Have you been thinking about a career change? You’re not alone.

COVID, lockdowns and working from home has seen many of us begin to reconsider the role of work in our lives and make meaningful changes. This is a trend that has become known as ‘The Great Reshuffle’.

Alongside this we’re beginning to understand the different skills we’ll need to be successful in the jobs of the future. As the nature of work evolves, we need to evolve too – and lifelong learning is key to making sure you stay employable.

Whether it’s a master’s, graduate diploma, graduate certificate or short course, postgraduate study is one of the best investments you can make in your career. As with any investment, it’s important to do your research and understand the ways to finance your study. But it also helps to know that there are ways to reduce the overall cost of further study.

Nicolas Chu
Sinorbis CEO & UNSW Business School Professor of Practice

Study for professional development – benefits for both sides

CEO and Founder of Sinorbis and UNSW Business School Professor of Practice Nicolas Chu says that most workplaces understand the benefits of lifelong learning, and many will agree to fund further study.

“From an employer’s perspective, it helps with employee loyalty, it increases productivity, and it provides the employer with highly skilled staff,” he explains. Studying while working, he says, is also one of the most efficient ways to supercharge the career advantages. “You can immediately apply what you’re learning. You move from theory to practice in your day-to-day, and you get this benefit of applying what you’re learning so much faster,” explains Chu. 

If you’re thinking about advancing your career, and would like your workplace to support you with study, how do you go about pitching this to your boss? Professor Chu offered some guidance on the best approach.

  • “Do your homework. You want to come to them and demonstrate that you’ve thought about a career path, what you think it could contribute to the company, and which programs will help you to achieve it,” says Chu. “You want to clearly list the ways the company will benefit from your continued education.”

  • While we know that funding continued education for employees can increase loyalty, motivation, and productivity, Professor Chu says it’s better to leave these points out of your conversation with your boss – they should be implicit. “The elephant in the room would be that funding your postgraduate study is a good way to retain you, but don’t bring it up,” says Chu. “An employer should know those things.”

  • It’s important to use your discretion about limitations. “For instance, if you have only been with the company two months and your performance is terrible, I wouldn’t recommend pitching this. But if you have been with the company a year or two years, this can be a natural discussion as part of your performance reviews,” he explains. “What could also happen is that the company might not be able to afford to pay for the whole thing. But if they aren’t supportive at all – whether that be through giving you the time or financial support – that could be a red flag for the employee.”

  • As with any financial agreement, you might be asked to sign a contract with conditions. This could include things like completing the course with good marks, in a certain amount of time, or to continue working with the company for a period after completing your program. It’s important to make sure you can honour your side of the agreement.

    Ultimately, this kind of arrangement is about an employer and employee working together and understanding that the benefits of lifelong learning run both ways.  

This isn't the right fit for me or my work. What are the alternatives? 

If your employer can’t afford financial study support, or the program you’re interested in doesn’t relate to your current career, there are still ways to reduce the overall cost of postgraduate study.

Scholarships and awards

Postgraduate scholarships and awards can significantly reduce the cost of your study, so it’s worth doing some research to find out what’s available that you might be eligible for. UNSW offers scholarships and awards to support passionate, committed, and motivated students from a diverse range of backgrounds, across many of our faculties and courses.

Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs)

A Commonwealth Supported Place, or CSP is a government subsidised spot in an Australian higher education program. Although postgraduate CSPs are less common, they’re still available, and can significantly reduce the cost of your study. If you choose to defer your remaining fees with a HECS/HELP loan, a CSP can mean you don’t have to pay any course fees upfront.

Want more tips?

In our series 'Ace a Job Interview Like a Boss', Professor Chu and other UNSW experts offered us their guidance on how to tackle the trickiest questions we often face in job interviews.

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