How to Get Your Company to Help Pay for Graduate School

Author: Staff

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Company-Sponsored Education: Master’s in Data Science Degrees

Data science is one of the fastest-growing careers throughout the world. In the United States alone, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 13,500 new jobs for data scientists every year over the next decade. Whether you work in tech, healthcare, the military, or business, there’s a good chance your employer could benefit from data science—or might already be looking to add data scientists to their team.

If you’re interested in a data science role within your organization, many employers offer company-sponsored education, or at least partial tuition reimbursement, to help you develop work-related skills. Taking advantage of employer-sponsored education is one way to become an adaptable, three-dimensional data scientist and advance within your company.

So, how can you get your company to help finance your education?

1. Find out what your employer offers—and if there’s any flexibility within the company-sponsored education policy.

Many employers, including leading companies like Apple, AT&T, Boeing, Epic, DirecTV, Raytheon, and the Walt Disney Company, offer tuition reimbursement or other company-sponsored education benefits. As of 2019, about 47% of employers in the United States offered some type of employer-sponsored education for employees. Tuition reimbursement from employers can range from single courses to much higher amounts—Intel, for example, pays up to $50,000 per program.

Most tuition reimbursement from employers only covers a portion of a degree program, so you’ll want to research what “employer-sponsored education” means at your company. Beyond tuition reimbursement, ask your employer if your company can sponsor other parts of a degree program, such as:

  • Books and supplies
  • Computer hardware and software
  • Travel, conferences, or immersions

Immersions and conferences provide benefits beyond immediate education, including networking opportunities, industry insights, and information on special topics. Your employer may be willing to cover costs associated with your degree program that aren’t reflected in the tuition, especially if it means you can share valuable information or training with your team.

2. Do your research. Which program will provide you and your employer the most value in the long run?

Maybe you’re already working with data and want to make it your full-time role, or maybe you’re changing careers within your organization. Regardless, it can be challenging to figure out the first step to attaining that goal. Is a master’s in data science worth it? Or should you take an individual course? How will you balance your academic and personal life with your professional commitments?

You’ll want to answer these questions before you go to your employer about utilizing company-sponsored education benefits. If you’re comparing ways to advance in your career, in addition to considerations like the cost, hard skills you need, or job you want, consider the program’s overall value.

Ask the following questions:

  • What benefits will this program provide beyond the immediate future? Consider skills, networking opportunities, and curriculum.
  • After graduation, will I have a competitive edge in the job market outside of my organization? Will I be able to adapt to changes in the data science industry?
  • Does the program fit various learning styles, or only cater to one?
  • Is the program designed for working professionals?
  • Will I be able to apply what I’ve learned immediately to my work?

Whether you take a single course or complete a graduate degree, learning data science is an investment. These questions can help you determine how worthy that investment will be long-term.

“[Data collection and analysis] was only about 25% of my time. The other 75% was spent on consulting with clients and health systems on software configuration. But I realized I wanted that 25% to become 100% of my work … I wouldn’t have gotten that role if I wasn’t on my way to getting [a master’s in data science] degree. It gave me the tools I needed to crush the interview, answer technical questions, and present a case study of a big data set to the CTO.” – Evan Welsh, Senior Data Analyst at Vida Health

3. Make the value proposition clear. Why should your company help fund your degree?

While employer-sponsored education is marketed as an employee benefit, it ultimately benefits your employer as well. When you’re ready to ask your employer to finance your education, ensure that you know what makes it worthwhile for your company. Include the hard skills you’ll learn, along with additional advantages such as project-based learning. However, make sure to emphasize the program’s return on investment. Leverage information about the value of promoting an internal candidate. Discuss information about the school—what makes the program trustworthy? What coursework might you be able to apply right away? How will this program improve your performance, both immediately and over the long term? Be ready to sell the program and, ultimately, yourself when you’re looking for tuition reimbursement from your employer.

“People at work already knew me as the ‘data guy,’ but now we can really get things done since I’ll have this degree under my belt. I help my team members think through the data science method and data science storytelling. I can actually engage in changing the entire culture of my organization because of the new processes and technical skills I now have.” – Ryan Woodbury, Senior Data Analyst for DIRECTV

Gain the Notre Dame Edge in Our Online Data Science M.S.

If you want to set yourself apart in your organization and outside of it, learn more about Notre Dame’s master’s in data science program. In this respected program, you’ll learn essential cutting-edge data science concepts and skills, including data visualization, natural language processing, R and Python programming, and advanced machine learning. Beyond gaining the tools you’ll need for data analysis, you’ll also examine ethical considerations in data science and build your communication skills.

Crucially, Notre Dame’s program prepares you to apply what you’ve learned right away in real-world contexts—a key differentiator to highlight when asking your employer to finance your education. Our students often share that they’ve been able to take course concepts and skills to work, sometimes as soon as the next day. Beyond immediate application, you’ll also develop a big-picture view of data science, learning how to adapt to the ever-changing environment and new technologies.

In other words, our program provides value now and in the future for both you and your employer.

Sound like a program for you? Download our guide for more information, view upcoming events or a past student-led information session, or apply today. You can also talk to our team about company-sponsored education and what it could mean for you.