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12 Best Free Online Financial Markets Courses

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Updated: March 27, 2024, Reading time: 21 minutes

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Courses that focus on Finance are perfect for those who wish to know and understand how the global economy works. What are the trade secrets behind those great investments? Behind money? Behind financial independence?

Financial market courses are one of the world’s oldest disciplines, but they remain the most popular and in-demand subjects. After all, not a day goes by without people making financial decisions, big or small.

But is a degree in Finance still worth it? Before discussing the many financial market course options you have, let’s start with the basics.

The Top 12 Free Online Financial Market Courses

Are you ready to get a good understanding of money, transactions, and investments and become the master of all your finances? Below are 12 of the best free online financial market courses you might want to try. 

Introduction to Finance and Accounting Specialization

Free Online Financial Market Courses 1

The University of Pennsylvania, via Coursera 

This is a free specialization course ideal for beginners and introduces you to the world of Finance and Accounting. The course focuses on applying finance to different real-world situations: from personal finance to corporate decision-making to financial intermediation, and how managerial incentives and accounting standards affect a financing reporting process. 

The specialization has four courses:

Course 1: Fundamentals of Finance. This is where you will learn the fundamentals of corporate finances. Under Professor Jessica Wachter, the course is designed for students who need to refresh their knowledge of financial concepts or study corporate finances for the first time. 

Course 2: Introduction to Corporate Finance. This gives you a brief introduction to the basics of Finance. Critical applications and concepts include risk-return trade-off, time value of money, cost of capital, retirement saving, interest rate, auto leasing, mortgage financing, asset valuation, capital budgeting, present net worth, discounted cash flow analysis, hourly rate, internal rate of return, or and payback period. 

Course 3: Introduction to Financial Accounting. This is where you will master your technical skills in analyzing disclosures and financial statements. You will also learn more about accounting standards and managerial incentives that can affect a financial reporting process. Once you complete the course, you can now read the three common financial statements: the balance sheet, the income statement, and cash flows. 

Course 4: More Introduction to Financial Accounting. You will learn how to understand, read, and analyze financial statements and information commonly provided by companies. Learning these skills helps you make better and more informed decisions when you use financial information. 

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Financial Management

Free Online Financial Market Courses 2

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, via Coursera 

This course discusses the fundamentals of strategic financial management and includes corporate finance, financial accounting, and investments.

As part of the University of Illinois’ MBA program, this specialization teaches you how to recognize and evaluate strategic investment and corporate decisions and helps you to understand better what capital institutions and capital markets are from a financial perspective. 

This specialization has seven courses:

Course 1: Financial Accounting: Foundations. This is where you are taught about the foundations of financial accounting information. You will also learn about coding financial transactions in the economic accounting language. 

Course 2: Financial Accounting: Advanced Topics. You will be exploring advanced topics in financial accounting in this course. You will also learn how companies account for fixed assets before moving to finance of assets and learn other accounting for liabilities. 

Course 3: Investments 1: Fundamental of Performance Valuation. Know the basic principles of portfolio optimization, trading off risk and return, and security pricing.

Course 4: Investments II: Lessons and Applications for Investors. You will learn the two components of stock returns: capital gains and dividends, and understand how both are taxed.

Course 5: Corporate Finance I: Measuring and Promoting Value Creation. This is where you are taught how to use fundamental finance principles to measure and understand business success and recognize and promote actual value creation.

Course 6: Corporate Finance II: Financing Investments and Managing Risk. Understand how companies make decisions regarding the amount of debt they take and whether they will raise capital from banks or markets. 

Course 7: Financial Management Capstone: This provides you with a learning experience that joins all the courses in the whole specialization program. 

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Finance for Non-Finance Professionals

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Rice University, via Coursera

This is a free short course that evaluates all the topics covered in an MBA-level finance course, although this has a more intuitive approach. This course aims to provide you with a framework and roadmap on how financial professionals should make decisions. The course is a 5-week long class and has the following topics:

Week 1: Course Overview and Basic Principles of Financial Valuation Discounting. You will find general information about this course and the instructions on how to navigate the modules correctly. 

Week 2: How to Spend Money (Capital Budgeting Tools). This covers the essential tools in capital budgeting like Internal Rate of Return, Net Present Value, Payback period, and return on capital. 

Week 3: Measuring Cash Creation and Flow. This is where you will start to learn about financial statements.

