Top 10 Lifelong Learning Courses in Graduate School

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Updated: January 20, 2024, Reading time: 13 minutes

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Lifelong learning is the voluntary, self-motivated, and continuous pursuit of knowledge and skills for professional and personal development purposes. While lifelong learning connotes formal education (e.g., college courses), it also encompasses informal learning (e.g., watching videos, reading articles, and talking to experts)  and self-directed learning (e.g., self-paced online courses).

Lifelong learning is also about updating existing knowledge and skills in your area of expertise, acquiring new knowledge and skills in your field and beyond, and staying informed on new developments. 

Lifelong Learning Courses in Graduate School - fact

While lifelong learning isn’t a new concept, its popularity has surged in recent years for many reasons. Both employers and employees recognize that future-proof education won’t fly in the face of the skills gap, technological advancements, the advent of online learning, and climate change-related job obsolescence, among other contributory factors.  

On the societal level, lifelong learning contributes to a stronger economy, particularly since the 21st-century economy is knowledge-based – individuals who cannot keep up with new knowledge and skills required by industries are at risk of underemployment or unemployment.

Many lifelong learners also contribute to a more equitable society by contributing their knowledge and skills to their communities’ benefit, passing on their knowledge and skills to others, and discovering new knowledge. 

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Value of Lifelong Learning for Graduate Students

On the individual level, particularly for graduate students, the value of lifelong learning cannot be overemphasized! 

Being Adaptable and Flexible

The modern workplace is in constant flux because of rapid technological advancements, the widespread impact of global events, and changing employee preferences. With the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become more of the norm.

Both employers and employees agree this has resulted in significant paradigm shifts in human resources recruitment and retention, among other industry aspects. Disruptive technologies—including artificial intelligence and machine learning, novel materials, and the shift to low-carbon economies—are credited for the rapid changes across diverse industries. 

Employment patterns, such as demonstrated by the Great Resignation, also support the value of lifelong learning among ambitious individuals who want to be continuously employed – and employed in a meaningful way, too, complete with a livable compensation package.

Numerous surveys have also highlighted the importance of upskilling and reskilling for professionals so that they remain adaptable and flexible amidst the fast-changing workplace requirements. 

Building Transferable Skills 

While lifelong learning courses are usually geared towards the acquisition of new knowledge or the updating of existing skills (i.e., hard skills), many courses are designed for soft skills. Transferable skills are just as crucial for graduate school and career success as hard skills because people drive processes and procedures – and soft skills touch on people skills. 

By participating in lifelong learning courses with a solid soft skills development focus along with a strong specializaiton, graduate students become more prepared for their rigorous coursework and demanding professions. Harvard’s Strategy Execution for Public Leadership course is a prime example of where students develop leadership skills. 

Engage in Professional Development Pursuits 

Graduate students usually pursue their advanced degrees to gain specialist knowledge and skills in their specific fields. By engaging in lifelong learning pursuits, they are also meeting professional development goals, such as earning credits for continuing education and licensure requirements. 

By putting your completion of lifelong learning or professional development courses in your resume, you’re also demonstrating your willingness to acquire and share knowledge. You’re increasing your attractive quotient for prospective employers in the process. 

Gain a Global Perspective

We live in a globalized world where everything and everybody can, indeed, be separated by only six degrees! Continuous learning enables graduate students to become connected with others in a wider community, as well as be informed about international trends and developments.

By staying connected beyond your local community, you’re expanding your reach of influence not just as a potential employee but also as an influential expert in the making. 

Enjoy Personal Growth and Fulfillment

Of course, lifelong learning feeds your sense of personal growth and fulfillment because it’s another feather in your cap, whether you choose to announce it to the world or not. Your sense of self-worth and self-confidence will be at healthy levels, not to mention that continuous learning throughout your life can be healthy for your brain. 

Lifelong Learning Courses Offered In Graduate Schools

Harvard University’s Strategy Execution for Public Leadership Course

Harvard University’s Strategy Execution for Public Leadership Course 

Offered by Harvard University’s Professional and Lifelong Learning division, the Strategy Execution for Public Leadership course is facilitated by Eric Rosenbach, a former Pentagon Chief of Staff and current faculty member of the Harvard Kennedy School. Graduate students enrolled should commit 4-5 hours every week of their time to the four-week, self-paced business certificate course. 

This is of particular value for graduate students in public leadership or public policy programs who want to learn the contemporary principles, practices, and challenges that public sector professionals deal with in the execution of strategic initiatives.

