Will Your Employer Pay for Continuing Education? Here’s How to Ask

continuing education
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Continuing education can reinforce the value of your degree, help you acquire new knowledge and skills, and enhance your performance and marketability in the workplace. Employees may be interested in a variety of education options, such as certificate programs, master’s degrees, or single courses. However, returning to school – even for a shorter program – can come with a shocking price tag.

Some employers might offer to cover some or all of the costs of continuing education if it is relevant to their company’s field. If you are wondering whether or not your employer would be willing to do this, here are a few steps to inquire about it in a reasonable and respectful manner.

1. Check your employee benefits
Read through your employee benefits package. Many larger companies, and even some smaller ones, offer a tuition incentive for their team members, so be sure to read the fine print. Oftentimes, employers will only pay for coursework that specifically benefits your current position at that company. For example, if you are a nurse, the hospital you work for may pay for you to complete your Master’s of Science in Nursing.

Make sure you clearly understand the policy as well. Will your employer reimburse you right after you pay tuition, or will they wait until your passing grades are posted? Check with your supervisor or your Human Resources department to review the policy.

2. Approach your boss
During your next one-on-one meeting with your supervisor, let him or her know about your plans to continue your education. If you don’t have regular individual meetings, request a meeting. Being prepared for this conversation will help you make your case for asking about tuition assistance. Explain your intentions for returning to school, explain what skill-sets you wish to attain, and describe how those skills will benefit your company. If your employer already has a tuition reimbursement policy in place, this should be a fairly simple conversation to have. If your employer doesn’t have guidelines in place, you will need to politely ask if he or she would be willing to consider covering tuition expenses. Understand that your boss may not be able to make a decision right away, and he or she may even need to consult other supervisors before giving you a final answer.

3. Write a formal proposal
Whether or not a firm policy is in place at your company regarding tuition assistance, be prepared to write up a proposal explaining which program or classes you intend to take, why you wish to take them, what the expected costs will be, and how this will benefit your current position at the company. If your company doesn’t typically offer tuition reimbursement, this proposal will need to be especially effective and convincing. For example, if you are a front-end web developer and wish to learn some back-end coding, explain how having this full set of skills in one team member could save the company time and money in hiring another full- or part-time employee.

4. Be patient, but follow up
Reviewing your proposal and acquiring funds may take a bit of time. Be patient during this process. Politely ask for an expected timeframe in which you might get a decision. If, for example, the review will take three weeks, you can send a polite follow-up email after three weeks to touch base. It is easy for non-routine requests to get lost in the daily shuffle, so don’t let this fall off your supervisor’s radar. Sending a kind reminder will let your boss know that you’re taking the idea of returning to school seriously.

Although many companies have formal policies in place to support continuing education, not all of them do. This, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for tuition reimbursement if the skills you’ll obtain will directly benefit your role at your company. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer about this in an appropriate manner. Your supervisor will likely appreciate your efforts to advance your workplace knowledge and practices.

Brenna Tonelli is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.

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