Smiling woman completing a Harvard online course in a park.

Harvard Online Courses: Quality Education at Your Fingertips

As one of the most well-respected educational institutions in the world, Harvard University sets the gold standard for academic excellence. Harvard online courses are an essential part of the school’s commitment to ensuring students everywhere have access to quality educational resources. 

Harvard online course offerings are vast, covering dozens of topics across eleven academic disciplines. You can find short, skill-based classes that can be completed in a handful of hours as well as in-depth programs that take up to a year to complete. In this article, we lay out the best paid and free Harvard courses that are perfect for curious learners everywhere. 

How Do Harvard Online Courses Work?

There are over 700 Harvard online courses, and you can enroll in any of them by visiting the school’s official website. While they all have several things in common, such as high-quality curricula and esteemed instructors, there is also a huge amount of variation within these offerings. Understanding what types of courses are available and how they work is an essential step in selecting the right Harvard online course for your situation. 


Harvard offers both free and paid online courses. In general, Harvard’s free online courses are self-paced and can be completed in one to six weeks. Many free Harvard courses are available on the edX platform and offer participants an opportunity to pay a fee for a verified certificate of completion. 

Paid Harvard online courses can cost anywhere from $30 to $5,000, depending on factors including length, subject matter, and format. Paid options can be either self-paced or instructor-led, and most come with a verified certificate. Many of the most expensive options are rigorous and well-respected courses that either lead into a degree program or provide valuable career growth.


All of Harvard’s free online courses, and many of its paid courses, are available to any student at any time. However, you will need to pay attention to availability and start dates if you want to enroll in an instructor-led online course. If you are unable to enroll in a course before its deadline, you might still be able to audit the class or access the content in a self-paced format. 

The vast majority of Harvard online courses do not have any official prerequisites, but there are exceptions for intermediate and advanced programs. Many higher-level courses are designed for industry professionals and recommend that participants have several years of experience, so make sure you read course descriptions before you enroll. 

Subject Matter

You can choose from between 11 different subject areas when you search for a Harvard online course, including mathematics, social science, art and design, programming, business, and medicine. Each subject has its own range of free and paid options, as well as a mix of introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses. 

The 10 Best Paid Harvard Online Courses

Top Harvard online courses offer an exceptional opportunity for professional and personal development. We included courses with a range of subject matter, level of difficulty, and length to reflect the impressive breadth of Harvard’s online course library. Each program below will empower you to gain new knowledge and skills, enhance your career prospects, and broaden your intellectual horizons.

Course Title Cost Length Difficulty
Computer Science for Lawyers $2,100 Up to 12 months Advanced
Data Science Principles $950 4 weeks Introductory
Design Thinking and Innovation $1,750 7 weeks Introductory
Digital Health $1,600 4 weeks Introductory
Evaluating Upward Mobility: The Fading American Dream $169 4 weeks Introductory
Evidence for Equity $4,800 1 week Intermediate
International Finance: Policy, Regulation, and Transactions $2,450 Up to 12 months Advanced
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence With Python $2,040 10 weeks Intermediate
Public Leadership Credential $995+ 6-36 weeks Intermediate
Strategy Execution for Public Leadership $1,600 4 weeks Introductory

The Best Harvard Online Courses: In Detail

Computer Science for Lawyers

This is a course designed to enhance attorneys’ understanding of computer science concepts and the legal implications of technology decisions. Covering topics such as programming languages, cyber security, and cloud computing, it equips participants to contribute effectively to technology-driven discussions, formulate tech-informed legal arguments, and better serve their clients. 

This program is ideal for attorneys advising on technology-related legal matters and promotes collaborative learning with colleagues. It is notable for its flexibility, as it is completely self-paced. Students have one year to complete the 10 video modules. 

Data Science Principles

Prepare for the data-driven world with “Data Science Principles,” one of the best short courses from Harvard. This course offers a code- and math-free introduction to essential data science concepts, making them relevant and applicable in various industries. 

Geared toward managers and professionals from all backgrounds, it equips participants to engage in data-driven discussions and apply data science principles to their workplace and daily life, emphasizing topics like prediction, causality, data wrangling, privacy, and ethics.

