The 18 Best Educational Podcasts: Just Click Play to Learn

Young smiling woman using smartphone and headphones listening to educational podcast while sitting on couch

Listening to educational podcasts is like going to school but without setting foot in a classroom or getting beaten up in a single bathroom. But with an estimated 2 million different podcasts out there, it can be hard to find shows that are well-researched and entertaining, with informed, charismatic hosts who know how to engage you as a listener and teach you something at the same time.

But they’re out there: a wide range of informative podcasts to help you become the most interesting person at your next happy hour. Our top 18 picks span a number of topics so you can find something new and enticing to listen to.

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18 great educational podcasts

99% Invisible

People often overlook the buildings and infrastructure that they pass by every day. 99% Invisible is a podcast hosted by Roman Mars that does a deep dive exploration of design and architecture that often goes unnoticed, like self-assembled homes sold by Sears in the first half of the 20th century and how simple sand factors into construction. The podcast pairs rich production with reports and interviews covering interesting topics like the future of covered pedestrian bridges throughout Minnesota’s Twin Cities or discovering the history of highway signage.

Genre: History / Arts and Culture

Listen on:  Stitcher / Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Pandora / Radio Public

Code Switch

Code Switch is an NPR podcast that focuses on race and the role it plays in art, music, daily life, and politics. While it certainly covers serious topics, its aim is to show empathy and humor so that a heartfelt discussion can take place. Recent episodes include a deep dive on people falsely claiming to be Native American, what it's like to be an African American with albinism, how race affects the perception of beauty, and the effect of the 90s Latin pop explosion on the Latin community.    

Genre: Current events

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / NPR One 


Unlike other true crime podcasts, Criminal, hosted by Phoebe Judge, goes beyond murders to investigate other types of (often obscure) crimes, such as a mysterious ring of Venus flytrap poachers in rural North Carolina, identity thieves who go unnoticed as someone else for decades, and cadaver “body farms” where forensic anthropologists study how bodies naturally decompose in the outdoors. 

Genre: True Crime

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Amazon Podcasts / Google Podcasts

Encyclopedia Womanica

Women in history are noticeably absent in most textbooks. Wonder Media Network’s Encyclopedia Womanica  fills in those gaps with a five-minute daily podcast devoted to highlighting remarkable women. Each season focuses on a distinct theme, like indigenous women, troublemakers, and educators. Recent episodes highlight the lives of women as different as suffragist Mary Edwards Walker and R&B artist Aaliyah. Womanica is designed for students and includes free lesson plans for teachers to use in the classroom, but anyone can enjoy this bite-sized podcast. 

Genre: History

Listen on: Stitcher / Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Amazon Music

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

You may know Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye or Gay of Thrones, but even if you don't, this variety podcast is another great option for listeners wanting to be 'edutained' on a wide variety of topics. Getting Curious revolves around the completely random, and has recently featured such eclectic topics as the true severity and threat of volcanoes, the physics of ice skating, and what it's like to be an ex-nun. The podcast is a discussion between Van Ness and his guests with no real structure to the episodes other than Van Ness’s own curiosity and frequent questioning. 

Genre: Current events / Arts and culture

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Earwolf

Hardcore History

Hardcore History, hosted by Dan Carlin, is the top-ranked history podcast. Rather than telling history as a series of dry facts, Carlin uses radio drama story-telling style to engage and immerse listeners in the historical events. This isn’t a podcast you’ll finish in a single gym session, however, as each episode ranges from around four to six hours, making it more like an audio history book than a bite-sized podcast. Carlin often creates a series of podcasts episodes devoted to a certain period of time, so you get a truly in-depth understanding of historical events. “Blueprint for Armageddon,” for instance, is a set of six episodes outlining the key events of World War I. 

Genre: Historical events

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

Hidden Brain

The Hidden Brain podcast focuses on human behavior, with the ultimate goal of helping listeners lead a happier life. Topics range from maximizing joy to how efforts to categorize people’s personality types leads to bias in the workplace. Host Shankar Vedantam is a former journalist who previously worked at NPR and The Washington Post. His journalism background is evident as he interviews both experts and everyday people to apply each topic to examples rooted in real-life stories. 

Genre: Self-improvement, Science and Technology

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / Stitcher / Amazon Music


Similar to a true crime show, Lore is a story-telling podcast that examines the true histories behind folk tales. The podcast explores the origins of local ghost stories (such as a tragic tunnel collapse in Massachusetts) to global myths like vampires. The podcast invokes the feeling of sitting around a campfire and listening to host Aaron Mahnke spin a creepy tale; some are familiar while others are less widely known. Lore is so popular that there is also a television show on Amazon Prime and a book series.

Genre: Historical events

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Podcasts / Pandora / iHeartRadio

Maintenance Phase

Maintenance Phase is a health podcast that debunks cultural myths surrounding wellness and weight loss. From reviewing diet books to breaking down the latest healthy eating fads, podcast hosts and journalists Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes reveal the science behind nutrition advice to find what’s true and what’s just hype. Episodes last between 45 minutes and an hour where the two hosts discuss weight-related topics outside of a marketing lens, with the goal of demystifying the “wellness-industrial complex.” 

