Starting a new job isn’t the only time to set new professional goals. The beginning of a new year, re-entering the workforce after a long break, or even just a work anniversary, are also good times to think about growing your skills and advancing your career. Professional development is a great way to support your career path, but the cost can add up quickly — especially when you factor in registration and enrollment fees, along with any travel expenses.
Luckily, most employers today have a dedicated budget for professional development, and they’re happy to cover the full cost or at least part of it, especially if you can show how the opportunity will benefit the company — not just you.
So how can you get your employer to pay for your professional development? In short: You just ask! That said, there are a few ways to make your case more effectively.
What is professional development?
Let’s say your manager needs help on a big project and you’re ready to take on a new challenge in your current position. The problem is, you don’t have some of the skills needed to step in and help out. Plus, your manager won’t even consider you for it since you lack this specific experience.
Instead of giving up on the idea, you do your research and find a webinar series that’ll teach you exactly what you need to know. The series will also teach you other relevant skills to your position that you can use later on. So not only is it a great investment for the short term, but it’s also beneficial in the long term.
This webinar is a good example of professional development and how it can benefit both you and your team. Professional development can also look like a conference, online courses, a professional certification, participation in professional organizations, and even on-the-job opportunities like learning a new skill from a senior co-worker.
Your participation in any of these can give you the knowledge you need to take your career to the next level and open new doors.
Is professional development worth the investment?
When it comes to professional development, both you and your employer will need to determine if the opportunity is worth the price tag before you make the commitment. Keep in mind that you’ll approach this question from a different perspective than your manager.
From a business perspective, your manager will need to prove why investing in your professional development is financially worth it for the company and your team. They’ll also need to consider how much time during your workday you’ll need to set aside (if any). This is important because while you’re taking a class or attending a conference, you won’t be performing your other responsibilities. So your manager will think about your request as both a financial and a time investment.
From an individual perspective, a question to ask yourself is if the time commitment is worth it for you. Will there be coursework to complete outside of class? How much time do you need to dedicate to practicing your new skill in order to master it? While some managers set aside a number of hours for you to spend on professional development each month, not every manager is in the position to do this. So you might be looking at a scenario where you’ll need to complete assignments and practice your new skills outside the work day. Ask yourself if this is something you’re willing to do.
As far as paying for your own professional development, either in full or partially, the right opportunity can be extremely beneficial. Aside from learning something new that translates to your current job or could lead to an upcoming promotion, the networking that happens during professional development events could take you to a whole new level in your career. If you have the means, you can think about paying for your professional development as investing in your future career-self.
How to approach your employer about a professional development opportunity
Once you’ve researched opportunities and settled on the professional development experience you want to pursue, you’re ready to have the money talk with your manager. Maybe you’ve casually talked about this with your manager already, but we suggest that you send your request in an email. This makes your request official, and it’s the respectful way to go about asking your company to invest in your learning.
There are a few key pieces of information you’ll want to include in your email. First, write a brief explanation telling your manager why you want to do this. Maybe the benefits are obvious to you, but you’ll still want to state your reasoning with specific examples of how the company and your team will benefit from this experience. Will you learn to code more efficiently and therefore improve the overall team efficiency? Will your new skills mean the team doesn’t need to pay for an expensive contractor? Will it help the team reduce turnaround times? Don’t underestimate the impact of pointing out the cost-saving benefits.
Next, you can explain what you hope to accomplish during this professional development opportunity. Will it help you take on more responsibility? Will you have the chance to meet potential future clients for the company? Will it help you advance to a managerial position? Employers like when employees have a long-term vision of their future with the company, and they’re often willing to invest in that.
Lastly, you’ll want to dive into the financial details. Along with the cost of the professional development experience, make sure you include per diem and travel expenses, if they’re relevant.
Email asking your employer to pay for professional development example
Here’s an example of an email asking for an employer to pay for professional development (via a Codecademy subscription — naturally). Depending on your relationship with your manager, this can be altered to be more or less formal.
I’m following up on our discussion from a few days ago where I expressed my interest in improving my coding skills so I can become a more efficient programmer and qualify to be a team lead at a future date. To maximize my value to the team — and the company as a whole, I found a few professional development courses that I’m interested in taking.
After researching the skills needed to perform as a team lead and taking an honest look at where I need to improve the most, I’ve narrowed my preferences to these courses, which are available at Codecademy:
As you suggested, I plan to take advantage of Pinnacle Tech’s professional development fund and have 12 hours of my time covered each month for the next six months to work on coursework. I’ll also be working through the material on my own time.
I can gain full access to these courses and all necessary materials for $39.99 a month. However, it’d be cost-effective for me to get a full-year subscription, which costs $19.99 per month. I’d like to request that Pinnacle Tech pays for my first year of courses, which would be $239.88.
I genuinely believe these courses will help me become a more efficient coder and better support our team and Pinnacle Tech.
Thank you for your consideration and ongoing support. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Even though it can be awkward to ask your employer to pay for something, it might surprise you just how easy it is to get funds to cover the cost of professional development. In most cases, you just need to take the first step — put yourself out there and ask for support. Your willingness to learn new skills and your initiative to seek out the opportunity won’t go unnoticed.