How to Pitch an MBA to Your Employer - Our Guide

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Considering an MBA? Wondering if your employer will foot all, or some, of the bill? Many companies do offer funding for their employees’ training, but securing that valuable support requires forethought and planning. We understand - so we’ve put together the TopMBA.com guide to putting forward a convincing MBA support proposal:

Do your research

Whether you’re considering an MBA or an executive MBA (EMBA), the cost of the degree can appear quite daunting. If you can receive financial backing from your company, it becomes less intimidating. However, your employer will want to know that you have a thorough understanding of the course, what it entails and most importantly, how it will benefit them. So, make sure you’ve done your research.

Walking into your line manager’s office with vague ideas will convince no-one that you’re serious about the qualification. Before speaking to anyone, decide on which specific course you’d like to study, note down the length of time it would take, the days it would require you to take off work (if part-time, or an EMBA), the cost, what the course entails and how it will benefit the company in the long-term. If possible, carry out an impact assessment on your role and come up with solutions to waylay any concerns.

Speak to the right people

Does your company actually sponsor MBAs? Many companies have guidelines in place for the types of training they are willing to fund, so read up on exactly what your company offers and any past examples of employees being sponsored. Find out which staff members can approve this type of expenditure and approach them with your plan - this may not always be your immediate manager.

It’s perennially good advice to make as many connections within your company as possible when asking for something like financial support for an MBA, these connections can come in handy, you never know who might put in a good word.

Which MBA program type are you most likely to receive funding for?

On-campus two-year MBAs might still be the most popular delivery method for the MBA program, but the likelihood of an employer funding this type of course is low. Annual research carried out by GMAC found that the most likely program type to be funded by employers is the part-time, self-paced MBA, with 52 percent of students funding their course this way. For executive MBAs, that percentage stands at 40 percent, followed by 39 percent for part-time lockstep programs, 28 percent for online programs and 21 percent for flexible MBAs. Only 9 percent of one-year full-time MBA students were being supported financially by their employers, according to the study. For two-year courses, it drops to 8 percent.

Companies are more likely to offer funding if employees can continue working in their current position while taking the course – flexibility is the key to success.

Scheduling support

To ensure your employer is confident in your abilities to take on two tasks, you will need to demonstrate you can manage your time in the classroom and at the office effectively, without affecting your work, your team and/or your clients.

Provide your employer with a detailed schedule of your chosen MBA program. You may also want to offer to use additional vacation or unpaid leave to complete your studies.

Create an MBA proposal

Before pitching the MBA, it will help to have everything written down in black and white. Create a business proposal for your participation in the course. This has two main benefits - you’ll have all the answers to any questions your company throws at you, while also showing how serious you are about pursuing the MBA.

It will help if you assemble a case regarding your reasons for pursuing the MBA. Write down the specific contributions that you’ll bring to the company as a result of earning your MBA.

Similarly, to help you put your case forward to your employer, you could speak with the Admissions Representative of the MBA program you wish to undertake. The representative will have a lot of specific knowledge about their MBA program, making it much easier to assemble your case.

Focus on the benefits to the company

Don’t think of the application as purely one-way. An MBA is beneficial for both the employee and the employer. MBA programs train students in the latest business strategies, which can be implemented immediately upon a return to work, or during the course (if it’s part-time or an EMBA). Business schools are also networking hotbeds – powerful new business contacts are crucial for any business.

Think about what the organization is currently working on. How will the skills developed on your MBA program help? And the bottom line is you'll need to think about what you will bring back to the company as a result of improving your business education and knowledge. 

  • Qualitative Skills – Better data analysis
  • Class Projects - Built in class and focused on the employer which will provide actionable items

Undertaking an MBA is sure to boost your current abilities significantly. If you demonstrate this to your employer, they'll see the benefits of investing in you as a means of boosting productivity without needing to hire additional personnel.

Waylay your employer's concerns

Naturally, your employer may have reservations. Aside from losing manpower, there’s the risk that once you’ve qualified, you’ll be looking to change positions.

Consider the methods you will use to help resolve those concerns.

Some companies require MBAs to sign an agreement to remain with the company for a certain number of years after graduation, or else to pay the money back. If you're happy remaining within your company, this could be a good route to go down. However, it will tie you to the same company for a significant amount of time - meaning you may not be able to make the most of the potential career opportunities at business school. 

Another option is to put into place an assessment of how your new skills will benefit your company. Research the institution and the associations it has with other businesses, look at the skills you'll learn and how you'll put them into place and report this back to your employer. Showing this level of dedication to your current company could help convince them you're not planning on qualifying and leaving.

MBA participants could provide consulting work through a program project. As a student you will have access to top faculties all over the world who will be able to help you resolve crucial business issues within your organization.

This article was originally published in 2017 and was updated in April 2019.

Amelia Hopkins
Written by Amelia Hopkins

Amelia Hopkins is a writer for TopMBA, covering the latest news in business and business education. A graduate of the University of Leeds and Yorkshire native, she enjoys reading, travelling and talking incessantly about the countryside.

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