7 Free Online Classes to Jump Start Your Career

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Your formal education shouldn’t end the day you graduate from college. While you might initially be glad to kiss coursework and quizzes goodbye, you’re probably going to reach a point in your career when your existing skills aren’t going to get you to where you want to be.

Fortunately, there are ways to get the knowledge you need that doesn’t involve shelling out big bucks for a certificate or training program. You can find free online classes in virtually any subject, many offered through respected institutions like MIT and the University of California. Whether you’ve realized it’s finally time to learn another language or have accepted that knowing how to code really is as important as everyone says it is, here are seven completely free online classes that will help you get ahead at the office.


1. If you want to learn how to manage projects

Class: Diploma in Project Management, ALISON

Knowing how to successfully guide projects from start to completion is the type of skill that can really help you move up at work. This free diploma program from ALISON, a global online learning community, covers what you need to know about managing projects, from planning to implementation. Completing the entire course will take 10 to 15 hours, and you’ll need to complete each module and score at least 80% on all the assessments to earn the certification.

 2. If you want to learn how to code

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Source: iStock

Class: HTML & CSS, Codecademy

“I think everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think. I view computer science as a liberal art, something everyone should learn to do,” said Steve Jobs in a 1995 interview. If you’re woefully deficient in this type of critical thinking, head to Codecademy, where you’ll find free classes that will teach you the basics of Python, JavaScript, SQL, and more. One of the site’s most popular courses (with more than 4.5 million enrolled students) covers HTML and CSS, and will teach you the fundamentals of HTML, how to build a website, how to work with CSS, and even how to build an online resume.


3. If you want to learn about design

Class: Introduction to Graphic Design, Lynda.com

You’ll have to sign up for a free trial to access this five-hour class from Lynda.com, which covers both general design concepts as well as color theory, typography, project planning, and getting started with essential design software like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. If you’re toying with the idea of pursuing a career in graphic design or just want to be able to better communicate with your creative team at work, this class will help.


4. If you need to write a grant

Class: Introduction to Proposal Writing, Grantspace/Foundation Center

If you work in academia or the non-profit world, knowing how to write a successful grant proposal is an invaluable skill. This 60-minute webinar (90-minute live classes are also offered in some cities) from the Foundation Center walks you through the basics of putting together a grant proposal that will hopefully result in funding for your project or organization. The class covers key proposal elements as well as do’s and don’ts. Once you complete this class, you can further hone your skills by signing up for additional free webinars like “Proposal Budgeting Basics” and “Introduction to Finding Grants.”

5. If you want to learn another language

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Source: iStock

Course: Basic Mandarin Chinese, edX

In a global economy, knowing how to communicate in a language other than English is an increasingly valuable skill. And Mandarin Chinese has been called the most useful business language after English – even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is learning the language. While there’s no way a single online course is going to make you fluent in Mandarin, this free class from edX will introduce you to the language. If you’re considering taking this course, consider making it a group effort with friends or colleagues, since the course developers strongly recommend practicing with others.


6. If you want to start your own business

Class: Essentials of Entrepreneurship: Thinking & Action, University of California, Irvine/Coursera

Prep yourself for business success by enrolling in this free online entrepreneurship course offered through Coursera and the UC Irvine Extension program. The four-week class covers feasibility studies, skills and strategies you’ll need to succeed (such as HR and marketing), and how to actually set up your business. Note: While enrolling in the class is free, you’ll need to pay a small fee if you want the class to count toward a “Career Success Specialization” certificate from Coursera.


7. If you want to learn how to negotiate

Class: The Art and Science of Negotiation, MIT Open Courseware

Whether you’re angling for a raise or looking to close a big deal, knowing how to negotiate is a vital career skill. This class from MIT “provides an introduction to bargaining and negotiation in public, business, and legal settings.” You’ll learn about both the theory and the practice of negotiation so that you can successfully bargain in a variety of situations.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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