Editors note: Advertisers are not responsible for the contents of this site including any editorials or reviews that may appear on this site. For complete and current information on any advertiser product, please visit their Web site.
There are a number of employers out there that are willing to negotiate this proposal if they don’t have a support system already in place.

The decision on whether or not to go back to school to upgrade your skills (whether you are talking about a graduate degree, a diploma, or a certificate program of some kind) often hinges on the financial viability of it. Not only do you usually have to deal with the time away from your job, but there are also the upfront and hidden costs associated with education such as tuition, books, parking expenses, and the 101 fees that post-secondary institutions make liberal use of (I once paid a field trip fee in a faculty that never want on a field trip). This scares away a lot of people, but there is a way that you can have your cake and eat it too – get your employer to pay for your new educational pursuit. In my limited experience, there are a surprising number of employers out there that are at least willing to negotiate this proposal if they don’t have automatic support system already in place.

Repeat After Me “Professional Development”

By pitching the idea to your employer that this education will make you a better employee, you can make it easier for them to say yes. For example, if you work in a mechanic shop and are looking at getting certification to work on a certain type of engine, or to do a certain type of welding, you are actually upping the service package that the business can put forth. Show the direct or even indirect benefits to the business of your education path. People do respond to incentives after all. I think the more specific you are in how it can benefit the overall business, the more likely you are to get some financial support, because not only are you helping the business, but it shows how thoroughly you have thought out the process.

Make Yourself an Asset

Whether you are asking for a raise, a promotion, or educational help, one thing remains consistent – your position in much improved if you are a genuine asset to an employer. “How do you become an asset?” one might ask. Well, it usually includes a lot of hard work and probably some sacrifice, but also walking the line between shy and boastful. Aim for humble, yet aware of your worth. Your superiors will notice if you are finding ways to do things that help that others aren’t. If they don’t notice, find creative ways to get them to notice. Once people realize that you are going the extra mile, and that they can’t just replace you at the drop of a hat, you have become an asset to the company. The best part is that pursuing any job-specific training or education should make you even more of an asset going forward, and give you more leverage when you renegotiate that compensation package in a few years.

Calm Their Fears of Abandonment

If you put yourself in the shoes of your employer, your biggest worry is probably that they will invest this financial capital in training you, and you will reward them by running into the arms of the company down the road. This is the risk they often see when you approach them for help with your education. If you can ease this worry it will go a long way to building a mutual trust and faith. I recommend proposing a deal that is contingent upon you staying with the company for X number of years. Many places have standard deals like this where they will pay for your school, but if you leave within five years you have to pay it back. This is still a great deal when you think about it. Not only are you getting the money to upgrade your skills/resume, but you are guaranteed a job when you are done, and probably one with a higher pay grade. By proposing a contract like that, if a can’t miss offer ever came in from another company, you could always ask them to pay the fines for you if you were leaving. Personally, I’d have some loyalty issues as that point, but I’ve been told this is how the world works these days.

Fringe Benefits

A couple of other cool insights I’ve noticed when talking to people who have used this approach revolve around being creative when thinking up other benefits your educational pursuits could have for your place of work. One obvious instance is that paying for your school would likely be a tax write-off for most companies. This lessens the real cost of the capital investment and makes it easier to say yes. Another one I’ve heard before is to present the case that the personal networks you create while in school can be used to the company’s advantage. This one might be fairly specific to the business world, but it never hurts to have contact with people who are upgrading their skills. If a company is looking for higher level clients, or looking to recruit ambitious workers, they might be interested in who you meet while at school.

Help businesses help you. Give them solid reasons that they can use to justify investing in you. In some cases it’s just a matter of looking up your company policy on financial assistance for upgrading your skill set, in others it may involve a little salesmanship and ambition. It’s worth a little extra effort though when you consider the extensive benefits getting your employer to help you out can have.

Was anyone able to benefit by getting their employer to pay for their professional development? I find it weird as a teacher that my school division doesn’t provide any real support for teachers pursuing a master’s degree. There is an automatic pay bump once you have the degree though, so maybe that is the incentive in their minds.

Article comments

Brittany says:

The article is cool and headed in a great direction but please. oh please, go through and edit the spelling and grammar mistakes. It lessens the viability of the article which is unfortunate because it is very insightful with good advice.

Brian says:

My employer is sending me to a project management ‘course’, although it is only two days long. I had originally asked for support towards a certification, however that seems further down the road. A little disappointing at this point, but it’s definitely an important part of your compensation.

Teacher Man says:

It’s always nice in our accreditation-obsessed society to have a little piece of paper that says you’re smart, but kudos to you for taking the opportunity to invest in yourself on someone else’s dime!

A Blinkin says:

That’s strange that you aren’t necessarily encouraged to further your education – seeing that you’re an educator. I would think the pay bump would accompany some sort of tuition reimbursement. I would love to go back to school but 1. I don’t want to pay for it and 2. what I want to study won’t apply to my job. I’ll likely get them to pay for a CFP or CFA since that’s cheaper, quicker, and more relevant to my job.

This is so great. It seems like common sense info, but if you’ve never thought about it, well, it would have never occurred to you.

When I decided to return to school for the degree I’m doing now, my employer offered to pay for the degree if I agreed, in return, to return to work for them for 5 years after graduation. I declined because I didn’t want to be locked in for that kind of length of time and I was financially prepared to pay for the degree myself. Now I’m so thankful I did because being in this program has caused me to completely alter my career direction.

Teacher Man says:

There is an interesting cost-benefit decision E and M. I’m glad it worked out for you. Would it have been worth it for most people in a similar situation do you think? Or do you simply value the flexibility that much?

I have currently applied for my work’s DE program, which they will reimburse me for a certain amount and the cost of one textbook. While there is no absolute guarantee that getting this particular certificate will increase my salary, I know it will definitely increase my knowledge base about the industry and enable to move around to different departments and gain more experience.

Teacher Man says:

Any time you can invest in yourself with other people’s money that is win right?

Good post! In the past I have taken courses which my previous employer paid for. In my experience it’s usually the larger companies who offer any kind of compensation for this kind of thing, but I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to ask, no matter how small the company may be. My current company has sent some of us to various workshops & conferences which can also be a great way to learn & network with others in the same field.

Teacher Man says:

Thanks Pamela, I think the option is out there more often than people believe, it’s just rarely utilized. Like I mentioned, businesses can use it on their balance sheet right? Good point about networking through professional development as well. That is definitely key in my field of education.

CBC says:

I enrolled myself in a financial education course recently which took place weekly after work, and since it was related to work I explained the ‘professional development’ approach which clearly impressed my employer, as well as him offering to pay for the full amount!

Thanks for your help Teacher Man! 🙂

I am pretty sure my company pays at least part. Problem is I am not sure it would help much as I already have a CPA license and that seems like the gold standard in accounting.

Teacher Man says:

Haha, tough life being a CPA eh Lance 😉 Maybe you could go take some business courses or technology upgrades if you really wanted to make use of the education program. I’ve personally been kicking around the idea of learning Mandarin in order to give myself a unique skill and resume.