Find out about further study at university open days and postgraduate events.
Getting your employer to pay for your futher study sounds like an ideal arrangement, but before they put forward the money you will have to convince them of the benefits
In theory it's a win-win situation. You get to study for a qualification that will improve your ability to do your job and advance your career prospects, and your employer benefits from a better-qualified, more productive and motivated employee.
The reality is more complex though, and convincing your employer to fund your study may be a tough task. They will need to be sure that the qualification you want to do will be worth investing in. Most graduate employers have a positive commitment to training and development, but much depends on the company you work for.
If your company doesn't have any sponsored programmes, but you still think further study would be beneficial to both them and you, arrange to make a proposal to them. The first person to convince will be your line manager but you should also be prepared to make a case to other senior staff or the personnel manager, who will normally have the last word on training expenditure. It’s the personnel manager who will arrange things like time off for study and/or an allowance for books and materials.
If your company has a well-structured performance development process, you should use your appraisal as an opportunity to raise the question of doing a postgraduate course. Show your manager that you have already done some research and identified possible options. Emphasise the benefits you feel the course will bring to the company. Demonstrate how you see it fitting into your longer-term career development within the organisation.
Be prepared for knock-backs - obviously, you shouldn't expect your employer to pay for you to study something that is purely for your own academic or personal interest, but equally there may be sound reasons why they won't support you in a course that has obvious relevance to your work.
There may be organisational or technological changes planned that prevent the need for you to do further study, however appropriate it might seem at the time. Or, your employer may prefer you to do a series of short courses or training programmes.
Once your employer has agreed to help fund your course, signing an agreement which will tie you to the company for a specified period once you've completed the course is not unusual. An MBA, for example, could cost your employer up to £30,000 and the last thing they will want is for you to go off and work for someone else. It's also important to agree time off for revision and exams, arrange different work patterns to be able to fit in your study and discuss any allowance for study materials that you might need.
It is important that you think about how the course will impact on your personal life, too. It is likely that you'll spend most of your free time working on assignments. Overall, as long as you keep track of deadlines and plan what you need to do, it is possible to achieve a good balance between studying and maintaining a life outside of work.
Postgraduate study is just one option for development and you might find that your interests are best served by studying for membership of a professional body or doing a series of shorter programmes. Many universities are stepping up their provision of short continuous professional development programmes, often in conjunction with local employers.
Another option is to apply for a PhD studentship sponsored by an employer. This route can often lead to employment with the company after graduation. Search courses and research or find out more about graduate employers.
The availability of courses locally will be an important factor. If there are no institutions offering the course you are interested in near home, you might consider doing one by distance learning or through The Open University. There are an increasing number of postgraduate programmes delivered partly or entirely by the internet, enabling you to earn a qualification from an institution hundreds of miles away.
An alternative route is through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) which enable graduates to work in companies - usually for up to three years - on projects central to their strategic development. KTP schemes are run by commercial companies in partnership with 'knowledge base' organisations, i.e. universities or research institutions. Participants are paid a competitive salary and gain a fully funded professional management qualification.
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