Thinking about a career shift later in life? Want to improve your computer skills? Good news: There are tons of opportunities for you to get the training and education you want later in life — for free!
With the increasing use of technology in many industries, there’s now a big disconnect in the U.S. between job openings and skills, and going back to school could set you up for a successful, high-paying career later in life.
Many of the job openings that are going unfilled require you to get more education. STEM jobs — which involve the fields of science, technology, engineering or math — are particularly hot right now. But going back to school can help you develop the necessary skills for a variety of industries, not just STEM jobs.
Read more: Top 10 jobs in demand right now
The good news…
Going back to school doesn’t necessarily mean getting burdened with thousands of dollars in student loan debt. According to a new report from Consumer Reports, many state universities and colleges allow older residents to take courses for free. Another option is taking online courses, which are available from tons of schools nationwide to pretty much anyone with an Internet connection (more info below).
Where to find free courses
Here’s a round-up of a few places older Americans can find and take college courses for free.
- Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan: Waives tuition for anyone 60 or older. Students can audit or take courses for credit.
- The College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio: Allows community members of all ages to audit one course per semester for free (more info here). According to Consumer Reports, ‘Participants must receive approval from the provost and the teacher, and paying students get first dibs. But mature students are rarely turned away,’ a representative told CR.
- The Bernard Osher Foundation: Endows more than 100 ‘lifelong learning’ programs for students 50 and older at educational institutions nationwide. At some schools, students pay as little as $35 per course. At one university, professors offer four- to eight-week courses for between $80 and $115.
Go back to school online for free
Colleges have been catering to online older adult students for a while now, offering lecture series on their websites and even on YouTube. And just a few years ago, massive open online courses — MOOCs — really began to take off and have taken the concept of online learning to new levels.
The opportunities to take online courses, very often for free, are becoming more available every year.
Here are some ways to find available online courses:
- Find online courses directly through companies such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity.
- Find courses through aggregator sites such as Class-central. Although courses may be free, some may require you to buy the textbook. Here are ways to find cheaper prices on textbooks.
Learningadvisor.com: A joint venture between Kaplan and AARP’s Life Reimagined, Learning Advisor offers information on online and on-campus courses for adult students.
- Udacity, AT&T and Georgia Tech together offer an online-only master’s degree program in computer science for just $6,600.
- For free online courses in computer science, check out this list from Tech.Co of 60 free courses available this year.
Read more: 5 ways to save money on your college degree