Best Online Business Courses

Business Strategy From Wharton: Competitive Advantage Is the Best Overall Online Business Course

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A wide range of business coursework is available for business owners and college students, and it is possible to enroll online to improve your business acumen and boost your career.

Many well-regarded universities offer free or low-cost classes that meet your education goals and budget constraints. We reviewed hundreds of business courses to find the best options that serve a wide range of individuals and will match your needs.

Best Overall : The Wharton School-Business Strategy from Wharton : Competitive Advantage

Wharton Online

Wharton Online

Why We Chose It

Business Strategy from Wharton: Competitive Advantage provides students and business owners with a free online course that defines the tools and framework to develop and execute a successful business strategy.

Pros & Cons
  • Can complete in six weeks

  • Taught by a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School professor

  • Free audit format

  • Self-paced but within scheduled sessions

  • Audit format does not include certificate of completion

  • Optional upgrade cost $199


The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania often ranks first as the best business school in the United States. Full-time attendance can be costly, but Penn offers a free online course taught by a Wharton professor on the edX platform.

The Business Strategy from Wharton: Competitive Advantage course will help you evaluate your current business strategy, locate sources of potential competitive advantage, and assess the strategic impact of the moves of your competitors.

The course is self-paced and requires a commitment of four hours per week for six weeks within a scheduled timeframe. The audit version is free, but an optional upgrade provides students with graded exams and a certificate of completion.

Best for Starting a New Business : SBA—Business Legal Requirements



Why We Chose It

This Small Business Administration course offers an introduction to business registration, taxes, and licensing in a concise and easy-to-understand format.

Pros & Cons
  • Quick 20-minute course covers essential legal topics

  • No registration required

  • Online and Free

  • Only provides an introduction to complex topics

  • Additional research may be required

  • Coursework is broad and may not apply to all businesses


The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers Business Legal Requirements as a 16-part video course covering business registration, taxes, licensing, and employment. The series concisely explains the steps to follow to start a business.

Each video is simple and easy to understand. The course covers topics that may not apply to all businesses, such as securities registration and environmental regulations. However, the short video format provides a manageable and informative course load for all students.

The course is offered by the Small Business Administration, a primary source for business regulations in the United States. The video series is free, self-paced, and can be completed within twenty minutes.

Best for Accounting : MIT—Financial Accounting

Why We Chose It

Financial Accounting is a course for undergraduate and graduate students and part of the MicroMasters® Program at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the highest-ranked universities in the United States.

Pros & Cons
  • MIT business school instructors

  • Free

  • Open to undergraduate and graduate students

  • Not a self-paced course

  • Optional upgrade cost of $450 for graded exams and completion certificate

  • Requires a commitment of 10-14 hours per week


The Sloan School of Management at MIT ranks as one of the best business schools in the United States and offers free online courses through MITx. Available globally for both undergraduate and graduate students, MITx uses the edX platform.

Financial Accounting teaches students how investors, creditors, and other users analyze financial statements to assess corporate performance. The course is part of the MicroMasters® Program in Finance, a five-course year-long experience offered by the university.

This course is instructor-paced and requires students to commit to fourteen hours per week for twelve weeks. Financial Accounting is offered as a free online course with an optional upgrade that includes graded exams and a certificate of completion.

Best for Finance : Harvard—Leading with Finance

Harvard Business School Online

Harvard Business School Online

Why We Chose It

This course from Harvard University helps business owners and industry leaders understand the financial decision-making process to maximize their effectiveness in any role.

Pros & Cons
  • Taught by a Harvard professor

  • Designed for all business professionals

  • Case studies illustrate financial concepts in action

  • $1,750 course registration fee

  • Course offered on limited dates

  • Application required


The Leading with Finance course is part of the Finance & Accounting track at Harvard Business School Online. The six modules cover financial analysis, finance versus accounting, capital markets, creating value, valuation, and capital allocation.

The $1,750 course works through six modules with instruction, exercises, quizzes, and a final capstone project. The course is tailored to aspiring finance leaders and new to mid-career professionals and requires a free application to enroll.

The class is self-paced with regular deadlines. Students who commit to the six-week course for six hours per week will receive a certificate from the online Harvard Business School upon completion.

Best for Marketing : University of Maryland—Fundamentals of Digital Marketing

University of Maryland

 University of Maryland

Why We Chose It

This course covers digital marketing, a dynamic area of marketing for modern businesses, and offers actionable insights that you can use to increase your online presence.

