The changes that have been brought about to traditional education have been myriad. Many university students are unhappy with the way classes are currently being conducted, especially since they are paying the same tuition prices for what they deem a less desirable educational experience.
With that in mind, it is important to note that a college degree can be valuable for the right individuals. However, some people may only be looking to improve upon their current skillset and find a way to showcase their skills and experience to potential employers. In situations like these, what types of resources are you supposed to turn to if you’re not interested in pursuing a degree program?
Arguably one of the best things to consider pursuing if you want to spend less money and time honing specific skills are free courses. Unlike university programs, online courses offer you the flexibility that you’re looking for in a learning experience with the proof-of-completion you need to showcase your new skills.
With online learning on the rise and economic problems being widespread, many online courses are now offering free certifications to help you improve your knowledge and your resume. If you’re interested in online certifications, let’s take a closer look at some of the best certification programs currently available that you may wish to pursue.
Best Free Online Courses With Certificates
Armed with the knowledge you need to find the right online certification course for you, what are some of the best and most popular opportunities out there? To help you get started on your learning journey, here are the 15 best free online courses with certificates worth pursuing.
1. Fundamentals of Digital Marketing by Google Digital Garage
With remote work on the rise and people looking to take advantage of the various positions opening up, having the skills necessary to approach various companies with these openings can be key to landing the ideal position.
Arguably one of the most valuable skills to have as a remote worker (or even if you end up going back to the office) is an understanding of digital marketing. With that in mind, trying to carve yourself a space in this niche can be difficult as it is highly competitive. However, getting the right certification can provide you with the start you need.
One of the best courses to take a closer look at if you are interested in digital marketing is the Fundamentals of Digital Marketing Certification course offered by Google Digital Garage.
The Fundamentals of Digital Marketing offers 40 hours of introductory training for those who are just entering the space. The entire course is self-paced and offers lifetime access, meaning that you can work through the 26 modules on your own time and will not lose your progress or the ability to take the course if you become sidetracked. Additionally, you receive a certification from Google upon successful completion of the course, which can be very helpful in furthering your professional goals.
If you’re looking to build upon these skills, you can also take some of the other free courses that are offered on Google Digital Garage.
2. Google Skillshop Courses
When it comes to Google, Google Digital Garage is not the only free learning resource available to those looking to enhance their current skill set. In fact, an even more comprehensive learning platform exists that may be an even better starting point for ambitious learners and business professionals: Google Skillshop.
Google Skillshop may be a better alternative for individuals focused solely on learning more about the marketing tools that they will be using on the Google platform. These free courses and certifications include training for:
- Google Ads
- Google Marketing Platform (a program designed to help you through the process of developing and executing the ad campaigns you will be launching through Google)
- Analytics Academy
- Google My Business
- Google Ad Manager
- Google AdMob
- Authorized Buyers
The majority of the latter programs offer basic coverage of the topic, which will help you build a solid foundation for these skillsets. However, the programs for Google Ads and Google Marketing are much more comprehensive, which is especially helpful given that these are the key focuses for marketers. If you want access to free marketing courses and certifications taught and backed by Google experts, Google Skillshop is absolutely one of the main resources you should turn to for your educational needs.
3. HubSpot Academy Certification Courses
Many marketing programs and courses are hyperfocused. Take, for example, Google Skillshop. This can be an excellent tool for those who plan on regularly encountering Google’s Ad platforms and need to be well-versed in these programs. However, for someone who is looking to take a more general approach to marketing, they may need training and certification that encompasses all of the areas they can expect to function in should they move forward in this area.
Fortunately, these individuals can turn to HubSpot Academy.
HubSpot Academy offers hundreds of free courses on marketing, with many of them offering free certifications as well as badges that you can proudly display on your LinkedIn profile. Some of the free certification courses that are featured in HubSpot Academy are:
- Social media marketing
- Content marketing
- Inbound sales
- Sales management training
- HubSpot Sales, CMS, Reporting, ETC.
- Platform consulting
These foundational courses offer hours of training that many individuals will need to successfully gain the skills they’re looking for as well as certifications they can advertise. You can then supplement this knowledge with the many other free courses that you can find on the HubSpot Academy platform. Simply put, if marketing is calling to you and you want to ensure that you’re getting the right training, HubSpot Academy can be a great place for you to get started.
4. COVID-19 Contact Tracing by Johns Hopkins University
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many new opportunities have appeared that can offer individuals both the ability to help others as well as gain access to steady employment. One of these opportunities is contact tracing.
