MasterClass’s Roster of Celebrity Teachers Is Any Student’s Dream, but Is It Worth the $200 Price Tag?

From Mariah Carey teaching singing to Serena Williams teaching tennis, celebrity instructors are the main selling point for MasterClass. But is it worth the cost of a subscription? We reviewed MasterClass to find out.

By Evelyn Auer | Updated Dec 7, 2022 4:26 PM

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Masterclass Review

Photo: masterclass.com

Between ubiquitous online ads, high-profile celebrity instructors, and word-of-mouth hype, MasterClass has become one of the best-known online learning platforms out there. The service has a wide appeal; everyone from sports fans, writers, musicians, and scientists can likely find one of their heroes as a teacher of a class in the MasterClass course library. But when it comes to the actual course content, how much can students really learn from a few video lessons? Is MasterClass worth it? While taking one MasterClass course won’t make a student an expert in a given field, the bingeable bite-size lessons provide just enough instruction to leave them hungry to learn more.

To review MasterClass, I took a course taught by notable interior designer Corey Damen Jenkins. I found the platform to be well-designed and simple to navigate, and there was plenty to explore beyond my first class. The site makes learning enjoyable, and features like playlists and Daily Moments encourage students to venture outside of their immediate interests. Read on for a full review of MasterClass.

See more of the best online interior design courses and best online floral design classes.

At a Glance

Masterclass Review
Photo: masterclass.com

Our Verdict: Best known for its high-profile instructors and beautifully shot video lectures, MasterClass claims to offer students the opportunity to “learn from the world’s best.” Since its launch in 2015, MasterClass has expanded its library of classes from three to over 150. Students can enjoy class topics from cooking to filmmaking to wellness and more, which are indeed taught by some of the best-known names in their respective fields. How does MasterClass work? Access is based on a yearly subscription model for individuals, duos, or families, and prices break down to a relatively affordable monthly rate. MasterClass membership includes full access to the entire catalog of classes, which consist of many short video lessons usually under 20 minutes long. A new collection of courses called MasterClass “Sessions” offers students a more hands-on and structured curriculum with support from teaching assistants and peers. Most courses cover topics in broad strokes, so they appeal to students of all skill levels, but they may not be ideal for those looking for very specific in-depth information or those who are working toward a degree. Overall, MasterClass is best for students making their first foray into a new subject who don’t mind a hands-off approach to learning. It’s especially great for students who are just looking to be more informed in a particular topic for their own enjoyment.

SPECS

  • Certification: No
  • Price: $180 per year for Individual plan, $240 per year for Duo plan, $276 per year for Family plan
  • Average course length: 2 to 5 hours
  • Accreditation: No
  • Money-back guarantee: 30 days

PROS

  • Access to all site content for one annual price
  • Classes taught by renowned professionals
  • Content is taught in short, digestible videos

CONS

  • Annual membership is required to access material
  • No guidance or feedback from instructors

MasterClass Review: Claims

MasterClass sets the bar quite high for itself with language like, “Learn from the most inspiring artists, leaders, and icons in the world,” and “They changed the world. Now you.” But what can students actually expect in exchange for the cost of a yearly subscription? In terms of class content, MasterClass is very transparent about its offerings. But it’s important to be sure that the service as a whole is a good fit before purchasing, especially considering that students pay for an entire year rather than on a month-to-month basis. Read on for some specifics.

Masterclass Review

Photo: masterclass.com / Evelyn Auer

Course Selection

The MasterClass library is made up of over 150 classes taught by instructors widely considered to be some of the best in their field. Students will recognize household names like Serena Williams, Gordon Ramsay, Helen Mirren, and many others offering classes correlating to their crafts. Sometimes this means a class will cover the particular topic the instructor is known for (for example, Tony Hawk Teaches Skateboarding), and other times the subject is more abstract (i.e., Anna Wintour Teaches Creativity and Leadership). Most courses cover topics in broad strokes and are designed to appeal equally to both beginners and students with some experience in the subject, although there are some exceptions.