Week 4: How Much Does Money Cost: Evaluating the Cost of Capital. This course gives you an external and perspective view of a Wall Street firm, as well as capital markets. 

Week 5: Capstone Case: Putting it All Back Together from Main Street to Wall Street. In this course, you will bring all your analysis and evaluate investment prospects. 

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Adaptive Markets: Financial Market Dynamics and Human Behavior

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, via edX 

In this course, students will learn a new way of looking at financial markets, innovations, and institutions that define the link between link human behavior and market efficiency through cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and artificial intelligence.

This course will teach you that market efficiency is not at all wrong but merely incomplete. You will understand that markets are unstable and that investors will react instinctively, creating inconsistencies for others to exploit. 

This is a fascinating class filled with compelling stories. It starts with learning about the origins of market failures and efficiency and ends with some practical implications. 

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Justice Today: Money, Markets, and Morals

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Harvard University, via edX

Status, competition, and greed are the usual causes of one’s moral compass moving in the wrong direction. But are there certain civic and moral goods that markets don’t honor and money can’t buy? Should everything be up for sale, without limits?

This course is led by Michael J. Sandel, an award-winning Harvard University professor, and explores topics that everybody is familiar with price gouging or even human organ sales. 

At the end of this course, you will learn:

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Decentralized Finance Infrastructure

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Duke University, via Coursera 

This course starts with a lecture on the origins of Defi and takes you to a broader historical view from the earliest barter economics. You will also learn about historical examples of how money is valued though it’s not backed officially.

Then you will concentrate on the significant infrastructure components: smart contracts, cryptocurrencies, oracles, decentralized applications, and stablecoins. At the end of the course, you should be able to:

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Investment and Portfolio Management Specialization

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Rice University, via Coursera 

This is a four-course specialization where you will learn the critical skills of personal investing and portfolio management. The courses are as follows:

Course 1: Global Financial Markets and Instruments. This is designed to help you become an informed investor. You will be provided with the essential concepts needed for long-term success in managing money. 

Course 2: Portfolio Selection and Risk Management. Learn about the fundamental principles behind optimal portfolio construction, risk management, and diversification. You will develop the tools in characterizing the risk and trade-off of an investor.

Course 3: Biases and Portfolio Selection. This is where you are taught how to capitalize on irrational behavior and behavioral biases in financial markets. You get to recognize your mistakes and understand how these can affect financial markets and investment decisions. 

Course 4: Investment Strategies and Portfolio Analysis. Find out more about performance evaluation and the latest investment strategies, and explore the different evaluation techniques like attribution analysis or style analysis. 

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Introduction to Corporate Finance

Free Online Financial Market Courses 8

Columbia Unversity, via edX

This is a free four-week online course that gives you an understanding of financial rules and concepts to understand the decision-making process of a financial manager and how they are applied to value bonds, firms, and stocks.

You will also learn about the value of money, capital budgeting, and the cost of capital. The course is a prerequisite for all incoming freshmen MBA students of Columbia Business School. In this course, you will learn:

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Business and Financial Modeling

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The University of Pennsylvania, via Coursera 

This course teaches you how to create business and financial models using spreadsheets to make data-driven financial decisions. It comes in 5 classes:

Course 1: Fundamentals of Quantitative Modeling. This will help you understand the basics of foundational, critical, and business skills. With some series of short lectures, assignments, and demonstrations, you can get the best ideas and learn the whole process of quantitative modeling so you can start making your own models for your business.

Course 2: Introduction to Spreadsheets and Models. You will learn some essential spreadsheet tools and formulas in this course to help you hone your knowledge of spreadsheets. 

Course 3: Modeling Risk and Realities. This is where you will learn how to make quantitative models to represent complex realities, including risks and uncertainties. Predictive models to recognize optimal choices are also discussed in the course. 

Course 4: Decision-Making and Scenarios. This will show you how you can utilize quantitative models in transforming data into optimal business decisions. 

Course 5: Wharton Business and Financial Modeling Capstone. This is where you will be recommending your business strategy based on the data model you made. 