Rosenbach demonstrates the value of purpose-driven strategic execution that results in long-term implementation, as well as uses protagonist examples, global case studies, and real-life experiences that enable students to gain valuable insights into public leadership. 

The topics covered include talent recruitment and retention, budget planning and execution, and risk mitigation and crisis management. Students also learn the culture of consistency, strategic communications, and public value. 

Harvard also offers graduate students the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Principles and Leadership: Creating Public Value courses for their lifelong learning. 

Wake Forest University’s Certificate in Digital Marketing Program 

Wake Forest University’s Certificate in Digital Marketing Program 

Wake Forest University’s School of Professional Studies is known for its commitment to providing exemplary lifelong opportunities for its students and alumni, a commitment strengthened by a wide range of lifelong learning and professional development programs.

Among its most popular is the online Certificate in Digital Marketing program, which consists of seven sessions designed for graduate students interested in becoming more knowledgeable about digital marketing strategies, tactics, and tools. 

The online live sessions are complemented by asynchronous work with a two-month program of study. Every live session covers a specific topic, namely: 

Students must also make a capstone pitch project that demonstrates their mastery of digital marketing as outlined in the program. The pitch project can either cover an internal business challenge or an actual brand using real data, and faculty will provide constructive criticism on it. Indeed, it’s an excellent choice for graduate students in business programs who want to deepen their knowledge of digital marketing beyond their usual program of study. 

New York University’s Politics and Leadership in a Changing Middle East Course 

New York University’s Politics and Leadership in a Changing Middle East Course 

New York University’s Academy of Lifelong Learning (ALL), part of its  School of Professional Studies, offers graduate students a wide range of courses for personal enrichment purposes. Every ALL participant, past and present, is motivated in their pursuit of knowledge regardless of their age, background and circumstances.

The programs, including the courses, are offered in partnership with the  Center for Global Affairs (CGA) and the Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts (PALA), meaning courses are offered in global affairs, art history and architecture, film studies, and history and culture. 

Graduate students interested in the unfolding events in the Middle East will find the Politics and Leadership in a Changing Middle East course an excellent choice for lifelong learning purposes. Facilitated by Maureen Quinn, former US Ambassador to Qatar, the course explores the historical roots and ideological legacies in the Middle East that continue to affect its politics and leadership, the relationships between countries, and the role of women in politics. 

Walden University’s Human Sexuality Course 

Walden University’s Human Sexuality Course 

Walden University’s School of Lifelong Learning offers relevant courses for lifelong learners, including working professionals pursuing graduate degrees. These non-degree course offerings are intended to meet personal and professional goals among ambitious lifelong learners in various stages of their careers. 

Most, if not all, of these non-degree courses are considered for credit, meaning credits earned can be applied for continuing professional credits or graduate degree credits. Many of these non-degree courses are also intended to meet licensure requirements. 

Of the faculty-led, career-oriented, for-credit online courses, the Human Sexuality course is among the most popular for graduate students in psychology. Students gain a deeper understanding of human sexuality in relation to family, marriage and couple counseling, particularly in the context of intimacy, sexual functioning and orientation, and gender.

Topics discussed also include the legal and ethical challenges that come with human sexuality and the counseling related to that. 

Walden University also offers lifelong learning courses in education, business and management, health, social work, and data science and information technology

University of North Carolina Wilmington’s IT Bootcamps

University of North Carolina Wilmington’s IT Bootcamps

Graduate students who want a crash course on information technology for lifelong learning purposes, such as planning for a career shift or entering an IT graduate program with a non-IT bachelor’s degree, should look into UNCW’s IT Bootcamp programs. Note that these are fully online courses with an accelerated program of study. 

The IT Bootcamps are self-paced, six-month immersive booth camps that equip lifelong learners with the knowledge and skills, as well as the professional certifications, in preparation for successful careers in the IT industry. Students learn from faculty members with appropriate professional credentials but must commit at least 15 hours of their time every week toward mastery of the learning materials. 

These IT boot camps are highly recommended because of the huge demand for IT professionals in nearly every industry – and graduate students with IT skills increase their employee value. UNCW offers more than 20 IT boot camps, including the AI Machine Learning Boot Camp and security programs (e.g., Certified Ethical Hacker and Certified Information Security Manager). 

