Prosperity for career architects is a relative term. Many architects feel that they pay is so low that they’d just as soon call themselves “artisanal building designers”. But average compensation for architects (employed ones, anyway) is on the rise, and is expected to continue through 2017. The 2015 AIA Compensation Survey, released in October, includes salary data for architectural professionals from entry level interns all the way up. The report is published biennially, and the recently recorded 3.5 percent rise in 2013 and 2014 (approximately 1.75% annual growth) is up from the recession years, but is off from the 4 and 5 percent annual growth observed in the previous two decades.
If you’re comfortably employed, and maybe have more work on your plate than hours in the day, this report may be worth a glance just to see if you’re at or above the average for your job classification. (If so, you can view this quick summary with interactive charts.) If you’re eyeing those six-figure salaries though, here are a few things you can do to bring your earning potential up:
- Be where you’re supposed to be. The report lists 15 job classifications for full-time architects. Familiarize yourself with the parameters of the job classifications that fit your experience level. Compare these against your daily responsibilities, and which metrics your performance is measured against. You’ll be able to identify areas of the job where you will need to demonstrate your proficiency, gain exposure, improve in, or gain support for. If this sounds daunting, remember that just identifying one such area for improvement can make proactively planning a solution easy.
- Get Your Stamp, Make An Impression. Get Your Registered Architect’s License. The report showed that 74% of firms surveyed offer salary premiums to architects upon their licensure. Most of these firms offer increases between five and nine percent. Only 8% offered increases above nine percent. Architects who put off getting their licensure trail behind their peers. The disparity increases sharply from a $9,000 difference for architects with 5-8 years of experience, to $18,000 for architects with 8-10 years.
- Management Skills Trump Design. Certain job titles (like “Senior Associate”) may seem meaningless outside of the firm that creates them, but “project manager” and “project designer” are not distinctions without a difference! On average, a Project Manager earns an average of $8,600 a year more than a Project Designer. Project management skills critical for bringing projects in on time and ensuring profitability for your firm.
- Get Rewarded with BIM and Revit Expertise. BIM and Revit, despite being relatively new technologies, can still increase the size of your compensation at some firms. While only 44% of firms surveyed offer salary premiums to employees who can bring these skills.
- Go (Or Grow) Where The Money Is. Bigger firms tend to offer larger compensation packages than smaller firms. The compensation totals include benefits and other perks that smaller firms can’t rival. Firms in the middle market (50-250 employees) are good places to develop professionally. They also offer compensation at or above the category averages for each job classification. If you’re working in a smaller practice, and don’t want to be part of a big firm’s rank and file, look for ways your firm can grow its clientele and backlog.
PDH Academy understands your desire to grow as a professional. It’s not just about the kind of work you can do or the difference you can make. Check out our courses for architects to identify — and then take — your next step toward prosperity!