Did you know that it’s possible to take graduate-level courses completely for free? We show you how.
If you’re in the middle of your graduate school search, you know how expensive the top master’s degree programs can be. Graduate programs are often costly and challenging.
The good news is that there are countless excellent free online programs designed to provide a graduate level education without the cost. Not only that, but the best of these tuition free programs are directly affiliated with prestigious universities like Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University.
Looking for other ways to offset your student loan debt? Start with a look at these affordable master’s degree programs.
Otherwise, read on to find out how you can take free online master’s degree courses in nearly any subject.
It is absolutely possible to get a free master’s degree online. There are numerous options available to undergraduate and graduate students interested in completing free online courses.
These options may include free online courses from prestigious grad schools, free online course consortia, and even entirely free online master level courses through popular streaming media outlets like YouTube.
It’s also possible for online graduate students pursuing a master’s degree to complete some courses, or even entire degree programs, through schools that offer a tuition free education.
This may include online colleges and universities offering free master’s degrees without traditional accreditation; prestigious universities that cover the costs of college tuition for all merit-based enrollees, and those with specialized programs aimed at helping at risk students or awarding credits in exchange for military service.
Bottom Line: There are numerous opportunities for students to take advantage of free graduate-level courses and even free master’s degree programs.
While there are many different options for free online master’s courses, there are a few important factors to bear in mind first. While many graduate schools, education companies, and online services offer access to free master’s degree courses and programs, very few of these options will actually result in an accredited master’s degree.
Your credits and degree may not be recognized by other educational institutions or prospective employers. Many educational institutions and employers consider accreditation an essential indicator of quality and credibility. Earning a master’s degree online without accreditation may limit your educational and professional opportunities.
Bottom Line: There are limitations in free courses. Because of this, free master’s degree courses are often most valuable to those seeking practical advanced education without tuition fees. While you may not always be able to earn credits or an accredited degree, free online courses can provide meaningful skills, knowledge, and enrichment.
Now that you know what to look out for, check out these popular pathways to free online courses at the master’s degree level.
Some of the most prestigious schools in the world make it possible for any student, anywhere to take completely free courses in nearly any subject.
For instance, the highly regarded Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a program called MIT OpenCourseWare. Private gifts, donations, and corporate sponsorship make it possible for the elite university to provide free online courses to students at every level of education.
In fact, with more than 2400 courses offered, it is possible to complete a free master’s degree online in subjects as far ranging as computer science, data science, engineering, and much more. While you won’t necessarily hold a master’s degree from MIT, you can receive this elite graduate education free of charge. There’s no way to put a price on that kind of free education.
You can also consider an array of entirely free graduate programs offered by innovative online schools like the University of the People. This privately owned, non-profit online institution provides completely free tuition for a wide range of degree programs. This includes both free college tuition for bachelor’s degree programs and free online masters degrees.
In most cases, students will only pay for administrative fees and exam costs. University of the People may also offer scholarships to qualifying students in order to offset these costs.
The University of the People is not currently accredited by a Department of Education-approved accrediting agency. However, it is a candidate for consideration by the regional WASC Senior College and University Commission.
At present, however, courses, credits, and degree programs provided by the University of the People do not carry traditional accreditation. This means that you can receive valuable education and even certification in certain areas, but would likely be required to attain additional credentials in order to advance in your education and career.
One of the easiest ways to access free online courses is through the wide range of course consortium sites on the web. These consortia typically gather together courses from various sources at the bachelor’s degree and master’s degree levels. These courses are often provided by prestigious educational institutions, and may directly mirror the same courses taken by students who are enrolled in these institutions.
For instance, websites like Coursera, Class Central, and edX offer thousands of tuition free online courses at various levels. And the awesome thing about these collectives is that they are generally created using graduate courses provided by real, elite colleges and universities.
Many Ivy League Schools and top-ranked technical colleges share trusted partner programs with these consortia. That means that a top Ivy League School like Harvard University makes many of its most popular courses and course materials available through these free online education channels.
While you may not have access to the same credits and credentials as graduate students enrolled in these topflight institutions, your free classes will provide access to topflight content, curricula, and professors. If knowledge and skill are your top priorities, check out some of the tuition free master’s programs offered through these consortia.