COVID-19 contact tracing involves identifying individuals who have contracted the virus, helping them arrange the necessary medical support and quarantine themselves, and get the information of anyone they may have been in contact with recently. This system is designed to help those who have contracted the virus cope with the symptoms and prevent those who have potentially contracted it from further spreading it to others.
The good news for those looking to get into contact tracing is that it is often quite an approachable job, especially if you have past medical experience.
Self-paced and flexible, the COVID-19 Contact Tracing program can help you learn more about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, delve deeper into contact tracing as well as its complications and potential solutions, figure out how to trace potentially infectious contacts, and discuss some of the ethical concerns and practices surrounding contract tracing. Since it is offered by Johns Hopkins University, you can rest assured that you’ll have the right education (whether you’re a beginner or someone more well-versed in contact tracing) and name backing your certificate.
*Important Note: This course is free because of a special promotion that is currently running on Coursera. We do not know exactly how long this promotion will last, so it is important to jump on this opportunity as soon as possible if it interests you!
5. Free Coding Certifications by freeCodeCamp
Coding is a profitable and essential skill to learn if you’re looking to progress in any technical field. However, finding the right resources for your needs can often be the most difficult part. Although there are plenty of great educational platforms out there, many can cost a significant amount of money to join, which isn’t the best option for those who are interested in getting started and may not know whether or not certain paths are right for them.
The good news? There are free platforms out there that can provide you with the introductory education you’re looking for. One such excellent platform to use is freeCodeCamp.
freeCodeCamp is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to helping people learn how to code for free. They boast an impressive 40,000 users having gotten jobs at major companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, which bodes well for those who are truly serious about their studies. Additionally, they have plenty of free certification courses to help you get a jumpstart on your desired career. Some of the free certification courses they list on their homepage include:
- Responsive web design
- Front end libraries
- Data visualization
- APIs and microservices
- Quality assurance
- Scientific computing with Python
- Data analysis with Python
- Machine learning with Python
- Information security
No matter what you’re looking to learn in terms of coding, you can find plenty of excellent free courses and certifications to help you get started on freeCodeCamp.
6. Master Class Management Courses
At first glance, Master Class Management may not look like much. However, for those looking to gain access to free course material and certification surrounding management and leadership, this can be one resource to use to receive the training and support that you’re looking for.
As stated on the Master Class Management website, “This free online management course and leadership skills training will teach you management skills, leadership styles, and the fundamentals of a mini-MBA business management certification program. It’s the perfect management training solution for new and first time managers, professional and experienced managers, and provides the tools needed to become a great leader.”
Master Class Management offers four free, self-paced programs. These programs include:
- Master Certificate in Business Management: A ten-lesson course which features a certificate as well as a certificate reference letter, which explains that you’ve successfully passed the course and lists all of the items that were covered throughout the course.
- Master Certificate in Fundamental Core Management: A program that covers lessons one through seven and provides you with a certificate and certificate reference letter.
- Master Certificate in Supervisory Management: A program that offers a certificate and certificate reference letter with an emphasis on lessons one, three, five, and seven.
- Master Certificate in Management: A certificate that focuses on each individual lesson provided within the course.
If you want free training in leadership and management without having to worry about enrolling in or paying for anything, you will find that Master Class Management may be the right certification platform for you.
7. CDC Train Courses
Finding online learning opportunities regarding health can be difficult. Finding these learning opportunities that are provided for free by highly-regarded organizations, even more so. However, there are some rare finds out there that can help you build upon your existing education and gain the professional or personal support you need.
One excellent resource to turn to is CDC Train. Developed by the Center for Disease Control, CDC offers users a host of online training opportunities (some with certificates included) that can either be used to help you in your current job or help you secure a job that would benefit from such certifications.
That said, CDC Train is a bit different from some of the other platforms in this list as it shows opportunities that have been archived, online opportunities, and even on-site opportunities. It’s important that you carefully research each opportunity you come across to make sure that it discusses the right information, provides you with the training you need, and is designed for your specific situation (in this case, online learning). The good news is that these types of courses are self-paced and in some cases may offer credits that may be needed for your studies.
Overall, if you’re someone who’s looking to work in the medical field, CDC Train can be a great platform to use to enhance your resume.
8. Fortinet NSE Training Institute Certification Courses
Fortinet NSE certifications (network security expert) focus on cybersecurity and privacy, especially in today’s world where digital threats abound. Now, before we dive into the courses and certifications made available by Fortinet, it’s important to note that only a couple of their courses offer free education and certification (you can learn more about that here). Additionally, these courses are more often taken by employees of Fortinet or related partners. However, if you’re looking to enhance your knowledge as you work towards a specific career, this may still be helpful for you.
