We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

You Can Take College Courses for Free via These 7 Websites

An adult male student watching a college lecture on a desktop computer and taking notes.

On the hunt for a new job? If so, you might be looking to upgrade your skill set without the crippling debt of student loans. Luckily, there are tons of free college classes you can take online. Here’s where you can acquire some new skills and make your resume really stand out.

While you can’t earn a degree by taking free courses online, you can still learn a lot of valuable new skills. They can also help you figure out where to go next on your career path, or what to study if you’re planning to go to college soon. Here are some top sites to check out if you’re looking to brush up your skills.

Are Online Courses Right for You?

An adult student writing something in a notebook next to an open laptop.

Free online education hasn’t yet fully replaced traditional colleges (we can hope, right?). However, it can be a major help if you want to work toward or research a new career, or learn new skills to help you advance in your current one.

Most employers like to see that a candidate took the time to further their education and learn new skills. That’s why online courses can help you become more competitive on your current career track. There are likely many free courses that can help you move up at your current job or get a new one.

If you’re interested in a side gig or exploring a career change, free online college courses are a great way to get started. Once you’ve nailed down your interests, you can decide whether you need to pursue a certification or degree to get where you want to go.

Depending on your industry or the field you want to go into, free online college courses might not be a viable replacement for an actual degree. However, in some industries and the gig economy, a diploma might matter less than just knowing how to do a specific job well.

For example, if you want to be a lawyer or professor, you simply must have a traditional college degree. If, however, you want to be a computer programmer or project manager, some employers most likely won’t care whether you went to a traditional college.

While some employers will require that you know how to use certain programs and software, in many modern, tech-driven fields, your skills matter more than a diploma. This is where free courses might be a perfect fit. Research the programs professionals use in the field you’re interested in, and then see where you can learn about it online.

You’ll also want to make sure an online learning format works for you. Some people do well with it, while others struggle to focus outside of a regular campus setting. However, since these courses are free, there’s no risk in giving it a shot! You actually might find you do much better working independently, rather than having to attend an in-person class each week.


The "Courses You Can Complete in a Day" page on the coursera website.

Coursera offers free courses for beginners in everything from math and psychology to fashion design and project management software, like Jira. What’s more, these classes are brought to you from big-name universities, including Stanford, Princeton, and Duke.

The list of free courses is extensive and, for a reasonable fee, you can even get an electronic certificate of completion after you complete it. No matter what field you’re in, you’ll find a related course here, as there are classes in tech, science, and the humanities.

If you decide to move on to the paid options, there are many continuing skills courses for working professionals. Even if you already have your degree, one of the Professional Certificates might be just the boost your resume needs to stand out.


Eight free courses on the edX website.

If you want options, edX is one of the largest online college class resources out there. Founded via a collaboration between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), you can access a free version of many courses by selecting the Audit Track.

This option allows you to participate in many of the non-graded course activities. You’ll also have the option to upgrade later to the paid version if you decide you want full access to a class.

The selection of courses is massive and, again, most are from prestigious universities. In addition to the typical range of college courses, there are also many that would be helpful for working professionals. You’ll find classes on everything from computer programming and various software programs to accounting and project management.

MIT OpenCourseWare

The main page on the MIT OpenCourseware website.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT fans and alumni can go straight to the source for free classes, thanks to the school’s OpenCourseWare site. It allows you to audit previous MIT courses for free. The university strives to post all of its previous courses and accompanying materials, so you have a lot to choose from.

As these are past courses, you won’t get any interactive content. However, what you will get is access to recorded lectures, assignments, reading lists, lecture notes, and more. Another benefit of OCW is you don’t even have to register for the classes you want to take. There are also no timelines or requirements—you can learn at your own pace and quit any class at any time.

Harvard Online

Three free professional courses on the Harvard University Online catalog.
Harvard University

Unlike MIT, Harvard University doesn’t plan to offer free versions of all of its courses at this time. However, you can still access quite a few via Harvard Online. You’ll also find paid online courses that are much cheaper than actually going to Harvard.

While you won’t find every field represented, at this writing, there are over 300 free courses available, including many in computer science and business.’

Stanford Online

Similar to Harvard, Stanford Online offers a selection of the prestigious university’s courses for free. You can also pay to earn an online certificate or degree through the platform if you decide to.

There are free courses in health and medicine, education, engineering, arts and humanities, and more. After you complete some courses, you can even let you print a free Statement of Accomplishment if you do well in the class.

Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

Carnegie Mellon also offers a selection of free and low-cost online courses via its Open Learning site. Although the list of available courses is short, it represents a number of fields, from biology to computer science.

And while you won’t get to work with an instructor, you get everything else each course has to offer for free. The Technology & Design section, in particular, has a number of industry-relevant courses available for just $10, including Visual Design and STEM Foundations.


Four courses on the Future Learn website.

FutureLearn is a good option if you want free courses, but aren’t concerned if they aren’t attached to any particular university. You can also take classes from universities around the world. Like many of the other options on our list, you can either stick with a free account or pay to pursue a certificate in a certain discipline.

In addition to college courses, you can also learn practical life skills, like budgeting, interview skills, online research. There’s even a course on Instagram marketing for small business owners.

There’s never been a better time than now to upgrade your skills. Whether you’re looking for a new job, want to advance at your current company, or you’re just trying to figure out what to study, free online courses are a fantastic springboard. So, what are you waiting for? Hit those (virtual) books!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?