Archinect
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Appropriate Salary?

256
starvingartist

I'm gonna have to assume that the ones making normal or healthy wages are too busy or fulfilled to be posting online, thus lowering the perceived average salary of the profession? lol

Mar 15, 15 1:30 pm  · 
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natematt

@starvingartist

GP actually had 3 years of prior experience. But even after two years you are significantly more valuable to a firm than right out of school. So that is how 70k is unrealistic.

Concerning garbage men in Toronto...  You are comparing two very different jobs here. Even if they start out making 55k year they are not going to ever make that much more, there job is extremely static. In architecture you are pretty limited by what you are able to do when you start, but as you grow into new work your value goes up and you get paid more. And anyway, architecture may require more thinking but it's not nearly as physically demanding as garbage collecting, and Toranto is on the high exception here, most garbage men make less than 40k in the US.

Mar 15, 15 1:32 pm  · 
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natematt

Don't lie to yourself and tell us we're full of it, it's insulting to everyone.

There are tons of salary polls and surveys and sites that support what is being said.

1:100 start around 60k, and might be able to make 70k after a year or two. They are probably in very focused markets in major cities, or have taken on leadership roles for projects, because that is how  you make the most money. 90% of people start under 50k.

Mar 15, 15 1:41 pm  · 
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awaiting_deletion

starvingartist, the problem is about everybody graduates with very much what your employer does not need.

a plumber, if they go to a trade school or have done some apprenticing, start high because they are trained for the job.

with that said, I've tried to note that I do well on this site and people get cranky, but in short if you care about raises....I've been at this for nearly 13 full years with a grad school break...

from my first job until now i have averaged about $10k raise per year, granted the first 7 years were severely lopsided under the average.

A plumber can never expect that.

Mar 15, 15 4:26 pm  · 
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natematt

Silicon Valley area is a tad upward inflated in pricing. SILLYCON VALLEY.

Mar 15, 15 5:14 pm  · 
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Volunteer

If someone has an argument as to why the AIA should not recognize the firms who pay a living wage for the locale I haven't heard it here.

Oh, in my little neck of the woods the city workers do a lot more than pick up trash once a week. They clear snow, maintain roads, do grounds work at the city parks, maintain city buildings, and have plenty of opportunities for advancement and further education.

Mar 15, 15 6:36 pm  · 
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awaiting_deletion

I agree volunteer, they should just list and publish them right next to the obituaries...

actually I would pay for this type of research and pay for the publication....

Kickstart that!

Mar 15, 15 6:43 pm  · 
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Volunteer

The AIA publishes obituaries? Are they lamenting lost fees?

Mar 15, 15 6:52 pm  · 
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file

"If someone has an argument as to why the AIA should not recognize the firms who pay a living wage for the locale I haven't heard it here."

And, you're not going to hear it here, because it's a silly idea.

When have you EVER heard about any business or profession that brags about -- or gets recognized for -- how high its cost structure might be? Given the demographics of the AIA's membership, why would the Institute ever do this?

Besides, who's going to be the final arbiter regarding what constitutes a "living wage" in various communities? And, how are you going to collect the information -- few (if any) firms are going to voluntarily make this information available, and there's no way you can force firms to cough it up. 

Look - most graduate architects in most communities already know which firms pays the highest wages (and why) and which firms pay crap wages (and why).  I've never worked in a city where this wasn't more-or-less common knowledge already. And yet, people still knowingly accept jobs that pay crap wages -- what does that tell you?

Now, if you want to start recognizing firms that are "Great Places to Work" that's altogether another matter. That sort of survey easily could become a practical reality.

Mar 15, 15 7:40 pm  · 
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Volunteer

Earlier in this thread mention was made of city workers who start out at $54,000 a year. The highly questionable point was made that architects will eventually surpass them in salary. Perhaps, perhaps not. The average city worker is not paying student loans and, with a generous salary, he can save quite a bit of his paycheck in a 401k. He is covered by a defined pension plan and a superb medical plan as well. Just the amount of money he will accrue in his 401k plan over a lifetime compared to the hapless poverty-stricken architect who has trouble feeding himself and his family is staggering. If the city worker does decide to go to college on his own time the city will pick up the tab. He may well get a degree in planning and have the local architects effectively working for him. But to suggest the AIA actually do something constructive for its members apparently is anathema. Well, enjoy your poverty; you have richly earned it.

