MasterClass or Skillshare – which one is worth investing your time and money in?
MasterClass and Skillshare are two of the best online learning websites you’ll find today, and for good reason! Online programs like these have given creatives and other professionals a chance to upgrade their skills from the comfort of their desks.
But, what can you learn on MasterClass and Skillshare, who are they for, and what does a class look like on these platforms?
In this article, I’ll compare them on various aspects, including their instructors, topics covered, class structure, prices, and much more.
- MasterClass vs Skillshare: An Overview
- What is MasterClass?
- What is Skillshare?
- Who are MasterClass and Skillshare for?
- MasterClass Tutors vs Skillshare Tutors
- What Topics are Covered in MasterClass and Skillshare?
- Is the Learning In-Depth?
- What To Expect From a Course or Class
- Features of MasterClass and Skillshare
- A Few Popular Courses
- Community Interaction
- How Much Does a MasterClass or Skillshare Course Cost?
- Skillshare vs MasterClass for Writers
- Alternatives to MasterClass and Skillshare
- Which One is Worth It: MasterClass or Skillshare?
- Our Testing Criteria
- Why You Can Trust Us
Here’s a quick overview before we dig deeper.
|Pros||World-leading experts as course instructors|
High-quality video production
|Wide breadth of topics|
Both free and premium access
|Cons||Courses may not equip you with instantly useful skills||Quality of class content can vary|
|Best For||Creatives looking for well-shot, inspiring video lessons by celebrities. |
Those who want to be educated and entertained at the same time
|Those who want to take up a lot of courses.|
Creative professionals and others looking to learn or brush up practical skills.
Let’s dive in.
What is MasterClass?
MasterClass was launched in 2015 by Aaron Rasmussen and David Rogier. It is headquartered in San Francisco, California.
MasterClass is, currently, one of the highest-profile online learning programs.
It draws you in with gorgeous video production, and inspiring classes with high-quality instruction from world-renowned instructors, including Oscar-winning actors and directors, Michelin-star chefs, and Olympic athletes.
(You can view my in-depth MasterClass review here.)
Skillshare is also an online learning platform, founded by Malcolm Ong and Michael Karnjanaprakorn in 2010. It is headquartered in New York.
Skillshare offers thousands of courses that focus on practical skills with hands-on learning projects in some cases. These could be as simple as a basic drawing lesson to a far more complex 3D modeling course.
Let’s see who would benefit the most from these two online platforms.
Who is MasterClass for?
MasterClass has some high-quality courses for creatives like writers, photographers, artists, painters, and musicians.
You’ll also find excellent courses on personal development, cooking, scientific thinking, business and a slew of other exciting subjects.
MasterClass courses are highly interesting and entertaining with incredible production quality.
These courses may not immediately help you make more money – like picking up UX Design skills or Photoshop techniques. But, you could pick up some invaluable tips from the best in the industry – learning acting methods from Helen Mirren, for example.
If you have a curious mind and need some inspiration, MasterClass could be perfect for you. This program suits students who are into self-development but also like being entertained in the process.
Who is Skillshare for?
Skillshare has thousands of courses where you can pick up a new practical skill at a fraction of the cost or time invested in a traditional learning institution.
Skillshare is an excellent option for picking up a specific skill like coding, photo editing, Microsoft Excel or graphic design. You’ll also find courses on business analytics, productivity, entrepreneurship and even how to run a YouTube channel.
These practical courses have projects for students to work on and share, along with theoretical lessons. At the end of it, you’ll be able to apply your new skill to real life almost immediately.
And if you are an expert in filmmaking, embroidery or any other subject, you can become a Skillshare teacher too and earn money on Skillshare by sharing your knowledge with others.
Let’s see who’ll tutor you on these platforms.
Who teaches on MasterClass?
One of MasterClass’ strongest selling points is its tutors.
You’ll find the likes of Neil Gaiman and Gordon Ramsay sharing their time-tested methods, secrets, and rich experience. In fact, we recently reviewed Neil Gaiman's Masterclass.
Here are some of the courses offered:
- Malcolm Gladwell teaches writing
- Annie Leibovitz teaches photography
- Chris Hadfield teaches space exploration
- Carlos Santana teaches the Art and Soul of Guitar
- Ron Howard teaches directing
- Anna Wintour teaches Creativity and Leadership
- Martin Scorsese teaches filmmaking
MasterClass has an edge over Skillshare in this aspect, as its tutors are those who are at the top of their game.
Who teaches on Skillshare?
