I originally asked this question at the workplace.stackexchange, but they told me this may be a better place for my question.

I am applying to a job at a nearby university as a lab technician. One of my motivations for doing this is that the position comes with tuition reimbursement, meaning if I get accepted to graduate school at the same university next year the cost would be significantly less. I get the sense that I shouldn't mention that in my cover letter or interview unless directly asked.

Other than that, is there any other advice I should know for my resume, cover letter, or interview? Should I expect the process to be about the same as applying to a for-profit company, or will it be significantly different? Should I emphasize my prior education more more, less, or about the same? I tried searching for this type of information, but kept getting articles about applying for jobs right after university instead. Thank you for any advice you can provide.

  • 2
    Do you intend to apply for a masters or a doctorate?
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 23 at 19:33
  • Master's and doctorate afterwards. I don't think I am competitive enough to apply to doctorate right away. Would that really come up when applying for just the job?
    – E Tam
    Commented Jun 23 at 20:18
  • Hmmm, are you asking about what to reveal for the job application or for the graduate admissions application(s)?
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 23 at 20:20
  • I am asking about the job application. I can find plenty online about applying for graduate school and I can always made another version of my resume and cover letter if it ends up the two processes are different.
    – E Tam
    Commented Jun 23 at 21:16

4 Answers 4


As a university staff member in academia for 15 years, this is how I earned a Masters degree (at an R2); I am also working on two other Masters simultaneously at an R1. Many of my colleagues are earning degrees as well. It's a standard benefit for many colleges and universities in the US. There is no reason to mention this at the time of application. Once you have the job, it is a benefit you are entitled to take according to the policies of your institution. One common policy is a waiting period prior to being eligible. You also may not be able to take classes in every school. I am not able to apply for a degree at the medical school but can take a limited number of classes there.

As long as you are considered staff and eligible for the benefit, you do not need to disclose this to your supervisor up front. You would wait for the semester you wish to enroll in classes to disclose the desire to use the benefit and work out schedules if needed. However, it may be important to suggest you have a general interest in the science and would like to continue your education. So to be clear, you do not have to commit yourself to a program at the time of this job application and "disclose" the intentions to use tuition remission. You should only disclose your interest in the science as it relates to you being a better candidate for the job you are applying for.

As far as applying for the degree, the strategy depends on the program. For my first masters, I did it in 5 years instead of the expected 2. There are frequently limits on number of classes per term, and the pre-reqs can drag it out for many years. I was able to finish it within the required timeline, which I had researched in advance. I took many classes prior to applying for degree, which the program allowed. All classes counted towards the degree. I am doing something similar for the other programs I am working through now. It helps to lower expectations given a busy job. If I don't finish the program, it's not entered in as failing a degree, I just took many classes. I am working towards microcredentials to be sure there is something finite in the meantime.


You only need to emphasize the experience you have in supports research and educational activities. You might do things like preparing experiments, maintaining equipment, safety standards, and assisting in research, all those technical stuffs. So just tell them you can do all of them.

If you intend to use the position to further advance in the academic career, it's best to have your resume includes your prior education as well, because you might get the offer from that very school.

  • 1
    I gave my answer, but I have to point out that very often the university, or specifically the departments have their master and PHD students do the lab technician position, seminar holding and sometime lectures as well. What I mean is that you might not get accepted by any department at all, they have their students do that for free
    – Duy Văn
    Commented Jun 23 at 20:20
  • ... yes, or, well, they have their grad students (etc) do many things as part of their obligation for tuition remission, etc... Commented Jun 24 at 21:14

I think it's hard to know in advance what the overall attitude of the hiring PI is.

On one end of the spectrum is that they solely need a warm body to do the job, much like a company would. In that case, even if tuition reimbursement is a deserved perk of the job, knowing that you are interested in pursuing additional education is orthogonal to the task they need completed, and if anything letting them know you plan to take advantage of this benefit may be seen as a downside, because any time you spend on your education is not time spent doing your lab technician job.

On the other end of the spectrum is that universities and their employees have an educational mission, and academics more generally feel a bit of responsibility towards the future of their field and the academic adventure overall. In that context, the very best people to hire are those interested in furthering their education. Hiring someone like you is an opportunity not just to have a task completed but also to cultivate the next generation of scientists.

In between are some ways that your goals interact with the position directly. If you're interested in graduate school at the same institution, that means keeping you around longer; training and retraining is a pain and costs a lot of time - if you're going to be motivated to keep the same position for multiple years and there is funding available for it for multiple years, that could be a win-win even if the hiring PI doesn't care at all about your future. I'd also say that in my overall experience with research staff at your level, motivations are really important and relate to job success; people that have higher aspirations related to their job are just better employees. They have more intrinsic motivation and are naturally thinking about how to do things better even when not officially working. They're putting in their best effort rather than the minimum to get paid.

My recommendation would be to focus the most on your qualification for the position itself, but not to be shy about your other motivations for both the near and short term. In your application, that might involve stating your goals briefly in a personal statement or cover letter, making a case for how the job fits into your overall career plan. In an interview, I'd ask specifically about how long the position is expected to be available for: is this a short-term gig or will it be available for the next couple/few years? If the latter, I'd be clear that you plan to be around for awhile. I'd also answer honestly any questions about your plans and why you're applying for the job and how it presents opportunities for you.

If your boss is going to be someone who is upset that you're interested in further education, that's going to lead to miserable situations for both of you, so it's actually probably better for everyone involved if it gets counted against you.


How you intend to use your benefits should you get hired is your business, not the employers.

That said, there are often limits to how such benefits may be used. There may be credit count limits, for example. There may be limits on graduate courses, too -- or a multitude of other surprises. Also, the benefit is likely taxable if the courses you take aren't related to your job.

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