Friday, November 13, 2009

Is it worth it to get licensed?

I usually encourage people strongly to get licensed as fast as they can, but the economy actually has me reconsidering my position on this slightly. One of my interns mentioned me that he was going to have to put test taking on hold due to lack of funding. After two years without a raise, being at reduced pay and hours for all of 2009 (and having to take unpaid days during December), and the cost of the exams going up to over $200 per test, he just wasn't able to afford the tests right now. There's a good deal of sense in this, really. Having to choose between taking the ARE and making the rent or mortgage is one of those choices that you shouldn't have to make, but if you make it, choose the housing payment.

There should never be a "good" reason to put off taking the ARE, but not having the money is a fairly acceptable one, especially right now. I recently spoke with an intern who had been laid off but just got a new job. I congratulated her and mentioned that now she could afford to take the ARE. Turns out her mother was going to give her the money to take the tests--she couldn't stand the idea of her daughter being so close to getting licensed and then getting thwarted by a financial issue. If you can borrow the money (interest-free, of course, is best) or get a gift from someone to take the tests, then I encourage you to keep going. After all, if you're also working fewer hours, what better time to study?

But there's another reason that I wouldn't throw stones at you for waiting a few months until the cash comes back before starting up on the exams again. If you're already employed, getting licensed can get you a good raise, which sometimes will kick in as soon as you get your license in your hot little hands. I was given a nice raise mid-year after passing all my tests, and then I got another raise at the end of that year, for example. This year, four people in my office got licensed, and they did not get that same benefit of a atta-boy/girl raise for jumping through the Flaming Hoops of the ARE. I felt really bad for them; they'd worked so hard to achieve this goal, and there was no tangible reward at the end of their efforts. That's not to say that personal satisfaction alone isn't a good reason to do something, but it's nice to have other people recognize what a pain in the butt that testing process is. So, I could see holding off on charging through the tests right now, maybe for at least a few months during the holidays. Taking a breather and then trying to time the completion of your tests with an upturn in the economy--while a little risky--could make your success fresh in the minds of those who dole out raises and might score you a little more. Again, it's a risky, but it could be worth it. I personally would keep going with my exams as long as I could afford them financially, but that's also my personality.

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