Mar 15, 15 8:42 pm  · 
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file

"to suggest the AIA actually do something constructive for its members apparently is anathema."

The people you want to help are, for the most part, not members of AIA.

Similarly, most of the people on this forum who eviscerate AIA on a regular basis are not members of AIA.

Mar 15, 15 11:58 pm  · 
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shellarchitect

back to the point about municipal wages - those are aberrations due primarily to strong unions, not the rule.  The garbage drivers where i grew up used to be all union making ridiculous pay, but eventually the town got fed up and privatized them - now they make $15 an hour.

Eventually the pay and pensions just won't be sustainable and the union will have to be broken. painful but cities can't afford stupid pay for relatively unskilled labor

Mar 16, 15 10:33 am  · 
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shellarchitect

one other point - if you just want to make money the list of better occupations is pretty long

Mar 16, 15 10:34 am  · 
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starvingartist

^^Yeah, and that list includes garbage workers and subway token collectors.  Do you think that's all you're worth after a master degree in a profession such as this?

Mar 20, 15 12:14 am  · 
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Actually $54,000 a year is not a normal entry level city job pay level almost anywhere. Maybe an entry level pay for a City Manager but city manager isn't an entry level position. You have to have prior experience working in a city and demonstrate it.

Some people work for $35k but they have 40-60 hour work shifts but they are flat rate salaried no overtime multiplier. They may work as much as 80 or more hours a week. They might have two days off but they may work ridiculously long hours. 

If you want to make lion share of money, be a business owner and ideally not in a consultant / service based business because tha majority of wealth is spent on commodity not services except attorneys and banks and medical field but other than those, commodity based business with high contribution margin.

Mar 20, 15 2:19 am  · 
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Starving Artist, it is a mistake to characterize this as a decision about what you are worth. You as a person are worth a lot. Your mind has been refined through education, you likely have family, social, and romantic connections that increase the perception of your value in your community... but that is not what this is about at all. This is about what you make for an hour, a day, a year of your time doing a specific activity (in this case, architectural design and/or drafting). Note, that's not the same thing as just an hour of your time, because the worth of your time is compounded with the worth of that activity, which seems to be far less than you feel your time is worth. It's fine for you to feel that way, but that doesn't change the value of the activity of your choice on the market. You should choose a different activity to attach your value to. 

Mar 20, 15 2:11 pm  · 
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quizzical

^ Erin - nice post.

You make a clear, logical, and convincing argument.

Mar 20, 15 3:26 pm  · 
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Carrera

Richard, took a job with a GC early on and he was an architect….asked him why he switched, told me as an architect people know how much you make and don’t like it, he said being a GC nobody would know how much he made....and he’s right.

Erin, often billed for the value of what I did not the minutes, learned that from an attorney.

Mar 20, 15 3:37 pm  · 
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starvingartist

Richard, look up starting salaries for Toronto garbage and subway workers.

My comment about "worth" is only about money... that fluff piece about intangible values is actually particularly aggravating and "art student" like.   OP posted his situation for all to know, so that "no one sells themselves short", which is exactly what some of you seem to do.

Mar 20, 15 11:24 pm  · 
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stone

^^ I know lots of people who refuse to "sell themselves short" -- most of them are unemployed and rapidly losing the skill set they will need to make a career in architecture.

The compensation problem in architecture arises primarily from the fact that there are too many graduates chasing too few jobs -- in such circumstances it doesn't really matter very much that one might have a Masters degree.

One can ask "Is it unrealistic to want to make as much as an entry level plumber or nurse?" all day long and that still doesn't change the fundamental economics of this profession.

Mar 21, 15 12:31 pm  · 
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starving, laugh all you want about my fluffy language, I'm recognizing that you're evaluating this from an emotional position and you don't seem to admit that yet. There's nothing wrong with having feelings about your worth, just don't expect the market to change because of them.

Mar 23, 15 12:43 pm  · 
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starvingartist, 

Toronto is like New York City and Sillicon Valley, prices are inflated but so is the cost of everything is just about inflated so as to ensure they consume the same percentage of the average income. If the average income is twice as much then things are marked up to cost twice as much as elsewhere because everybody wants your money. Everybody wants all money so they can buy and have whatever they want. American capitalism culture and its varied side effects.