And if you do ultimately go on to earn a master’s degree, these free online graduate courses could serve as valuable educational and professional building blocks.
Some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world are actually tuition free. For instance, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA provides entirely tuition free college and graduate school degrees through its generous financial assistance program.
Covering 100% of student expenses regardless of financial need, Curtis Institute offers the unique promise that all its students graduate debt free. Prospective students should be aware that the Curtis Institute is extremely selective and that only those who demonstrate both musical and academic excellence will be eligible for its financial aid program.
But for those who qualify, this is an example of an institution that provides free bachelor’s degree and master’s degree programs for both on-campus and online students.
Graduate students seeking to widen or deepen their knowledge in specific areas of interest will find enormous online libraries filled with lectures, lessons, and free course materials at readily accessible sites like Learn@Forbes and Open Learn. These sites are designed to deliver free education to all online learners who are interested.
Whether you’re an aspiring graduate student, a curious undergraduate, or a working professional looking to update your skills, online classes exist in nearly every subject imaginable. This, of course, includes unlimited access to courses in popular subjects like computer science, business administration, criminal justice, early childhood education, and much more.
While these free programs will not result in an accredited degree, these online courses are a virtually unlimited source of free education and knowledge.
Are you looking to continue your education with an affordable master’s degree? Check out our Guide to Cheap Degree Rankings.
The following graduate programs offer access to free online courses. Some of these programs may even make it possible to earn an entirely free masters degree online. Graduate programs included here come in various models including those that provide access to free online courses without credits, those that make courses available through trusted partner programs, and those that provide generous financial assistance in order to offer free tuition.
Tuition + fees
Duke University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Duke University was founded in 1838 in what is now Trinity, North Carolina. Moving to their present location 1892, today Duke covers 8,600 acres of land across Durham, North Carolina.
The private university consistently ranks among the top schools in the world, and serves nearly 17,000 students across three campuses. And with nearly 10,000 graduate students, Duke dedicates nearly $1 billion to research efforts every year.
Duke University makes a number of graduate level courses available online entirely for free through course consortium sites Coursera and Class Central.
Love college sports. Duke’s men’s basketball is among the most successful programs in NCAA history.
Don’t have excellent grades. Duke is one of the most selective schools in the country.
Tuition + fees
Harvard University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. Founded in 1636, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based private research university consistently places at or near the top of both national and world rankings.
A member of the vaunted Ivy League, Harvard’s more than $50 billion endowment makes it the wealthiest academic institution in the world. Harvard uses much of these endowment to create opportunities for eligible students with financial need.
Harvard University’s prestigious school of education makes many of its graduate level business courses available for free online through the EdX course consortium.
Are at the top of their class. Harvard ranks annually as the most selective university in the nation.
Don’t enjoy a competitive environment. Harvard students often compete aggressively for grades and opportunities.
Tuition + fees
University of Pennsylvania’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
University of Pennsylvania makes a number of its most challenging graduate level courses available for free online through a partnership with the Coursera consortium.
Are at the top of their graduating class. University of Pennsylvania is among the most selective schools in the nation.
Don’t wish to attend college in a big city like Philadelphia.
Tuition + fees
University of California, Berkeley’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
University of California, Berkeley is the flagship campus in the University of California system. With fourteen colleges, undergraduate and graduate students can choose from more than 350 unique degree programs.
The University of California, Berkeley is also renowned for its state of the art research facilities. This means that Berkeley continues to draw highly influential professors in areas like science, math, and engineering.
University of California, Berkeley offers an array of free online courses through its Berkeley Resource Center for Online Education (BRCOE). Students can take graduate courses on the edX platform and, in some cases, even earn professional certifications for a basic fee.
Enjoy the experience of a sprawling campus with a large student body and a full spectrum of course offerings.
Prefer an intimate environment or small class sizes.
Tuition + fees
Columbia University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Columbia University sits in the heart of bustling Manhattan. Founded in 1754 under the name King’s College, Columbia is the oldest university in New York and the fifth oldest in the nation. Today, Columbia serves more than 33,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The private research university is a member of the vaunted Ivy League, and is widely recognized as a hotbed for scientific innovation and cutting edge research. And with an endowment of over $13 billion, Columbia has the largest endowment of any academic institution in the world!