The first notable course worth taking on Fortinet is the NSE 1 program, which is designed to introduce individuals to the current threat landscape and common network security concepts and practices that will be employed to battle such threats. The second is NSE 2, which builds upon the foundation content to help you better understand Fortinet Security Fabric solutions and provide you with a more comprehensive overview of how these systems work. NSE 3 and beyond are more tailored to those involved with Fortinet to some extent, which means they may not be right for you if you were looking to go forward.
If you want to build upon this knowledge even further, you can explore Fortinet’s NSE training library, which features a wide variety of free instructor-led and self-paced courses that you can use to learn more about cybersecurity and privacy. If you want to begin your journey as a network security expert on an authoritative platform that can provide you with the right foundation, you should look into the Fortinet NSE Training Institute.
9. Gymnasium Courses
Powered by OpenedX, Gymnasium is an online course platform dedicated to bridging the gap between education and opportunity by offering free online courses. However, it goes beyond this by offering some other benefits such as providing you with skills and certifications that you can share on your resume and with your network, supplemental learning materials and opportunities, and even the ability to connect with job opportunities via Aquent, which they boast is one of the largest staffing agencies in the world.
This platform does have a focus on certain course types, offering courses and certifications in web development, user experience, content creation, and design. Some of the courses that you can find throughout their website include:
- Coding for Designers
- UX Fundamentals
- Writing for Web and Mobile
- Responsive Web Design Fundamentals
- Modern Web Design
- Information Design & Visualization Fundamentals
- jQuery Building Blocks
If you want to take classes that are less demanding or will help you expand upon the other classes featured on their website, you can also choose to pursue Gym Shorts (courses that take less than an hour to complete and offer a badge of completion) and Take 5 (five-minute tutorials that cover practical skills you may need in the above courses). Whether you’re looking for supplemental education, quick tutorials, or full certifications and job support, you will definitely find the right resources on Gymnasium.
10. Saylor Academy Courses
Saylor Academy is another excellent entry on this list that seems to evade most other online lists. However, this is most likely due to the types of classes offered, which vary from the traditional online courses and certificates you will find in some of the other popular platforms featured in this guide.
Why? Saylor Academy offers free classes and certificates that are more reminiscent of a college class rather than a traditional online course. You can see this reflected in some of the class titles, which include:
- Introduction to Mechanics
- Introduction to Comparative Politics
- Business Communications
- Professional Writing
- Time and Stress Management
- Preparing and Delivering Presentations
- Managerial Accounting
- Human Resource Management
- Principles of Human Communication
- C++ Programming
- Introduction to Psychology
In fact, you may notice that many of these do sound like classes you would take in a university program. This is because, while Saylor Academy offers free courses and certificates, these courses also offer exams that you can take for college credit. Although college credits will cost (for taking the exam itself and receiving a transcript, $25 and $20, respectively), these may be perfect for individuals who are looking to get a jumpstart on college. Just make sure that your desired college will allow the credits offered by Saylor Academy to be counted towards your overall credits before you decide to take an exam (and that they don’t expire before you enroll).
Otherwise, if you’re just looking to get some certification in an introductory program, you can always receive free education from Saylor Academy.
11. Alison Free Certificate Courses
Many course platforms offer a limited number of courses regarding certain topics. While this can provide those looking for support in specific areas, it may not helpful for individuals looking to truly expand their skill set and branch out into other courses that may be beneficial for them. If you’re looking for something a bit more comprehensive in terms of the number and variety of courses offered, Alison may be the right platform for you.
With over 2,000 free online certificate courses to choose from, Alison’s programs are designed to offer streamlined training to users of any experience level, boasting that their courses take less than three hours to complete and offer self-paced options from many reputable individuals and institutions.
You can easily filter through Alison’s courses using the various topic buttons on the page, which feature categories such as IT, language, health, business, marketing, and lifestyle. Some of the top courses that you will come across as you browse through their large collection of opportunities include Environmental Management Systems, General Data Protection Regulation, and Transformational Leadership, just to name a few.
If you’re looking to avoid some of the costs that accompany similar certification programs, choosing to take a certification course on Alison can be an excellent way to get the education and proof-of-learning that you’re looking for.
Additional Free Courses to Consider That Offer Paid Certifications
The most difficult aspect of finding the right course is often the cost of obtaining the certification at the end. In the guide above, we have highlighted some of the best individual courses and course platforms that are currently offering both free courses and free certifications. However, finding the right course may come with some cost, which is something that needs to be taken into consideration before you begin your online learning journey.
