Financing your Executive MBA: Asking your employer for sponsorship

By Susan Petty

When it comes to financing your executive MBA, one idea is both obvious and difficult—asking your employer for assistance. Clearly, your employer will benefit from your advanced training, but many companies don’t have a formal policy for tuition reimbursement, or if they do, it may be vague or not well communicated.

However, many students can and do receive financial assistance from employers, and there are a number of steps that help them secure it:

1. Start with an understanding of your company’s policies.

Look for any existing company information on tuition reimbursement. If your organization has no formal policy—persist—your company may offer financial compensation for professional development or training, and that may apply to study in the Berkeley MBA for Executives program.

2. Identify the decision maker. Find an advocate.

Who makes the financial decisions? Ultimately, you'll likely need to approach and work with this person directly, but if he or she doesn't know you well, you’ll also want to secure an advocate who can support you.

3. Make a strong case for support.

Find out if anyone else in your organization has received compensation for an advanced degree or if other companies in your field have helped employees with educational goals. Other MBAs at your company— particularly those who are well respected or have been through your particular program—may also be able to help or write a formal letter of support.

4. Showcase your impact at work.

This is not the time to be overly modest. Collect evidence of your contributions and accomplishments over time to convey the positive impact you have made, currently make, and will continue to make on your organization.

5. Highlight the value your degree will bring to the organization.

With all you've been able to accomplish before earning your business degree (See #4), think what you could do during and after your studies. Outline specifics of the curriculum for your employer to emphasize the new skills you'll gain in everything from leadership and strategy to finance and marketing. 

6. Highlight the EMBA program's cross-pollination with other industries.  

Berkeley-Haas purposefully chooses each executive class to include different industries and job functions, so students are exposed to many different points of view and perspectives. The result is a dynamic environment where you glean insights on strategy and innovation that you might not be exposed to within the culture of your own industry.

7. Consider what else you might give back in exchange.

For example, some employers agree to offer financial assistance in return for an employment contract specifying a length of time you will remain at the company. Ensure that your conversation with the decision-maker isn't only an "ask," but a negotiation aimed at meeting both party's needs.

To learn more, read our tips from students on how to help your employer see the benefit of your MBA studies to the organization and see the financial aid section of our website for additional financing options.  

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Topics: Funding MBA  |   Executive MBA  |   Admissions Tips  |   Application Tips
Susan Petty
Susan is Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program. She has nearly twenty years of experience in marketing and advertising, having worked in several different industries including technology, travel, healthcare -- and many others from her media planning days at J. Walter Thompson where her clients included Chevron, Kaiser Permanente, Nestle, and Ford. She enjoys advising prospective students and guiding them through their personal MBA experience.