Free or Cheap Ways to Develop Professionally and Grow in Your Career

Career development is an ever-evolving process, and it starts earlier than you may think. Even before being hired, candidates are looking for competitive edges to learn new skills and certify their skills. In addition to career fairs, informational interviews and shadowing professionals in your industry, there are a number of free or cheap ways to learn new skills to develop professionally throughout your career without the help of your employer or company.

Free or cheap ways to develop for professional growth

Take Classes Online

For a more comprehensive review of online options, check out this article. For now, let’s break down a few of some online options. 

LinkedIn Learning:

LinkedIn offers a variety of courses, including career development, professional development and soft skills. Courses are typically short videos led by industry professionals. All of the courses are free to take with a premium membership, but LinkedIn offers students various levels of certificates for a fee if they choose to do so. 

Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative:

This project from Carnegie Mellon University provides college level courses in everything from statistical reasoning to Spanish. Most of the courses are free or charge a small free from $20-$80.


This option is great for career development, professional development and career transitions. Courses are self-paced or in eight-week increments that allow you to gradually increase your learning over time. Instructors hail from prestigious universities or industry experts from around the world.


This learning platform has become very popular in recent years. Instructors include career experts, career coaches and career professionals through live virtual classrooms. Students can watch when they want to, but typically classes are scheduled throughout the week. Most sessions cost $20 or more, but discounts are often available for early bird registration or career professional certifications. 

For language learning

Image of the 10 steps to making a career change
1) Determine your "why"
2) Determine your capabilities
3) List experience, training, & certifications
4) Find the sweet spot
5) Make a budget
6) Build an emergency fund before you switch
7) Pay down debt
8) Be prepared to negotiate
9) Get liquid
10) Pursue financial assistance
The bottom text reads Make a change and head over to this free downloadable guide. with a link to The Guide to Making a Career Change.
Make a change and head over to this free downloadable guide.


Fun, interactive, and game-like, Duolingo offers an app for both Android and Apple as well as a web platform.


Connect with native speakers across the world to practice with LiveMocha


You’ll have to pay for a subscription for lessons in speaking, reading, and writing on Babbel.


 Self-paced study, live classes with expert tutors and the ability to practice with native speakers around the world with Busuu.

All of the above resources are free or relatively cheap ways to learn new skills throughout your career, but it’s important to make career development a real priority. Therefore, it’s also important to not simply attend one or two career development courses, but instead to take advantage of these resources over time as you’re career develops. 

Additional career development tips:

 1) Reach out to alumni from your school or from the career field that interests you.

Image from the app about salary negotiation based on certain questions like
What's the base salary component of your offer?
How badly do they need you to accept the job offer?
How badly do you need this job?
What's your minimum acceptable salary?
Salary Negotiation tool

Many will be happy to meet with you and share career advice, career development options and job opportunities. For example, reach out to graduates of schools that are similar to yours or classmates who already graduated and landed a career in your career field.

 2) Identify career development events, including career fairs and professional networking opportunities, to attend throughout the year.

This will help you build relationships with alumni and professionals who can help advance your career development goals over time.

 3) Set aside money from every paycheck to invest in developing yourself professionally.

For example, set up a career development fund with each paycheck that you can use to travel for career development or to take career development courses online. You could also try saving money by taking advantage of career fair discounts and career professional discount offers from various training providers. 

4) Seek out career mentors who have experience in your career field.

Also look for career mentors who have experience with career development. The career development mentors can help you develop a career action plan and map, while the career professionals can help you take your career to the next level. 

5) Be committed to career development for the long-term.

Yes, some of these resources cost money, but many are free or relatively inexpensive career development resources. However, career advancement and career success is a process that doesn’t happen overnight and requires hard work and dedication over time to achieve career success. 

6) Continue reading career development articles like this one daily.

Not just once per week – to keep learning about new career development options.

This will ensure career career development is a constant part of your career development plan.

 7) If you’re looking for a career change, start with identifying career options that interest you .

Then determine which jobs fit your skills and interests using a career assessment tool. Then develop a career action plan to help you reach your professional goals in the career field that interests you. 

8) Don’t stop here – career development is an ongoing process

It takes time and requires hard work, dedication and a career action plan. Set career goals for yourself one year from now as well as five years from now to keep you motivated throughout the career advancement journey.

Related Reads:

Free Downloadable Guide to Making a Career Change

Salary Negotiation

Online Courses to Grow Professionally

Why Join LinkedIn?


Get it on Google Play button links to At Work on the Google store on android.
Get it on Apple Store button links to At Work on the Apple Store.
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