Skillshare doesn’t offer any high-profile tutoring like MasterClass. Their teachers do have rich practical experience in their fields, but may or may not be famous or have impressive university degrees.
Anyone can become an instructor on this platform – that could be an advantage and a disadvantage. So, the course quality can vary dramatically.
However, going by the Skillshare review written by thousands of students, you can be assured that a majority of classes are of excellent quality.
Skillshare offers you an affordable subscription model. And, if you don't find a particular course valuable, you can skip to the next one.
MasterClass started off with topics related to creative arts, like writing and acting only. They’ve expanded their repertoire since then.
To date, MasterClass has added subjects like:
- Culinary Arts
- Photography & Fashion
- Science & Technology
- Sports & Games
- And more
This is where Skillshare beats MasterClass.
Skillshare covers a few thousand topics that are categorized as:
- Business, Politics & Society
- Design, Photography & Fashion
- Film & TV
- Music & Entertainment
- Sports & Games
- Culinary Arts
- Science & Technology
- Animation, design, illustration
- Photo & Film
- Social Media, Instagram, Facebook
Just type in your topic of interest in the search box and you’ll likely find a course on Skillshare!
I tried “ikebana” and received no results, then searched for “flower arrangement” and a whole selection popped up.
Is the Learning In-Depth?
MasterClass excels here. With tutors who are the most successful in their fields, the amount of know-how and experience shared is immense.
A MasterClass instructor would outline all the methods they use to approach a subject and teach you how to apply it.
For example, in his acting lesson, Samuel Jackson walks you through how he develops characters and teaches you how to apply acting skills on a set. He also shares how to collaborate with others on-set, because movie-making is teamwork.
“So, you know, be nice to that lighting guy because your ass could be in the dark. Especially camera people, they can make you fuzzy. They can make you a little soft.
Or, you know, they can shoot from an angle that makes you look fat or whatever. You know, everybody's there, doing the same job. So you show up, and you try and make the day as pleasant as you want the day to be for you.”
— Samuel L. Jackson
Skillshare has shorter courses, many that are less than an hour long. It’s good when you want an overview of the subject, and works great for topics that can be covered and applied in real life, quickly.
Say, you take up a class in iPhone photography. By the end of it, you’ll learn many methods of shooting and editing photos on your iPhone – a skill which you can immediately put to practice.
However, on Skillshare, the depth of training varies starkly depending on what you’re learning. So, an acting course may only cover the basics of popular acting methods taught in drama schools, and so on.
What To Expect From a Course or Class
MasterClass and Skillshare classes are broken up into several video lessons that are easy to consume quickly.
How does MasterClass work?
At the time of writing this post, MasterClass has over 80 classes that run on an average of 10 minutes per lesson. Most courses are at least 20 lessons long.
A course includes pre-recorded video content, and typically a PDF of a workbook, interactive assignments, and community activities. Sometimes, MasterClass offers opportunities for students to submit their work to their instructor for feedback.
Before you get started, be aware that MasterClass doesn’t offer any form of certification. The courses elucidate and motivate, but you won’t be able to put “Studied Directing under Martin Scorcese” on your resume!
How to Get Started on MasterClass
You can sign up for the MasterClass All-Access Pass, which is charged monthly or annually.
Find a course you'd like to take. Each course has a trailer and class sample that you can view before deciding. Then enroll in any MasterClass class and access any lesson as long as your subscription is active.
Example of a MasterClass Course
Here’s a glimpse at some topics in Samuel L.Jackson Teaches Acting:
It also covers voice and character, auditioning, working with directors, and on-set collaboration tips.
How does Skillshare work?
With over 25,000 classes conducted by creators and professionals worldwide, it’s hard to run out of options.
The classes don’t have a fixed format. Each class has short lessons with a project for you to work on. Some may only contain a handful of videos of 10 mins each, while others can have 50 videos of 1-2 mins.
You can share projects in the class for feedback and collaborate with other students. In this sense, a Skillshare course has a better “classroom” environment compared to MasterClass.
Like MasterClass, Skillshare doesn’t offer any kind of certification. The only proof you can share to the outside world is your completed projects.
How to Get Started on Skillshare
You can get a free account by signing up with your email address. This will give you access to free classes on your desktop and mobile, so you can start learning immediately.
If you want to view all the classes online and offline, you'll need the Skillshare premium membership, billed monthly or annually. Look out for a Skillshare coupon online to get some neat discounts.
Example of a Skillshare Course
Here’s a short Skillshare class on Fine Art Photography: How to Create a Unique Self Portrait
It teaches you how to create unique self-portraits right in your home, use lightroom sliders to edit your photo, and more.
