The American Institute of Architects regularly conducts compensation surveys and prepares reports to illustrate the state of architecture compensation across the U.S. In the 2015 report, which you can order here, 923 architecture firms participated and the top and bottom 1 percent was culled, giving you a more accurate representation of what’s trending.
If you wonder how your career stacks up against others in the industry, here’s a snapshot of what the AIA report offers:
Compensation Among Architects is Up
Probably the best news that affects the industry as a whole is that compensation among architects and other architect firm staff is rising. The Great Recession took its toll on architecture as much as any other industry, but as the economy gets better so do the salaries.
As you would imagine, Intern 1 takes up the smaller end of the compensation scale with a reported mean income of about $41k. On up the scale at Architect 3, the mean compensation is reported at about $91k. Higher up in architectural firms, a director of design earns about $128k and the scale tops out at $159k for the chief legal officer.
Moderately Large Firms Have Better Compensation
It comes as no surprise that the larger the architectural firm the better the compensation and benefits, at least to a point. The report explains that in larger firms with 50 to 99 employees, compensation and benefits are higher than average. Firms of 100 or more employees drop marginally.
Going back to Intern 1, a smaller firm of 5 or fewer employees has a mean compensation of about $37k. But in a larger firm of 50 to 99, pay increases to $43k. Similar trends affect the Architect 3 position. In a firm with 5 or fewer employees, compensation is about $79k. But in a firm that has 50 to 99 employees, that number jumps to $95k.
Technology Trumps Licensure in Perks
At one time, compensation bumped up with an architect’s licensure. That’s a good perk to anticipate after years as an unlicensed intern, but it’s not as common anymore. According to the survey, 74 percent of firms offered a premium for licensure, ranging from 5 to 10 percent.
Where the premiums lie now are with technology expertise. Architects who have skills in BIM and REVIT programs are enjoying a 5 to 10 percent salary premium, a number that’s gaining over recent years.
Compensation Growth is Similar to Other Occupations
The recession hit almost every industry hard, but the comeback has been a bit more difficult for architects. Finally the pace is picking up, and compensation growth is more comparable to growth in the private sector. In 2008, average compensation was about $73k. And in 2015, that had grown to $79K.
The industry to watch for growth patterns is construction. Architect magazine says that architectural positions are rising in correlation with the construction industry, which continues to climb out of the recession slump.
The only way to really know if you’re earning what you’re worth is through a reliable comparison tool. That’s why the AIA sources data from as many firms as possible and processes it into meaningful chunks of information. With the report, you can learn what’s trending where you are as well as across the country, which helps you make better decisions for your own career.
An architect’s work is never done, whether it’s on the job or thinking about finding a new one. And part of that career is keeping continuing education credits up to date. Check out our courses for architects at PDH Academy when your next professional development hours are due.