How to Convince Your Employer to Pay for School

Just because your company handbook doesn't mention tuition reimbursement doesn't mean your company won't cover some of your education.

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Andrew G. Rosen
Many employers are willing to pay to advance your education. Taking classes while working full time can be a tall order, but the best companies want their workers to thrive, grow, and feel challenged.

Just because your company handbook makes no mention of tuition reimbursement doesn’t mean your boss won’t pay to send you back to school.

Increase the odds of attending a (virtual) graduation ceremony on the company’s dime by being able to answer these seven questions:

[See 15 Ways Good Bosses Keep Their Best Employees.]

What’s in it for your employer? You already know what you’ll gain by advancing your education, but your strongest case is showing the employer what’s in it for them—specifically, what’s in it for your direct supervisor. Since this person will need to seek approval, you’ll need to get him on board by outlining what he’ll gain from helping your continue your education.

What concerns will your boss have? Most companies will be concerned that you’ll use them to pay for your education and then take your knowledge elsewhere. Of course, reverse-vesting policies are in place to prevent this from happening. You’ll likely be responsible for a portion or even all of the money the company spent on your education should you leave within a certain time frame. Regardless, you need to convince your boss that this is potentially your last stop on the career train. Additionally, you’ll have to quell your boss’s fears that your education will distract you from your day-to-day work. Be sure to reiterate that you have plenty of time at night and on weekends to do the necessary coursework.

How do the classes relate to your current position? Many employees want to take classes to put a career transition into motion. Meanwhile, the employer will scrutinize the course load to ensure that it relates to your current job, or the position where they see you moving. To give yourself the best chance of getting reimbursed, be sure you know how to tie the class to your current job description.

[See What Workers Want in an Employer.]

How well do you know your employer? Oftentimes, achieving success when asking your employer for something comes down to timing. You want to know (to the best of your ability) the economic shape of the company. It’s also useful to know whether a precedent has been set; have previous employees received tuition reimbursement? This information will help you construct a bulletproof case.

Is extra education really the answer? Hiding in the comfort of academia has been a tactic employed by career slackers since the beginning of time. Does your line of work call for an advanced degree or certificate program? Greater education opens doors, but depending on your career, you might be better served in other ways, such as internships, freelance gigs, or volunteer work.

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Are you sure you’ll have enough time to succeed? Being honest with ourselves is not always as easy as it sounds. Do a self-inventory and be sure that you truly have the time and desire to pursue additional education while working full-time. Don’t underestimate the time commitment—it’s a lot of work!

How well do you know the school? Everyone and their mother seem to be offering classes these days. You might be forced to sell the institution to your employer, especially if it’s not a brick-and-mortar operation. You should know how long has the school been in business, where some of their graduates work, and whether they’re affiliated with any well-known organizations.

Never be afraid to ask your employer to further your education; the worst answer you'll hear is no. Good luck!

Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of Jobacle.com, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job.