Going Back to School: 5 Questions You Should Ask Your HR Department

5 Questions You Should Ask Your HR Department to Further Your Education

So you want to go back to school, but don’t know where to start? Your best resource at this phase may be your Human Resources department. Many employers are eager to support their employee’s career growth and have actionable steps & advice to achieving these dreams. An HR department has supplemental resources and extensive knowledge to help guide you in the right direction. Don’t hesitate tapping your internal resources in your company and learn what your HR department can offer. But before reaching out to an HR representative, here are five essential questions to ask:

1. Will I benefit from obtaining a degree?

According to the Department of Education, the average earnings for those holding a Bachelor’s degree are 50 percent higher than the averages of those with only a high school diploma. Obtaining a degree will give you a significant advantage in the workplace, and the best part is that it’s never too late to return to school to further your career.

The factors that usually cause an employee to want to go back to school or finish a degree is mostly promotions or a desire to move up to management positions,” says Ken Schappert, HR at Gerdau. It all starts with research. Your HR department can inform you about nearby colleges that will be the best fit for you. This will become your unshakable goal to get to the next level whether it be a promotion, salary raise, or personal growth. HR reps will remind you that it is not about where you get your degree, but the quality of the degree program.


2. What degree type is the best fit to advance my career in my industry?  

Human Resources knows what degree options will enhance your knowledge and further your skills in your current industry or the one you plan to pursue. “HR departments can be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to understanding what hiring committees or managers are looking for in promoting or filling new positions at a company,” says Marcy Ballew, Vice President of Human Resources at Navarro College. “After all, HR is the department discussing requirements and desired skills, as well as reviewing resumes of applicants.” 

Assess your current position and visualize your desired new role in order to pick the correct degree program. Based on your personal strengths, you and an HR rep can determine what field of study would compliment you best.

If you’re just starting out, Midlothian Higher Education Center offers Associate degrees from Navarro College. However, if you already have a two-year degree, they also offer a variety of Bachelor and Master’s degrees from Tarleton State University. If you want to stay within your current company, HR can advise on what degree plan will best advance you within the company, depending on the position you’d like to have.


3. What learning environment is the best for me and my schedule?

The HR department oversees thousands of employees in several positions—many of which have gone back to school after being in the workforce. HR understands the workload and time commitment school requires, as well as the reality of balancing it with a full-time job. After talking with HR about what degree field and type is best suited to advance you in your specific industry, it is time to figure out what class type is the best fit for you.

Consider either online, traditional, or hybrid classes depending on your lifestyle. Every person is different depending on their learning style and schedule load. Online is great for people who have tight schedules due to several outside commitments. While online classes require heavy self-motivation, it’s conveniently accessible whenever you are.

Traditional is best if you are willing to give up your leisure time for school. You’re able to get the hands-on, college experience with traditional learning. Midlothian Higher Education Center offers modern classrooms and helpful instructors at a college campus that is right in the Midlothian community. If you work during the day, ask about night classes. This is a productive way to still work full-time and go to class afterword. Hybrid classes take face-to-face classroom learning and blends it with independent online learning. Hybrid is a great median if neither online or traditional learning fit for you.


4. How will you help manage my work schedule and school schedule?

When balancing work and school simultaneously, HR can help you with the transition. This is the biggest concern amongst working adults returning to school. “In a lot of cases, we’ll do our best to work with folks. Our feedback is individualized and based on what the employee wants to do,” says Ken Schappert. Each employee’s time commitment, work schedule, and end goals are different. HR will personalize a schedule that best fits your needs.

Don’t forget to ask about part-time job options. Your HR rep will do their best to find a reasonable balance between work and school. It is okay to cut back on work hours if you think working full-time will be unmanageable. Schappert says the major advantage of MHEC is its proximity to the Midlothian community. This is a critical aspect in looking for colleges because it adds practicality, especially if you are able to fit traditional classes in your schedule.


5. Do you offer financial aid?

A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 54 percent of employers offer undergraduate tuition assistance. The most important factor is simply changing your mindset.

Instead of looking at college as adding debt, think of college as a major investment to your future.

In the end, it will pay off thanks to a higher pay roll, better hours, and more authority. Employers will often do the most they can to support your career goals. Many companies offer employees a Tuition-Reimbursement Program that directly assists their higher education.

“When I began working at Navarro College four years ago, I could not have afforded to begin my doctoral studies without the course reimbursement that was offered through their HR department,” says Carol Hanes, Interim VP of Academic Affairs at Navarro College. “Since then, they have provided a one-course reimbursement every semester, allowing me to complete my coursework this summer, so I can graduate next May with my EdD from Texas A&M Commerce.”

Ask your employer today what financial aid options are available to employees and start a conversation early with your HR department. If you have anymore questions about turning a dream to go back to school a reality, reach out to an MHEC counselor for personalized advice.


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