Class topics fall under 11 categories: Arts & Entertainment, Business, Community & Government, Design & Style, Food, Home & Lifestyle, Music, Science & Tech, Sports & Gaming, Wellness, and Writing. Would-be students can view the entire course library on the site before creating an account by clicking the “All Categories” tab. This also includes lists of the newest and most popular classes on the site. To narrow down the options, clicking on “Discover” leads to a short questionnaire on what the student is interested in learning. Students may also click on any class for a description of the course content and length, the topic of each lesson, a class trailer, and a short sample of one of the lessons.

Masterclass Review

Photo: masterclass.com / Evelyn Auer

Pricing and Money-Back Guarantee

MasterClass cost is dependent on the subscription tier a student selects. There are three subscription plans: Individual, Duo, and Family, at a monthly price of $15, $20, and $23, respectively. Every plan offered includes full access to the content library, but the Duo and Family plans allow multiple people to learn at once and make it possible to download content for offline viewing.

All of the plans are billed annually, meaning students will pay an up-front cost of $180, $240, or $276 depending on their chosen plan. Each plan also comes with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. To get a refund, customers will need to contact MasterClass customer service through the site within 30 days of their initial purchase. Students can also cancel their subscription at any time but should keep in mind that this will only prevent their subscription from being renewed for another year and will not result in a refund for the year they already paid for.

Masterclass Review

Photo: masterclass.com / Evelyn Auer

Course Length and Structure

Most MasterClass courses are between 2 and 5 hours long in total and consist of a series of video lessons. Each individual lesson can be between 5 and 30 minutes in length. Courses are also accompanied by a downloadable class guide in the form of a PDF. There are no deadlines to adhere to, so students can take lessons at their own pace. Any assignments for these courses are very informal and meant to be self-guided. The classes are not interactive, and students do not have the ability to ask questions or make comments directly to the instructor.

The exception to this is a new type of course that MasterClass recently added called “Sessions.” These are 30-day in-depth courses designed to help students “learn by doing and create original projects.” With topics such as creating makeup looks and becoming a streamer, they support students looking to develop more concrete skills. Sessions have teaching assistants on standby for students to get feedback and have their questions answered. Students can also interact with peers who are taking the class at the same time.

Content Access and Features

Students can interact with MasterClass’s content in several ways. The simplest option is to log on to the site from a computer. This makes it easy to take stock of all potential class offerings and keep track of past and current classes. The full library is accessible to browse or watch along with downloadable class guides, “Daily Moments” and other randomized samples of classes can be viewed, and students can read written articles to further engage with the material. Students can take as many classes at once as they desire, and they are able to return to courses and related materials after completion.

Students can also download the mobile MasterClass app for a phone or tablet. The app provides much the same functionality as the site: browsing classes, watching lessons, and managing subscriptions and settings. An interesting added feature of the app is the ability to toggle between video and audio while taking a class. The interface for audio mode is similar to a music or podcast listening app—students can rewind or skip forward a few seconds if needed. Students can also watch a class on a television by downloading the app on a smart TV or casting from another device. Detailed instructions for watching on an Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV, iPhone and iPad, and Android phones and tablets are available under Settings.

Certifications and Accreditation

MasterClass is not accredited and does not offer any certifications for completing its classes. With the content of most courses being quite broad, students will not find the in-depth instruction needed to support a certificate or degree. What they may find instead are soft skills and inspiration to take with them into a career or creative pursuit. Students will receive an email upon completing a course as well as some ideas for continuing their journey with the site. The class will also appear under “Classes You’ve Mastered” in the My Progress tab.