Genre: Self-improvement

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Podcasts 

Making Gay History

Host Eric Marcus uses archival interviews to educate listeners about the LGBTQ civil rights movement in Making Gay History. Many of the episodes don't center on household names, since most of the central figures within the LGBTQ movement (both past and present) have been ignored by history. The podcast seeks to shine a light on the uncelebrated figures who worked hard to push society forward. For example, season one largely revolves around the Stonewall Uprising in New York, but also has standout episodes that expand upon the theme of the show, such as episode 4's look at Dr. Evelyn Hooker's pivotal study that concluded homosexuality was not a mental illness. 

Genre: Historical events

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Podcasts / NPR One / Overcast / Pocket Casts / RadioPublic / TuneIn

Our Body Politic

Farai Chideya hosts this show about how women of color experience and view political events in today's world. Shows run the entire gamut of current events, and center around in-depth conversations between Chideya and her guests. Recent popular episodes include vaccine discrepancies between different parts of the U.S., Hispanic Republicans, and anti-trans legislation. New episodes debut every Friday and are around 50 minutes long. 

Genre: Current events 

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / iHeartRadio

Revisionist History

Hosted by Malcolm Gladwell, Revisionist History focuses on specific moments in time and takes a second look to see if today’s narrative actually reflects the events of the past. In true Gladwell-style, however, the real story isn’t just about the actual event, but takes a broader approach on what these interpretations say about modern culture. For instance, an episode about journalist Brian Williams’ misrepresentation of his on-the-ground war reporting in Iraq is actually a deeper look into what is a lie and how time impacts our memory. 

Genre: History / Arts and Culture

Listen on: Stitcher / Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Overcast

Song Exploder

Hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway, the podcast features musical guests who break down the creative process behind a specific song. In the musician’s own words, they’ll talk about what was happening in their personal lives during that time, and break down how each chord and beat came together in the song. For example, artist Solange broke down each drum beat, string chord, bass line, and vocal sample plus the lyrics of her song “Cranes in the Sky,” explaining how she wrote and produced the song in detail. Other popular guests include Billie Eilish, Bon Iver, The Roots, and hundreds more. John Lennon’s estate even reached out to provide Song Exploder with audio files to cover the process behind his solo album God. 

Genre: Arts and Culture

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Amazon Podcasts / Google Podcasts / Pandora / iHeartRadio / Radio Public

TED Talks

The TED podcasts stem from the annual TED Conference that centers around technology, entertainment, and design (hence, TED). TED Talks are a hallmark of the conference, featuring innovative speakers and ideas. Now there are several TED podcasts, including shows about current events (After Hours with a roundtable of hosts from Harvard Business School), climate (TED Climate with Dan Kwartler), health (Body Stuff With Dr. Jen Gunter), design (Design Matters With Debbie Millman), business (TED Business hosted by Modupe Akinola), and more. Like the hallmark conferences, each podcast highlights the world’s major thought leaders in their given disciplines.

Genre: Arts and Culture, Self-improvement, Science and Technology, Careers and Side Hustles

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher

This American Life

This American Life is a Pulitzer Prize-winning public radio show hosted by Ira Glass that started in 1995, well before podcasts were even a thing. Each episode revolves around a theme and takes a distinctly story-telling approach to journalism. Topics often reflect what’s happening in society today, while doing deep-dive interviews with individuals on a very micro-level. One of its most celebrated episodes, “ Harper High School,” discusses gun violence in the U.S. But Glass and his team got to the heart of the matter using emotional interviews with students and educators to show how gun violence affects the everyday lives of students at the Chicago high school. This American Life is widely credited with influencing today’s most successful podcasts, both in format and production style. 

Genre: Arts and Culture

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / Radio Public / Pandora / Pocket Casts


NPR’s Throughline is a podcast that covers current events but through a historical lens, so listeners can understand the full context of the headlines they see in the news. One recent episode explores Vladimir Putin’s life and rise to power in Russia, from KGB agent to one of the most powerful people in the world, in an effort to understand his current motivations and style of leadership. Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei host, using historic audio clips and modern-day interviews to bring an immersive story-telling approach to each episode. 

Genre: Historical events

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / NPR One

Unexplainable Podcast

Unexplainable is a weekly podcast from Vox that aims to uncover interesting, unanswered questions in the science world. It features host Noam Hassenfeld and rotating guests of scientists and fellow Vox reporters. Recent episodes explore ancient human remains found at a Himalayan lake, scientists that are working to harness fusion power, and the puzzle of missing ocean plastic. Unexplainable is ideal for listeners who love to explore the world’s most challenging scientific mysteries.

Genre: Science and Technology

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Podcasts / TuneIn / Megaphone

You’re Wrong About

Sarah Marshall, host of You're Wrong About, takes a look at past events in history that have largely been misinterpreted or remembered wrong. If you're looking for a theme-driven show, you may want to move on; the topics are eclectic and tend to jump around history. For example, in the latest season, recent podcasts include an intimate look at Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch, the Amityville Horror, and the life and times of Televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.  

Genre: Historical events

Listen on: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher 

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