3 Steps to Get Your Boss to Pay for Your MBA

An MBA is pricy—but what if you could get your boss to shoulder the cost? It’s no longer unusual for employers to invest in their employees’ education. You are a human resource of the company, and in the long run, investing in resources provides returns. Of course, this doesn’t make approaching the conversation any less daunting. In short, if you want your boss to pay for your MBA, you will need to demonstrate how it’ll help the company. To do this, you’ll need to 1) test the waters, 2) do your research, and 3) make your case.

#1 Test the Waters

Understand how your company typically handles employee education so you know what to expect. Find out whether or not your company has policies established for professional development and employee education. Perhaps some of your colleagues have already cashed in on this benefit; if so, ask them how they went about it.

Also, gauge the company’s attitude toward professional degrees. Does the company value candidates (or employees) with MBAs? Do your coworkers—especially those in your position—have MBAs? If you are the odd one out, you might argue that you need to “catch up.” If most of your colleagues do not have MBAs, you might show how earning one could introduce a whole new set of skills to the team for everyone to benefit and learn from. Whatever the situation, find a way to spin it in your favor.

Finally, make sure your request is practical. If the company is cutting costs because of poor sales, or if they need you working on certain projects right now, it may be unwise and even inconsiderate to bring up the MBA. Moreover, you’ll probably see more success if you hold off until more funds or time open up. If full tuition reimbursement isn’t available, ask if they will reimburse a portion of the cost or pay for specific classes.

#2 Do Your Research

Once you’ve determined that your boss may hear you out, figure out how you’ll channel the benefits of the MBA back to your company. This can take many forms depending on your role, the track of your MBA, and your company’s needs, but no matter what, one thing is for sure: you must prove that the degree will help you do whatever you are already doing significantly better. Research prospective programs that will maximize success in your specific position (or, in some cases, one that you’d be promoted into), and take thorough notes on program offerings and coursework related to your role.

Hint: you can ask coworkers who have MBAs about how their business education has helped them in their current roles; this way, you can cite real-life, accessible case studies for your boss.

#3 Make Your Case

Figure out who you will present your case to. Is this a department-level decision (typical at bigger companies)? Or, will you need to schedule time to talk with an executive (typical for smaller companies)? Allot ample time for the meeting, because inevitably, your boss will have many follow-up questions and concerns, and you want to address them thoughtfully.

Come prepared! You must show that you’re making a well-informed request that will ultimately benefit the company’s bottom line. Establish your credibility by drawing on what you’ve already contributed to the company, and outline a written proposal on the deliverables that the MBA will enable you to achieve going forward. A unique way to do this could be by creating a post-MBA resume, which will include all your new qualifications, and presenting it to your boss alongside your current resume. This will not only show your boss what qualifications are currently lacking, but will also drive home the point that your boss can avoid hiring someone else for them and invest in you to close the value gap.

If you’re a CIO, for example, outline what you’ve done to increase company revenue using technology (numbers are key, and data presentations help). Then, estimate how much more you can help the company’s bottom line using cutting-edge technologies you will master in business school. Whenever possible, cite specific projects and desired outcomes of your company and tie them back to specific methodologies, technologies, and skills you will learn in prospective programs. Of course, if you haven’t yet made much of an impact in your role (perhaps you recently started), it’ll be harder to make a promising case, but you can begin delivering now and make your request later, credentials in hand.

Furthering your education broadens your horizons both personally and professionally—if it can bring value to your company, too, it’s definitely worth a shot to ask for help funding it.