Putting MasterClass to the Test

I turned to MasterClass in search of a course on interior design. I’ve been in my apartment for almost a year and have done little in the way of decorating besides placing my furniture and haphazardly hanging some artwork. I tend to be wary of colors and patterns and was hopeful that whatever class I took could inspire me out of my comfort zone. I’m happy to say that Corey Damen Jenkins’ MasterClass on interior design did just that. Seeing how one of the best-known interior designers conceives of his process step by step made me excited to try my hand at mixing patterns and devising color schemes. MasterClass’s simple-to-use interface made it all the easier to dive into learning!

Exploring MasterClass Courses

From the start, MasterClass’s site design and branding are mesmerizing. The home page features large portraits of some of the instructors with the text, “They Changed The World. Now You.” Before you even create an account, you are able to see every class that is available on the site and watch some samples of each one. I knew what type of class I was looking for, but that didn’t stop me from exploring a little first. I drooled over a hand-chopped ragu tutorial from Massimo Bottura, heard some planting wisdom from gardener Ron Finley, and watched Apollonia Poilâne expertly shape a loaf of bread: all this before ever buying a subscription!

When I was done browsing, I clicked on the category “Home & Lifestyle,” figuring this is probably where I’d find any interior design classes. After a bit of scrolling, I found “Kelly Wearstler Teaches Interior Design” and “Corey Damen Jenkins Teaches Interior Design.” Being new to the territory I wasn’t familiar with either designer, so I watched trailers and samples for both. Kelly’s aesthetic was slightly closer to my style (lots of beiges and muted tones), but Corey’s class seemed more geared toward casual design students, not just aspiring professionals. I typed “interior design” into the search bar to make sure I wasn’t missing any other options, then decided to go with Corey’s class.

Masterclass Review

Photo: masterclass.com / Evelyn Auer

Buying a Subscription

For the purpose of this review, I received a complimentary 1-year subscription from MasterClass but assessed the account creation and payment process independently. The checkout process is straightforward—under “View Plans,” select the subscription plan of your choice. You will then input your email address in the pop-up that appears. Next, the payment total appears at the top of the pop-up, and below you can type in your credit card information (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover are accepted) and click “Place Secure Order.” It’s important to note here that MasterClass is billed annually. If you look up “how much is masterclass,” you might see the monthly cost of $15 and assume you’ll be paying month to month. The payment total also appears in a very small font in the payment window, so if you weren’t paying close attention it would be possible to miss this. There are occasional sales and promotions—at the time that I tested MasterClass, the Duo and Family plans were discounted to the price of the lowest tier at $15 per month. It was unclear how long this promotion ran, but I noticed it had ended by the following week. Without sales or promotions, you can expect to pay a total of $180, $240, or $276 for a 1-year subscription, depending on your plan.

Once you create your MasterClass account, the entire library of classes is fair game. There is no need to “enroll” in a class; you can start watching anytime (this may not be true of the “Sessions,” which follow a more structured timeline). One of the first things I noticed after logging in was a notification telling me I had 1 week to send my three “Guest Passes” to friends. Recipients would get 14 days of access to the entire course library. This was a unique feature I had not seen before on similar platforms.

Classes at Your Fingertips

I spent some more time poking around the library and the discover page. The library allows you to search for specific instructors or classes, choose a category to browse, or scroll on to see some popular classes. There are no search parameters other than category, but the number of classes in each category is manageable to sift through. Currently, all classes are in English and do not provide subtitles for other languages. The subtitles worked well for the interior design course, but I noticed when sampling a cooking class that the English subtitles could not identify words like “confit” and “sauté.” Some parts of that lesson would have been indecipherable had I been relying on the subtitles alone.

Masterclass Review

Photo: masterclass.com / Evelyn Auer

Next to each listed class is a plus-sign button so you can add it to your list for later. On the discover page, a new “Daily Moment” is featured every day from a particular class. My favorite feature farther down was the “playlists.” These are made up of five or six snippets of other lessons where instructors speak on a topic like writer’s block or responding to criticism. What I liked so much about this was it allows students to glean value from classes they might not take otherwise. I wouldn’t prioritize watching an entire class about space exploration, but I was genuinely moved by the segment from retired astronaut Chris Hadfield where he addressed what motivates him in life and his career.

