Further Your Education Without Going Back to School

By Emma Hickey

As the saying goes, you learn something new everyday. We learn passively, whether we want to or not, just by living—at least that’s the premise of the adage— but what if you wanted to learn in a more active way? Without the time and financial commitments of going back to school, that is. It may sound too good to be true, but there are definitely options out there for you! It’s not only possible, it’s easy to find outlets where you can continue your education without getting (and paying the price of) an advanced degree. From online learning platforms and subscription services, to your local library programs, to your peers and the wealth of knowledge they’re willing to share, there are many opportunities to actively advance your education. You may not be a student anymore, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. Here are some places to start!

General Assembly

General Assembly is an education center that began in New York City and has since expanded to 20 campuses in 6 different countries. They offer courses in business, career development, coding, data, design and marketing. Whether you’re looking to make a complete career change and become a web developer, or you want to hone your data analytics skills even further, General Assembly has a class for you. Their classes also range in length and you have the choice between short bootcamps and long-form courses depending on your subject.

In the US, General Assembly maintains campuses in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. If you don’t live in any of these cities, don’t worry! General Assembly also conducts online courses. Some companies even offer education stipends you can put towards General Assembly tuition, which isn’t cheap but is less than an equivalent college course. General Assembly is great way to go back to class without going back to school.

Library Education Programs

If the in-person aspect of General Assembly appeals to you, but you’d rather not pay their prices, check out the programing at your local library. Libraries offer everything from computer trainings, to foreign language groups, to genealogy clubs, to garden clubs and to lecture series. These types of sessions typically meet regularly in the the library, giving you the opportunity to interact in person with the instructor and with your peers. They’re also almost always free!


Lynda is an online learning platform where you can study everything from Photoshop to business law to Java. It’s a great option if you’re a self-starter who would prefer to learn individually online. Lynda operates via a subscription model, meaning you’re charged monthly, and you can take an unlimited number of classes. Their courses are video-based and broken down into chapters that makes them easy to fit into your busy life. You can also learn at your own pace as there aren’t any time constraints when it comes to completing Lynda courses. Though Lynda courses don’t go as in depth as you may need should you decide to specialize in a topic, it’s affordability and flexibility makes it a great choice to keep learning beyond school. 


Coursera is similar to Lynda in that it’s also an online, video-based, learning platform. What sets it apart from Lynda, and other such platforms, though, is that Coursera offers 3 tiers of classes, allowing for various degrees of specialization. Coursera conducts Courses, which last 4-6 weeks, Specializations, which last 4-6 months, and Online Degrees, which take 1-3 years to complete. Some of their offerings are even accredited! If you’re looking to master a subject or a practical skill at an affordable price, Coursera may be your best bet.


If you like the flexibility of Lynda and Coursera, but are looking for a lower-lift and lower-cost option, consider using podcasts not just for entertainment but for learning. There are podcasts available on every topic imaginable, from history, to science, to feminism, to economics, to the Internet. Peruse Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or Spotify to get a sense for what’s out there, and down whatever sounds most interesting to you. You’re sure to learn something, and they’re free!

Master Class

Often described at the celebrity education startup, Master Class is a subscription service for learners who want in depth online courses taught by experts in the field. Experts who are also celebrities. Through Master Class, you can watch famed photographer Annie Leibovitz teach photography, Stephen Curry teach shooting, ball handling and scoring techniques, Shonda Rimes teach writing for television, and Christina Aguilera teach singing. Master Class’s selection leans more towards creative and performative fields, though there is a class on space exploration taught by astronaut Chris Hadfield. If you’ve always dreamed of learning something like filmmaking from someone like Martin Scorsese (this is a real Master Class option), then this platform is for you.


Another online learning platform, the thing that sets Skillshare apart from its counterparts is that its video lessons are created and uploaded by professionals in the subject. Actual designers teach classes on design, actual engineers teach classes on coding, and actual freelance writers teach classes on pitching stories. It’s like Master Class Online for normal people and it’s accessible price point reflects that.

Skill Exchanges at Work

It’s like Skillshare, but in real life! A workplace skill exchange is when one person with a particular skill set teaches that skill to a group, and so on and so on with different employees from the organization stepping into the role of “teacher.”  A coworker who is also a photographer would hold a skill exchange session on photography, a data scientist would hold a session on SQL, and a musician would hold a session on reading music. Don’t have a skill exchange program at your company? Maybe you could start one! Schedule out when the sessions will be, recruit your coworkers to instruct each session, then publicize the program to your team. Not only are skillshares a great way to keep learning, they also build community in the workplace.

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