As videos are the primary medium of instruction, their production quality can impact your learning experience. After all, a great course can be undermined by low-quality visual presentation.
High-quality videos: MasterClass aims to give you a Netflix-like quality in their videos, and they’re not far off the mark.
You get to listen to celebrated movie composer, Hans Zimmer, seated at his composer's desk explain why he likes writing in D.
He explains this with some amusement. Everyone thinks it's because he's lazy, but the real reason is that D is the lowest note that basses can land on with a vibrato. He demonstrates this on his keyboard with computer monitors arrayed before him.
Landing on that low note, he says, is satisfying. The way the entire shot is setup, is equally satisfying for the viewer.
Sometimes the camera faces him directly, and at other times, it moves slowly to his side, drawing you into his discussion.
Quick Lists: Another neat feature is the Quick List. It pulls together short segments from an array of instructors that carry a common theme.
For example, a Quick List on Leadership would have Chris Hadfield talk about preparing for leadership challenges in space and Shonda Rhimes discussing delegation.
The Quick List gives you a glimpse of what the courses are about, highlighting some of the best lesson moments. These short segments are fun, usually motivational, and perks interest in an instructor you may not ordinarily consider.
Workbooks: All MasterClass classes come with a workbook with the key points in each video lesson. It’ll also contain assignments and describes any supplies or course material you may need to work with the class.
One of the drawbacks of MasterClass classes is that some workbooks don’t reference enough of the video's content to make it easy to find something you want to go over again.
There’s no way for you to bookmark something you like on a video lesson. And, it won’t be mentioned in the workbook in case you missed writing it down.
Other than that, everything else feels polished.
Mobile app: The mobile apps are extremely user-friendly. You can use the iOS or Android app, or watch the lessons on Apple TV.
The videos support subtitles or closed captioning. You can watch a video or listen to audio lessons. MasterClass will indicate which class is audio-only.
You can also download videos on select courses on the iOS app.
Videos and projects or workshops: The main learning tools in Skillshare are videos and projects (or workshops). There may be supplemental resources like a workbook or checklists, but not always.
Anyone can be a teacher: Unlike MasterClass, anyone can create a class in Skillshare. This means there’ll be plenty of variation in an individual course and video quality.
Skillshare does take steps to curate their courses carefully – but with so many courses, it surely isn’t an easy task.
Lists: To help narrow down topics, Skillshare recommends classes and “lists”. They are essentially a curated syllabus for a specific subject like writing or videography. It makes it easier for you to find courses of a similar theme.
Video annotation: Unlike MasterClass, Skillshare allows you to annotate videos. You can mark the videos at any point of interest, and quickly go back to it for reference later.
The notes can be private, or you can make it public, which is a great way to interact with the community.
Mobile apps: Skillshare is available on desktop. You can also use the iOS and Android Skillshare app, and watch the lessons on Apple TV.
A Few Popular Courses
Some of the most popular MasterClass courses are:
- Neil deGrasse Tyson Teaches Scientific Thinking and Communication
- Daniel Negreanu Teaches Poker
- Ron Finley Teaches Gardening
- Chris Voss Teaches the Art of Negotiation
- RuPaul Teaches Self-Expression and Authenticity
Here are some of the popular Skillshare courses:
- Typography That Works: Typographic Composition and Fonts
- Hand Lettering Essentials for Beginners
- Logo Design with Draplin: Secrets of Shape, Type and Color
- Getting Started with Email Marketing
- iPhone Photography: How to Take Pro Photos On Your iPhone
Here’s where MasterClass falls a little behind the Skillshare platform.
Each MasterClass has a dedicated learning community homepage with a message board for comments. You can also comment under the videos to keep the discussion local to the content. However, most of the interaction happens among the students with very little teacher-student synergy.
However, MasterClass has improved in this aspect. From time to time, there are live broadcasted events like the recent talk with Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, which allowed students to connect better with the instructor.
Skillshare encourages frequent interaction among the online learning community. Some of the teachers conduct workshops which, naturally, come with more community involvement.
Workshops typically run between set dates and generally have a timeline that a student should follow to maintain accountability. You’ll get a fair amount of interaction with the teacher in Skillshare workshops.
Here’s how they’re priced:
- The All-Access Pass is priced as follows:
- $15 per month and $180 per annum
- Group rates at 10-30% off are available with the purchase of 20 or more All-Access passes.