Pros & Cons
  • Learn marketing concepts from University of Maryland staff

  • Free audit course

  • Teaches how to build an online business presence

  • $199 fee required for a certificate

  • Graded exams and assignments not included in the free audit course


Presented by professors from the University of Maryland, this course introduces students to digital marketing strategy, lead generation, marketing through mobile devices, and omnichannel marketing.

Fundamentals of Digital Marketing benefits marketing professionals, analysts, entrepreneurs, small business owners, investors, and consumers and is part of the university's Digital Marketing Professional Certificate.

The four-week course is free and self-paced and requires students to commit three to five hours per week. Offered on the edX online platform, you can choose an optional upgrade for a cost of $199 that includes graded assignments and exams and a certificate of completion.

Best for Business Law : Harvard—From Trust to Promise to Contract



Why We Chose It

Taught by Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried, a leading authority on contract law, this class is designed to introduce students to issues that arise when entering and enforcing contracts.

Pros & Cons
  • Learn from a Harvard Law professor

  • Free and Online

  • Self-paced

  • Intermediate level coursework

  • $199 fee required for certificate


Entering into a contract is commonplace for business owners, employees, vendors, and government entities. This course provides an introduction to what a contract is and defines the purpose and significance of contracts.

From Trust to Promise to Contract is presented by Charles Fried, who has taught at Harvard Law School for over 50 years and has written extensively on contracts. The class is categorized at the intermediate level.

The course is offered by HarvardX, the online offering of the university, using the edX platform and is self-paced. Students must commit to eight hours per week for eight weeks. The online class is free, but an optional upgrade is available for $199 for students to receive a certificate upon completion.

Final Verdict

Many notable colleges and universities have opened their business curriculum online, offering many free classes. Our top choice, a free strategy course from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, provides business owners with tools to improve their competitiveness in the marketplace. In other topic-specific classes, such as contract law and digital marketing, students can pursue their business interests or boost their careers in a flexible and often cost-free platform.

Compare Providers

Category  Course Title  Affiliation Price
Best Overall Business Strategy from Wharton: Competitive Advantage Wharton School – University of Pennsylvania Free / $199 for certificate
Best for Starting a New Business Business Legal Requirements Small Business Administration Free
Best for Accounting Financial Accounting Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Free / $450 for certificate
Best for Finance Leading with Finance Harvard $1,750
Best for Marketing Fundamentals of Digital Marketing University of Maryland Free / $199 for certificate
Best for Business Law Contract Law: From Trust to Promise to Contract Harvard Free / $199 for certificate

What Are Online Business Courses?

Online business courses are digital classes that cover a specific topic and may follow a schedule led by a live instructor or a self-paced format. Some colleges, universities, and content creators offer free digital courses or require a fee to join, and course materials often include online content, videos, and webinars.

Are Online Business Courses Worth It?

With many free digital products, you sometimes get what you pay for, but many high-quality courses exist online. To decide if the financial and time commitment is worth it, read the course description, syllabus, topics covered, and reviews from prior students.

What Are the Most Useful Business Course Topics?

The most useful business course topic is often the one you know the least about. If you are new to the business curriculum, consider beginning with classes in marketing, finance, accounting, and business strategy.

What Do Online Business Courses Cost?

Online business courses vary widely in cost, and many are available for free. Others may offer a free version or require payment for certification at the end of the class. Many universities offer a combination of free offerings and costly degree programs, all available online.


To choose the best online business courses, the Investopedia team reviewed dozens of classes across online platforms. Our winning choices cover important topics with a depth appropriate for a wide range of students, small business owners, managers, and executives at businesses of all sizes. In addition to course topics, the source of the instruction was a factor in the selection process and focused on highly-reputable, accredited institutions.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. U.S. News & World Report. "2023 Best Business Schools."

  2. "Legal Requirements."

  3. edX. "Finance MicroMasters Program."

  4. Harvard Business School. "Develop a Toolkit for Making and Understanding Financial Decisions."

  5. Harvard Business School Online. "Leading with Finance."

  6. edX. "Digital Marketing Professional Certificate."

  7. edX. "Fundamentals of Marketing."

  8. Harvard University. "Contract Law: From Trust to Promise to Contract."

  9. edX. "Charles Fried."

  10. edX. "Contract Law: From Trust to Promise to Contract."