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In less than a month, about 250 men and women will arrive at the Four Seasons in Washington, D.C., to take the 2014 NFLPA agent exam. Since the business of being an agent seems to carry so much intrigue, I thought I’d shed a little light on the business this week. Let’s start with the registration process.

As of today, there are 814 registered NFLPA contract advisors. Step one for all of them was registering in January before taking the test the following July. Upon registration, your first fee ($2,500) is due. To register, you must have at least a postgraduate degree or seven years of experience negotiating contracts. Once the NFLPA approves your application, confirming that you have an advanced degree and that you don’t have any arrests, bankruptcies or other blips that might preclude registration, officials send a copy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement as well as other study materials.

Sometimes, it takes a while to get those source materials, especially if there’s anything that holds up the review process. If you’ve ever had any legal or financial trouble, the process could drag. I’ve heard of people not getting the go-ahead to take the exam until literally a week before the test is administered at the end of July. It can be very frustrating, especially if you aren’t an attorney or if you struggle with tests. Of course, that just adds to your costs, as buying flights just days before your departure can add hundreds of dollars to the cost.

Speaking of money, if you’re a person who’s really low on funds, consider waiting before you dive into the representation world. By the time you get the results of your exam, you will already be down $2,500, and no matter the results of your exam, it’s a good news/bad news proposition. If you didn’t pass, sorry! The NFLPA keeps your money and gives you another shot to take it next summer at no extra cost (besides the trip back to D.C. in July).

Then again, if you pass, congratulations! Now the NFLPA needs a $1,200 annual dues fee plus liability insurance of about $1,400, and even if you’re an attorney with your own liability insurance, you still need to buy this. Bottom line: to get fully certified and ready to roll as a contract advisor, you’re in about $5K (plus the cost of travel/hotel/food for the exam) before you fire your first shot, figuratively.

More bad news: you are forbidden from any form of recruiting until you pass the exam, and you won’t know your results until at least October. This means all other agents have attended agent days; gathered contact information; built relationships with prospects and their parents; and whittled down their recruiting lists for 3-4 months before you’re allowed to make your first call.

That’s enough to chew on for one day. We’ll be back with more Tuesday.