Design Thinking and Innovation

This course empowers innovation managers to integrate creative problem-solving and design thinking into their strategic initiatives. Participants gain an innovation toolkit and the ability to apply human-centered design principles, fostering a mindset of innovation and collaboration. After completing five weeks of course content and the two-week group project, you will earn a Harvard business certificate of completion. 

Digital Health 

This is a self-paced course offered by Harvard Medical School designed to give students a comprehensive understanding of how digital technologies can be used to address healthcare challenges. You will learn how tools like machine learning, artificial intelligence, apps, and sensors can inform decision-making in a healthcare environment.

Evaluating Upward Mobility: The Fading American Dream

Participants of this course delve into the historical context of economic mobility, and the impact of geography, education quality, and household factors on its decline in the US. A major focus of this course is how big data and data science can be used to measure and address these complex issues. 

Evidence for Equity

This instructor-led executive program examines the way societies characterized by diversity and increased equity can foster improved innovation, peace, and prosperity on a global scale. It focuses on data-driven, evidence-based policymaking and equips participants to understand complex inequalities and address historical exclusions as they strive for improved outcomes. 

International Finance: Policy, Regulation, and Transactions 

This program is one of the most comprehensive Harvard open courses and includes 10 modules that you have one year to complete. The curriculum is geared towards financial professionals, lawyers, and policymakers and offers an overview of essential knowledge in global banking, capital markets, fintech, and regulations.

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence With Python

This instructor-led course delves into the core concepts and algorithms underpinning modern artificial intelligence, covering topics like graph search algorithms, reinforcement learning, and classification. Through hands-on projects in Python, students gain practical experience and acquire the knowledge needed to design intelligent systems independently. You will need a year of experience with Python to enroll. 

Public Leadership Credential 

This Harvard online course equips professionals with the skills to analyze real-world policy challenges, develop effective solutions, and instill lasting change in communities. It’s designed for individuals with a bachelor’s degree, a minimum of five years of experience, and a commitment to the public good.

This series offers a unique pathway into Harvard Kennedy School’s MC/MPA degree program. The full program consists of six different courses and a capstone project. Students must complete each element to earn the credential, but they are also free to enroll in each course separately. 

Strategy Execution for Public Leadership

As one of the best Harvard Business school online courses, this self-paced class allows you to learn from the real-life experiences of major industry leaders. You’ll explore topics such as resource planning, talent management, risk mitigation, and how to develop strategies that align with organizational goals. 

The 10 Best Free Harvard Online Courses

Taking a free Harvard course is a great way to enhance your knowledge and skills in a flexible, accessible manner. You can explore new subjects with the help of world-renowned experts in a wide range of fields. Below, we provide all the details about some of the best free Harvard online courses currently available. 

Course Title Length Difficulty
China Humanities: The Individual in Chinese Culture 8 weeks Introductory
Early Childhood Development: Global Strategies for Interventions 7 weeks Introductory
Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies 6 weeks Introductory
The Health Effects of Climate Change 7 weeks Introductory
High-Dimensional Data Analysis 4 weeks Intermediate
Improving Global Health: Focusing on Quality and Safety 8 weeks Intermediate
Innovating in Health Care 9 weeks Intermediate
Introduction to Programming With Python 9 weeks Introductory
Masterpieces of World Literature 12 weeks Introductory
Statistics and R 4 weeks Intermediate

The Best Free Harvard Online Courses: In Detail

China Humanities: The Individual in Chinese Culture

This course emphasizes the individual’s unique expressions and contributions that have left a lasting impact on Chinese society, presenting a holistic view of China’s cultural evolution. Topics range from early Chinese thinkers to Neo-Confucianism and include discussions on love, literature, art, and their influence on Chinese culture.

Early Childhood Development: Global Strategies for Interventions

This course delves into the critical realm of early childhood development, addressing the pressing need to ensure the well-being and potential of millions of children in low- and middle-income countries. It explores the science and strategies behind effective interventions, emphasizing the importance of successful program implementation.

Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies 

Students in the course will gain a deeper understanding of entrepreneurship opportunities in fast-growing emerging markets. It takes an interdisciplinary approach, exploring complex social problems, identifying entrepreneurial possibilities, and developing innovative solutions. While it covers various fields of study, it has a particular focus on health-related entrepreneurship opportunities.

