10 Free & Low Cost Career-Boosting Courses & Training Opportunities for Animal Advocates

By Paula Fitzsimmons

We can all benefit from learning new skills and exploring new ideas, regardless of where we’re at in our careers. The opportunities below aren’t a replacement for formal education and training, but they can certainly enhance it in different ways.

They can help give you an edge when applying for a job or seeking a promotion . . . showing potential and current employers that you take the initiative to learn on your own.

Taking a course or webinar can also provide you with potential networking opportunities. You never know whom you may meet, or what types of opportunities may present themselves. It happens!

Whether you want to strengthen your resume, meet new people, or just love the learning process, the following courses may be able to help with that.

I realize there are plenty of courses and programs out there that charge a lot of money. Those I’ve chosen are (at least as of this writing) either free or relatively low cost. Or if they do require a financial investment, offer a scholarship  program.


Imagine being able to say you took a course from Harvard, Princeton, or The University of Chicago – and without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on tuition. Several online venues offer what are referred to as Massive Open Online Courses (acronym MOOC) from an assortment of  universities, colleges, community colleges, and institutions. These free, college-level, online courses are open to anyone with a desire to learn.

One of the more popular of these venues is Coursera, with courses delivered from such institutions as Duke University, Ohio State University, The World Bank, and National Geographic Society.

Although college credit isn’t available with these types of courses, you often have the option to earn a verified certificate of completion – for an additional fee.

Examples of courses you may be interested in include Animal Behavior & Welfare; The Horse Course: Intro to Basic Care & Management; Marine Megafauna: An Introduction to Marine Science and Conservation; Equine Nutrition; and Writing in the Sciences.


Another online platform that operates similar to Coursera is edX, which boasts an equally-impressive roster of schools including Dartmouth College, The University of Chicago, and Boston University. As with Coursera, the courses are free and open to all, but getting a certificate of completion will cost you.

A few edx courses you might find useful include Sustainability in Everyday Life; Intro to Environmental Science; Tropical Coastal Ecosystems; and Journalism for Social Change.

Humane Society Academy

This arm of the Humane Society of the United States offers a series of free webinars on an assortment of animal-related topics, such as advocating for community cats & neighborhood wildlife, and disaster preparedness and response.

The Academy also offers credentialing programs in humane education. This program isn’t free, but if interested, you may want to look into their scholarship program.

ASPCA Professional

This arm of the ASPCA offers a series of free webinars and in-person seminars geared towards professionals already working in the field. Their impressive series of courses span a variety of topics – from fundraising and marketing, to foster care and shelter health.

Back to school
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Want to learn more about our avian friends? Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a leader in bird conservation, offers a college-level, home-study course in bird biology. While you can’t technically earn college credit through Cornell University for this course, they do mention that many of their students have been able to arrange for credit within their own colleges. The course (as of this writing) is $200.00 for non-members and $170.50 for members, but some scholarships are available.

While on their website, you may also want to check out their low-cost webinars and tutorials.

Community and Technical Colleges

Two-year colleges can be great sources of adult and continuing education courses – and at far lower prices than those offered at four-year colleges. To get a feel for courses available, you can search individually, or try a website like ed2go, which publishes a catalog not only of the courses they offer, but also similar ones offered at participating community colleges, extension offices, and other institutions.

ed2go, a division of Cengage Learning lists a wide selection of courses, with titles that include Become a Veterinary Assistant; Start a Pet Sitting Business; and Become a Grant Writing Consultant.


If you’re looking for more informal, non-academic courses, one website to check out is Udemy, which offers self-paced courses from an assortment of independent instructors. Prices on these courses vary – from free and on up.

Courses of interest to animal lovers include Turn Your Love and Passion for Animals Into a Career; and Grantwriting Basics.

Professional Associations

Check out various independent professional organizations for information on their own training & certification programs. For instance, The Association of Professional Dog Trainers offers free webinars on a variety of behavior related topics. They also offer online courses which lead to continuing education credit and certification. If you’re not interested in receiving CEU credits, you can opt to audit their class for a fraction of the cost.


Jobs in nonprofit fundraising – including for animal welfare organizations – are currently one of the fields that seems to be in need right now. If you’re interested in this line of work, check out Grantspace, a service of the Foundation Center, which delivers free (and fee-based) self-paced eLearning and webinar courses with a fundraising and nonprofit focus.

The Institute for Humane Education

Aside from offering fully-accredited graduate-level courses courses, the Institute for Humane Education also has online courses with a humane education focus. These courses are fee-based, but per their website, a limited number of scholarships are available.

Which career boosting and training opportunities have helped you?


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