Woman talking to a man across table

Deciding to pursue your education can be an exciting time, but if you are working a full or part-time job while going to school, talking to your boss about your academic goals can be daunting. What if as a result of going back to school, your boss considers you a “short timer” and passes you up for key projects or promotions?

If you are planning on keeping your job while going back to school, talking to your boss is often the first step you can take. It may be intimidating, but this conversation is an important step in the process. 

“Discussing academic goals with your boss at work can be nerve-wracking but also a positive and rewarding experience because it demonstrates your commitment to personal and professional growth,” said SDSU Global Campus Admissions Advisor Belinda Carter. “Here are a few points that I recommend bringing up to help guide the conversation.

  • Have a clear outline of your academic goals and how they can align with your current job role.
  • Discuss how you plan to manage your academic pursuits along with your work commitments.
  • If tuition assistance or other resources are available from your employer, discuss how you can use this to your benefit.
  • Listen to your boss’s feedback and be open to suggestions and adjustments they might propose.

“After the conversation, you should send a brief email summarizing the conversation and the key points that were discussed. This ensures that you are both on the same page and will be able to reference this email in future discussions,” Carter advised.

Reasons to Talk to Your Boss

Talking to your employer about you going back to school can help them be more mindful of the academic process you are undertaking so that you don’t have to juggle too many responsibilities. In doing so, your boss may consider your college coursework and make scheduling adjustments so you can simultaneously attend class and work.

Whether you are aiming to take on more challenges in your position, change your career path, or make more money, establishing your goals with your manager can help guide you in the right direction.

Advancing in Your Company

Oftentimes, when you are looking for a promotion or to take on more responsibilities, you do not have to change companies. It is a good idea to speak with your boss because they can offer insight, advice, and details about potential positions available for you to be promoted to.

Your boss can also offer you resources and tuition assistance in some instances, so make sure to ask about the professional development budget your company has.

Changing Career Paths

When you are looking to change career paths, talking to your boss becomes important when you want to secure your position while achieving your education. You need to be up front with your goals, but you want to avoid making it seem like you have “one foot out of the door”. 

When you talk with your manager, make sure that you express that your school will help you become more of an asset to the company. Play up how it will positively impact your current role to ensure that your boss understands that you are still invested in your job.

Finding Your Career

If your current job is a stepping stone for you to begin your career, you want to have a conversation with your boss to get on the same page. Getting aligned with your boss in this instance can allow your job to tailor job duties, specific hours, and other details based on your new work and school schedule. 

Approaching the Conversation

If you decide to talk to your boss, you should have a game plan going into it so you don’t miss important information you need to tell them. When you make your plan, consider these tips.

Prepare Your Information

A good rule of thumb is to always come prepared. If you can, bring your course schedule so your employer can properly gauge the workload you are taking on. You also want to prepare the “why” you are getting your education and “how” you plan to go about it. 

Communicate Your Needs

Communicating your needs to your employer will give you a more efficient and streamlined academic experience. Be honest about the timeline, maybe you need Thursdays off to go to class and be sure to include any other accommodations you might need for your new schedule.

Present College as a Benefit

Pursuing your education is a commitment of not only your money, but your time. Because of this, employers may fear that your academic career will pose a threat to your existing career. Ensure that your education will only benefit the company and your skillset and that your career will not fall on the back-burner during your academic experience. 

Share Your Career Plan

Getting on the same page with your boss is important so you may work together. Sharing your career plan is an important factor to ensuring your boss can help you reach your goals, push your skillset, accommodate your needs, write you a positive recommendation, and provide any extra information that will help you move forward in your career. 

Gain support in Your Journey

When your boss understands your goals, they can help you in various ways. So make sure you are flexible and understanding with your boss when communicating your needs and goals to gain their support. From there on out each end may be better equipped to create a better work environment for your needs and the company’s needs.

Template to Use

Here’s an example of how you can open a conversation with your boss about your academic goals.

“Dear [boss], 

I am aiming to continue my educational journey and looking forward to advancing my academic and professional goals. In going back to school I plan to grow my skills as an employee and broaden my scope of knowledge. However, I may need your support during this time and I would like to set up a meeting with you to discuss this matter.”

Using this template and implementing these tips can help you on your journey to success. Above all, remember to be upfront, flexible, and clear when discussing your academic goals with your boss.