning
FutureLearn: Free +
FutureLearn has 600+ courses taught by Universities and top organizations. These courses are free when you join and you get access to them for 10 weeks.
You can “upgrade” any of these courses for a fee at any time to receive a Certificate of Achievement or Statement of Participation and lifetime access to it. Or sign up for their Unlimited Plan to access all upgraded courses and features for $259.99 per year.
Some of their top free courses include:
- Logical and Critical Thinking taught by the University of Auckland
- Introduction to Business Management taught by King’s College London
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills at Work taught by the University of Leeds
- Digital Skills: Digital Skills for Work and Life taught by accenture
- How to Succeed at: Writing Applications taught by The University of Sheffield
- How To Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students taught by FutureLearn
Skillshare, an online learning community, focuses a lot on developing creative job skills. They have thousands of free online classes to choose from. And over 20,000 classes with a paid Premium Membership – which you can get free for 2 weeks! (The free trial requires a credit card for validation.)
You won’t get accreditation or certificates, but you will get a lot of practical knowledge and develop your hard skills. Any projects you’ve created in your classes will also be showcased on Skillshare’s website.
Their all-time most popular classes include:
- Adobe Photoshop CC – Essentials Training
- Fundamentals of DSLR Photography
- Productivity Masterclass: Create a Custom System that Works
- Logo Design with Draplin: Secrets of Shape, Type and Color
- Presentation Essentials: How to Share Ideas That Inspire Action
edX: Free +
With over 120 institutional partners, edX was founded by Harvard and MIT and offers university-level classes.
There are a lot of free courses or options to audit programs for free. (You may have to click “enroll now” and then select “Audit the course” to get free access.)
EdX gives you the chance to pay to upgrade courses and earn a certificate for $50 – $300.
Free courses to learn new job skills include:
- Strengthening Community Health Worker Programs taught by Harvard University
- Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) taught by the University of Michigan
- How to Learn Online taught by edX
- Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel taught by Microsoft
- Becoming an Entrepreneur taught by MIT
HubSpot Academy: Free
HubSpot Academy offers completely free courses and certifications focused on building customer service, sales, and marketing skills. If you want to improve these transferable skills for yourself, you can take anything from a quick 5 minute course to a comprehensive certification one.
Their popular free courses include:
- Social Media Marketing Course: Get Certified in Social Media Strategy
- Content Strategy Course: Learn How to Create a Successful Content Strategy
- SEO Training Course: Building Sustainable Traffic for Business Growth
- Ads Training: Learn What Digital Advertising Is and How to Do It
- YouTube Marketing Course: Successful Strategies to Grow and Optimize Your YouTube Channel
Alison: Free +
Once you register for your free account with Alison, you can access all of their 1,500+ courses. For every course you successfully complete, you will receive a free Learner Record or Learner Achievement Verification.
Certificates, diplomas, or attestation letters are available for purchase (ranging from $15 – $215), if you are looking for something official.
A few of the best personal development courses include:
- Job Offer Formula – How To Land Your Ideal Job
- Business Etiquette and Professionalism
- Stress Management – For Relief From The Stress of Work & Life
- Personal / Business Networking Skills For Maximum Success!
- Motivation – Power Guide To Motivating Yourself & Others
LinkedIn Learning: Free +
Most people think of LinkedIn as a place to network online, but did you know LinkedIn Learning has over 15,000 online classes, too? As well as short video tutorials and learning path playlists. When you complete a course, you earn a certificate to add to your LinkedIn profile.
Many colleges, universities, local libraries, and employers offer free access to LinkedIn Learning, so check there first.
Otherwise, there is a one month free trial. You will need to enter your credit card information and your account will automatically be renewed if you don’t cancel in time.
Or you can purchase courses individually or get a monthly or annual subscription plan.
Some of their most viewed courses include:
- Strategic Thinking
- Excel 2016 Essential Training
- The Six Morning Habits of High Performers
- Career Advice from Some of the Biggest Names in Business
- Developing Your Emotional Intelligence
ShawAcademy: Free Trial +
ShawAcademy doesn’t offer as many classes as some of these other platforms do, but they are all globally recognized in countries including the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, India, and South Africa.
You get a 4-week free trial, and then it costs $49.99+ per month. They will ask for your credit card when you sign up, so once again, be sure to cancel your membership before the trial ends.
Another big difference is that only some of their courses are self-paced. Most courses are delivered at scheduled times, twice per week. So be sure you can make the commitment!
With courses aimed for hobbyists, professionals, and entrepreneurs, a few of their top ones include:
- Commodities Trading – How To Trade Stocks
- Adobe Lightroom
- Online Web Design
- Nutrition, Food Science and Menu Planning
- Online Cryptocurrency
MasterClass: Free Trial +
You only get a free 24-hour trial with MasterClass, but it’s a really cool way to learn so I thought I’d include it.
But please, be careful when you sign up. They too require a credit card, and will automatically enroll you into their All-Access Pass which costs $180 per year if you don’t cancel within those 24 hours.
They run a “Buy One Annual Membership, Share One Free” promotion from time to time, too, so you can give (or receive) a free membership that way.
So, what’s so great about MasterClass? The courses are taught by some of the world’s greatest experts. Experts like:
- Shonda Rhimes – Teaches Writing for Television
- Dr. Jane Goodall – Teaches Conservation
- Neil deGrasse Tyson – Teaches Scientific Thinking and Communication
- Gordon Ramsay – Teaches Cooking I
- Sara Blakely – Teaches Self-Made Entrepreneurship
- RuPaul – Teaches Self-Expression and Authenticity
CreativeLive: Free +
CreativeLive has 1,500+ curated classes (with about 200 of them offered for free) that are taught by world-class instructors. The classes have a “creative” focus, including business, photography, music, crafts, and art & design. Finding the courses that are free takes a bit of searching, but they do exist.