- With the All-Access Pass, you’ll have access to all the 80+ courses for as long as you have the pass.
- The MasterClass Grants Program provides donations of All-Access passes for accredited charitable organizations.
- Offers a 30-day refund guarantee from the date of subscription.
- A free Skillshare member account gives you access to all free courses
- The Skillshare Premium Membership offers a 14-day free trial.
- Premium Membership plans are a follows:
- $15 per month and $99 per annum
- Team plans with 5-49 users are $99 per user, billed annually.
- Skillshare offers a separate pricing scale for enterprises with over 20 users.
- A Premium Membership gives unlimited access to Skillshare's entire course library and offline viewing.
Let’s see how these two online learning platforms fare for writers.
Writers can gain plenty of inspiration from writing courses like these:
Popular Skillshare courses for Writers:
- Copywriting For Beginners: How To Write Web Copy That Sells Without Being Cheesy
- Novel Writing: Creating Loveable Characters in 5 Easy Steps
- Creative Nonfiction: Write Truth with Style
- Creative Writing: Crafting Personal Essays with Impact
- The Writer's Toolkit: 6 Steps to a Successful Writing Habit
- Going Viral: Write, Film & Make Content People Share
Popular MasterClass courses for Writers:
- Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling
- Dan Brown Teaches Writing Thrillers
- Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing
- David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing
- David Sedaris Teaches Storytelling and Humor
- Joyce Carol Oates Teaches the Art of the Short Story
Online learning isn’t limited to MasterClass and Skillshare.
So if you can’t find what you want to learn on these two platforms, there are others you can consider, like LinkedIn Learning or Great Courses.
Here’s are some of them:
Udemy is a learning platform with the largest selection of online courses, with over 100,000 video courses and new additions every month. The topics are almost limitless, as long as they are teachable and run from IT to business to music, to even as unusual a skill as making keychains. Udemy has a convenient mobile app, and prices of a Udemy course can drop to $10.99 during sales.
Coursera is an online education platform for those who want a more traditional style of online learning. It has thousands of classes taught by top instructors from some of the world's best educational institutions including, Stanford, Yale and Columbia. Topics range from data science to personal development. At Coursera, you can earn degrees and certifications. Pricing on each online course ranges from $29 to $99.
Now for the big question:
The answer depends on
- What and how you want to learn
- Who you want to learn from
- How many courses you’ll do in a year, and
- How much you want to spend.
Both platforms are relatively affordable and can be comfortably viewed on your mobile app or desktop. So, in terms of price and accessibility, they both come with tremendous value.
MasterClass offers the unique experience of a peek into the world’s most brilliant minds. You’d never get to learn from these luminaries any other way.
Would FBI negotiator Chris Voss give you his thoughts on hostage situations in a YouTube clip?
But you wouldn’t have him discuss the skill of mirroring, or creating the illusion of control in that clip.
Above all, MasterClass’ greatest value lies in its ability to inspire. It inspires you to attempt what you may never have thought of.
So is MasterClass worth it?
Skillshare’s value lies in its diversity. It’s a course platform where you could just “learn for the sake of learning”, because there’s so much to choose from! And, you not only get to work on hands-on projects but connect with peers and experts on the topic.
One of the hardest things for someone with a niche interest, would be finding people who shared that same interest. Through Skillshare, that problem could be solved. If you’re a fan of origami, you’ll find an online class here covering different origami styles, and you’ll connect with those who love them.
Though the video course quality can vary (because not all experts make great teachers), Skillshare’s pricing model allows you to try different classes if you’re not happy.
So is Skillshare worth it?
If you enjoy learning skills that you can quickly apply in real life Skillshare would have that covered. All you have to do is make time for it and learn at your own pace. So yes, it’s definitely worth your time and money too.
If you don't want to use SkillShare or Masterclass, check out our guide to Masterclass alternatives.
Our Testing Criteria
I became a Masterclass customer in 2017 and a Skillshare customer in 2020. I regularly update this comparison review as new courses are released. Along with the help of a team of writers, I take and review popular courses on mobile and desktop devices and even on TV. I take notes about these courses, consider who they’re for and their strengths and weaknesses.
Why You Can Trust Us
I’ve written and published dozens of articles for newspapers, magazines and online publications including, Forbes and Lifehacker. I'm also a best-selling non-fiction author, a trained journalist and copywriter.
I’ve spent thousands of dollars taking writing courses in college and online. I consider taking courses on platforms like Masterclass a key part of my development as a writer and online entrepreneur. I also sometimes commission other writers to review these courses to get another point of view.