Salary bump after licensure

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    I am curious to know if it is logical to believe that after you become an RLA, (versus just a designer), if you should expect a significant increase in pay?

    I ask this only out of curiosity, and possibly for motivation to finally get on the ball taking the exams.

    It seems pretty standard in the industry that billed hours are charged differently according who billed them on any given project. I.E. principal fees may be one hourly charged, RLA’s will be another, Designers another ect.
    So if you become an RLA billing at a higher rate, thus earning firm more money, is it a courtesy to be paid more for those same hours?

    If someone has/or had any experience or stories for what to expect please fill me in!


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I don’t know what is typical, but it does add to your marketability if/when you either nee or want to work somewhere else and especially if you step out on your own. The best time to get licensed, in my opinion, is when you can. If you should ever find yourself looking for work, you probably won’t have the financial resources to get licensed, nor would you want to be waiting around for the exam and license issue cycle.

    I also think it takes a little weight off of our shoulders to get it done.


    Andrew and Chris are right it doesn’t automatically mean a raise.  Billable rates are based on the position you hold with the firm.  Like Andrew mentioned having your license certainly makes you more marketable and most firms like to add that feather in their cap with the number of credentialed staff they have.  I remember when I was in your shoes going to my boss and asking for a raise and getting the standard corporate speak.  “well if you had your license it would be easier for me to go to upper management and request the adjustment.”  Go for it, get your license, there certainly isn’t a down side.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    It is not lost on your employer that you are more marketable if you are licensed. It can make your employer think that it is a good time to make sure that a valued employee does not have any reasons to test the market and evaluate your pay rate.

    If you are not going for your license it may send the message that you are comfortable and there is no urgent need for your employer to find a way to put extra money in your paycheck.


    I appreciate your responses! Just to be clear, I do not anticipate being handed a raise based on a sheet of paper I took a test for. I just wasn’t sure if a set billable fee directly determined how much you pay for the person who billed the hours.

    I have read a lot into the 1/3rd rule, and currently my billable time seems right on line with that rule. It may be that which might have triggered the curiousity.

    I actually had a conversation with my employer recently, and he told me he would refund me every section of the test that I pass.

    Thanks again for your responses!


    That was actually pretty encouraging! Thanks for that. It does sometimes feel like it is hanging over my head, Like I have something I have to get done!

    Tosh K

    Pay is tied to work produced – we get paid for the work produced (not hourly rate, though it’s not entirely unrelated).  When proposals and contracts are written up, the hours for tasks is approximated, with the associated rate and the total fee is estimated.  Licensed staff can help reduce insurance costs and project qualifications, but it’s usually not all too meaningful to the client side. 

    That being said, those that are licensed can reasonably expected to understand a certain level of comprehension of the subject matter and therefore effectiveness.  Efficiency = higher pay.  Anecdotally I haven’t heard of big raises based on licensure – it had more to do with the ability to effective take on more responsibility (either in the project LA route of being able to produce CD drawings and specs, or PM route of managing projects).

    License exams are a good test to see how you stand relative to what you’re expected to know as a minimal competency related to the profession.  It is important to understand that what we’re supposed to do differs in many ways from what is usually done in practice.

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