Dying to take an awesome professional development class and want to get your company to pay some or all of the cost? Here are several steps you can take to help secure funding for those opportunities.

With the pace of trends these days, your education should not end the day you earn a degree.

But even if you forgo a pricey master’s degree, decent professional development classes can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. So, why not try getting your company to fund some extra training? Plenty of organizations are more than willing to help employees grow professionally. But in this tight economy, it’s easy to feel awkward or nervous about asking for financial assistance from your current employer, even if they too will reap benefits from your participation in a class.

Here are several steps you can take to help secure funding from your boss for professional training and development opportunities:

Rock the research

I’m lucky enough to have a boss who understands the importance of continuing education. So, when I asked to enroll in several online mediabistro courses, she was happy to sign off — but only because I provided her with the information she needed.

The worst thing you can do when asking your boss to fund training is be unprepared, so make sure to present your employer with multiple well-researched options.

There are several ways to go about researching training opportunities. Check with professional associations, which offer annual conferences, webinars or courses for specified industries—and members often receive discounts. Local universities and community colleges have extensive course listings and certificate programs and so do training institutes and think tanks. You can also ask your coworkers for recommendations because it’s likely they may have experience with development in your field.

After the research phase is complete, I send my boss an e-mail with the facts:

  • Information about the opportunity
  • Up-front fees and any other related expenses (i.e. travel, food, etc.)
  • Benefits to me and the organization
  • Where and when it will take place

End your email with the deadline for signing up and offer to discuss it further in person. Even if you don’t include every detail in the pitch, you should have the information readily available in case your boss has follow-up questions.

Be reasonable and considerate

Recognize that if you work for a small non-profit struggling to stay afloat, then it’s not the time to ask for a $1,000 plane ticket to a 3-day conference in Geneva, Switzerland. When pitching your boss, I also recommend including three options in different price ranges: low, medium and high.

Be sure to consider and compare each option. Is there an online opportunity so you can save on travel and accommodation? What about a local community college or training institute instead of an accredited university? If you feel very strongly that the more expensive option is superior, that’s okay, just make sure you list what’s missing from the cheaper alternative.

Be sensitive to the fact that your training may also interfere with the typical work week. Reassure your boss that you’re willing to work overtime if you will be out of the office for a conference, and make it clear that you plan to complete all readings or assignments on your own time.

Show tangible takeaways

It’s clear that investing in training and development can have positive effects for employees and companies. After she was able to demonstrate tangible benefits of a narrative journalism course, Steph Auteri, a freelance writer, editor and career coach, received partial funding from a past employer. “It’s all about painting a picture of how the class will help you be an even better employee, whether it’s a class that will hone a particular skill that you use on the job, or provide you with a greater understanding of the inner workings of the industry,” she explains. “If you can find that connection, you’re golden.”

I like to focus on how the professional development opportunity I am seeking could help an aspect of the organization that can clearly be improved. If the company only has 40 followers on Facebook, offer to take a social media class so you can build visibility of the brand.

It’s the boss’s job to think about bottom lines, so think of ways you can show savings in conjunction with a higher quality output. Let’s say you want to hone your web skills and your company outsources these duties to a consultant. Offering to take over these responsibilities with the right training could lead to big savings and earn you points.

Offer to pitch in

This is perhaps the simplest way to show your boss you’re really serious about an opportunity. If you suggest using some of your own funds, you will show that you believe in the investment as well.  More often than not, if a request is well thought out, your boss may still offer to pay in full.

Many organizations now offer tuition assistance programs, so don’t forget to check with your supervisor or HR to see if that’s available and what courses qualify.

Be persistent!

If your boss’s initial answer is negative, don’t give up right away. “Open up a dialogue about why they turned you down,” Auteri says. “Perhaps they weren’t clear on why the class is relevant, and you could either A) further explain it to them or B) pinpoint a different class they think would be more relevant to your job.” You could also ask your boss if they would reevaluate in three months or at your next appraisal.

