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9 Cheap Ways to Increase Your Knowledge and Earning Potential

Some methods are free, others have minimal costs. All may help you get ahead.

The more knowledge you have, the more chances you will get to score different and better jobs. Knowledge is power, and with continuing education, power and ultimately, success, are yours for the taking. Here are nine free or inexpensive ways to learn more and increase your earning potential.

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MOOCs and Academies

Massively Open Online Courses are the inexpensive alternative to debt-creating colleges. An option for learning that — in my opinion — should have been there since the inception of the Internet. There are plenty to choose from, but these are your best places to start.

1. Khan Academy

"Your brain is like a muscle," says Khan Academy. "The more you use it and struggle, the more it grows." Here, you can grow your muscle with classes in math, science, economics and finance, and arts and humanities. For adults, this is a refresher. For kids, it's a prepper. The college admissions section offers information for high school students or graduates preparing for higher education. The site's content includes plenty of practice exercises, video lessons, and a personalized dashboard that helps you track your progress.

Cost: Free

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2. Udemy

Udemy has an incredibly broad focus — the site's mission is to "help anyone learn anything." Boasting over 35,000 MOOCs and over 8 million minutes of educational video content, it's something of an education supermarket. Web development? Check. Guitar? Check. Yoga? Check. You can download courses onto your device and view them offline, view them at your own pace, and take them in over 80 languages.

Cost: $0-$24 (If it's not already free, first course is $24.)

3. Coursera

While Udemy's courses are created by individual instructors, Coursera partners with universities and organizations. Here's how Coursera works: You enroll in a course — anything from Arts and Humanities to Data Science to Social Sciences — choose the free option to access videos, discussions, practice assignments, and view-only graded assignments. Then choose to earn a course certificate, pay a fee, and get access to graded assignments. You need to submit the assignments to earn the certificate. Now, Coursera offers specializations in subjects ranging from business, tech, data and general interest. You have to earn certificates to specialize.

Cost: Free

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Cost for certificate: $30-$100

4. Udacity

Founded by former VP of Google Simon Thrun, Udacity was the first MOOC. According to Udacity, "Education is no longer a one-time event, but a lifelong experience." The site's course emphasis is on tech, science and math. Google, Facebook, and AT&T are just some of the companies who have developed courses for Udacity. Learn how to develop your own app, or learn about robotics. You can take free courses, or opt to pay for a "nanodegree." Now, Udacity is offering to refund half the cost of the nanodegree if you graduate within 12 months. They also guarantee you'll get a job.

Cost: Free

Cost for nanodegree: $200/month

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5. EdX

EdX offers courses ranging from computer science, languages, engineering, psychology, writing, electronics, biology, all the way to marketing. The only non-profit, open source MOOC platform, EdX was founded in 2012 by Harvard and MIT. In 2013, EdX debuted its three-tiered certification system. You can take any course for free as an audit, choose to earn a certificate based on performance, or pay and earn an "ID-verified" certificate — a credit for doing well and being who you say you are. You can also choose to pay more than the required price for certification in case you're feeling generous. Some courses may not have the verified certificate option.

Cost: Free

Cost for ID-verified certificate: Varies per course

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6. FutureLearn

Owned by the UK's massive The Open University (one of only three foreign universities accredited in America), FutureLearn partners with 82 organizations worldwide. This global emphasis means a different perspective than U.S.-based MOOCs (but as an editorial note, American universities take pride in their borderless perspectives).

Future Learn is onboard with the rest in charging for certification, which they call a "Statement of Participation." Like EdX, Coursera, and Udemy, you merely have to ask yourself what you want to learn. Chances are Future Learn's got it. As a side note, now you can take a course from Sheffield University on "How to Write Your First Song." No guarantees you'll be able to write more.

Cost: Free

Cost for Statement of Participation: Varies per course

Specializations

Simply put, if you know what you want to learn, MOOCs aren't your only option. And diversity in sources for education is important. Here are three online courses in some of the most money-relevant modern subjects. (See also on Wise Bread: 3 Ways to Get a Legit Business Education Online)

7. Excel University

No wonder being an accountant is certain to fetch you a reliable income. Accountants can use Excel University to learn shortcuts and tricks and continue their required professional education. But the program is more than an accounting tool. It's in offices everywhere. If you want to learn how to use the ubiquitous Excel program more efficiently and proficiently, you can take the "lite" version of Excel University's course. Also, the site provides a free evaluation course, so you can sample before you buy.

Cost: $0-$499

8. American Graphics Institute UX Training

Learning website and app design will make you indispensable in today's connected world. AGI's User Experience Design Training lets you ask your teacher a question in real-time and receive the answer as soon as they know it. The instructors are the articulate, knowledgeable authors of the Dummies and Digital Classroom books. AGI puts a premium on usability. You can request a headset to communicate with your instructor, or simply use your computer's microphone. Just be aware that this course is not self-paced.

Cost: $495-$795, depending on course

9. Edureka Big Data and Hadoop

Edureka is an alternative learning program offering a course in the field of big data. Specifically, this course will enable you to use Hadoop. Hadoop is an open source software project that lets you sort through and use the reams of data we generate on the Web.

For example, Facebook uses Hadoop to process user information and pinpoint how to improve algorithms. Credit card companies use it to identify and prevent fraud. Big Data and Hadoop are virtually everywhere in tech-savvy business, and data scientists are in high demand. Through Edureka's online program, you'll begin to get a handle on this huge field through live, interactive courses with 24/7 support.

Cost: $389

This article is from Daniel Matthews of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website.

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This article is from Wise Bread, not the Kiplinger editorial staff.