When to ask interviewer/employer about part-time MBA support?


Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Aug 25, 2004
Officially, my employer (a mega-corp) has a tuition reimbursement program that will pay for school/classes if it is related to your work. I work in finance so there is a clear relationship between the material in an MBA and my job. However, I have heard through the grapevine that some people have had trouble getting HR to sign off on approving your use of the tuition reimbursement program. I don't know what excuse they use to deny it but people have told me that they have had to fight for it, and some never got it approved.

I am about to finish a two-year management training program with this company and I am going to be interviewing for new jobs in the next few months and I am absolutely certain that I want to get a part-time MBA. The program I am looking at is a well-regarded school (top 20 for MBA rankings) but costs $30k/year for 2 years, which is a substantial cost. What is the appropriate timing to bring up this subject during the interview process? Should I ask during the interview to see how receptive they are? Or should I wait until I have an offer in hand before bringing it up? I expect to get more than one offer so if one manager is willing to support the MBA and another is not, that could easily be the deciding factor in which job I accept. I am very sure that I don't want to work for a manager that does not see the value in an MBA, so I am not so worried about "offending" one of them if that's how they feel.

Are there any other negotiating tactics I should consider with regard to this issue? For example, I am willing to take a job in a less-desirable location if they will support the MBA...alternately, I'm willing to agree to a longer commitment (4 years instead of the standard 2 years) if they support the MBA. As a last resort, I would be willing to pay some of the cost of school out of my own pocket, so maybe instead of reimbursing 100% they could do less (75%? 50%?) and I would pick up the slack. Do you think they'll be receptive to any of these approaches? At the end of the day, if my employer isn't willing to support this, I will start looking at other companies or considering going back to school full-time...obviously I don't want them to think that I am quite so "mercenary" about it...but I do want them to know that I am a free agent.
As I understand it, you are talking about jobs within your current employer, right? If so, I would only accept a position if you have a firm understanding with the hiring manager that pursuing an MBA is your goal and a necessary prerequisite of taking the job. Since you are willing to be flexible on other aspects of the package and your company has a reimbursement program, you should have room to negotiate. But be prepared to walk if you don't get what you want.

I would bring it up as part of the negotiations after the manager has decided they want you and start bargaining. Don't bother mentioning it until after you have pretty much sold them on you as "the one".
Lots of mega corps will pay, but they limit how much they will pay...

Usually the only way you will get a $30 K per year reimbursement is if an executive made the call and sent you to an executive MBA program... doing it on your own will get you a lot less (mine is only a couple of K per year)...

And then there is the time commitment... most new managers do not want you coming in and your top priority is your MBA instead of learning your new job... it is almost always a good idea to get a current manager to agree as they know you can do your job..

Just my thoughts...
My company caps at ~$5k a year, but as far as what they will think of you doing it, my experience has always been positive, if management has their head screwed on, better to have some one in the position who is ambitious and is a doer vs. some mossy rock that will just occupy a cube for 25 years chatting on the phone about last nights reality show....

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