Even if your employer doesn't have a program in place to pay for continuing education, you still have a shot of getting them to foot the bill for an advanced degree. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. Your boss might even be willing to pay for GMAT prep as well as credit-based courses.
In this blog entry we're going to address requesting an online degree since they are A) more convenient for you and your employer B) becoming more widely accepted C) we get a lot of e-mails questioning their validity.
Here are some things to know before you decide you're going to ask your job to pay for an online course:
KNOW YOUR EMPLOYER
Before approaching your boss, it is of paramount importance to understand the state of your company. Are economic times lean? Is a massive reorganization underway? These could be hindrances or they could help you structure a solid case. The key is to have an idea of what is happening internally at the organization and use it to strengthen your argument.
A great way for your organization to stay with the pack or excel in an industry is to staff an educated workforce. If you can specifically spell out ways your degree will help the organization, you will have laid the groundwork of your case. Be as specific as possible.
Also, is an advanced degree or certificate officially required or encouraged for the position you have your eye on? While it is true that the greater your education, the greater the number of doors you create for yourself, some positions simply do not call for it. Make sure the work and expense are necessary. Look for trends in people's education who currently or have previously held the position(s) you are interested in. Glean information by asking your co-workers or approaching the individual about their academic past in a friendly way.
It sure sounds good when you drop the news at a family function that you're furthering your education, however, are you really up for the challenge of holding down a full-time job and studying your ass off? Make sure you have the time, energy and desire to pursue a degree before you take on the lofty task.
You also need to be clear on what you want to study and why. Cause let's be honest, improving your company's talent poll is a secondary goal at best. Raising your stock as a potential job candidate, and as a person, is first.
Make sure you choose a subject that you have genuine interest in and can help you get ahead - or transition into something you want to do.
It's important to be honest with yourself on how long you plan to stay with the organization you are pitching. Many employers will have you sign an agreement stating that you will stay employed with them for X number of years. Should you leave early, you will likely be responsible for a portion (or all) of the money the company spent on your education.
If you already have one foot out the door, the last thing you need is added pressure to stay in a bad marriage, As with most career moves, you need to know yourself before you make a move.
KNOW THE SCHOOL
While online degrees have certainly become more mainstream, they are certainly not on par with their brick and mortar counterparts.
There's a good chance you'll have to "defend" the school to your employer, especially if it's one without a physical building.
This is the real world, and simply put, there are some people who will never be convinced that Walden University offers what the local state school does. That's fine.
Your goal is to be as prepared as possible and make the strongest case you can. How long has the school been in business? How many students do they have? Do they have any affiliation with nationally-recognized organizations? These are the types of queries you should be able to answers to all question-askers.
KNOW YOUR BOSS'S CONCERNS
As I mentioned earlier, your primary purpose in continuing your education is self-improvement. Any boss worth his or her salt will recognize this. Your job is to disarm them as best as possible, assuring them that this will likely be the last stop on your career train.
Since I'm a tremendous fan of truth and honesty, I think it's OK to be upfront that this endeavor is about you AND the company (not necessarily in that order). Anything else is ridiculously transparent.
There's another hurdle. It's something that's on your boss's mind constantly: money. You are going to have to justify that the money the organization spends on your classes will come back to them two-fold. Get some projected numbers to back up your claims.
KNOW YOUR POSITION
You'll have a much better chance of getting your tuition approved if the education relates directly to your current job. If it's not an exact match, you better be able to explain how it fits into your career track - and more importantly - the company's goals.
If you want to take classes that clearly fit within a department other than your own, you need to be able to explain why it's worth their time to cough up the cash.
KNOW YOUR FINANCES
Every company has a different policy when it comes to who will initially pay for your classes. Years back, I made the case to take a specialized course. The company agreed to pay. The only catch was that I had to pay and they would reimburse me 6 - 8 weeks after the course was completed. At the time I simply didn't have the expendable cash. I also didn't want to put the expense on a credit card and be stuck with several months of interest. Be sure you have an idea of what you're willing and capable of doing from a financial standpoint before you make your pitch.
There you have it, things to know before you decide to approach your employer to pay for an online course and/or degree. Never be afraid to ask, the worst thing you'll hear is 'no.' You'll be much angrier at yourself if you never tried. Good luck!