Are you ready to take your career to the next level with a graduate degree? Not only can earning an advanced degree bring you more fulfillment and a higher salary, but it can also greatly sharpen your skill set, giving you the ability to take on more complex projects and become a more productive employee.
But, while a master’s degree sounds nice, can you afford it? Going to grad school isn’t cheap — and that’s why many grad students get their bosses to cover those tuition bills. Paying for your master’s degree is a steal compared to the cost of finding, recruiting and training a new employee who already has one. But to get your company to pay for your degree, you’ll have to convince your boss and your HR manager that your proposed degree program is worth the investment.
Know What Degree You Want — And Why You Want It
Before you approach your boss about tuition reimbursement, research schools, degrees and courses. Decide what degree you want and what your career plan is post-degree. If you can explain why you think a particular course of study will benefit your career, you’ll have a much better chance of getting your employer to foot the bill.
You should also get a clear idea of what earning a degree will involve and not just in terms of coursework. It could take up to a year to prepare a master’s degree application. You’ll need to take the GRE or GMAT, write a personal statement, collect references and perhaps even put together a portfolio of your previous work. When you meet with your employer to discuss tuition reimbursement, you’ll want to give them a clear timeline for admission into the program, so they know what to expect.
Sell Your Boss on the Benefit to the Company
Thanks to online degree programs, you can earn just about any master’s degree without leaving home — or your full-time job. But your company probably won’t pay for just any master’s degree. They will, however, shell out for a master’s degree that will help you advance in your current field.
Let’s say you’re an engineer. An online engineering master’s would be the perfect credential to help you move up into more advanced roles and have a greater impact on your industry. Your employer could probably easily be convinced of the value of such a degree. Be ready to discuss how the master’s degree of your choice will help you add value to the company by:
- Giving you new skills to bring to the table
- Making you more productive
- Allowing you to take on new, more difficult and more complex projects
- Preparing you for leadership roles
- Fostering the opportunity to mentor other employees and teach them the skills you’re learning
- Improve the company’s reputation
Remember, you won’t have to wait until graduation day to start bringing your company more value. You can put your new skills to use on the job as you’re learning them.
Even if your boss is receptive to the idea of paying for your master’s degree, he or she might have concerns. For example, your boss might be worried that you’ll need more time off or more scheduling flexibility or that you’ll be too tired or distracted on the job to perform well. Remind your boss of what you’ve accomplished so far and offer a plan for how you’ll balance the responsibilities of work and school. Emphasize how going back to school will help you stay engaged at work.
Offer a Commitment
Your employer may not want to pay for your graduate studies if he or she is worried that you’ll jump ship before the ink is dry on your new diploma. Reassure your boss that his or her investment in your education will pay off. Offer to stay with the company for a certain number of years post-graduation, and stick to it. Most companies will be happy with a three- to five-year commitment.
Getting your boss to pay your tuition is one of the best ways to earn a graduate degree without taking on even more student debt than you may already have. A master’s degree can be just what you need to take your career to the next level, and your boss can help you get there — all you need to do is ask.