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Introduction to Finance: The Basics

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The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, via Coursera 

As its name implies, this course is where you will further learn about the basic concepts to understand the decision-making process of a financial manager. This course will also teach you:

This is a 5-week, 4-module class with the following topics:

Module 1: Introduction to Finance
Module 2: Financial Statements and Cash Flow
Module 3: Financial Statements Analysis
Module 4: Time Value for Money

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Fundamentals of Finance

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The University of Pennsylvania, via Coursera 

This course is where you will learn the fundamentals of Corporate Finance and is perfect for those looking for a refresher class in financial concepts or those who are new to the world of corporate Finance.

You will learn about the foundational concepts in corporate Finance like Compound and Simple Interest, NPV, and Annuities vs. Perpetuities. The course is divided into five modules: 

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Financial Technology (Fintech) Innovations

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The University of Michigan, via Coursera 

This is a free specialization course that runs for four months. At the end of the course, you should be able to:

This specialization is divided into four courses:

Course 1: The Future of Payment Technologies
Course 2: Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Explained
Course 3: Raising Capital: Credit Tech, Coin Offerings, and Crowdfunding
Course 4: Innovations in Investment Technology: Artificial Intelligence

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Machine Learning for Trading

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New York Institute of Finance, via Coursera 

This is an intermediate-level course that will help you start your career in machine learning for trading. These insights are expected upon completing the free online course:

This three-month specialization has only three courses:

Course 1: Introduction to Trading, Machine Learning, and GCP
Course 2: Using Machine Learning – Trading and Finance
Course 3: Reinforcement Learning for Trading Strategies 

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Finance careers need ample knowledge of different topics and skills. It covers a lot of other technical areas as well. Thus, as a modern financial analyst, you should be equipped with the best skills and training so you can be at par with today’s highly competitive finance professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Financial Market?

A financial market provides an avenue for purchasing and selling assets like stocks, bonds, precious metals and raw materials, derivatives, and foreign exchange at a lower transaction cost. Often, financial markets are called ‘capital markets’ or “Wall Street,” but all these mean the same.

Simply put,  investors and businesses can go to a financial market to raise funds, grow their investments, and make even more money. 

Free Online Financial Market Courses - fact

What are the Types of Financial Markets?

You can find so many financial markets these days. Every country is home to at least one market, though they greatly vary in size. There are small financial markets, while internationally-known ones, like the New York Stock Exchange, trade at least trillions of dollars every day. Below are the types of financial markets.

Stock Market. The most predominant type of financial market is the stock market. This is where companies, regardless of size, list their shares and are bought and sold by investors and traders.

Also called the equities market, companies use a stock market to raise capital via IPO (initial public offering). The shares are subsequently traded by several sellers and traders, known as a secondary market.

Stocks are often traded on listed exchanges like Nasdaq, the New York Stock Exchange, or OTC (over-the-counter). Trading stocks are mostly done through regulated exchanges.

These exchanges play crucial roles in an economy as they are the overall health gauge of the economy. They also provide capital gains and dividend income to many investors.

Usual participants in stock markets include (both institutional and retail) traders and investors, market makers (MMs), and other specialists who provide two-sided markets and maintain liquidity. Brokers are those third parties that expedite trades between stock buyers and sellers.

Over-the-Counter Markets. OTC markets are decentralized markets. Meaning they don’t have physical locations and that all trades are done electronically. Market participants make their trading directly between two parties sans the broker.

While these markets handle tradings in specific stocks (like smaller companies that fail to meet the listing criteria of exchanges), stocks in OTC markets are done via exchanges. However, certain derivatives markets are OTC-exclusive and make up a crucial part of the financial market. 

Bond Markets. A bond is a type of security wherein an investor borrows money at a given period at an agreed interest rate. Think of it as an agreement between the borrower and the lender that contains all the details of the loan and its corresponding payment agreement.

Corporations, municipalities, sovereign governments, and states issue bonds to finance their projects and operations. The bond markets sell securities like bills and notes issued by the US Treasury. These markets are also called credit, debit, or fixed-income markets.

Money Markets. Money markets essentially trade in products with liquid short-term maturities (less than a year) characterized by a low return on interest and a high degree of security. These markets also involve large-volume trading between traders and institutions (at the wholesale level).

On the retail level, these include accounts opened by bank customers and mutual funds bought by investors. In the money market, you can also invest by buying certificates of deposits, US treasury bills, or municipal notes. 

Derivatives Market. This is a financial market for financial instruments like futures contracts or options based on the values of their underlying assets.