Lets put it like this, you are only worth as much as someone else values you because that is how much you'll earn. It never matters how much you think you are worth. It is how much someone values you based on your knowledge and skills. Your minimum value is what you compare to others with the same education, experience and skill set. 

Mar 23, 15 2:04 pm  · 
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3tk

... isn't the rule of thumb something like you should be paid about 1/4 of what you bill out (earn the firm)?  As I recall about half of a firm's fees went to liability insurance, and another big chunk went to overhead (retainer for an attorney, accountant, rent, marketing, software, etc; if you're lucky toward all the insurance they cover like short term disability, health).  As long as you're on task and cranking out billable work, great; but if you're producing only 6~7hrs of work in 10, it erodes your 'value' to the boss.  It also relates to how your boss bills you out.  If their contracts are too low, then they can't really pay you well (hence I like offices that had good clients that paid their bills on time and maintain a reasonable fee structure, and hated those that had cheap clients that refused additional service fees for projects that blew the contract out of the water).

I can pretty confidently say that most of my grad school peers are now in the upper 50% of income in NYC (which isn't great, but it's a living) and pushing toward the upper 25% after 7~10yrs exp.  Granted we're not doing 'edgy' work or competitions, but working on projects that pay for the good design.  The first 2~3yrs, you're more than likely a burden to a firm than not (if it takes someone's time to teach you, it's technically money lost for the firm), so yes, the pay can suck.  There is something to be said for at-will employment where you're free to negotiate your own package (well, if you have a nice boss).

Apr 1, 15 2:38 am  · 
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gentle puppies

The reason artists starve is because they aren't businessmen.  Architects of yesteryear were both businessmen and engineers.  Today, we farm out the engineering to consultants, and in a cost-conscious society, who really wants the artist?  Architecture schools are now full of "creative types".  The concept of money is frowned upon.  I once had a professor chastise me for designing a water-themed building without using complex curves (I was aiming for effective but low cost; he said "who told you curves are more expensive?!")  You get enough of these kinds of people and they'll convince the market what architects are worth less than they really are.

Apr 20, 15 12:28 am  · 
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Larchinect

"hourly rates are for interns.." anyone else find this statement kind of funny? 

Apr 20, 15 1:54 am  · 
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natematt

^It is amazing how much money you can make working overtime if you are hourly though.

Apr 20, 15 1:58 am  · 
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3tk,

Not that simple. Actually, an employee should be paid about 1/4th to 1/7th of what is billed out because paying more than 1/4th of what is billed out eats into profit and hampers a business's growth and sustainability financially. However, it isn't the percentage of what is billed out but billing sufficiently to be sustainable. This also means not paying employees too much money because just throwing money their way doesn't improve their productivity sufficiently. Keep in mind the principle of diminishing rate of return. There is a maximum point where you get optimal amount of productivity to dollar value. Pay more or less, and it is not optimal and you don't gain but in fact waste more money. 

1/4th is literally pushing it. If you pay more than that in wage/salary and you'll soon find that you aren't making any profits and barely scraping by. Paying 1/5th or 1/6th of what you bill allows you some room to build capital. 

Just a point to consider in mind. 

Architects often fail miserably at capital building or they do so at a miserably slow rate that makes banks not want to lend to architecture businesses let alone investors who wouldn't touch architecture business with a 1000 ft. pole because ROI rate takes too damn long for most investors to be patient with. Investors are in business to expand their wealth and do so quickly not wait half a century for the return on their investment.

They are looking at ROI rate of 1-2 or 5 years not 10-20 or 50 years.

Apr 20, 15 4:20 am  · 
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natematt:

True but when you are on wage, they will keep overtime limited. Then they'll flat rate salary you and then may make you work overtime like crazy and then over-time you'll work less hours as you reach a position or role to delegate tasks to others.

Apr 20, 15 4:25 am  · 
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natematt

^This is largely untrue, particularly the part about hourly employees.

Apr 20, 15 10:34 am  · 
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well... that depends on whether they are paying over-time but you can salary someone at $35k and they work 80 hours a week and still only get $35K because they aren't paid by the hour at that point and they also do not get overtime rate because they are exempt from over-time because the job is a professional/technical type job not a physical labor oriented job. 

