Is MasterClass Worth It?
Is MasterClass worth it? After our first year with the MasterClass all-access pass, here are our thoughts on whether or not it’s worth the investment.
In the following in-depth review of MasterClass, we highlight our top 5 favorite courses and why we loved them.
This is a sponsored post with MasterClass, and we will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking our affiliate links in this post. All opinions are 100% our own.
is masterclass worth it?
As full-time, live-out-of-our-backpack nomads, we didn’t ask for anything for Christmas. So, my creative sister Anita found a wonderful gift for us to bring along on our trip: MasterClass.
If you haven’t seen their ads on Facebook or YouTube, MasterClass is an online teaching platform where you “learn from the best.” And they’re not kidding, Gordon Ramsey teaches cooking, Natalie Portman teaches acting, and Serena Williams teaches tennis.
How Does MasterClass Work?
The platform itself was fresh and interactive. It felt more like Netflix than an official course site like Coursera or Udemy. Each course came with its own downloadable workbook and comments section where students can discuss what they learned, ask questions, and share their personal stories and tips.
As of today, in March 2020, there are 80 MasterClasses available, with new courses released monthly (Hello, RuPaul!)
Roughly, from start to finish, a course lasts from 4-6 hours, covering 18-30 individual lessons. There’s a big range, but some classes are short while others are more involved. In the majority of them, you’ve given things to think about with each course, but not actual homework (although Annie Leibowitz’s MasterClass does).
Also, MasterClass syncs with all of your devices, and you’re able to pre-download them for offline use on an iOS-operating device. We even downloaded a few courses onto my phone to listen to on long road trips.
Some courses are best viewed visually, as in the case of Bobbi Brown’s makeup and beauty course, but others by writers or business leaders can usually just be listened to on audio only.
Click the toggle below to view the current classes available as of March 2020:
MasterClass Course List:
You can browse by category on the MasterClass Homepage.
Film & TV
David Lynch teaches creativity and film
Jodie Foster teaches filmmaking
Werner Herzog teaches filmmaking
Mira Nair teaches independent filmmaking
Ken Burns teaches documentary filmmaking
Natalie Portman teaches acting
Spike Lee teaches filmmaking
Judd Apatow teaches comedy
Helen Mirren teaches acting
Ron Howard teaches directing
Samuel L. Jackson teaches acting
Martin Scorsese teaches filmmaking
Shonda Rhimes teaches writing for television
Aaron Sorkin teaches screenwriting
Music & Entertainment
Timbaland teaches producing and beatmaking
Carlos Santana teaches the art and soul of guitar
Tom Morello teaches electric guitar
Christina Aguilera teaches singing
Armin van Buuren teaches dance music
Herbie Hancock teaches jazz
Usher teaches the art of performance
Steve Martin teaches comedy
Hans Zimmer teaches film scoring
Deadmau5 teaches electronic music production
Danny Elfman teaches music for film
Reba McEntire teaches country music
Itzhak Perlman teaches violin
Penn & Teller teach the art of magic
James Suckling teaches wine appreciation
Dominique Ansel teaches French pastry fundamentals
Thomas Keller teaches cooking techniques ii: meats, stocks, and sauces
Gordon Ramsay teaches cooking ii: restaurant recipes at home
Thomas Keller teaches cooking techniques
Alice Waters teaches the art of home cooking
Wolfgang Puck teaches cooking
Gabriela Camara teaches Mexican cooking
Gordon Ramsay teaches cooking
Thomas Keller teaches cooking techniques iii: seafood, sous vide, and desserts
Massimo Bottura teaches modern Italian cooking
Aaron Franklin teaches Texas-style BBQ
Neil Gaiman teaches the art of storytelling
Dan Brown teaches writing thrillers
Margaret Atwood teaches creative writing
R.L. Stine teaches writing for young audiences
Malcolm Gladwell teaches writing
Judy Blume teaches writing
David Mamet teaches dramatic writing
David Sedaris teaches storytelling and humor
Joyce Carol Oates teaches the art of the short story
David Baldacci teaches mystery and thriller writing
Billy Collins teaches reading and writing poetry
James Patterson teaches writing
Business, Politics & Society