Columbia University uses the edX platform to provide free access to the ColumbiaX library of courses including numerous graduate level courses.
Enjoy a college experience in the heart of a vibrant city.
Have a limited budget. Tuition for Columbia typically ranks among the highest in the nation.
Tuition + fees
University of Michigan’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
University of Michigan was founded in 1817, which is actually about 20 years before the territory of Michigan became a state. Roughly half of the students at the University of Michigan are from the state of Michigan, which means they enjoy discounted in state tuition rates.
The University of Michigan draws students from all over the world. International students make up about 15% of the school’s population.
University of Michigan provides an array of free online four-week courses in popular subjects like business, computer programming, and social work.
Enjoy a vaunted athletics program and a large student body—roughly 32,000 undergrads and 16,000 grad students.
Prefer a small campus. The Ann Arbor campus is divided into four distinct campus sections, all connected by bus service.
Tuition + fees
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is considered a “Public Ivy,” a school with state funding that offers the prestige and educational experience akin to those at a private Ivy League school.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is the flagship campus for the broader University of North Carolina system and began enrolling students in 1795. This makes UNC the only public school in the U.S. to both teach and graduate students in the 18th Century!
UNC offers an array of free online graduate-level courses through its partnership with Coursera.
Desire a well-rounded education. All students are required to complete a liberal arts education on the way to their chosen major. Popular majors include biology, business administration, and psychology.
Prefer a more conservative environment. Many students at UNC note that the campus culture tends to lean to the liberal side of the political spectrum.
Tuition + fees
University of Washington’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The University of Washington was founded in 1861, just ten years after the birth of its hometown of Seattle, Washington. This makes the public research university one of the oldest schools on the American West Coast.
With campuses in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell, the University of Washington covers a sprawling 20 million square feet of space in the state of Washington.
The University of Washington offers a select number of specialized graduate level courses for free in areas like data science, history, and business communication.
Love reading. With 26 libraries, art centers, museums, labs, and lecture halls, UW boasts one of the largest library systems in the world.
Prefer sunny skies. The Pacific Northwest is famous for its cloudy climate.
Tuition + fees
Ohio State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Ohio State University is a public research university based in Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1870, it was actually stewarded into existence by then-Ohio governor and later President of the U.S., Rutherford B. Hayes.
Fun fact: Ohio State University is literally the only institution in North America where you can earn an ABET-accredited undergraduate degree in welding engineering.
Students who are interested in sampling free online master’s courses through OSU can do so through the school’s very own open courseware site.
Enjoy a good time. Ohio State often ranks high on the list of best party schools and best spectator sports tradition.
Prefer a smaller school experience. With more than 50,000 undergrads and 15,000 grad students, Ohio State is the third largest school in the nation.
Tuition + fees
University of Virginia’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
University of Virginia is a public university with an extremely prestigious history. In fact, the original governing board for this “Public Ivy” included Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. At the time of its founding, Monroe was the President of the United States.
Among the many prominent graduates of UVA are the founders of Reddit and CNET.
The University of Virginia offers free enrollment online for a wide range of graduate level courses through a partnership with Coursera.
Enjoy the prestige of an Ivy League school with the affordability of a public university. In-state students enjoy tuition discounts while joining a tradition that has produced 55 Rhodes Scholars.
Prefer a more personalized experience. UVA students will often take introductory courses in large lecture halls with scores of other students.
As noted throughout, while you may be able to complete free online courses or even earn a free masters degree online, there are various limitations. Free graduate programs are often unaccredited. So if you are seeking credits and an accredited degree at a serious discount, you may need to consider some other options.
Consider taking a look at some of the most affordable accredited graduate programs for master’s degrees. While these schools aren’t free, most charge less than $10,000 per year for tuition.
You can also consider saving money by completing an accelerated master’s degree program. Spending less time in pursuit of your master’s degree means you’ll spend less in education-related expenses. Not only that, but you’ll have a chance to complete your degree at a rapid pace and return your full focus to your career.
This is why some of the fastest master’s degree programs are also among the most affordable graduate degrees as well.