If you keep them on a wage, then you have to pay every hour worked at the hourly rate. Maybe not overtime 1.5x but still.... firms tight on budget makes more money by not making the ones they have to pay every hour at a given hourly rate so to avoid costing themselves more money while a flat salary individual maybe working 80 hours for say $45K or $50K. Do the math, this was definitely going on during the recession.

In fact, you guys have said so here, areforum, etc. so lets think about it. Employers do things like this to save money often because they are too cheap to  do otherwise. My point is not whether they should or shouldn't do it. That's an ethics debate. They would try to limit overtime for those they have to pay by the hour because it can eat up the profits very quickly.

Apr 20, 15 11:07 am  · 
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null pointer

Balkins, do you even work?

Apr 20, 15 11:10 am  · 
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Carrera

Subject of overtime is interesting….had an employer once that when he hired me gave me a very generous salary then said…..”I’m giving you that much because I want to own you” and that was the beginning of the 60+ hour weeks…..on the other hand the way I looked at it (as an employer) was from the perspective of wasted time….today you pay for 8 but usually only get 5 with all the internet surfing, texting & Candy Crush….had a porn problem with one guy..…so the way I handled it was to quantify tasks by hours and say you’ve got 20 hours to get this done (or I need it on X day) then I would say I didn’t care how or when they worked, just hit the deadline…..and that lead to a lot of self-imposed “overtime”.

Apr 20, 15 11:41 am  · 
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natematt

@Richard

I understand how it works, and get why you might think what you do, but that really isn't how things work at a lot of places, particularly those who do pay hourly.

Apr 20, 15 12:06 pm  · 
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3tk

@ Richard - there is also the matter of an employees efficiency.  Given my skill level, I was advised to take a multiplier in the 3x~4x range.  Some of the strategic planners for designers I've talked to has indicated that firms in my preferred size range (10~30) operate at 3x~4x multiplier, and it is a reasonable # with appropriate overhead/profit/growth/slush fund.  Of course the billing rate and product has to justify billing rate.  I've noticed depending on region and project type the multiplier shifts, assuming this is due to insurance rates.

Apr 20, 15 12:19 pm  · 
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gentle puppies

@Richard - For this reason I kept my original salary negotiations focused on dollars per hour, even though I was getting salary.  I got paid for overtime anyway, though not at 1.5x.  I always max out my 5 sick days and 3 weeks vacation.  I worked about 100 hours of overtime last year, most of which were taken up by business flights and a few days of crunch time per year (90% of the time I do 40 hour weeks).  At my current salary of 65K, it's only slightly above the ~60K average of my classmates, who have also finished their M.Arch 2 to 3 years ago.

I wonder how much my salary will increase in the future... is it a linear relationship or exponential?  My coworker, who is registered and has far more experience than me, who has a wife working as an architect as well, is renting a one-bedroom condo 40min from downtown, because between their dual incomes they somehow still couldn't afford to buy a one-bedroom... that is scary.

Apr 20, 15 6:56 pm  · 
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3tk, I would argue that you may do a 3-4x the total labor cost including the health insurance, the medicare, worker's comp, social security, etc. than 3x-4x multiplier to just direct wage/ base salary. This would be about the same amount as 5x-7x on direct wage/base salary rate. The point is direct wage/salary labor cost should not exceed 20% of revenue from project. This way, you can build capital at a rate comparable to most other occupation/business fields. Closer to average capital growth rate.

Architecture businesses typical model tends to be slower than average rate for businesses because we tend to not value ourselves and try to undercut each other too much and willing to work for peanuts too much. We just try to make enough money to be sustainable and grow. 

It is even more so that we need to maximize earnings due to lull periods.

Apr 20, 15 8:53 pm  · 
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gentle puppies

So my base salary this year increased a measly $2K to $67K, despite me being a key part of an extremely profitable project, a record year for the firm financially, and non-stop praise from my boss.  I got a $5K bonus, which is more than my usual $3K.

Do incomes plateau because I'm not licensed?

Start job: $48K

6 months later: $51K

6 months later: $56K

6 months later: $61K

12 months later: $65K

12 months later: $67K

The odd part was when my salary was rocketing up 3 years ago, the firm wasn't doing so well back then.