Howard Schultz teaches business leadership
Paul Krugman teaches economics and society
David Axelrod and Karl Rove teach campaign strategy and messaging
Bob Woodward teaches investigative journalism
Dr. Jane Goodall teaches conservation
Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein teach advertising and creativity
Chris Voss teaches the art of negotiation
Doris Kearns Goodwin teaches U.S. presidential history and leadership
Bob Iger teaches business strategy and leadership
Sara Blakely teaches self-made entrepreneurship
Anna Wintour teaches creativity and leadership
Sports & Games
Daniel Negreanu teaches poker
Stephen Curry teaches shooting, ball-handling, and scoring
Serena Williams teaches tennis
Garry Kasparov teaches chess
Misty Copeland teaches ballet technique and artistry
Simone Biles teaches gymnastics fundamentals
Phil Ivey teaches poker strategy
Design, Photography, & Fashion
Will Wright teaches game design and theory
Jimmy Chin teaches adventure photography
Marc Jacobs teaches fashion design
Diane von Furstenberg teaches building a fashion brand
Annie Leibovitz teaches photography
Frank Gehry teaches design and architecture
RuPaul teaches self-expression and authenticity
Bobbi Brown teaches makeup and beauty
Science & Technology
Chris Hadfield teaches space exploration
Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches scientific thinking and communication
How Much Does MasterClass Cost?
This is an important consideration to decide if MasterClass is worth it. For one class, the price is $90. There’s a big incentive to buy a MasterClass All-Access Pass for twice the cost, which is $15/month billed annually, or $180/year.
MasterClass hasn’t offered coupon codes since their early stages in 2015. The best deal we’ve seen is during Black Friday and the holiday season in December, offering a “buy one, give one” perk in 2018 and 2019.
MasterClass does not offer a free trial. At $180 a year, is MasterClass worth it? We’ll share our opinion after we rank our favorite classes and explain why we loved them.
Before you can decide if MasterClass is worth it, worth your $180, you must find classes that you’re excited about.
Our Classes Ranked From Best to “Worst”
With our all-access pass, we made a New Year’s Resolution to watch eight classes. Well, we completed eighteen and watched snippets of a dozen more. Therefore, as you may have guessed, we learned a lot and enjoyed it immensely.
Here’s what we watched, in order of how much we loved each class. Of course, we’re partial to our hobbies and want to clarify that all of the classes were thoughtful, deep, and engaging.
- Dr. Jane Goodall teaches conservation
- Chris Voss teaches the art of negotiation
- Alice Waters teaches the art of home cooking
- David Sedaris teaches storytelling and humor
- Jimmy Chin teaches adventure photography
- Gabriela Camara teaches Mexican cooking
- James Suckling teaches wine appreciation
- Malcolm Gladwell teaches writing
- Bobbi Brown teaches makeup and beauty
- Sara Blakely teaches self-made entrepreneurship
- Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein teach advertising and creativity
- Annie Liebowitz teaches photography
- Doris Kearns Goodwin teaches U.S. presidential history and leadership
- Gordon Ramsey teaches cooking 1
- David Axelrod and Karl Rove teach campaign strategy and messaging
- Judd Apatow teaches comedy
- Howard Schultz teaches business leadership
- Frank Gehry teaches architecture
Our top five teachers, Jane Goodall, Alice Waters, Chris Voss, David Sedaris, and Jimmy Chin, inspired us. They inspired us with a capital I. Next, we’ll share what we loved about their MasterClasses.
Our Top 5 Best MasterClasses
The following are our top five favorite MasterClass teachers. The value we derived from these five classes alone has been priceless. In fact, the negotiation skills we learned through Chris Voss’ MasterClass saved us thousands of dollars within a few months (we had some big purchases).
1. Dr. Jane Goodall Teaches Conservation
“I went to Africa as a scientist. I left the jungle as an activist.”
Having never listened to Jane Goodall speak before, I was immediately mesmerized by her calm, slow voice. I also immediately watched her 2017 documentary, Jane, on Netflix and dressed up as her for Halloween (for real, I even pinned a chimpanzee balloon to my khaki shirt).
