How to talk to your company about funding your MBA |

How to talk to your company about funding your MBA

By Aisha K

Updated November 1, 2022 Updated November 1, 2022

An MBA company sponsorship is one of the most popular routes for experienced professionals to get their studies funded. Many employers will also see it as a worthwhile investment if they’re able to retain and grow talented individuals within their company.  

Learning how to make a successful business case requires some careful thought and planning. spoke to Tim and Isabell, executive MBA students at Warwick Business School and Bayes Business School respectively, to get their top tips on how to gain employer sponsorship to fund your studies.  

Here’s what we learned: 

Research is crucial in preparing a business case 

Although Tim’s employer offered support for an MBA sponsorship up to $10,000 (£8,891) a year, the EMBA at Warwick Business School was more expensive (around £25,000 a year), meaning he had to apply for an exception process.  

He said: “To get this exception, I prepared a business case detailing the investment cost, the reasons why it was needed, explaining why Warwick was the best school to study at as opposed to other universities and the perceived future benefits associated with the programme.” 

To ensure he made a strong business case, Tim said: “I completed a lot of research beforehand around which EMBA programmes were best recognised in Europe (using various rankings) and the cost spread of each.” 

“I also came up with a reasonable ‘median’ range of schools, which offered the programmes most fitting for my development needs and which had flexibility if work instances came up and modules had to be deferred.” 

“With this research I was able to justify why the programme in Warwick was the most reasonable, beneficial and logical choice for me to attend.” 

Before Isabell approached her employer to secure partial funding for her studies, she did two types of research beforehand. “First, I talked to peers who are currently studying for an MBA. This gave me a realistic picture of how to cope with the additional workload and also showed me the benefits of an MBA first-hand. 

“If you do not have those peers in your company, you can use LinkedIn. Freely approach people in your industry who recently gained an MBA from one of your target universities. Many graduates are happy to talk about their MBA and give you some advice. Just ask!” 

The second part was making sure she did her research on the schools she wanted to apply for. “I had identified a handful of target universities, their timelines and the rough outline of what it would take to finish an MBA (for example, tuition, days away from work, programme duration). 

“This preparation allowed me to answer my manager’s questions right away, thus giving him some clarity about facts he needed to know but also gave him an idea on how the company would benefit from my EMBA.” 

Timing is key 

“Deciding when to approach your employer is important as you will need to demonstrate that you can perform in your role whilst taking on additional responsibilities.” 

Tim studied engineering management at university and worked in various business development roles before his current role as director of business projects at his company.  

He now leads a team of more than 60 people with significant responsibility over profit and loss – which gave him an advantage when discussing funding options with his employer. 

“In a more senior role, or one in which you are difficult to replace, you will be in a stronger position to push for support and sell the future benefits to your employer for supporting you.”  

Be honest about where you see yourself post-graduation 

Whilst it’s tempting to think about different career routes in the future, employers will normally agree to fund your studies if you’re willing to stick around after graduating.  

“A lot of companies will view supporting an MBA programme as a ‘retention tool’ in which they can tie in a payback clause if the person were to leave the company within two to three years of completion. This means that you should be fairly settled and tied to the business's interests for at least a few years,” Tim said.  

Discuss non-funding options your employer can help with 

If your company doesn’t have a formal sponsorship process in place, Isabell recommends talking about other ways in which your employer can support you throughout your studies.  

“Think about the conditions that you would help you the most – unpaid or paid annual leave or reducing your workload to 80 percent. There is more than one way your employer can support you in getting your MBA.”  

This article was originally published in November 2022 .

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