You like your job. You love your employer. But you want more. You're thinking of pursuing your MBA–a thought that could cost you both time and money.
Help might be closer than you think. How can you get your employer to sponsor your MBA? Just as importantly, why should your company sponsor your MBA?
First, let’s talk about you. What are the benefits of an MBA to your career?
If you're looking to build a career in business or advance the career you already have, an MBA gives you the specific skills necessary to set yourself up for success. According to MBA.com,1 the core curriculum of MBA courses typically provides you with skills in:
- Business Communication
- Business Ethics
- Business Strategy
- Data Analytics
- Leadership and Management
But an MBA program is more than just its core curriculum. There are unexpected benefits, including networking, hyper-relevant elective courses, and opportunities beyond the classroom that will help you become a leader in both office and community.
According to MacLean’s Education,2 in addition to classroom smarts, MBA grads can also expect:
An expanded network. During your MBA studies, you'll meet early career professionals, seasoned leaders, and instructors with a wealth of experience. Your time inside and outside the classroom will have a profound effect on your professional future.
Community engagement and involvement. You'll have the opportunity to join organizations at your school of choice and within your business community. “I went back to school to learn skills that would help me find a new job after years out of the workforce. I accomplished that and more. I enjoyed all the activities and experiences outside the classroom and met so many wonderful people,” says Rebecca Johnson, who graduated with an Iowa MBA and MSBA.
Relevant skills. You won’t just sit in a lecture hall. You'll be engaged, thinking strategically, and considering the latest technologies and market conditions—knowledge that will have a direct effect on your business’s bottom line.
The opportunity to pivot your career. Earning your MBA is not just a chance to earn a raise or promotion. It also gives you the opportunity to pivot. You'll gain skills in strategy, finance, analytics, and marketing that others may lack.
Do employers value an MBA?
Let’s talk about your company. If you want your organization to help foot the bill for your MBA and give you time to devote to your studies, they are going to want something in return. What are the benefits of an MBA to an employer?
According to Monster.com, a global leader in connecting people to jobs, MBA graduates are sought for their ability to think critically and solve complex problems.
When asked why Williams-Sonoma hires MBA graduates, Human Resources Manager Leslie Zurburg said, "We are looking for the 50,000-foot view–the strategic thinker who takes an analytical approach."3
Information from Monster.com also notes that companies want MBA graduates because they’re trained critical thinkers and professional problem solvers. MBA-holders are in demand because they have the ability to deal with ambiguity and create changes that help an organization compete.
Sarah Woods, Chief Operating Officer at DockYard, Inc., concurs. “A candidate with an MBA will typically have a larger, more strategic view of business operations. The value of an MBA rests largely on the broad understanding of business and the interconnectedness of its functions.”
In the latest Corporate Recruiters Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council,4 the top five skills employers look for are:
- Data analysis and interpretation
- Strategy and innovation
- Interpersonal skills
- Decision-making processes
“An MBA is never going to land someone a role; that comes down to the individual, but it does increase the various roles one can pursue with confidence.”
How do I convince my employer to pay for my MBA?
So you want your MBA, and companies value employees who have their MBAs. Which leads to the big question, “How do I convince my company to sponsor my MBA?”
Access MBA has some words of wisdom.5
First, do research to ensure your organization is one of the companies that sponsor master’s degrees.
Next, create a list of benefits the company will realize once you have your degree, and have a list of costs (tuition, books, technology, etc.) from your school of choice.
In short, you need to walk into the room with a detailed plan. And there are additional aspects to consider, like the financial health of your company. Does your company have the resources to sponsor the costs of education for their employees?
When the time comes to have the discussion with your company, explain how your MBA will add value to your professional and personal development, and add value to the company.
It's important to your employer that your education add recognizable value to their bottom line.
Last, keep in mind that some companies will expect you to sign a contract to commit to employment with the organization for some length of time after obtaining your degree. You need to decide whether or not that commitment is reasonable. Most companies will require you to pay back all of a portion of your tuition if you leave before the employment term is up.
Back to David Fritzinger. “If you’re three to five years into your career, and can’t afford a program on your own, it’s a great option. For candidates further along in their career, the loss of flexibility may not be worth the trade-off.”
And be sure to check out the Iowa MBA Employer Guide.
- Bethany Garner. “What Do You Learn In An MBA Program.” MBA.com, April 2022.
- “Five important benefits of an MBA.” MacLean’s Education, November 2022.
- Jennifer deJong. “Why do companies prefer MBAs?” Monster.com.
- Andrew Walker, et al. “Corporate Recruiters Survey.” Graduate Management Admission Council, July 2023.
- Valentin Vassilev. “How to Ask for Employer MBA Sponsorship.” Access MBA, October 2019.