There’s no question that the right education can set you up for success. In fact, employers are increasingly offering various kinds of educational benefits to their employees, which in many cases can be used to pursue online degrees. For example, if your employer offers tuition assistance, you may be able to use it toward an online degree. Education benefits for employees vary from tuition reimbursement and continuing education opportunities to online college degree programs offered exclusively for employees of participating businesses.

Employer-Provided Educational Assistance

Employer contributions to employee’s educations have become more common than you might think. The Benefits USA 2012/2013 study by Compdata Surveys found that more than half of employers now offer such benefits. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permits employers to pay up to $5,250 per year in education benefits for employees on a tax-free basis. That means you don’t have to claim this money as income the way you would claim wages or tips when you pay your income taxes.

Employers often make conditions for educational assistance programs. These benefits may be available to full-time employees only, or to both full- and part-time employees. You may have to work for the company for a minimum amount of time, like one year, before you are eligible for educational assistance. Some employers may be willing to pay only if your intended field of study is somehow relevant to your work. In some cases, your employer may require that you maintain a specified grade point average or a minimum grade per class.

Unique Educational Opportunities for Employees

Networking has its advantages, especially when it comes to education benefits for employees. Some employers have contracts with certain colleges that allow employees to save on tuition when they study at that institution. Everyone wins in this situation. Employees can save on the education they’re pursuing, colleges attract new students, and employers reap the benefits of having more highly educated and trained employees.

In a tight economy, employers are becoming more creative about the educational opportunities they offer students. The online school College for America will soon begin offering bachelor’s degrees in subjects such as communications and healthcare management for a total price of just $10,000, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported. Enrollment would be available only to employees of partnering companies, which include fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and hospital operators like Partners HealthCare.

If your employer offers any kind of education benefit, taking advantage of these benefits could allow you to further your education and your career while saving money. While employer-provided educational assistance can be a great asset for employees looking to enhance their career prospects, you should always find out all of the information about your employer’s program before you commit to taking any courses. You need to understand exactly what commitments your employer is making to your education and what responsibilities you have, from enrolling in an approved degree program to paying costs up front and even maintaining good grades.