If you’re anywhere near IT or software development, you’ve probably heard of Pluralsight. And if you’re here, you’re likely asking: is Pluralsight worth it? Is it worth the cost of a subscription, not to mention the time you’re going to put into the courses?
The short answer is: yes, Pluralsight is worth it.
Of course, how useful you’ll find the service depends a lot on your situation and learning preferences. But let’s start by setting the stage and understanding why you would consider Pluralsight.
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Back when I went to college, there was a story I heard from my parents and my teachers. Maybe it’s story you heard too.
Go to class, get good grades, then get a good job and grind out your time. Maybe you’ll have to network a little, pick up some things here and there, but you’ll be mostly set.
And that story was kinda right. I began my career as an English teacher, and stayed in for a surprisingly long stint. Not too much changed in the education world, so I assumed I could bet content in my skill level. But I definitely felt like my college education hadn’t adequately prepared me for the job.
After too many years of low pay and next-to-no-respect, I went back to school to become a web developer. I blitzed through a community college degree and landed a great job.
But I guess that old story was buzzing around in my head, because I was surprised by something:
I learned more in my first two weeks on the job than I learned in the entirety of my two-year degree.
The thing is, I shouldn’t have been surprised, and I’m here to tell you not to be surprised by it either.
The technology world moves fast. It’s going to be up to you to keep your education going.
My current employer happens to be very supportive of my ongoing development. If there’s something I want to research and analyze, I’m given the time to do it. But I’ve heard from many people whose employers treat knowledge and experience like something that just falls out of the sky. You’re expected to use your own time to get up to speed, and you had better keep up-to-date.
Either that, or your employer is very resistant to change. There are deadlines to meet, and we’re going to use the old programming methods that work, even if they’re outdated.
This is fine for your current workplace, but what about the next one? Better start those side-projects on the weekend.
The old story about knowledge being doled out? Like your head is a bucket and someone’s going to come along and fill it with everything you need? It’s just not true.
What does this mean? You need to be in charge of your learning. No college or workplace is going to hand it to you.
The IT professionals who ignore this will be left behind, underskilled and underpaid.
You may be in charge of your own education, but you certainly don’t have to be alone in your journey. In response to the changing needs of IT professionals, there are many eLearning platforms to serve you.
Not all are created equal, of course. When you’re looking for a platform to spend your time and hard-earned money on, here are the qualities I think you should consider:
- Educational Quality of the Courses. This one should be pretty obvious: the course needs to teach you things you want to learn, in a way that’s paced well so you don’t get lost or bored.
- Expertise of the Instructors. A lot of people just don’t know what they’re doing, but they are great at acting like they know something. Other people have a great amount of knowledge, but don’t know how to teach others. You need someone with a balance of content knowledge and educational skills to teach online courses.
- High Cost-to-Value Ratio. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend a little more to get something of higher value. Sure, you can mess around with low or no cost options, but what if those courses are more confusing and more time-consuming than affordable paid platforms? It’s hard to find the sweet spot of cost to value, for sure. But sometimes low monetary cost can actually end up costing you more, in time and frustration, than a paid product. On the reverse side, a more expensive product doesn’t necessary mean a better product.
So now that we have our criteria in order, let’s evaluate Pluralsight and see how it stacks up.
Pluralsight has a generally positive reputation online from those who have taken their courses. Here’s a sample of experiences from social media:
“The pluralsight tutorials are all very high quality and easy to follow.” - nylan1, /r/learnprogramming
“I’m a big fan of Pluralsight, and a member since 2010. Courses by Shawn Wildermuth, Scott Allen, Gill Cleeren are good. It costs money but it’s worth it.” – jamesallen74, /r/dotnet
“I love Pluralsight for C#. I took a 15 week boot camp and felt my knowledge was very lacking. Pluralsight really filled in the gaps.” – 16080459, /r/csharp
“I’ve used it, I like it, learned what I wanted to learn there. The tutorials are great.” - GItPirate, /r/learnprogramming
Many people have used Pluralsight to fill in gaps in their knowledge and land better jobs, like this user:
“I use PluralSight to re-learn my web dev skills at work and at home, ended up landing a Junior Dev role out of it at a different company.” - Booyahho, /r/webdev
The breadth of Pluralsight’s course offerings is very wide. Let’s imagine that you wanted to become an ASP.NET Web Developer.
Follow that up with the ASP.NET MVC courses (11 of them), and some of the C# classes if you don’t feel comfortable enough with the language.
That ought to be enough to get you started, but then you could take the dozens of .NET Core classes to get up-to-date on the latest version of the framework.
