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How to ask your employer for study assistance

For many, the biggest hurdle in pursuing a university degree is the cost involved. While some courses allow you to take out a government loan, there are other options available to cover the cost and make it much easier to get started.

The good news is that many organisations are more than happy to help their employees with their personal and professional development. This can come in many forms; from providing study leave to subsidising course fees or even covering the entire cost!

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To have the best possible chance of your employer helping you reach your goals, follow these simple steps.

#1 Map out your end goal

Before speaking to your employer – or ideally before even looking at courses – you should know what your end goal is. Knowing your end goal will allow you to properly assess what you will need to get there, and whether or not study is a necessary step.

Your end goal can be anything; from becoming CEO to getting your long-awaited pay rise.

Need some help mapping out your future career?

Download our Career Action Plan (PDF, 907.37 KB) and you can map out the skills and experience you need to reach your goal.

#2 Research what your organisation currently offers

For those in larger companies or government departments, your employer should have a well-defined study or professional development policy. This should be searchable on your staff intranet or in your employee handbook. If you’re unsure, just check in with your HR department for a copy of the policy.

If you work for a smaller organisation, there may not be a specific policy around study or professional development. In this case, it’s best to ask your manager what might be available in terms of money towards study or the ability to take time off.

After finishing this research you will want to check the following with your employer:

  • Is there financial support available for study?
  • If study leave is available, how much are you entitled to?
  • What is the deadline for submitting any relevant paperwork to have your study approved (remember, in some organisations your study may have to be built into budgets)?
  • What is the process for requesting study assistance (i.e. do you need to be enrolled for courses before requesting reimbursement)?

#3 Find the perfect course for you

Once you know the support you need is available, it’s time to find the perfect course for you.

The course you select is a huge investment for you and your employer, so it’s worth taking the time to choose wisely.

When weighing up different courses, you should keep in mind:

Will the course help you to achieve your goal?

Depending on your goal and current skill set, you may need to study anything from a short online course all the way through to a full Master’s degree.

What best suits your learning style?

For some, the self-motivation required for online study is a bit tough, while others enjoy learning more at home and being able to re-watch lectures. Looking at online and in-person options can help you quickly shortlist courses.

What are the time requirements?

Course providers will be able to give you an indication of the time requirements for each week you study. Be realistic with your planning, and only take on as much as you can handle.

Will you enjoy what you’re studying?

Let’s be honest, if you’re not interested in the subject or don’t think you’ll enjoy the experience, the odds of you completing the course are much lower.

#4 Find the benefits for the organisation

The real key to successfully having your study supported is selling the benefits to the organisation. In other words, once you have completed your studies, what additional (relevant) skills will you have that will have a positive effect on your role and the organisation.

Write down all the tangible outcomes your study will aid you in achieving. This will help you when you raise the idea with your manager. Make sure these outcomes are as specific as possible. For example, instead of listing “gain an understanding of accounting”, put “will be able to assist in the development of yearly budgets for programs under my control.”

These specific, tangible outcomes will help to highlight the real benefits of your study for the organisation rather than just being a stepping stone for you to find your next job.

#5 Add it to your development plan

If your organisation has formal performance reviews or development plans, this is the best place to first flag that you are interested in studying.

Getting it down in writing that you want to study and having that approved by your manager is also very handy for when you decide to submit your formal paperwork as it has already been approved in principal.

If you don’t have formal development plans, simply have a chat with your manager to float the idea and see if it is something they might be interested in supporting.

#6 Make the ask

Once you have found your course and gotten in-principal approval, it’s time to make your formal application.

Again, this process will be very different from organisation to organisation and can be anything from official forms to an email to your manager.

To make things even easier, we have created a template for you to simply drop in the relevant information and send it off to your manager or HR department.

But, remember! At this stage, it is very important to put forward the benefits to the organisation you created in step four.

Download your Asking for study assistance template

Simply fill in the blanks and send it to your manager.

Download template

Do you have any questions about study or would you like to know more about an individual course? We’re always here to answer your questions!

And, if you haven’t already done so, our personalised course guide lists all the study outcomes for each course, which can be very handy when coming up with the benefits for your organisation.

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