As our most recent Salary Survey
points out, certificates and training are vital. Tech pro salary levels are plateauing, and the most solid path forward for career growth (and more money) is continuing education. But certifications and training are expensive (really
expensive, in many cases). Bootcamps and online courses can run thousands of dollars. Learning new skills adds value to your résumé, but should you be expected to foot the bill when your employer is reaping the rewards? We don’t think so; here’s how to get your bosses to pay for at least a portion of your education.
Be Realistic About Certifications
Do you need
a certification? More to the point, does your employer need you to have it? If the answer is ‘no,’ then there’s likely no way your boss will set aside cash in the budget for continuing education. It’s just that simple. Indeed, depending on what you do, you likely don't need a certification to do your job; chances are good that you can get by without one on the wall. But if your role at work is changing (especially if it's becoming more complex and sophisticated), it might be a good time to ask for funds to enroll in a certification or training program. Tell your boss that the more you know, the more effectively you can perform your role from Day One, and the better the company will be in the long run. And speaking of long runs...
Certifications and Training are Investments
Maybe your company is expanding into a new area, or just changing its core mission and goals. Perhaps it wants more from its dev teams, or is spinning up new projects
with an eye toward creating finished products. Whatever the scenario, the company is making an investment – so it should make one in you, right? We think so! With the company expanding, it’s a good time to make the case for certifications and training. Sure, that might mean you need to take a few hours off per week to attend classes (or a few days to attend seminars somewhere else), but your education will ultimately benefit the company's plans. It’s better for a company to invest in the people they have than hire new people who may have the right skills, but won't necessarily prove the right fit for the company's culture. Your company should invest in you as well as itself.
Blood From a Turnip
Have you ever heard that old saying “you can’t get blood from a turnip”? It means you can’t get something when it’s just not there. Let’s say you sit through another annual review where your boss gives you nothing but praise, but says it’s time for you to do more for the company. But you don’t have the knowledge or skills to do more. You’re killing it at your job, but that hasn't stopped you from hitting a ceiling. When this happens, explain things to your manager. Tell them you want more responsibility, and an expanded role, and it’s a good time to invest in training for you. Identify some training or certification programs that may help you, as well as the company, and present them as options.
Don’t make it about you, at least not all the time. Many certification platforms have enterprise options, so the training could involve your entire team. It could also lead to an expanded continuous education program for the company. LinkedIn Learning
(which was originally the catch-all learning platform Lynda) has classes for just about every skill, and a corporate program, for instance. Encourage your management to identify where training may help the rest of the team or company, and surface these types of programs as a means to help the company grow. Even though you may not gain a certification, these types of learning platforms are sort of like Neo learning Kung Fu in 'The Matrix'; you just sort of download it to your brain and start being awesome!
Find the Right Program
Let’s run through a scenario: your company wants to move to AWS, ditch its on-site servers, and go all-in on cloud hosting and services. But you don’t know a thing about AWS, and you’re used to managing your own stack. Don’t panic. This is normal; technology moves fast, and you need to keep up. Instead of looking for a new job and painting yourself into a career-corner, this is a great time to learn while getting paid. Identify which AWS programs you’d need to take (Amazon’s Developer Portal
has tons of documentation and other help, as do platforms such as Udemy), present them to your boss, and discuss a path forward. This is a bad time to suggest taking a sabbatical so you can retreat to a mountain bootcamp and learn about AWS (or whatever technology serves this kind of example). Unless your company is able to allow you (and possibly your entire team) weeks away from the office for a bootcamp, online learning is probably your best bet. Setting specific time aside to take these online courses or lectures is smart, but you can pick at that as needed (or binge it, whatever works best for you and your company).
Ready to Make Your Pitch Yet?
Consider the points we’ve covered before heading into negotiations. Is the certification or training necessary? Will the company benefit? Does it pave a path for company growth? You might be asking why it’s all about your employer when you’re the one taking the classes and doing the work. It’s simple: If the company can’t see there will be a return on investment, it won’t pay for your certification or training program. A possible manager's rebuttal to you asking for continuing education is that it only makes you a more attractive candidate for other employers. Your manager likely feels some natural angst that you’ll use your paid-for education to find another job. And your job is to assure them it’s about the work, not a selfish desire to move on. Studies show 19 percent of tech pros are more loyal when the work is interesting
. A separate study shows 55 percent of companies are willing to pay
for employee certifications or continuing education, a 22 percent increase since 2016. If your company won’t invest in you, that's potentially a problem.