How to get your employer to pay for your Masters study

Seven tips for persuading your employer to help you gain a Masters qualification
Office workers in a meeting
Your Masters is likely to offer an invaluable way of gaining up-to-date technical and specialist knowledge
Employers will want to know that there is likely to be a measurable benefit to the organisation from their investment in your skills

During a downturn you may feel that your employer does not have the resources to invest in improving the skills and knowledge capital of its workforce – i.e. you.

Here are our tips for persuading your employer to help you gain a Masters qualification that will be valuable to you now and in the future, as well as benefiting your employer. Remember, employers want to retain high performing staff and contributing to the cost of postgraduate education is a highly valued benefit.

1. Identify the help you might need to gain your Masters.
Work out how much the course will cost you – not just the course fees but also examination fees, the cost of attending any extra revision classes, buying textbooks and so on.

The help you might need could include paid time off for studying or for examinations. It could also include being given the opportunity to work on projects that can be used as part of assignments or dissertations.

You might value permission to study in the office after hours, if it is quieter than at home and you need access to a PC or the internet for your studies.

2. Find out about your company’s policies in relation to contributing to the costs of study and find out the exact requirements you need to meet.
Your employer might offer a ‘flexible benefits package’ – so you could  ask if they will include sponsorship of a Masters as one of the benefits. A number of large employers offer this opportunity. A ‘flexible benefits package’ is a way of remunerating employees that offers them a range of types and levels of benefit from which to choose, according to their lifestyle and goals.

It is important to understand what processes your organisation has for identifying learning needs. For example, it could be at annual appraisals and so you will need to be prepared to take advantage of these meetings.

3. Develop the business case
You must be ready with a business case for your company to contribute to the cost of you studying for a Masters. Employers will want to know that there is likely to be a measurable benefit to the organisation from their investment in your skills. You will need to show how the learning will address any performance needs that you have identified with your line manager, as well as showing how it is linked to your personal longer term career aspirations. Consider how your Masters will enable you to take on additional responsibilities or more strategic projects for your department or broader cross-departmental assignments that will benefit the whole organisation.

If you choose to study by distance learning you can continue with your studies while you work, and do not need to take time away from the workplace. You can apply your new knowledge, ideas and strategies in your workplace, right from the start.

Your Masters is likely to offer an invaluable way of gaining up-to-date technical and specialist knowledge that you can apply to complex problems in your organisation and could save on the cost of hiring a new recruit with these skills.

If your chosen degree offers the opportunity to write a dissertation under expert supervision based on issues in your workplace, this may act as a consultancy for your business, bringing your fresh thinking and insights directly back into the workplace before you have even graduated.

4. Develop ideas about how the impact of your studies could be measured.
It may be helpful to propose a mixture of evaluation methods such as quantitative and also measures of expected change and improvement which you could link to key performance indicators (KPIs) that you are working towards.

5. Anticipate possible concerns your employer might raise and come up with suggested solutions.
Your employer might be concerned about you taking time away from the office. If you choose to study your Masters by distance and online study you will be studying in your own time, so you can reassure your employer that this will not be an issue.

6. Take a short, free online course – for example a MOOC in your chosen subject.
Taking a Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC, could prove your interest and commitment to learning, and the benefit of your new knowledge. There is an opportunity to trial taster programmes free of charge from influential universities worldwide. The University of London offers a number of MOOCs through the Coursera online platform.

7. And finally: ask.

To find out more