I tried a masterclass. Here’s why it’s worth it


  • Videos of famous experts
  • Subtitles are provided in English, German, Spanish and French
  • Many video quality and speed options
  • Full refund within 30 days of purchase (may not apply with some deals)


  • Full refund does not apply to the 2-for-1 Black Friday subscription deal

Welcome to MasterClass

What do household names like Madeleine Albright, RL Stein, Indra Nooyi, Dr. Jane Goodall, and Serena Williams have in common? They have all taught courses through the MasterClass. It is a platform rich in credentials and full of inspiration.

It is one thing to learn a skill, and another to learn it from someone with demonstrable empirical success in the field. As I scrolled through the course offerings, I couldn’t help cheering: “they on MasterClass? “

I had a MasterClass subscription a few years ago and used it to take writing courses from Margaret Atwood, James Patterson, Judy Blume, and Neil Gaiman. (Instructions are in the form of recorded videos and downloadable guides; don’t expect interaction with instructors and feedback. Here’s our MasterClass FAQ for more details.)

It was a great experience to immerse myself in the words of some of my idols and write down the wisdom they had to share. And it was less distracting than absorbing YouTube videos with tons of ads and recommendations strewn across the platform. Watching MasterClass replaced streaming services like Hulu and Netflix for me for a while: MasterClass felt relaxing and constructive.

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Since then, MasterClass has added a hands-on format called Sessions, which contains a structured 30-day curriculum with peer participation and feedback from Teaching Assistants. Membership rate still seems very reasonable, Starting at $180 per year, which would be $15 per month. Each class contains an exercise book, as well as about 20 lessons that average 10 minutes in length. MasterClass adds new classes every month that you can download and watch offline if you have the right plan.

There is currently a file A two-for-one MasterClass membership deal For Black Friday, where you pay for one membership and can give one as a gift for free. For the sake of this review, I purchased a membership for your own pleasure, gifted membership.

How to get started with MasterClass on your phone

You can register via a web browser or on your phone; The process is similar. I chose to sign up on my iPhone 11 by selecting a two-for-one offer.

The first was a quick three-question survey that asked about my intentions, interest categories, and intended hours per week to study. Based on my choices, MasterClass suggested 125 classes for your consideration (from about 180 offered). You are not limited to these, and you will have access to the other categories. At the end of this survey, you can choose whether or not to register. You’ll receive a confirmation and be asked to upload a profile picture (less than 1MB) – I switched to desktop for this part and had no difficulty.

Subscribe to MasterClass

Shereen Shibo/ZDNET


there Three membership options: Single, Duo, and Family. The Duo membership option is the one that’s automatically selected when you get to that page, and it’s priced at $20 per month or $240 per year.

I chose to go with the individual membership, at $180 per year. This is listed as $15 per month, but be aware that if you cancel your membership after the 30-day refund period and before the end of the year, the remaining months will not be refunded.

The Single plan only supports one device for viewing the MasterClass at a time and does not allow downloading of episodes for offline viewing. Duo membership supports two devices simultaneously and allows downloads for offline viewing, while family membership increases the number of possible simultaneous devices to six. All three plans contain a full library of classes and sessions.

Classes can be played at 0.5x, 1x, 1.5x and 2x speeds. Subtitles are provided in English, German, Spanish and French. Video quality options are Auto, 360p, 540p, 720p, and 1080p.

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Sample category: John Douglas “Think Like an FBI Investigator”

Masterclass home page

Here’s what MasterClass looks like on desktop.

Shereen Shibo/ZDNET

Under “New to MasterClass” I saw an interesting “Think Like an FBI Profiler” course taught by John Douglas.

Douglas was a pioneer in criminal profiling, working on 5,000 cases of violence for the FBI. In a series of MasterClass videos ranging from 8 minutes to 18 minutes in length, he breaks down criminal profiling to help the viewer understand how it works and, hopefully, also stay safe with their lives.

One of the questions he asked while talking about serial killer Ed Kemper was “Are criminals born or made?” Douglas discussed how he handled a horrific case, shared what the process was like when going to a maximum security prison to meet Kemper and how dangerous it was to talk to him. He even played previously unheard chilling tapes of his interactions with Kemper. Douglas also identified key traits of manipulators to look for in everyday life.

I found the video quality to be first class and Douglas was a composed and well-spoken presenter. The information was from an expert but presented in an accessible and engaging way for a wider audience.

MasterClass sessions

The Sessions are a practical evolution of the MasterClass courses. You get projects and activities in a structured format for 30 days and you can share your work with fellow course-takers, and get feedback from training assistants on your submissions. You can skip a day or two in the schedule if needed – the lectures are pre-recorded, so you can pick up where you left off whenever you want.

Here are some session options that stood out to me:

I decided to try the viral video course offered by Marquis Brownlee, who has 16.3 million subscribers on YouTube. The sessions have a more goal-driven atmosphere than the regular courses at MasterClass. Session Brownlee aims to give the viewer the skills they need to create quality videos, and he gives assignments along the way to keep viewers on the right track.

The videos of the sessions I watched only had English subtitles, but the speed and quality options were the same as a regular course.


The MasterClass is a solid investment in self-development. It offers a how-to video from well known personalities and very low risk to try since it offers a full 30 day refund period. Keep in mind that a refund does not apply if you purchase a 2-for-1 Black Friday subscription deal and gift a MasterClass to someone.

Whether you use it on mobile or on desktop, your viewing experience delivers with subtitles, many speeds, and levels of video quality. More activity-oriented sessions should be a good experience for goal-setters.

If you’re looking to cut back on streaming services by focusing on quality experiences for your money, I recommend checking out MasterClass.

Alternatives to consider

Coursera targets job seekers, with affordable degrees, certificates, and courses in high-paying fields. There are many free courses on the platform, but if you want to get a certificate, you will probably have to pay for it on a course-by-course basis. Passionate learners will enjoy Coursera Plus, a subscription service that offers unlimited training and certification for $59 per month.

Mindvalley offers courses with a life-transforming message that should resonate with the MasterClass’ target audience. It’s currently $99 per month.

CLASS101+ offers plenty of courses in subjects like illustration, music, and photography for $19.99 a month.