How important is employer support?
A major consideration of any working professional pursuing a graduate degree is the support they get (or may not get) from their employer. I have friends and colleagues who have left a company in part due to weak support for their part-time MBA and others who have turned down very lucrative offers to change roles because it would mean they could no longer realistically pursue their MBA.
Let’s take a few minutes first to consider some obvious and not so obvious forms of employer support.
Financial – Many employers offer tuition assistance. This can range from $5,250 per year (the tax-free limit) up to full coverage of tuition, fees and class materials. Financial support can help take some of the stress of going back to school off of the employee. Be sure to consider employer retention requirements in your post-MBA career plans before you accept any tuition reimbursement. Anecdotally, from colleagues and classmates — requirements can range from one year, post-graduation, to as many as four years after the last reimbursement payment is made.
Schedule Adjustment – Time is truly our most valuable resource. Employers can offer a variety of working schedule adjustments to ease the stress that comes with being a full-time employee and a part-time student. Some employers offer paid time off on a per-credit-hour basis to free up time to study or prep for finals. Even if your employer does not have a structured study time program, you can often negotiate with your management to work flex time during busy weeks or perhaps use paid personal time to attend school events such as the international trips, without demolishing your precious vacation time.
Workload Adjustment – Workload adjustment is a great way to gather a bit of support and stress relief from your management even in lieu of a corporate employee scholars program. Especially if your MBA program is a key part of your development plan and career path with your employer, they could be open to reducing components of your high stress workload such as problem clients, high travel requirements and work commitments frequently causing you to miss school.
Graduation Award – Finally, some corporations offer a graduation award, in the form of cash or stock, for employees who earn a degree while working. My company phased this out long before I started my MBA, and my feeling is that overall this perk is fading away. It’s definitely something to be on the lookout for, however, when comparing total compensation between prospective employers.
How important is employer support to earning a part-time MBA? Like any good question — the answer is “it depends.” How stressful is your job? How important is your current job to you compared to earning your MBA? How important is your MBA to your employer? What are your post-MBA career goals? Having these questions in mind while you explore potential employers and the benefits they may offer can help you make an informed decision about how to balance work, school and life.