In the meantime, explore free training options, including online webinars, video lectures and educational blogs. If communications is your field, check out the excellent online tutorials from Knight Digital Media Center. Or find and watch relevant TED talks, which are always a great source of inspiration. Think outside of the box, too; did you know the Apple Store offers free workshops?

If you still feel adamant that a specific course is crucial to your career growth, it may be time to suck it up and front the bill yourself. “If a class truly is something you think would help you in your career, you need to be willing to make that investment, whether your employer is backing you or not,” concludes Auteri.

So look out for new training opportunities at all times. It will show your boss that you’re a keeper and make clear that you’re continually willing to learn new things.

Alyssa Martino is a writer and editor based just outside the nation’s capital. She loves digging for stories that connect people, place and possibility. Click your way over to her website to learn more.

Ed. note: Why not test Alyssa’s ideas for Brazen’s Executive Social Media Bootcamp? This four-week online course is designed to take your social media efforts to the next level. Check out the agenda here. It’ll be an easy sell for your boss, we promise.


  1. Book#Hashtags

    The information gained from most professional development courses can be gained for free online if you are prepared to do the leg work to find it. Rather than spending time researching courses and pitching for the funds to do them I think that in many cases that time would have been better spent actually doing the learning yourself.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the comment; I do agree there are many valuable free online trainings, and yes, it does take legwork to find the best ones. However, sometimes people need the motivation and deadlines of a set course syllabus — it just depends on personal preference. I tend to like taking a combination of both free trainings and webinars and ones that are more structured and require some money to enroll or attend. I think both can be great for your professional growth!

      • Book#Hashtags

        I agree, people learn in different ways. Personally I like to get my hands dirty and learn by doing. I also see the benefit in more structured, paid for courses. What I’m not so sure about is having to spend a lot of time justifying the spend when you could have spent that time developing the skills you want to learn. Unless of course you are looking to develop your skills of persuasion. 🙂

    • Elsa

      I think that’s true if you’re strictly looking to learn facts and figures. But that doesn’t give you a lot of the other benefits of professional development, like exercises that let you learn through doing, the opportunity to develop your network, the opportunity to learn not just from the instructor but from the experience and wisdom of other people in the program, and the chance to ask questions.

  2. Angdis

    I agree with all the above. Spending some time in professional development with your nose off the grindstone, is _extremely_ valuable. While it is fully possible to “learn online for free,” what that really translates to for your employer is that you’d be doing it on your own time. Professional development is important. Not only is it a way to pick up new knowledge, but it is a way to network with other professionals and see what the state-of-the-art is. This always involves meeting people outside your organization, traveling and spending quality time doing it.

    Doing it on your own time might be necessary for some jobs, but if you’re working for an employer that can afford it, not being able to get funding for at least annual professional development is the sign of a short-sighted manager of a dead-end job. If this is the case, I think it is your duty to cite “lack of funding/time for professional development” in your resignation letter when you leave for a better job that makes allowances for these things.

    • Anonymous

      I think this is a great point for employers to understand: investing in your employees with training and development can help build loyalty and mutual respect, while doing the opposite can push them away….

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  5. Karl Sakas

    Good advice, Alyssa — you definitely want to present it from your boss’ perspective.

    GeekCruises used to have a downloadable PDF that you could give your boss — it had the same info as the one-pager for participants, but everything was framed from how the company would benefit.

  6. Banking Analyst

    The disadvantage to self-directed learning is that it often does not count towards a recognized credential or certification. For example, if you are working toward a professional designation such as “Certified Management Accountant,” you cannot simply study accounting on your own and have it recognized. You must take it through a recognized university or other provider.

  7. Sunkara Krishna

    Good suggestion and agree with you.

  8. Usman Khan

    Well crafted post with good points. Highly appreciated Alyssa Martino. I agree with you the company evaluates your past performance record before funding new education. An employee who has served an entity as a valuable resource, who has good grades in academic records and is well disciplined with attractive physical appearance is preferred by the Company executives as investing in such a corporate resource will yield positive results

    • Jeff Thomas

      Pretty much sums up my thoughts for the post. This is like free counselling for anyone interested in preparing their company for training and development.

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  13. Akif

    i dont know why not people can be persistent ;/

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