Free IT Certifications and Courses to Elevate Your Career

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore free IT certifications and courses available online through a number of course providers. Learn the difference between certifications, certificates and badges, and find free IT courses that suit you.

[Featured Image]:  An IT associate wearing an orange top sits at a desktop computer, exploring information about free IT certifications.

For those seeking career advancement or resume enhancement, free online courses, certificate programs, and certifications are worth considering. Many are self-paced, allowing for greater flexibility. For technical professions such as information technology (IT), this type of continued education can add value to your career without the time and financial commitment of a degree. They can also be an excellent way for those with little to no experience to break into the field. In this article, we’ll explore some popular cost-free learning opportunities for information technology professionals. 

Read more: 5 Tech Entry-Level Jobs in 2024: No Experience or Commute Required

IT Certifications vs. certificates vs. certificate courses

Comparing your options is a crucial first step to take in your professional development path. Certificates, certifications, and certification courses all serve different purposes and represent different achievements. You'll need to identify your professional goals to decide which offerings best suit your needs. For example, do you want to sharpen your skills? Are you trying to get a job? Do you want to advance your career through promotions or raises? Think about your ideal outcome and check out the breakdown below to determine which offerings best meet your needs. 

IT Certifications

Certifications are credentials designed to verify knowledge, skills, and experience. The only way to earn a certification is to pass an exam that proves your expertise. Certifications typically don't include pre-exam training or full-fledged courses, although you may have the option to purchase an exam package that includes education. For this reason, many certifications are geared towards professionals who already have some experience. Employers may require certain certifications depending on the nature of the job. 

Read more: Are Certifications Worth It? When to Get Certified in Your IT Career

Are there any free IT certifications?

Free IT certifications can feel difficult or even impossible to find because people often use the terms "certificate" and "certification" interchangeably. You may be able to take certification courses and training for free leading up to the exam. However, exams generally cost money to take, and therefore, so do certifications. If paying for an IT certification isn't in your budget, try not to feel discouraged. You have several other options to explore throughout this article.


CompTIA Certifications

CompTIA A+ is a popular cybersecurity certification among IT professionals. At full price, it costs $246 to take the exam. However, there are a few ways to lessen or eliminate the cost:

  • Qualifying for a special program. Many places offer free or low-cost IT training to certain individuals. These programs are typically geared toward the unemployed or under-employed, displaced workers, ethnic minorities, women, and military veterans. Often, they're designed for entry-level IT professionals rather than people with established careers, but offerings vary by location. You can search for training programs near you by visiting the Career One Stop website or check out CompTIA's list of non-profit charitable programs in the US here

  • Obtaining a student discount. If you're currently enrolled in school, you may be eligible for discounted CompTIA training materials and certification vouchers through the CompTIA Marketplace. You must have a valid student ID and a .edu email address to qualify. As of February 2024, a CompTIA A+ certification voucher is offered to qualifying students for $97

  • Earning the Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate. This program in itself awards a Google career certificate and access to Google's job board upon completion. However, it is also designed to prepare you for the CompTIA A+ exam, by curriculum and by providing a 30 percent discount on its cost, bringing the price down to $172.20. If you take this learning path, you'll also earn a dual credential from Google and CompTIA. 

If you want to learn more about CompTIA certifications, check out the following article: The CompTIA Certification Path Explained.

Free IT certifications for specific platforms and vendors

Tip: Getting connected with tech communities can also help you stay in the loop about new free IT certifications, courses, and training. For example, an independent group called the Cloud Study Network shared a curated list of free courses and certifications on GitHub for community use. Remember that these types of forums and platforms are run by community members, likely unpaid. As a result, they may not be updated regularly or may contain expired offers. Using community resources as a starting point to conduct your research is recommended. 


IT Certificates

Unlike a certification, a certificate is often an educational process complete with courses or training. The credential you'll earn at the end is a certificate of completion, signifying that you've been trained in specific skills or tools. If you're trying to enter the field or apply for an entry-level role, certificate programs can be an effective way to fill the gaps in your resume and demonstrate experience without work history or certifications.

Certificates can also be valuable for mid-to-advanced level professionals who want to showcase certain competencies on their resume or specialize in a particular focus area, like artificial intelligence (AI). Many businesses, organizations, and universities award IT certificates. Certificates tend to be more cost-effective than certifications, offering free online education.

For example, you can audit the classes in Coursera's certificate programs for free, paying only if you want to earn the career or course certificate at the end. With a Coursera Plus subscription, you'll gain access to over 7,000 courses and certification programs, eliminating the requirement to pay for each certificate individually. Here are a few popular, cost-effective online certificate programs that you can try free for 7 days: 

Free IT courses with certificate

Free online courses in IT are much more widely available. Below, we've compiled a list of 100% cost-free individual courses for IT professionals. You'll earn a certificate of completion for each one. 

Read more: 10 Essential IT Certifications for 2024

Benefits of free IT training

Free IT certifications and tech courses are great ways to discover focus areas that interest you and boost your resume before enrolling in paid courses. The certifications, skills, and experience you gain from free courses may be enough to land a job and provide a solid grounding for more advanced courses if you choose.

Companies like Microsoft and LinkedIn offer many free tech courses, some certified, some giving a certificate for completion. Microsoft reported that 42 million people accessed free training through a Microsoft and LinkedIn global skills initiative to help unemployed workers after the pandemic [1]. Additional benefits of free IT courses include:


  • Wide variety of levels: Even if the courses you find are not as advanced as paid courses, they can boost your resume and provide verification of your skills or serve as a way to level up to a paid course.


  • Credibility: Having certifications, a list of courses, certificates, or badges you’ve completed can give you credibility in your industry.


  • Boosts earning potential: Taking a free IT course may be what you need to advance to the next level of your career.


  • Accessibility: Free tech courses tend to be online and offer self-paced learning options. 


  • Network with professionals: Free IT certifications create opportunities to meet others in your field and network with industry professionals.

Which jobs can benefit from free IT training?

If you’re looking to enter an in-demand sector like cloud computing or cybersecurity or are transitioning into tech from a non-related role, free online IT courses can add value and show your dedication.

Careers that may benefit from free IT courses include:

Read more: How to Find + Prepare for Entry-Level Help Desk Jobs

How to pass IT certification exams

  • Make sure to practice, revise, and know your material.

  • Be well-rested and alert on exam day.

  • Take practice tests if available.

  • Review exam requirements and ensure you understand them.

For further support, take a look at the free course Preparing for and Passing Technical Certifications offered by ROI Training on Coursera.

Start earning IT credentials today with Coursera

You can start with a 7-day trial of Coursera Plus to explore IT courses and specializations offered by industry leaders and top universities. Or, try auditing IT certificate programs you're interested in free of charge. You can always change to the paid option when you're ready to earn your credential.  

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Article sources

  1. Microsoft. “Millions are using a free skills program to find unexpected career opportunities in a challenging time,” Accessed February 16, 2024.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.