Mar 10, 16 1:33 am  · 
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Non Sequitur
^$67k per year is rather high for an unlicensed designer even with 4-5 years experience. Be happy with that and finish those exams. It's not difficult.
Mar 10, 16 6:35 am  · 
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archiwutm8

^ Never be happy and keep pushing.

Mar 10, 16 7:19 am  · 
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null pointer

non, that really depends on the market.

In new york, you can expect 75-90k at 4-5 years if you haven't been a team's cad bitch for that time. Architects generally suck at planning their careers. People who "stick to it" get penalized in terms of early earning potential.

Mar 10, 16 8:07 am  · 
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Non Sequitur

Null, OP is in Toronto, Ontario, as per the original post. That's the market I know.

Mar 10, 16 8:10 am  · 
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MinimalCrazy
Lol I'm from toronto with only an undergrad. i had a total of 6 months experience and I was offered a starting salary with 40k. I turned it down. So I think you should really ask for more, i would be pretty pissed if I went through 2-3 years of extra schooling just to make an extra 5k a year. I read somewhere that for your starting salary, you should aim somewhere around 50k to 60k. If you do not argue your worth, you will be getting paid less in your life as the next job will ask you how much you were previously pay and only increase it slightly. Your first pay matters a lot and I would try to negotiate within that range.
Mar 12, 16 9:45 am  · 
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macjones

Well said. But I prefer to use Earn Honey to make money . It is very easy and fully free. Now it is my hobby actually ...

May 3, 16 2:50 am  · 
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views

I landed somewhere doing (so far) interesting work in Toronto for 52K starting. This was a bit more than a year out of school. The only way I convinced a firm to pay me that much is by having a highly specialized skillset and waiting while working in a slower-paced job.

If you have another skillset I'd suggest working in a different field with reasonable hours, finding a decently priced apartment, beefing up your portfolio, and applying to a lot of places. I turned down a lot of insane offers, like one guy wanted to pay me 14 bucks hourly, no negotiation, and if I didn't take it he'd take a waterloo kid. I also turned down some offers that weren't great but would've been my only option had I not been working already.

Another benefit to waiting it out a bit is you figure out what firms in town line up with what you want to do (and what your desired work/life balance is), and you can tailor your portfolio accordingly. That helped a lot - I interviewed a bunch and found out what I wanted and didn't want.

May 3, 16 10:18 am  · 
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cipyboy

Office culture is often overlooked as a consideration. I'm now with a firm that discourages overtime work and we have paid vacation from Christmas eve to new years. These, I find very valuable as a parent. I was offered a third higher than my current salary but turned it down simply because for me there's no point working in a perpetually stressful environment with consistent overtime/overnight work.

May 12, 16 2:14 pm  · 
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poop876

Rick, have you ever had a job? Have you ever lived anywhere else besides Astoria?

May 12, 16 3:51 pm  · 
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NdL202

@views What job were you doing for a year before accepting arch firm's offer, if you don't mind me asking?   

A pal got 55k 1st job after Masters.  Little to no experience beforehand in an arch firm. But that was with engineering firm with in house Arch team.  This is in GTA. 

May 13, 16 3:07 pm  · 
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Lilililili
  • after undergrad starting at 40K  (co-op during undergrad totaling 2 years: either american corporate or european/japanese starchitect firms)
  • after masters starting at 55K  (after 3 years of post-undergrad experience and 2 years of masters program), now going into another firm with higher 50K plus annual bonus. 

To be fair, I think people without undergrad co-op experience, it might be hard to argue for higher salary. However we should all negotiate. OAA doesnt know anything to project and balance our salaries. So if we don't fight for our rights... then the whole industry becomes sad. As with almost 7years (4.5+2.5years for mine) of education, like other professional jobs such as lawyers or engineers, we should really at least be starting off at 60k after M.Arch. 

On one note... IC*N in toronto offered many M/Arch grads with "free internships" for trial, including myself. Please do not settle for firms such as this. 

Aug 9, 16 2:15 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

You're not a lawyer, you're a drafter with designer glasses. It takes far more than a simple M.arch to qualify for 60K starting salary.

Aug 9, 16 3:47 pm  · 
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tduds

Yeah! Race to the bottom!

Aug 9, 16 3:54 pm  · 
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