Speaking of the space exploration class, a few of the course names had me wondering, “Who on earth is this for?” A good example is “Campaign Strategy and Messaging” by David Axelrod and Karl Rove. I’m sure the course contains some useful information, but I can’t help but think that the pool of MasterClass students who would find it relevant is relatively small.

Taking a Class

I finally navigated to Corey Damen Jenkins’ class in the “My Progress” tab under “Continue Watching” (I had already watched a sample). The class was made up of 12 lessons, all under 20 minutes long. Once I clicked on the class to begin Lesson 1, I saw that to the right of the video I could toggle between a spot to type my notes and a queue of all the lessons in the class. Below, I could share the lesson, download the class guide, or add a bookmark. I clicked on the button to download the class guide, assuming it would just be a written transcript of each lesson. After opening the 50-page PDF, I was pleased to find helpful additional resources that built on the lesson topics, as well as some gorgeous photos from Corey’s portfolio. To complement the lesson on lighting and fixtures, the guide included a page about various types of light bulbs and an explanation of the kelvin scale. There was also a cute flow chart for picking out a houseplant.

Masterclass Review

Photo: masterclass.com / Evelyn Auer

I knew based on trailers for other classes that the set for each class is uniquely styled for the instructor. For the sake of this class, Corey himself had designed his set as a living room in his signature style of “eclectic exuberance.” For one of the lessons, he walked around the room and explained how all of the various elements formed a cohesive space. I thought this was a clever use of the set to help students visualize his process.

I watched the first five lessons in one sitting, letting them play automatically one after the other.
During the first lesson, I turned the definition up and the captions on and was pleased that these preferences were preserved as each new video played, even when I came back a day later. I left off at “Mixing and Matching Patterns.” The next day, I could pick up right where I left off by clicking “Resume” under “My Progress.” I also noticed that the notes I had taken were easily accessible under “My Notes.” I had bookmarked my favorite lesson on “Coordinating Color” to return to later, and it appeared below under “Bookmarks.” Once I had finished watching all the lessons, I was automatically taken back to the home page to find and start watching another class. I still had access to the one I just finished, which now appeared under “Classes I’ve Mastered” at the bottom of the “My Progress” page.

I did my initial watch-through of the course on my laptop for the sake of easy access and visibility. But later on, I decided to see how the mobile app compares. The Daily Moments, which I had honestly muted and scrolled past on the website, are formatted differently on the app. You can swipe through the short clips the way you would on a social media app. Scroll up, down, left, or right to move on to the next clip (it’s somewhat unclear what difference the direction makes). I’ll admit this was somewhat addictive and I wasted a good amount of time on it. Moving on, Corey’s class was front and center so I returned to it to test the video. I noticed that you can toggle between video and audio mode. At first, this struck me as a useful feature for classes that don’t have as much of a visual element. But then it occurred to me that half of the appeal of a MasterClass is the intimate feeling of being in the room with the instructor, and you really don’t get the same effect from audio alone. Lastly, I tried casting the class to my living room TV. This process was pretty intuitive; I chose my Apple TV from the list of devices, and the video began playing on the screen. I could still easily control the playback and turn on captions from my phone.

My overall impression of the class was positive. Corey is gifted at taking abstract design concepts and making them approachable and fun. Am I ready to start designing homes professionally? Not even close. Can I make a more informed decision when picking out rugs and throw pillows? Sure. But I think the most valuable part of most MasterClasses in general is that they provide students with a sense of inspiration and empowerment. The courses touch on a lot of topics at a surface level, but learning from world-class instructors in what feels like a personal setting is the true appeal. Pair this with the intuitive site design, high production quality, and wide scope of course categories, and it’s obvious why MasterClass has such a great reputation.