Jane shares her conservation efforts around Gombe Stream National Park and how her activism has changed in recent years. She has immense understanding and empathy and is so creative in how she opens communication between groups. She is an incredibly strong and inspiring woman.
The biggest epiphany for Ryan happened one night at dinner. While usually vegetarian, we went out to a fancy steakhouse, so he decided to indulge in a sirloin. It came out, tough and overdone.
Ryan turned to me and said, “I feel bad that an animal had to die for this. It’s not a good meal, and it wasn’t worth it.” After watching Jane Goodall that day, I knew what he meant, and he would have never said this before.
Overall, Jane Goodall’s MasterClass watched like a 30 lesson TedTalk but was fascinating from start to finish. This was one of the longer classes we watched, and it didn’t just inspire us, it made us think (and feel ashamed, sometimes).
A “WWJD” (“what would Jane do”) phrase starting springing up at home, since she shared ways that we can change to help the earth, every day. We highly recommend this MasterClass. It’s worth it for everyone.
We weren’t particularly knowledgable or interested in conservation, but we want to be good humans and try to be environmentally friendly. Jane talks about farming, transportation, medicine and drug testing on animals, and sustainability.
She also turns ideas on its head about how to communicate between warring groups and understanding motivations. In our year-in-review, Jane’s MasterClass was our favorite. Followed by an extremely close second.
2. Chris Voss Teaches the Art of Negotiation
“Your life could be in a completely different place just by improving how you negotiate.”
This class watched like a thriller, showing clips of Chris, who was a former FBI negotiator, as he bargained with bank robbers, gunmen, and even the Sunni insurgents who had kidnapped American journalist, Jill Carrol, in Iraq.
Chris Voss talks you through, step-by-step, how he negotiated with the captors, and it was ground-breaking for us. He never asks “why” (people get defensive) but only asks “what” and “how” we all got into this situation.
He shares how he uses a “late-night FM DJ voice” to keep everyone calm while using his inflections strategically. Chris also tells you when to play your trump card, and how to use that to get what you want, whether it’s a promotion, salary increase, or that used bike off Craigslist for $50.
His is a show that I want to rewatch, again and again, and I’ve got his book, Never Split the Difference, queued up on my Kindle.
We’ll give you a freebie: this is Chris’s price negotiation schedule.
Establish the target price that you want to pay.
Offer #1: Very apologetically offer 65% of the target price that you want to pay. Make them know in advance that you’re embarrassed even to tell them.
Rejected? Hem and haw and write numbers down on a piece of paper.
Offer #2: Add 20% of the target price you want to pay to Offer #1.
Rejected? Moan and groan, and calculate more numbers.
Offer #3: Add 10% of the target price you want to pay to Offer #2.
Rejected? Wring your hair and make a phone call.
Offer #4: Add 5% of the target price you want to pay to Offer #3. This should now equal your target price.
Rejected? Continue employing tactical empathy, as each price increase is a real burden.
Final Offer: Finish with an odd number, like you’ve counted every last penny to make it to $97.33. Throw in a non-monetary item to show how you’re utilizing all your resources.
In summary, Chris Voss’s MasterClass is definitely worth it! He predicts that everyone is in 4-7 negotiations a day. Turn these into collaborations and you’ll not only get to a better outcome but learn to increase your emotional intelligence along the way.
3. Alice Waters Teaches the Art of Home Cooking
“You can never think about food in the way you may have thought about it in the past. It’s how to use every part of an ingredient very, very simply.”
Despite her frail, soft-spoken voice, her words rang loud and true with us! Mother of the ‘farm to table’ movement, Alice described food and cooking like it was a romance novel. And we were all in.
When Alice goes to the farmer’s market, she picks whatever is freshest. Then, after placing all of her goodies on the table—from rhubarbs to rutabagas to all of the other delights that one can pick up at the Berkeley farmer’s market—she thoughtfully groups them into meals.
We resonated with Alice’s way of simple cooking by focusing on the flavors of in-season, locally-grown, organic vegetables. She uses her hands more than any other utensil, adds some oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper… Voila! It was almost sensual. She was like a real-life Juliette Binoche from the movie Chocolat.
