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Employee Education Tips: How to Get an Employer-Sponsored Online MBA

14 Sep

If you're thinking about career advancement at your current job, earning an online MBA through employee education is a smart idea. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, MBA graduates earn 75% more on average than employees with just a bachelor's degree, a difference that can result in a $3 million dollar gap in lifetime earnings!

What's more, this is a particularly good time to level up. The demand for business school graduates is expected to increase over the next five years.1 Some of these in-demand positions may be at the company where you already work.

One “fly in the ointment” of earning an online MBA is the high cost of MBA programs themselves. You can spend more than $50,000 just on tuition alone.2 You do have one potential cost-saving advantage, though. There's a chance your current boss might pay for some, or all, of your employee education. Let's take a closer look.

Employee Education Tuition-Reimbursement Programs

A number of organizations, including some Fortune 500 companies, will help their employees pay for an MBA degree. Altruism is not their primary motive. The company calculates that they'll get a lucrative return on their investment once you acquire new business management skills. Often, these companies will expect employees to remain at the company for a set period of time after earning a company-sponsored MBA.


Sponsorships occur when employers agree to foot a sizable portion of your tuition—in some cases, 100% of your tuition—with the expectation that you'll use your new skills to benefit the company.

Tuition Assistance

Other companies forgo outright sponsorship, electing instead to give employees a stipend to cover some portion of their tuition costs. Tuition assistance stipends may be awarded annually, while others come in the form of a stipend for the cost of the entire program, including class materials.

Tuition Reimbursement

Some companies reimburse you for the cost of tuition, textbooks, and fees. This reimbursement can either be a set amount or a percentage of the total cost of getting an online MBA.

MBA Scholarships

A few companies actually offer their employees scholarships. Goldman Sachs, for instance, awards $35,000 to first-year MBA students who pursue a summer associate position with them.3

Who offers these programs?

You'll find sponsorship, tuition assistance, and reimbursement programs at Fortune 500 companies and tech startups alike.4 Here are just some of the available employer-sponsored programs:

  • Disney's Aspire Program pays 100% of the tuition upfront if you go to one of their in-network schools. The company also has a tuition reimbursement program.
  • IBM will cover the full cost of your MBA, provided it is related to your current position.
  • Bank of America gives tuition reimbursement up to $7,500 per year toward several advanced programs, including MBAs.
  • Intel gives employees up to $50,000 in tuition assistance when they pursue an advanced business degree, and unlike most companies, they don't require you to stick around once you have the MBA in hand.
  • Verizon's Global Tuition Assistance Program allows employees to use up to $8,000 a year toward MBA tuition, textbooks, and fees.
  • Walgreens partners with several universities to offer its employees a 10 - 25% discount on tuition if they get an MBA from one of their select academic partners.

Tips for Getting Your Employer to Offset Your Tuition Costs

If your company already has a program, check their guidelines and get further details by talking to a Human Resources representative. Sometimes, upper management hand-selects tuition sponsorship candidates based on job performance. You'll need to show initiative, company loyalty, and leadership potential in order to be considered.

If your company doesn't currently offer tuition assistance, it doesn't hurt to ask. However, you'll need to perform due diligence when building your case. The bottom line is whether you can improve the company's ROI by getting an MBA, not whether you personally deserve to get the degree. If you can use statistics and projections to make your case, you'll stand a better chance of success.

Other tips to build your case:

  • Remember that the IRS allows employers to deduct up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement per employee.5
  • Present a workable timeframe for when you'll have the degree completed.
  • Evaluate your current performance in quantitative terms. If you can prove that you are valuable to the company now and that your value will increase once you have an MBA, your case will be stronger.

It also helps to have a "plan B" in case your company can't help with tuition assistance. That may include negotiating for non-cash benefits to offset the cost of getting the degree. For instance, the company may be willing to let you work from home one or two days a week on class days.

An Online MBA: Your Ticket to a Better Future

Getting your MBA degree online gives you the flexibility to keep your day job while working to acquire new management skills. Although many MBA candidates seek positions at new companies, getting your employer to cover some of the tuition costs is an excellent way to solidify your position with the company and advance within its ranks.

Are you ready to get started?

The Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University is a top-10 ranked online MBA program with four available online concentrations: Leading Innovative Organizations, Marketing, Finance, and Data Science and Business Analytics. You'll learn from some of the most brilliant minds in Silicon Valley and connect with alumni at some of the world's most powerful companies. Check out our course offerings today. Apply today to get the next phase of your business career started.