You are thinking one of two things right now as you read this: why on Earth would I want to go back to school? Or how on Earth could I convince my boss to do that?

If you’re asking the latter, great! You want to improve your skills and advance your career! Regardless of age, a willingness to learn is not only a valuable trait to have on a resume, it will also make you a valuable member of any team.

That being said, going back to school part-time is a big commitment and not one to be taken lightly. There are few things you need to consider before deciding whether your employer should be footing the bill for you to advance your career.

Should you even ask?

Wanting your employer to pay for your education should be for the benefit of both parties and it should be relevant to your current occupation. Asking your boss to pay for a course about European witchcraft or the biology of flamingos probably doesn’t make much sense. Find a course that will have tangible benefits to your daily role. At the end of the day you have to consider it like your employer is purchasing a product, what’s their return on investment?

Do your homework

Not literally (or at least yet). If you’re asking your employer to pay for a course or even a full degree, look into whether or not there are current programs set up. Certain companies have rules when it comes to educational tuition. Maybe you’ll have to sign a contract saying you will work for the company for a minimum of two years after your courses are complete. There may also be a cap on the amount they are allowed to approve. Contact your Human Resources department first to inquire.

Get your ducks in a row

Whether or not there is a tuition program at your company, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need before asking your boss. Here some things you should know before broaching the subject:

  • Will this affect your work performance?
  • Does the course require you to take time off work?
  • How will this benefit you in your day-to-day job?
  • What are the potential financial benefits for the company?

Row of Ducks

Make sure you have a succinct answer for all questions that may arise. For example, you taking courses and learning a new skill could save the company from hiring another employee to fill that gap, which in the long run will save them money. If the courses require you to take a day or two off here and there for exams, consider taking vacation days if your company is not flexible.

When you approach your manager it would also be a good idea to have the courses and prices laid out so they can review. This way they will be able to see exactly what it is that you’re looking to do and your time commitment.

Knowing what to expect

If you have questions about how the program will work, make sure to bring them to your meeting. Knowing the logistics will help you set expectations for yourself. How will you be reimbursed for the program? It could be that you will have to pay for the courses up front and won’t be paid out until the course is completed and you have met the academic requirements. Will your company only pay for the course if you reach a certain grade level? Make sure to ask this question specifically.

Earning a new degree, certificate, or even completing a course is a great thing for career development – so don’t be afraid to ask your boss.

Great job in taking that next step, and good luck!