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Compare career development loans

Plus five tips for taking your career to the next level.

Keeping up-to-date on the skills you need in order to do your job well has never been more difficult — thanks to rapid advances in technology. Career development programs are a great way to stay relevant, whether you work for an organization or run your own business.
Name Product Filter Values APR Min. credit score Loan amount
Upstart personal loans
Finder Score: 4.2 / 5: ★★★★★
Upstart personal loans
7.80% to 35.99%
$1,000 to $50,000
This service looks beyond your credit score to get you a competitive-rate personal loan.
SoFi personal loans
Finder Score: 4.4 / 5: ★★★★★
SoFi personal loans
8.99% to 29.99%
$5,000 to $100,000
A highly-rated lender with competitive rates, high loan amounts and no required fees.
Best Egg personal loans
Finder Score: 3.8 / 5: ★★★★★
Best Egg personal loans
8.99% to 35.99%
$2,000 to $50,000
Fast and easy personal loan application process. See options first without affecting your credit score.
Finder Score: 4 / 5: ★★★★★
8.49% to 35.99%
$1,000 to $50,000
Check your rates with this online lender without impacting your credit score.
LendingPoint personal loans
Finder Score: 3.3 / 5: ★★★★★
LendingPoint personal loans
7.99% to 35.99%
$2,000 to $36,500
Get a personal loan with reasonable rates even if you have a fair credit score in the 600s.
Happy Money
Finder Score: 3.8 / 5: ★★★★★
Happy Money
11.72% to 24.50%
$5,000 to $40,000
Pay down your debt with a fixed APR and predictable monthly payments.

Signing up for a program, however, can take time and money you don’t have. If that’s the case, personal loans can help cover the costs of a course that could very well pay for itself by sending you into a higher pay bracket.

What’s the best way to finance a career development program?

The best financing option will depend on your specific situation. One way to pay for a career development program is with a personal loan. These flexible financing products allow you to borrow as little as $1,000 or as much as $100,000. You’ll receive the approved funds in one lump sum and then pay it back over three to seven years.

If you’re enrolling in a certificate program, you might want to look into loans specifically designed for career development programs. Lenders like Sallie Mae offer career development loans that come with grace periods and flexible repayment options, similar to a student loan.

Our top picks for career development loans

Provider Why it’s good for career development Loan amounts Starting APR

SoFi personal loans

It gives you access to financial advisors that can help you plan your next career move.

$5,000 to $5,000 to $100,000 8.99%
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Upstart personal loans

Offers personal loans that can be used to cover the cost of a course or bootcamp, and considers factors like education and employment history in addition to your credit score.

$1,000 to $50,000 to $1,000 to $50,000 7.8%
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Earnest personal loans

Multi-use personal loans that can be used for career development with a simple, quick application.

$1,000 to $100,000 2.49%

How much does career development cost?

It depends on what type of program you want to enroll in. Trade school or a master’s program can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, though that’s generally more of a commitment than most career development programs. Here’s the breakdown of the cost of some common programs:

Program type Typical cost

Management course


Coding/programming bootcamp

$10,000–$20,000, usually with $1,000–$2,000 scholarships available

Technical writing workshop


Presentation skills seminar


Accounting/financial skills course


Systems security course


Web design course



Restaurant management certification

$700– $20,000

Commercial driver training


How else can I pay for career development?

You don’t necessarily need to take out a personal loan to pay for career development, even if you don’t have the funds immediately available to you. Other options include:

  • Professional development scholarships. Search for career development scholarships in your field and the area you’d like to develop. It can be competitive and applications can take some time, but it might give you an edge when applying for a new job or negotiating a higher salary.
  • Credit cards. While credit cards can have higher interest rates, these could be a better option if your course costs no more than a few thousand dollars — many lenders don’t offer loans for such small amounts. Consider applying for a new card with a 0% introductory APR to save on interest.
  • Payment plans. Some companies that offer career development courses have interest-free payment plans that could be cheaper in the long-run.
  • Ask friends and family. Your relatives and friends who believe in you might be more than willing to lend you a few thousand dollars to put toward advancing your career.
  • Crowdfund. If you’re not comfortable asking to borrow a large amount of money from one or two people, consider reaching out to your social network by setting up a crowdfunding campaign on places like PeduL.

It’s increasingly common for employers to have a career development budget for employees. They also might subscribe to sites like Lynda that offer online courses on a wide variety of topics. If your employer doesn’t have a budget for that, it could still be worth asking if they’ll cover the cost of your training program — they might even be able to find a way for you to attend the course for free.

Five tips for taking your career to the next level

  1. Use programs as an opportunity to find a mentor. Look for a program taught by someone you feel you could develop an informal mentoring relationship with, based on their skill set and personality.
  2. Keep in touch. Staying in contact with former supervisors, coworkers, teachers and other students is a great way to stay aware of new opportunities and areas for further professional development.
  3. Look into volunteering. Job-shadowing and volunteering can sometimes be just as helpful as enrolling in a course when it comes to making that next career move without hurting your wallet.
  4. Do your homework. If you do some research online, you’ll find lots of free online career development courses. For example, you can find online management courses with topics ranging from “How to Hire and Retain the Right People” to “How to Organize and Manage Your Department to Meet Goals.” OpenLearn offers free online classes on everything from “Developing High Trust Work Relationships” to “Project Management: The Start of the Project Journey.”
  5. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Free professional development sites like MindTool can help you figure out which skills you need to develop to perform better at work or get ahead.

Bottom line

Taking out a loan to invest in your future could be one of the safer moves you make when it comes to borrowing money, especially if it’s a certified course. If you just want to strengthen a few skills here and there, rather than change your job (or career), you may want to make sure your employer doesn’t offer any free resources or pay for courses before looking into loans.

Sure you need a loan? Check out your options and compare lenders with our personal loans guide. Or, read up on student loans.

Frequently asked questions

It depends on the program. If you enroll in a certificate program at an accredited university, you may be eligible for a direct unsubsidized loan or a direct PLUS loan.

Plus, the Department of Education’s Educational Quality Through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) Program offers federal student aid to low-income students attending coding bootcamps or other eligible programs at a partner university.

Sometimes. Your program itself might offer financial aid — especially if you’re part of an underrepresented group in your field or enroll at a university. And some student loan providers like Climb Credit specialize in loans for skills-based programs. Otherwise, you can apply for an outside scholarship in your field.

Your options might be limited and more expensive if your credit isn’t great. Consider taking steps to improve your credit first or apply for programs that offer financial aid.

Written by

Anna Serio

Anna Serio was a lead editor at Finder, specializing in consumer and business financing. A trusted lending expert and former certified commercial loan officer, Anna's written and edited more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. Her expertise and analysis on personal, student, business and car loans has been featured in publications like Business Insider, CNBC and Nasdaq, and has appeared on NBC and KADN. Anna holds an MA in Middle Eastern studies from the American University of Beirut and a BA in Creative Writing from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, CUNY. See full profile

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