Want to add web scraping to your project? Take a few Python and Selenium courses.
Did you get that far and feel like your SQL skills aren’t great because you’ve been relying too much on Entity Framework? Take some SQL classes.
The biggest advantage of a platform like Pluralsight is that you can jump from topic to topic as your learning requirements evolve. There’s no need to vet out the different classes and different instructors. It’s all included in your monthly subscription, and you don’t need to worry about the cognitive load of too many choices.
Here are just some of the course pathways you can take on Pluralsight:
- After Effects CC
- ASP.NET MVC
- Cisco CCNA
- Core Spring
- Ethical Hacking
- Game Environment Modeling
- Graphic Design
- Managing Containers with Docker
- Microsoft Azure
- Security Fundamentals
- Unity Game Dev
- Windows Server Management
I hope you can see my point: Pluralsight has a lot of variety in its technical course offerings.
Pluralsight vets its instructors and its courses. If you want to become an instructor, you’ll have to go through a lengthy interview process to demonstrate expertise and knowledge. Once you become an instructor, you can’t just make any course you want. Pluralsight won’t let allow development of duplicate courses.
Unlike other platforms that are open marketplaces, Pluralsight’s instructors include industry professionals and Microsoft MVPs like Scott Allen and Shawn Wildermuth. There’s a level of expertise here that you won’t necessary find elsewhere.
This means you won’t have to choose between 500 different “Intro to HTML courses.” There’s just one HTML track that Pluralsight has determined to be the best for its students.
Pluralsight instructors are also very supported by the site. This is in contrast to places like Udemy, which is more of marketplace without any course vetting. Doru Catana, Pluralsight author, explains that Pluralsight holds monthly calls with instructors and is supported by a “three man team” [source].
If you’re dropping your hard-earned money on a subscription, you want to make sure that the instructors are knowledgeable, and Pluralsight does what it can to ensure that.
Paying for an education in technology isn’t like saving up for a vacation, or putting money into a hobby. You’re investing in your career.
You’re investing in you.
So you’ll want to keep that in mind when you start thinking about where to invest your money and time.
I like to think of it like a scale. On one side, you have free tutorials and YouTube videos. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that free tools are better than nothing. But there’s a huge downside to free educational resources.
I’m sure you can think of a few yourself, if you’ve done any internet sleuthing.
It takes a lot of time to find good free resources. You’re going to have to sift through a lot of bad resources before getting to the good stuff. Tutorials are often confusing, or incomplete, and you’ll find yourself struggling more than you need to.
On the other end of the scale are professional programs, like coding bootcamps or college degrees. The main problem here is the cost. You may learn a lot by going back to college, but are you really going to get a good value out of your tuition?
I’ll give you an example: me. I’ve got a two-year degree in a technology field, but with almost five years professional experience as a web developer. If I were to go back and get my Bachelor’s degree from a reputable state school, I’d be looking at around $50,000.
That just doesn’t make sense to me. If I were younger, and just trying to break into the field, and (especially) I had a scholarship, then college might be a viable option. But paying 50K for continuing education? I’m just not sold.
With that in mind, Pluralsight provides a generous compromise between free tools (that are often frustrating) and professional programs (with prohibitively costly price tags).
Pluralsight, with its qualified instructors and quality curated videos, is only going to set you back $35 a month.
Compared to a college education, that’s a bargain if I’ve ever heard one.
That’s only $35 / month to keep your skills up-to-date, keep you competitive, and save you tons of time in the long run.
Better still, if you pay by the year, it’s even less: $25 a month.
Seriously, if you’re already employed in the technology field, it’s not that hard to find $25 a month. Most of you reading this probably have $25 a month that you’re just wasting anyway.
But if you’re still not sold, Pluralsight even has a ten-day free trial. If you’re serious about advancing your tech career, do yourself a favor and, at the very least, check it out.
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Pluralsight’s format is mostly video tutorials. While they do offer interactive content, not all courses have this.
If you look at the list of interactive courses, you’ll notice that the list is far shorter than the rest of Pluralsight’s offerings. For instance, there are only two ASP.NET Core interactive courses offered.
Other platforms, like Treehouse, offer quizzes and explicit exercises at the end of lessons.
While I hope that Pluralsight grows these offerings over time, for now we’re stuck with what we have.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t learn very well by just following along with a video, you may find this format lacking.