For Ryan, his favorite portion Alice Waters’ MasterClass, which included shopping tips and recipes, was her conversations and activism programs teaching children where real food comes from. Bravo!
In summary, we found this to be a well-balanced and insightful class. It didn’t watch like a cooking show. Yes, there were recipes shown, step-by-step, but Alice shared practical tips on the equipment she uses, how she selects food, why it’s essential to talk to your farmers, and all while covering cooking and handling techniques.
This MasterClass is definitely worth it for a beginner to a budding restauranteur. She covers it all.
Ryan and I are currently writing our first cookbook with the help of a friend, who is a professional chef. We learned so much from Alice Waters, and plan to keep it very simple but with incredible flavor.
4. David Sedaris Teaches Storytelling and Humor
“The danger is writing something that just stops instead of something that ends.”
I’ve been a fan of David Sedaris’ books and essays for years, and his MasterClass didn’t disappoint. Outside of his hilarious personality, he shares real-talk on what it’s like to write about people – people you know and people you don’t know. He also reminds you that it’s an everyday process. He wrote every day for 15 years before he published his first book.
Ryan’s favorite portion is when he reminds us that boring questions give boring answers. David hates nothing more than checking into a hotel and having the receptionist ask how his flight was. Blah, blah, yawn.
So instead, David only asks good questions: “Do you children shower?” ‘Who is the drunkest customer that you’ve had today?” “When was the last time you touched a monkey?”
Laugh-out-loud classes contained his insight into why you should write and heads into his personal stories and regrets. Don’t hold back, David for sure doesn’t.
David Sedaris’ MasterClass was worth it, and it was one I loved watching with a glass of wine, or temptation bundling while washing the dishes. If you’re a professional comedy writer, this might be too high level for you.
However, everyone should watch this one. Not only is his life stories hilarious, but it also makes you think of the incidences in your life that genuinely are freaking funny and appreciate them in a new light.
5. Jimmy Chin Teaches Adventure Photography
“Set the bar higher. What are you willing to do to get there?”
Okay, I knew of Jimmy Chin before MasterClass, but WOW. He is a badass.
Incredibly inspirational, Jimmy’s life has revolved around photography, and he has put everything on the line to get there. As outdoorsy types, we were immediately drawn to his class, his work, his documentaries “Meru” and “Free Solo.”
Like the spectacular superhumans he captures on film, I found his discussion of preparation, technical shooting, and climbing to be just as impressive.
Outside of being in awe, his down to earth discussions about photography, from framing to selecting photos to even how he edits in Adobe Lightroom, to be incredibly helpful. Hopefully, our small place on the world wide web and Instagram reflects the things we’ve learned from Jimmy!
In addition to Jimmy Chin’s MasterClass, I took the only other available photography course by Annie Leibovitz. Her course was well structured, even with homework assignments, but I found it to be more for professionals instead of an amateur like me.
Many of Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass topics went over my head while I was able to follow along better and act on Jimmy Chin’s lessons.
So, Is MasterClass Worth It?
Yes… and no. Clearly, we are huge fans. However, if you only plan to purchase one class for $90, MasterClass might not be worth it. If you buy MasterClass, I highly recommend only the All-Access Class Pass.
Why? With each instructor, you never quite know to which level they are teaching the class. If you’re only buying one course and putting all of your eggs into one basket, you could come out disappointed.
We’ve read reviews from many professional writers being disappointed because the course was too much on the business side, or the creative side, or the technical side (by the way, we’ve heard from friends that Dan Brown’s MasterClass is the best writing course).
All sides are good, but, to ensure that MasterClass is worth it, you need to figure out what you want out of the class beforehand.
Instead, if you have an unlimited All-Access Class Pass, you’re chances of learning what you want to are higher, and you’ll be more satisfied. It also gives you a license to try classes that you would never have usually (like Penn & Teller’s magic course), and you’ll enrich your life in new ways.
For some of the business classes, Ryan and I loved sitting down and going through each lesson, step-by-step (particularly with the Sara Blakely MasterClass). For others, we just listened to them for enjoyment while driving, cooking, or gardening.
In this sense, they replaced our usual Netflix and podcast time, while being far more productive, inspirational, and instructive.