Otherwise, you can pay per class or get a monthly or annual pass (starting at $13 per month).
The “live” portion of their name refers to their free live online broadcasts and events. (You can RSVP to the upcoming one so you don’t miss them.) They also recently launched CreativeLive TV, a live-streamed variety show featuring Q&As, cooking shows, musical performances, and more, with a very cool interactive chat feature that’s also free.
Their top free classes include:
- Make GREAT Images With The Gear You’ve Got
- Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk
- Scrapbooking, Paper Crafts, Stamping and More!
- 30 Days of Genius
- How to Advertise on Pinterest: Social Media Training
Khan Academy: Free
Are you looking for elementary and high school grade classes? Khan Academy offers free courses in math, economics, science, computers, reading, and history starting from the kindergarten level.
They also offer free test prep courses (for the SATs and LSATs) and numerous life skills courses in careers, personal finance, and entrepreneurship.
A few of their career-focused topics:
- Exploring College Options
- Navigate Your Career
- Start a Business or Go Freelance
- Manage People and Processes
- Work in Tech
Philanthropy University: Free
Focusing on social change and community-driven learning for philanthropy and non-profit groups, Philanthropy University offers free courses with a Certificate of Achievement. Even if you don’t work in this area, their free courses cover a variety of topics that will enhance your knowledge and teach you new skills.
Their free courses include:
- Developing an Operating Budget
- Girl Centered Design
- Social Impact: Planning for Success
- Earning Revenue: Selling to Your Beneficiaries
- Branding 101
Websites to Learn New Job Skills
Ivy League University Courses
Some of the platforms I’ve already mentioned include university-level courses. But you can also find them directly from some Ivy League Universities websites.
- Yale University’s Open Yale Courses
- MIT OpenCourseWare
- Stanford Online (select “free” from the menu on the left)
- Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative
Learn a New Language
Being fluent in a second or third language will open up a lot of new job opportunities for you. Learn a new language or practice one you already know for free with the following sites:
Learn Coding & Software Development
Once again, some of the platforms already mentioned include classes that teach coding and software development, but these sites focus on the topic and can be more in-depth.
- Codeacademy (free basic plan or a 7 day free trial of Pro)
- Code Conquest
- GitHub Learning Lab
It would be impossible for me to list every single website that provides articles, videos, podcast,s or other educational content because there are literally millions of them.
If you want to learn about a specific topic, search it online. Between YouTube, Google, Bing, etc. I assure you, you will find the answer you are looking for.
If you are looking for a productive way to overcome being bored at work, aren’t sure what you’d like to learn more about, or want to increase your general knowledge, here are a few suggestions of free sites to check out:
You should also check out websites from different art galleries and museums from around the world.
Where to Learn Job Skills In Person
As mentioned, some of these “in person” options may be limited right now, so be sure to check what’s currently available.
Your Local Library
Libraries offer a ton of free educational resources in addition to lending books.
You can also borrow CDs, DVDs, Blue-Rays, magazines, newspapers, and periodicals. But did you know that many libraries also lend out other things, too? Things like games, puzzles, activity kits, musical instruments, tools, sports equipment, art supplies, and digital equipment. This is a great way to learn new job skills without having to spend money on equipment or supplies needed.
You can also get access to various free courses with your library card. (I get free access to LinkedIn Learning’s courses with mine.) And you can also get free day passes to museums and art galleries.
Libraries also offer free educational programming – and not just for kids. There are lectures, film screenings, workshops, computer classes, and other special events.
I highly recommend checking out your local library to see what programs, services, and resources they offer.
Adult Education & Continuing Education Centers
Adult education centers or continuing education centers are designed to help mature students earn high school credits, upgrade their skills or education to get into college or the workforce, and improve essential skills.
Most focus on literacy, math, and computer skills, but some also offer career courses, exam preparation support, or other specific training (such as health and safety, first aid, or safe food handling).
These courses are offered full-time, part-time, in-person, and online, which makes it easier to learn on your own schedule.
Your Coworkers & Professional Network
Your coworkers will have a strong understanding of what skills are needed to do the job and succeed within the company and the industry. Who better to ask for help than them?
You should also talk to your manager or HR department, too. They should have training programs or materials available for you. Larger companies may even offer mentorship opportunities.
Others in your network are also great resources to learn something new. They can provide an alternate perspective on things, let you know more about what systems or programs they use, and can help you stay informed about industry trends.
Networking groups and associations often host events like conferences and seminars where you can learn from experts, ask questions, and further develop your skills.
Your Family & Friends
Think about all of the things you can learn from people within your own family and social circle. Your parents, grandparents, children, siblings, niblings, friends, and other relatives all have unique and different skills. So why not ask them to teach you something you always wanted to learn?
Volunteering is an excellent way to learn by doing. Some volunteer opportunities offer extensive free training (like those in crisis support, addictions counseling, etc.), while others allow you to practice those important transferable skills.
Learn Something New for Free!
Between the courses, websites, educational institutions, and learning from the people you already know, there are plenty of places to learn and enhance your job skills for free, both online and offline.
What are you waiting for? Start learning something new (for free) today!
Your future self will thank you.
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