The Health Effects of Climate Change

This course examines the pressing issue of climate change and its profound impacts on public health, addressing aspects like air quality, nutrition, infectious diseases, and human migration. It offers insights into the research methods used to measure these health effects and provides strategies for mitigating and adapting to the challenges posed by climate change. 

High-Dimensional Data Analysis

In this data science course, you will explore the world of data analysis and interpretation. It covers factors like principal component analysis and factor analysis, highlighting their applications in data visualization. The curriculum also includes an introduction to machine learning, including clustering analysis, prediction algorithms, and the concept of training sets.

Improving Global Health: Focusing on Quality and Safety

One of the best Harvard free online courses for healthcare professionals, this course examines the relationship between healthcare quality and population health. You’ll explore frameworks for assessing and enhancing healthcare quality and practice tools that experts in the field use to drive positive change and promote quality care delivery. 

Innovating in Health Care

Innovating in Health Care is another popular free Harvard course that delves into the realm of healthcare, this time in terms of innovation and the critical factors shaping competitive strategies for healthcare ventures. You’ll learn to create viable business models that improve healthcare cost, quality, and access while meeting consumer and societal needs.

Introduction to Programming With Python

Designed for students with very limited programming experience, this course covers essential Python libraries and concepts like functions, variables, loops, and Boolean expressions. The curriculum includes numerous hands-on projects for lots of practice. Students are expected to spend three to nine hours studying per week. 

Masterpieces of World Literature

This free Harvard course walks participants through the interconnectedness of world literature, examining how great writers engage with and are influenced by global cultures. It explores literary works that embrace the broader world as their theme and highlights the artistic modes in which these writers position themselves in the global cultural landscape. 

Statistics and R

This course is one of four included in Harvard’s Data Analysis for Life Sciences Professional Certificate Program. You can audit this course for free if you are interested in learning about statistical inference. Topics covered include computing p-values, confidence intervals, and data analysis with R. 

Which Harvard Online Courses Come With a Certificate?

Harvard online course certificates are available for the majority of paid courses. All of Harvard’s online course pages clearly state what credit or certificate options are provided upon completion. Harvard online certificates are a valuable asset to add to your resume if you are enrolling for professional development. 

There are a few free Harvard online courses with certificates included, but this is uncommon. The majority of free Harvard courses are provided through the edX platform, which allows students to choose between taking the class for free or paying a fee for additional features, including a certificate of completion. 

Are Harvard Online Courses Worth It?

Yes, Harvard online courses are worth it. Free Harvard courses provide a wealth of information and are of very high quality. Additionally, they are extremely flexible, enabling you to customize your learning experience to meet your specific needs, goals, and interests.  

Enrolling in a paid Harvard online course is also worth it if you are especially interested in the subject matter, hoping for a more rigorous and in-depth curriculum, or if you are dedicated to your professional development. Harvard online courses explore complex and important topics with nuance and detail, ensuring students foster advanced critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 

Harvard Online Courses FAQ

How do free Harvard online courses work?

Most of Harvard’s free online courses are available at any time on the edX platform. They are generally self-paced, and all you have to do is select the course you want to take and enroll to access the materials. You may need to pay a fee to access a certificate of completion, but this will be optional. 

How do you register for an online Harvard course?

You can register for online Harvard courses by visiting the school’s online course catalog. If the course is free, you can sign up and begin studying right away. If the course requires tuition, you will have to cover the fee before you will have access to the course content. If you want to take an advanced course, you may need to provide evidence that you meet the prerequisites.  

What do Harvard online short courses cost?

Harvard online classes usually cost between $30 and $3,000, though some of the longest and most in-depth courses can cost up to $5,000. In general, you can expect to pay more for classes that are instructor-led or geared towards a higher skill level. Introductory and self-paced courses tend to be more affordable. 

How many free online courses does Harvard offer?

There are over 130 free Havard courses available at the time of writing, however this number does vary as the school continues to upgrade its offerings. Additionally, many of the paid courses are extremely affordable at only $30. 

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