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Does your employer offer tuition reimbursement? If so, it is a benefit that could prove valuable.

The cost of pursuing a primary or secondary college degree is constantly on the rise. However, this cost could be dramatically reduced for you if your company offers tuition reimbursement.

Be careful, though, when signing up for this benefit. Not all offers of tuition reimbursement are equal.

A popular benefit?

It is unclear how many employers offer tuition reimbursement as part of their benefits package. Some resist this benefit because they fear that employees will use their free or reduced-cost education to earn an advanced degree that makes it easier for them to find new jobs.

Other companies, though, consider tuition benefits as an investment in their employees. The hope is that the knowledge employees earn will make them better, more efficient workers.

For you, the benefits of tuition reimbursement are evident: Advanced degrees can make it easier to receive promotions from your current employer or find new work outside your company. Either way, a new degree can help boost your earning power.

Do your research

Before taking advantage of any tuition reimbursement program, though, make sure to do your research. Many companies include stipulations in their programs.

Some companies might require you to remain employed with them for a certain number of years after earning your degree. If you leave for a new job before these years pass, you'll have to pay back all or part of your tuition. Though it varies, many companies require employees to remain with them for at least five years after earning their degrees.

Other companies might require that you earn a certain grade-point average while earning your degree. An employer, for instance, might only reimburse you for 50 percent of your education costs if you can only muster a "C" average. If you earn an "A," you might see 100 percent of your tuition costs reimbursed.

Of course, you'll be limited to the type of degree you can earn. If you work in an accounting firm, your employer probably won't be willing to fund your pursuit of a master's in creative writing.

Is it a benefit for you?

Not every employee should pursue an advanced degree, even if their employer offers tuition reimbursement as a benefit.

For instance, if earning an advanced degree will not help you get promoted or find a more lucrative job, attending night classes and cramming for exams might not be worth the effort or the stress. Earning a second degree is no easy task when you are already working a full-time job. Also, if you are balancing a busy family life at the same time, you might find that you simply have no time to take the classes necessary to earn your advanced degree.

Alternatively, maybe you've grown tired of your field and would like to branch out to a new line of work. Pursuing an advanced degree, even if your employer covers the cost, won't make sense if you find your current career so unfulfilling that you are considering moving to a new field.

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