An MBA is an expensive endeavour, and if you have set your heart on doing one, you will need to figure out how to finance it. One option available to you is to ask for employer MBA sponsorship.
There are various ways to cover the cost of an MBA. It is also possible to combine different funding methods. Self-funding and part-time work are among the most popular funding options. Postgraduate loans are another possibility. Scholarships and bursaries are also available for some programmes, but bear in mind that competition for them is stiff.
Employer MBA sponsorships are also common. However, convincing your boss to finance your MBA requires serious preparation and well-reasoned arguments backing your request.
Do your homework
To grant you the much-coveted financial support, your employer will want to see a compelling case that the degree will benefit you, but above all, the company. To begin with, check if your firm has a standard tuition assistance or sponsorship programme.
Do not approach Human Resources or your boss until you have sorted out some specifics such as the school and programme you are targeting and a list of the ways the company will profit from your education. Also, do you want your employer to pay for your entire tuition or just a portion? And what about living costs and expenditure for books and technology? In addition, your employer will want to know if you will be able to work while you study and when and for how long. You need to present a detailed plan and anticipate the questions your employer might ask.
There are also other, more subtle aspects to be considered such as gauging the financial health of the company and the economy in general. It would hardly be appropriate to ask for an MBA sponsorship if your company is struggling or laying people off. It would be equally inadvisable to ask for financial support against the background of a challenging economic environment. If you fail to recognise the particular context you risk not only having your sponsorship bid rejected but also appearing out of touch.
Timing is also vital. “Consider the best time of the week, day, or even year to ask for tuition assistance. Annual performance reviews present a natural opportunity to discuss your career goals with your manager and are often the perfect time to ask for financial support to help continue your education,” says Michele Reynolds, who handles brand marketing and PR for Harvard Business School Online.
Approaching your employer
You could probably explain at length how the MBA will add value to your professional and personal development. However, this time it’s not about you. The main question you need to answer in your MBA sponsorship pitch is how the degree will improve and benefit the company. Build your arguments with your employer in mind, first and foremost. Think about how the MBA will help you to add valuable additional skills to the workforce and how this will lift the company’s bottom line. How will your colleagues benefit from the knowledge and skills you acquired during your studies? Are you willing to share your expertise?
To answer these questions, you need to be very familiar with the nuts and bolts of the programme of your choice. Know everything about the programme, its curriculum, learning methodology, specific events and activities, career paths typically taken by alumni, and employment statistics. Highlighting key strengths and advantages of studying at a particular business school will help you make a convincing case for your employer’s support.
Your overall performance at the company should work in your favour, too. In your pitch to your boss, you should be able to highlight your positive impact on your company, preferably substantiating your claims with facts and figures. To quote Kaplan: “It is very difficult to convince your employer to sponsor your MBA if you haven’t demonstrated your value as an employee.”
The loyalty question
If your company agrees to cover your MBA tuition or even a larger portion of the costs, you will be asked to sign a sponsorship contract. Read the document carefully to ensure that there are no parts that you disagree with.
One of the most important clauses in such documents is the period for which you commit to staying with the company after obtaining the degree. Employers stipulate such provisions in order to protect their interest and avoid a potential scenario in which they fund an employee’s degree only to see them leave for another company shortly after graduation.
It’s up to you to decide what time commitment is reasonable. MBA admissions’ consultant Stacy Blackman advises: “Because sponsorship often comes with an obligation to return to the company after you complete your MBA, take a step back and assess whether you’re absolutely confident you want to return. Breaking such an agreement after you earn the degree can lead to not only strained relationships with former colleagues, but also a mountain of unforeseen debt.”
Conversations about money are not easy, yet sometimes they are necessary. And with the right approach and sufficient preparation, you can convince your employer to give you that much needed MBA sponsorship that will revitalise your career while also helping your company.