While the above recommendations can offer you a ton of value, we feel it necessary to include platforms that offer free courses and paid certifications as well. Many of these platforms have more authority, better institutions and teachers providing the courses, and a stronger reputation overall. If you’re only looking for free courses and don’t mind paying for a certification (should the course offer you the value you’re looking for), here are a few free course platforms that offer certifications.
12. edX Courses
edX is one of the first and most authoritative online learning platforms available, and it’s easy to see why. Just take a look at their story:
“edX is the trusted platform for education and learning. Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX is home to more than 20 million learners, the majority of top-ranked universities in the world and industry-leading companies. As a global nonprofit, edX is transforming traditional education, removing the barriers of cost, location and access. Fulfilling the demand for people to learn on their own terms, edX is reimagining the possibilities of education, providing the highest-quality, stackable learning experiences including the groundbreaking MicroMasters® programs.”
Offering hundreds upon hundreds of courses, edX is an excellent place to start if you’re looking to take comprehensive, valuable courses on topics you’re interested in learning more about. They have a hybrid model of course types, offering both self-paced courses as well as traditional courses that are designed to be taken in a specific number of weeks. If you’re looking to go above and beyond the average free course experience, they have additional programs and pathways such as the MicroBachelors Program, MicroMasters Program, Professional Certificates, Online Master’s Degrees, Global Freshman Academy, XSeries courses, and Executive Education.
As we stated above, this platform offers free courses, but the certificates do cost. The overall cost will depend upon the value of the course as well as whether or not the course is attached to another type of program on edX. However, many of the regular courses will offer certificates starting at $50. If you want a thorough learning experience that will really add value to your life, you should definitely consider taking edX courses.
13. Coursera Courses
When it comes to free courses online, Coursera is another top option that seems to crop up everywhere. This is due to the fact that, like edX, Coursera offers courses from a number of well-respected universities, such as Yale or Johns Hopkins University (which we listed as a free course/certificate combo in the fourth entry on this guide).
The main difference between Coursera and other platforms is the fact that Coursera offers courses as either a one-time fee or on a subscription basis. This means that if you want to take some of the other courses that you may be interested in that fall outside the free course options, you are going to need to enroll for a fee or subscribe to Coursera. This will give you access to the certificates, which only come with paid courses.
Of course, subscribing may be beneficial to those who are truly seeking to improve their education anyways as Coursera offers benefits and programs such as:
- Guided Projects, which offer self-paced learning opportunities and less of a time commitment.
- Specializations – a series of courses designed to help you build your skillset in a certain field through rigorous training.
- Professional Certificates
- MasterTrack Certificates
- Online Degrees
The good news? Given that many of these offerings can be quite expensive, Coursera does offer financial aid and scholarships for certain certifications and programs.
If you want to not only take free courses but earn valuable certificates and degrees, Coursera may be the right platform to turn to for your needs.
14. Udemy Courses
Perfect for individuals looking to hone in-demand skills across multiple categories, Udemy is an online learning platform that offers a large volume and free and paid courses (with certifications) that are sure to help you get your start in your desired industry.
Udemy differs from some of our other entries as it is more of a course marketplace that allows you to purchase and access your courses at your convenience. With over 130,000 active courses to choose from in categories such as development, IT and software, personal development, and music, there is no shortage of learning opportunities. Additionally, this massive library is accompanied by benefits like lifetime access to courses, business purchasing packages (if you intend on using Udemy for your team), and is trusted by companies like Mercedes-Benz, Adidas, and Booking.com.
Although we’ve included Udemy in the section with other online platforms that offer free courses but paid certificates, there are some rare finds in the Udemy library that offer free courses with free certificates. However, you will have to dig through their 8,000+ course options in order to find that free pairing (as well as hope that they have the right free certificate for you).
Their courses and certifications will vary in price, which is largely dependent on what type of course it is, who provides it, and what type of value it offers you. For example, AWS certifications may range anywhere from $30 to $130, depending upon the course you choose.
Overall, if you don’t mind spending a little money and believe that Udemy can offer you the value you’re looking for, it is definitely worth trying out some of their free courses and moving onto paid certifications if you’ve enjoyed them.
15. Microsoft Learn Courses
If you’ve been looking for technical certifications that can help you land your ideal job and thrive in your career path, Microsoft Learn is one of the best platforms to turn to for this type of support.