MasterClass Reviews by Customers

Overall, most MasterClass reviews skew positive: Students report that they enjoy learning at their own pace from instructors they recognize. Several reviewers on Trustpilot say they love buying subscriptions for friends and relatives as the perfect “gift that keeps on giving.”

The most common complaint pertains to the auto-renew feature on subscriptions. Some customers reported on the Better Business Bureau that they were not given enough warning to cancel their subscription before it was automatically renewed for another year, and some say that they were charged even after canceling. In other Trustpilot reviews, customers were unhappy with responses from customer support when they reached out to remedy the issue. With any service there are bound to be a few hiccups, and MasterClass is no exception.

How MasterClass Stacks Up to the Competition

Students comparing MasterClass with other online learning platforms may be surprised to notice its library is quite small by comparison. However, some may argue that MasterClass simply prioritizes quality over quantity. The number of class options is just one of many factors to consider before you purchase a subscription to MasterClass or one of its competitors. Other popular platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, and Coursera may seem interchangeable on the surface but are actually quite different when it comes to the type of content they offer and how the platforms facilitate learning. Researching questions like “how much does masterclass cost compared to other services” and “does coursera provide certification” will help students ascertain which option aligns most with their learning needs and goals.

MasterClass vs. Udemy

Udemy is another popular virtual learning platform (we reviewed Udemy to understand how it compared). Subscribers get access to their library of courses, usually video lectures, and can choose from a wide variety of topics and instructors. That is about where the similarities to MasterClass end. Udemy operates on an open framework where an instructor anywhere on the globe can record and upload a class, which is how the site has racked up over 185,000 courses. Classes and instructors are diverse, so content is available in many languages and for all skill levels. But this also means that classes are not thoroughly vetted, so the overall course quality can be inconsistent. Students looking to learn hard skills or get hands-on knowledge of a topic are probably more likely to find what they are looking for on Udemy, but they may have to hunt for just the right class.

MasterClass vs. Coursera

The biggest similarity between Coursera and MasterClass is the credibility of their instructors. MasterClass’s instructors are well-known figures, often the first name that comes to mind when their craft is mentioned. Coursera is affiliated with over 170 universities, and its instructors are most often university professors. Students can earn real college credit or even a degree through Coursera. As such, classes cover a much wider range of topics and go more in-depth, often including assignments and grades. A student with a casual interest in a subject will probably find MasterClass’s material and cost more in line with their commitment level.

MasterClass vs. Skillshare

Like Udemy, Skillshare is an open framework platform for instructors to market their own classes. However, there are more guidelines for Skillshare classes, and they tend to be fairly well curated. Skillshare’s library is mostly geared toward creative skills such as graphic design or illustration, with some business content like marketing and leadership classes. Many of the courses include hands-on projects that students can share with one another, similar to MasterClass’s “Sessions.”

Should You Use MasterClass?

There are many reasons to try MasterClass. You may be interested in getting never-before-seen insights from specific public figures that you admire. Or you may just be looking for a wholesome alternative to your social media habit. Those with a general interest in a wide array of subjects will get the most out of the service.

If you’re still wondering “Is MasterClass worth it?” the only real risk for buying a 1-year MasterClass subscription is that if you are only interested in one or two topics, you’ll run out of relevant material quickly. Since it is possible to view the whole library ahead of time, it may be prudent to make a list of classes of interest, then evaluate whether this amount of material is worth the subscription cost.

Whatever you’re interested in learning, you’ll find that MasterClass’s intuitive website, beautifully designed sets, and well-chosen instructors facilitate an atmosphere of learning. MasterClass may not tangibly help you earn credit toward a degree or certification. But if you’re looking to become a professional photographer, some pointers from Annie Leibovitz certainly couldn’t hurt!

We independently reviewed this service by weighing the company’s claims against first-hand experience with its professionals. However, due to factors such as franchising, human error, and more, please note that experiences with this company may vary.