The job market is hot, and it’s a great time to find a new gig or re-commit to your current role. But there is one employment perk you’ll want to prioritize—and many companies are offering it: educational assistance. Learning is significantly linked to happiness and career growth, so finding an employer who offers to pay for college, help with tuition or support your schooling will reap plenty of benefits.
The good news is you’ll have a range of employers from which to choose, because the number of organizations offering assistance is growing. On Thursday, Amazon announced they would pay for college tuition and books. They joined other giants who have similar perks: Apple, Best Buy, Bank of America, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Deloitte, Ford, JBS USA Holdings, Kaiser Permanente, Novartis, Papa John’s, Starbucks, Target, Walmart and Whirlpool to name a few.
What’s New and What’s to Gain
Tuition payments aren’t so new, but some elements are fresh—based on the talent revolution and the need to sweeten the proverbial pot beyond just wages. More companies are now willing to offer the benefit to all levels of workers, and for a greater variety of classes and degrees. Also new is the number of universities from which employees may choose to take classes. And timing is news as well: More companies are offering the benefit immediately upon employment or within shorter windows of starting with the company.
Companies have a lot to gain from offering opportunities for educational assistance. Numerous studies (this one from Bright Horizons is an example) have demonstrated people are more likely to join a company that has generous educational benefits, and they are more likely to stay. In addition, they are more likely to be engaged and happier. And happier employees set bigger goals, are more likely to reach them, tend to perform better and tend to be healthier. It’s a strong chain reaction: companies invest in learning and positive outcomes are the result.
The 10 Compelling Benefits of Learning
But perhaps the most significant benefits of education are for employees. Here are 10 ways learning, development and education matter most.
#1 – A positive work experience. Educational programs remind you that your employer is willing to invest in you and your future. In addition, tuition assistance is often part of a broader set of benefits that demonstrate value for employees and part of a culture which is oriented toward learning, growth and a positive employee experience.
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#2 – Autonomy. Another interesting element of learning programs is their relationship to self-determination. When you have more autonomy at work, you’re more likely to be happy, and learning is a powerful way to express your own choices—about what you do outside of work, the skills you choose to develop and the goals you set for yourself.
#3 – Self-confidence and demeanor. Learning new things is a boost to self-confidence because it tends to remind you of what you already know, build additional capabilities and provide you with new skills which contribute to your current and future success. In addition, a study by Oxford University found when people studied at a university or college they tended to boost their agreeableness and likeability—both of which are a boon to forming positive relationships and getting ahead.
#4 – Career growth and increased wages. New learning also tends to result in better jobs and more pay. Employers value and appreciate those who are seeking to advance and they tend to reward this effort through promotions and pay. In a study of Cigna by the Lumina Foundation, employees who took advantage of educational reimbursement programs saw a 43% increase in wages.
#5 – Decision making. A study by Cornell University found when people participated in formal educational programs, they tended to make better decisions and express greater rationality, especially where it concerned economic assessments. Essentially, people made better choices which had positive financial impacts. And this was true even four years after classes. This has benefits for your company when you’re budgeting, forecasting and making day-to-day choices which have financial impact, but it also impacts you personally in all the economically-oriented decisions you make in your life.
#6 – Your network. Another huge benefit of learning is the people you meet and the connections you make. We are all wired for social relationships and crave interaction and community. We may desire these to greater or lesser extents depending on our degree of introversion or extroversion, but we all need some level of connection. In educational settings you’re likely to sit side-by-side with someone new or be thrown into a project with an acquaintance from whom you can learn a lot. There’s nothing like working on a tough, late-night statistics project with your classmate to create lasting bonds. And this network is especially powerful for career growth and learning. Statistically, most new opportunities come from the edges of your network—people who are more distant and who don’t know others in your circle—because they have access to new information which can result in opportunities for growth. The people you meet through your classes can make you aware of the new volunteer project, the new community group or even the new role which will offer you the chance to express your talents.
#7 – Family outcomes. The benefits of education go beyond work circumstances as well. They also affect families: When parents are more educated, there is a measurable gain in their children’s achievement over their lifetimes as well. This is according to a study by the University of Sussex. In addition, the University of Illinois demonstrated more education tends to result in longer lifespans, but also greater socioeconomic accomplishment.
#8 – Perspective. Another reason learning is linked with happiness is because educational pursuit tends to broaden your horizons, and this greater perspective is linked with a sense of joy. Educational programs allow you to learn beyond your current expertise and whether you’re studying history, accounting, strategy or Spanish, you’ll get a new view and expand your knowledge of the world. A hallmark of depression is a myopic viewpoint where you feel limited or trapped within your circumstances. But a broader view—of others, of the world, of circumstances and of possibilities—gained through education—is correlated with more joy.
#9 – Hope and aspiration. One of the elements of resilience and happiness is a forward focus, and education, by definition, reinforces an emphasis on the future. You’re investing time in your increasing knowledge, you’re imagining where you might apply new skills and you’re optimistic about where you’ll go next. All of these are fundamental to joy.
#10 – Wellbeing and satisfaction. The benefits of education are broad and overlapping, and a study between Oxford University and the Workers Educational Association of England and Scotland found when people participated in classes outside of work, they experienced improved mental and physical health and they reported greater satisfaction with their lives. Similar to other research, people in the study also reported more self-confidence, greater feelings of control, and increased motivation and belonging. And according to a study by San Francisco State University those who engaged in formal education experienced greater happiness and life satisfaction overall.
Bonus – Country-level outcomes. Beyond benefits for employees and companies, the link between learning, wellbeing and happiness operates at the country level as well. Researchers at Umea University studied 15,000 people across 25 countries every two years since 2002 and found when countries support greater educational attainment, their citizens are happier and healthier.
Educational assistance is the benefit with incredible benefits—for people, companies and even countries. So as you’re pursuing happiness in a new job or in your existing role, seek companies which invest in you and your future—those which offer learning, development and tuition assistance—since these are so significant to your happiness and fulfillment.