The benefits that come with becoming Microsoft certified are myriad, which Microsoft points out on their website. For those who are looking for an incentive to earn a certification on Microsoft, some of the listed benefits include:
- “Upon earning a certification, 23% of Microsoft certified technologists reported receiving up to a 20% salary increase. What’s more, certified employees are often entrusted with supervising their peers—putting them on the fast track for a promotion.”
- “35% of IT professionals say they [certifications] are more influential during cloud deployments than counterparts during deployments of other technologies.”
- “36.9% of IT professionals claimed certification helped them perform complex tasks more confidently.”
- Along with the above stats, Microsoft certifications are developed by industry professionals and they have partnered with Upwork to help connect Azure-certified freelancers to clients in need of this type of support.
Microsoft offers three types of certifications. The first is fundamental certifications, which offer basic support in areas that interested individuals may be approaching. The second type of certification is role-based certifications, which focus on skills you should know within certain roles you are looking to acquire. The final type of certification is specialty certifications, which focus on hyperfocused technical topics.
If you’re interested in trying courses out before you pay, all of the online learning paths are free to use. However, instructor-led certification will cost (generally $165 per exam). However, for those who are looking to improve their resume and technical knowledge in the hopes of landing an excellent job, this can be an invaluable opportunity.
Getting Started: What Are You Looking for in Regards to Online Learning
Learning about the impressive collection of digital courses and certifications currently available online can introduce you to a whole new world of learning and personal/professional improvement.
However, much like it is with traditional education, there are advantages, disadvantages, and considerations one needs to make before they sign up for just any available course. Before you dive in, here are some important points to think about that will help you get the most out of your online learning experience.
- Why Am I Taking This Online Course?: Understanding why you are taking online courses and whether or not they will benefit you is key to planning successfully and getting more out of your efforts. Are you taking online courses for yourself, or are you looking into online courses to boost your career? Perhaps, you may be someone who is interested in taking online courses in order to get a head start on college, or even to take post-graduate programs without having to re-enroll. No matter what the reason, figure out why you’re interested in these opportunities and how you can make the most of them to get closer to your goals.
- Is This Something I Can Apply to My Current Career?: Many individuals will pursue online certifications in the hopes of improving their resume and furthering their careers. However, while certifications can be helpful, they are generally only seen by employers as great supplementary items if you can prove that you have been able to successfully utilize the information that you’ve learned in a previous position. When looking at courses designed to improve your career, ask yourself, can I use these skills in my current job? Will employers seriously review this certification and consider me above other applicants as a result? These are just a few questions to ask yourself to ensure that your time and energy isn’t being spent on an item that won’t help you get the professional boost you need.
- Who Is Administering the Course (and Are They Reputable)?: Some courses can sound great at first glance. However, who they’ve been developed by can make a great deal of importance. If you’re interested in certifications that will make an impact on online profiles or resumes, make sure to pursue courses developed by institutions or individuals that are sure to attract the attention of those who will be seeing these course certifications.
- Should I Invest in My Education Later on?: Online course platforms have grown and expanded since they were first introduced, offering a host of online learning opportunities that are suitable for everyone. When you are combing through these websites, you may come across Master’s degree programs, programs that could be taken for college credit, and other university-based learning opportunities. If you are someone who is planning on getting a college education, you may want to look into these items as well as they may help you get a head-start on your educational and professional goals.
- Is Learning Online Right for Me?: Some people find online learning to be far easier than in-person learning. Others, however, may struggle and prefer a live classroom environment. It can be helpful to test online learning out before you start to see if it is right for you. If you find yourself having a difficult time learning online, see if you can find ways to overcome these difficulties and make online learning easier for you.
- What Are the Terms and Conditions for the Courses I’m Interested in?: Online courses are generally either self-paced or meant to be completed over the course of a few weeks. It’s important that you pay attention to these details so that you are better to integrate your chosen course into your schedule. Additionally, you should also look to see if your course offers life-time access or limited access, if you have limited or lifetime access to your course certificate, and whether or not you have to pay to access your course certificate.
As it is with most learning opportunities, there are several considerations to make if you want to ensure that your educational pursuits are worth your time. Use the questions above to take a closer look at the courses you’ll find throughout this guide and determine whether or not they’re right for you and your goals before you get started on them.
Start Learning Today!
Picking up new skills doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, there are plenty of great resources out there that can help you gain access to the free courses you need to learn as well as the certifications needed to improve to employers and others that you have successfully completed these courses. But where do you get started? If you’re on the hunt for online resources that can help you jump start your personal or professional development, use the guide above to dive into 15 of the best free online course platforms with certificates that you can start learning on today!