University of Pennsylvania’s Germanic Studies Courses

University of Pennsylvania’s Germanic Studies Courses

The University of Pennsylvania – College of Liberal & Professional Studies (LPS), through its Nontraditional Graduate Studies program, offers lifelong learning courses for graduate students and other lifelong learners. Interested individuals with the right qualifications can enroll in graduate-level, non-degree courses from across 30 fields of study, including foreign languages, physical and life sciences, and social sciences. 

According to UPenn, its Germanic Languages and Literatures program is the oldest academic program of its kind in North America. Indeed, it’s considered among the best for studying Germanic languages and literature as a lifelong pursuit, thanks to its robust coursework and traditions. 

Students choose from numerous lifelong learning courses, such as elementary and intermediate German and Dutch, which can be taken in succession. Lifelong learners also praise the insights into environmental humanities in the Forest Worlds: Mapping the Arboreal Imaginary in Literature and Film course and the practical business vocabulary and communication skills gained in the Business German: A Micro Perspective course. 

UPenn’s School of Arts and Sciences Graduate Division also offers graduate students and lifelong learners courses in anthropology, biology, chemistry, and classical studies, among others. 

Duke University’s Emerging Leaders Institute

Duke University’s Emerging Leaders Institute

Duke University’s Graduate School offers its Emerging Leaders Institute for graduate students who want to deepen their understanding of leadership in the contemporary world and develop their leadership skills with lifelong learning as their foundation. Note that it’s an in-depth annual leadership training course open for master’s and doctoral degree students at Duke, and it lasts for eight weeks during the spring semester. 

Participants engage in five intensive workshops led by experienced leadership coaches and facilitators who encourage them to develop their communication, collaboration, and leadership skills. The sessions cover topics including: 

Participants receive a certificate of completion. 

Duke also offers other graduate-level courses and certificate programs for lifelong learners. These include the Certificate in College Teaching for PhD students preparing for teaching careers, as well as college teaching workshops and master’s students workshops. 

Stony Brook University’s Research Mentor Training Program

Stony Brook University’s Research Mentor Training Program

Offered by the State University of New York at Stony Brook’s Graduate School, the Research Mentor Training program offers graduate students and postdocs effective training on mentoring for research. This isn’t just crucial training for becoming better mentors but also for satisfying your passion for lifelong learning, not to mention that it’s a great addition to your resume and proposals. 

Students learn the basics of the research mentoring curriculum designed by the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER). Participants learn the best practices in the development, implementation and evaluation of their philosophy, strategies and practices in mentoring research trainees. 

SUNY Stony Brook also offers other graduate and postdoctoral professional development courses that enable interested individuals opportunities for upskilling and reskilling. 

University of South Florida’s Graduate Professional Development Certificate Program

University of South Florida’s Graduate Professional Development Certificate Program

The University of South Florida’s Office of Graduate Studies takes pride in its Graduate Professional Development Certificate Program, where lifelong learners in its graduate programs can earn a non-credit certificate in professional development. Students in the program have access to lifelong learning opportunities in three areas: 

By participating in the program, graduate students are more prepared for success in their current academic pursuits and their professional careers. Students who have completed the certificate program not only become more prepared but also become more attractive to employers and clients. The certificate can be reflected on their resume and online professional profiles, which, in turn, demonstrates a commitment to lifelong learning. 

USF offers many other professional development opportunities that are in two formats – LEARN Opportunities (training, seminars, and workshops) and ACT Opportunities (experiential opportunities). 

Miami University’s Biology Through Inquiry Course

Miami University’s Biology Through Inquiry Course

Offered as part of Miami University’s Project Dragonfly program, the Biology Through Inquiry online course is a three-credit course that can be taken as a standalone course for lifelong learners and as a for-credit course toward the Advanced Inquiry Program and Global Field Program.

Miami University offers other online and hybrid courses for lifelong learning and professional development purposes, such as Globally Connected Conservation, Conservation Science and Community, and Issues in Evolution. 

The Biology Through Inquiry course adopts an inquiry-based approach with a student-driven perspective that encourages students to dive deeper into biology after course completion. The course has extensive coverage of topics, too, from cell and plant biology to evolution, ecosystems, and life diversity, which students explore through collaborative discussions, mini-inquiries, and biological investigations. 

This Miami University lifelong course, offered to and involving Dragonfly’s web-based learning community, consists of mini-inquiries on the core concepts of Biology and the sciences as they relate to daily life and humanity. Students engage in collaborative discussions and conduct biological investigations wherein they collect data, complete an experimental research design, and communicate the findings.

Students in the course must have a bachelor’s degree in any field. There are no limits regarding professional background, stage in their career, or education.

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