Postgraduate study can be expensive, but if your chosen course could build your skillset and improve your performance at work, your employer may be persuaded to foot the bill

What postgraduate courses will employers sponsor?

This usually depends on the employer, but you're most likely to receive sponsorship if the course you're hoping to study is relevant to your current job and benefits the company in some way. This may be to learn new skills, or as part of continuing professional development (CPD).

Employers sponsor CPD courses for their employees to progress into more senior positions, or to keep up-to-date in fast-moving professions.

Therefore, you're more likely to be successful in securing employer sponsorship for courses such as MBAs, professional courses or conversion courses. These qualifications in particular aid an individual's career progression and the knowledge, skills and s gained from such programmes can enhance an organisation's success.

In some industries, a postgraduate qualification is a necessary requirement to build a career. For example, aspiring teachers will be familiar with the Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), while solicitors will sit the Legal Practice Course (LPC) as part of their training. Architects, social workers and librarians are among other job roles where employer sponsorship is common.

Even if you're entering a profession where a qualification is a necessity, you'll still need to convince your employer that sponsoring you is worth their money and your time. Often, your hours and workload will be rearranged to fit around your studies, so it's not a decision to be taken lightly.

How can I persuade my employer to sponsor me?

While most graduate employers view any kind of professional development favourably, securing financial support can be difficult if your employer doesn't promote their own funding programmes. Some large employers have specific schemes in place to sponsor employees wanting to embark on a professional or conversion course, but unsurprisingly in smaller companies, these structures rarely exist.

If your employer doesn't have a funding programme in place, you'll need to approach your HR department or line manager with a proposal. This should serve as evidence of why sponsoring your studies or training will be a valuable move for them.

If you're seeking sponsorship to train for entry into a specific career, the focus of your proposal should be on you. What makes you different to everyone else applying? Try to answer the following questions within your proposal:

  • What unique skills or attributes can you bring to the role?
  • What steps have you taken to prepare for the opportunity?
  • What are your future goals? How do they align with your employer's?

This last question is particularly important, as it gives you the chance to demonstrate your commitment to your employer. If you can show that you see a future for yourself with an employer they'll be more likely to want to sponsor you.

If your sponsorship will pay for CPD study, your proposal should instead focus on what the study will bring to your role and the company. Your employer has already hired you and should know you well - there's no need to sell yourself. Talk about the practical benefits of your training.

  • Will additional training help you to overcome the obstacles your role presents?
  • Will the training help your employer gain an advantage over competitors?
  • If you've agreed a promotion into a senior role, how will the CPD training best equip you?
  • Are there aspects of your job that this training will bring you up-to-date with?

Talking in detail about the modules on your course and how you'll apply them to specific aspects of your job will prove that you've given the proposal serious consideration.

What terms and conditions will there be?

Your employer is unlikely to sponsor you without expecting something in return. Because of this, you may be asked to sign an agreement that commits you to working for the company for a minimum amount of time once you've received your qualification.

If you aren't taking a study break, you'll also need to discuss how attending lectures and sitting exams will affect your working hours. You may have to take study days as part of your annual leave, although some employers may be more generous than this.

Signing a written agreement before beginning your course is important to establish how much of your tuition your employer will sponsor, as well as the terms of your leave - changes in office hours or study breaks, for instance. If you fail to uphold your end of the contract, you'll likely be held accountable for repaying the money your employers have invested in your sponsorship.

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