Derivatives are contracts between parties whose value depends on the agreed-upon underlying financial asset (security) or sets of assets (such as an index). They are secondary securities whose values are derived from the primary security value linked with them.

In essence, derivatives are worthless. How so? Instead of directly trading stocks, derivatives market trades in options contracts, futures, and other advanced financial products that derive their values from several underlying instruments such as commodities, bonds, interest rates, currencies, stocks, and market indexes. 

You can find future contracts traded and listed in futures markets. While forwards trade OTCs, futures markets use standardized contract specifications.

They are also well-regulated and use clearing houses to settle and confirm trades. Conversely, options markets, like the Chicago Board Options Exchange, regulate options contracts. Both options and futures can list contracts on different asset classes like fixed-income securities, equities, commodities, and so much more.

Forex Market. The foreign exchange market is another type of financial market where participants can buy, sell, speculate, and hedge on the exchange rates between currency pairs. Since cash is considered the most liquid asset, the forex market is dubbed the most liquid market globally.

On average, this market handles more than $5 trillion, which is more than the equity markets and futures combined. The forex market comprises commercial companies, central banks, hedge funds, investment management firms, retail forex investors, and brokers. 

Cryptocurrency Markets. In recent years, cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin have emerged. These are decentralized digital assets based on blockchain technology.

Today, cryptocurrency tokens are traded globally across independent crypto exchanges. These cryptocurrency markets host digital wallets for traders so one can swap cryptocurrency for another. Most cryptocurrency markets are centralized platforms.

These make users more prone to fraud and hacks. Decentralized exchanges are also allowed to operate despite the absence of a central authority, allowing direct peer-to-peer trading without having an actual exchange authority to handle the transactions.

Still, this remains a top choice for users to trade. Options and futures trading are available on the cryptocurrency market as well. 

Commodities Markets. These are venues where consumers and producers meet so they can physically exchange commodities like agricultural products (livestock, corn), energy products (carbon credits, gas, oil), precious metals (platinum, gold, silver), or soft commodities (coffee, sugar).

Commodities markets are also called spot commodity markets, where one can exchange their physical goods for money. 

Bulk trading in the commodities market happens on derivative markets that use spot commodities as underlying assets. Options, forwards, and futures on commodities are exchanged on listed exchanges (such as the Intercontinental Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) and OTC. 

Is Studying Finance Worth It?

Suppose you wish to learn more about how the finance market and the world economy function and the secrets behind financial independence, investments, and money; studying courses related to finance is a good choice. But is it worth it? Why should you study Finance?

Always in demand and well-paid. Today’s economy largely depends on financial principles and strategies. From small start-up companies to massive corporations, from those tiny corner nooks to global supermarket chains, from insurance companies to law firms– they all need finance professionals, and they are ready to pay a hefty paycheck for experts in this field. 

In the US, for example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a 5% and 15% increase in the demand for financial analysts and financial managers, respectively, in the next 9 to 10 years.

The median salaries of these professionals are just as impressive, with paychecks ranging from $81,000 to $129,000 annually, depending on one’s work experience and type of finance job.

Financial education is critical to achieving a successful life. As the cliché goes, knowledge is power. And especially in a capitalist world, better financial knowledge will always get you a good foot forward. Understanding money, investments, and Finance is one thing.

Applying this knowledge, coupled with your willingness to make mistakes, lose money, and even start all over again from scratch- is what makes the vast difference between failure and success when talking about personal finances.

When you learn about the different financial concepts, it becomes easier for you to monitor your finances, minimize unnecessary spending, and eventually work towards becoming financially independent, something that only very few can afford to live. 

You will know the differences between value and price. As Warren Buffet said, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.” This teaches us that something offered at a discounted rate doesn’t necessarily mean that it is worth the item’s asking price. So many retail shops use this strategy because it works.

People are tempted to buy something ‘discounted,’ thinking that they can save money on it. But in reality, it’s not worth it in most cases. 

Finance is not boring at all. The financial field is constantly evolving, developing, and changing in so many ways that no one could have predicted back then. For now, the latest craze these days is fintech (financial technology). Years ago, cryptocurrencies were the rage.

No matter what financial innovation is in store– a global digital currency or one that has yet to be created, one thing is for sure: you will never get bored working and studying in Finance. This field constantly evolves and is connected to the birth of new technologies, which means improvements will never end. 

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