Also, if you work through course material more slowly (and I mean really slowly), you might save some money by buying individual courses from a platform like Udemy. However, if you’re serious about advancing your career and your education, you’ll want to be going at clip that’s faster than that anyway. In today’s climate, you’re going to be competing against people who do put in the time.
Not every teaching style will be to your liking, since Pluralsight draws from a wide variety of talent. For every person who complains about an instructor moving too quickly, someone else is going to say that the instructor’s voice put them to sleep. Frankly, you’re going to be hard pressed to get away from this issue.
As Pluralsight has many different courses taught by many different instructors, sometimes the course isn’t going to gel with your personal preferences. Depending on the course and subject matter, you might find it “dry and boring.”
Also, depending on the material, some of the courses may be slightly out-of-date. The C# fundamentals course, for instance, uses Visual Studio 2015 instead of 2017 (the latest version as of this writing). In that case, there aren’t so many differences in C# between the two that the problem is insurmountable. And, in any case, it’s almost impossible for a platform to stay on top of every technological innovation and re-create every course every six months or so.
On the other hand, having outdated material does present a genuine frustration, especially in the technology space where things move so fast. You might end up with the experience of this Reddit user:
”[I] had to learn typescript and the pluralsight vid that [I] selected ended up being several versions behind what we actually needed to use.” - 0x1123A, /r/learnpython
William McCollum, however, had the opposite experience and had this to say:
”[Pluralsight] keeps 99% of of their content relevant with the latest standard’s and archives older courses. Other platforms such as Udemy, Lynda, Treehouse etc don’t focus much on updating their content and try to sell you courses that [were] created in 2012.” - William McCollum
For what it’s worth, if you’re considering Pluralsight, I would use your 10-day free trial to evaluate the technology stack you’re interested in. If it’s too far behind what you need, you may want to check out one of its competitors.
If you’ve completed watching all of the videos for a course, you can get a certificate of completion for it.
Certificates are only offered for video courses, not for projects or for interactive courses.
On the plus side, these certificates can count towards the CompTIA continuing education credits, or towards PMP’s professional development units. If you’re interested in these certificates, you’re in luck.
But if you’re a web developer, like me, these certificates don’t really mean anything. A list of videos you watched isn’t going to look great on a resume.
The value in Pluralsight is the knowledge you gain from the courses. You could certainly take that knowledge and build side projects, and that would impress future employers. The certificate itself isn’t going to do much.
The other big player that you’ve probably already heard about (due to a monstrous advertising campaign) is Udemy. Udemy charges students per course instead of paying a monthly subscription, like Pluralsight.
If you have very little spare time, or you want to work through the courses more slowly, Udemy might end up being cheaper in the long run.
However, as I’ve pointed out already, this can put you at a disadvantage. Let’s say you’re in one class, but you think it’d be helpful to brush up on a different, but related topic. You might end up actually paying more than Pluralsight once you factor in how many courses you’ll need to purchase. This is greatly dependent on your needs, schedule, and budget.
Udemy’s courses aren’t bad, by any means. I’ve paid for a few courses there in the past and really liked them. You just have to do your research and carefully read the reviews. Pay particular attention to the date that the course was last updated.
But you will have to spend extra time vetting courses. What I really don’t like about Udemy is the inconsistency in teaching quality. While there is some quality control in terms of video and sound quality, just about anyone can put up a course about anything. For example, there are currently 466 HTML courses on Udemy. I guarantee you don’t need four hundred HTML classes, and most of those are going to be average to sub-par.
Reddit user ToMissTheMarc2 put it this way: “In the beginning, I tried Udemy but I felt like some of them had no clue what they were talking about… they were just people who read other sites to make a course. On the other side, some of the instructors on Pluralsight are straight from Microsoft and have even written well known programming books for publishers like Wrox and Apress.” [source]
Treehouse is another popular online platform. I’m actually very impressed by their course quality and site layout. It’s also the same price as Pluralsight, at $25 a month.
If push came to shove, I’d say give Pluralsight a try first. If you’re finding it too heavy (which I think you won’t), switch to Treehouse for a month or two and come back to Pluralsight when you’re more comfortable.
Like Pluralsight, Treehouse has a free trial, but for seven days instead of ten.
Despite its few flaws, Pluralsight is still the technology learning platform that I recommend to professionals who are serious about advancing their careers. With today’s pressures and competition, you owe it to yourself to gain an advantage. Signing up is easy, and finding a course path in your area of interest is a breeze.
These days, no one is going to help you more than you can help yourself. With Pluralsight’s varied content, competent instructors, and low cost, it’s an easy recommendation. Click on the link below to start your 10-day free trial.
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