When it came to the eleventh month of our yearly subscription, we felt the pressure to watch more and make the most of it! Therefore, I was literally watching a MasterClass every time I cooked, and even showered!
Another feature I love that is only available with the All-Access Class Pass is the MasterClass Quicklists. For example, there was one for eggs, yes, just eggs. It was compiled a half dozen lessons from different instructors.
Alice Waters taught me how to cook an egg in a spoon. Thomas Keller showed me how to prepare the ultimate omelet. Gordon Ramsay demonstrated his out-of-this-world, elevated scrambled eggs with truffles. Wolfgang Puck showed how to use eggs in cocktails.
The MasterClass Quicklists are a fun way to explore one topic while previewing different instructors to see who you resonate with most. There are Quicklists on business practices, harnessing creativity, and pitching your ideas.
MasterClass Review: Pros and Cons
For $180/year, the all-access class pass is a steal. While we are firm believers that MasterClass is worth the money, there is always room for improvement. These are the pros and cons based on our experience.
The Cons and Things We Didn’t Like
– Sometimes the app on my iPad (albeit, my seven-year-old iPad) would freeze when downloading my lessons for offline use.
– It’s a pro and a con, but Ryan and I shared the same membership. Unlike with Netflix, which offers multiple profiles when multiple people use it, when we were watching the same MasterClass separately, it was hard to remember our spots.
– Before the class, it’s tricky to know exactly how advanced or niche the course is. For example, as amateur photographers, we could follow Jimmy Chin’s advice immediately, but Annie Leibovitz’s went over our heads. The good news is, though, you can preview the lesson titles in advance, which will give you an idea of how advanced they are.
– There are no free trials of MasterClass, but introductions and previews of the courses are available on their page and YouTube channel.
The Pros and Things We Loved
– Several of the courses we watched were truly inspirational and life-changing. After listening to Jane Goodall’s MasterClass, we won’t think about Mother Earth the same way. For real.
– MasterClass is an excellent replacement for those of us who watch too much Netflix. What’s more, is it’s about the same price. So why not instead listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson or Anna Wintour?
– A few of the MasterClasses that we watched had two instructors, and it was really cool to see their dynamic, particularly with David Axelrod (Democrat) and Karl Rove (Republican) in their MasterClass, campaign strategy and messaging. It’s something that you never see, and I loved how they debated and disagreed.
– Each course comes with a workbook, and I’ve referred back to several of them, over and over again. I looked at Chris Voss’ yesterday to see his steps on negotiating a price. I also keep Alice Water’s oatmeal pancake and Gabriela Camara’s salsa verde recipes on file.
Additionally, the workbooks are all saved on my laptop and are text searchable. So that one time I was at Ryan’s cabin without wifi, I was able to find Thomas Keller’s recipe on butter-poached lobster tails. Thank you, TK!
– MasterClass is especially worth it because it’s growing rapidly! Therefore, new courses come out monthly. In our final month’s subscription, Gabriela Camara’s Mexican cooking class came out, and we watched every day to fit it in before our subscription expired!
So is MasterClass worth it?
Yes, it’s absolutely worth your investment. And after reading our MasterClass review we hope you see how it will benefit and enhance your life. We got so much out of it in our first year.
When making your own decision, consider if there are 3-5 classes that you want to watch immediately that could help you in your life and work.
If yes, then the All-Access Class Pass will not be a let down. From there, give yourself permission to listen to some fun classes (Carlos Santana and guitar playing, anyone?) in your spare time.
For Ryan and I, we aren’t renewing yet, but plan to do so in the future. After watching eighteen classes, we’ve exhausted the list where we could grow professionally. So, we’re waiting for 3-5 new classes that pique our interest to start up again for round 2.
Overall, we had a great experience with MasterClass and think it’s an unusual but thoughtful gift idea, for yourself or a loved one. Plus, after watching Chris Voss’ MasterClass on negotiation, we already paid for the membership many times over!
Do you think MasterClass is worth it?
Let us know in the comments below. If you have constructive opinions on MasterClass, or your own class recommendations, post them in the comments.
I Have Questions. What Do I Do?
Ask away in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible and we’ll add them to this article accordingly.
Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your comment!
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