Do Architects Make Good Money?

80.9% of architects feel that they are underpaid...
do architects make good money

It is universally acknowledged that architecture is a demanding field and one would assume that the compensation provided to architects would be equally rewarding. However, that is not always true and hence raises the all-important question, do architects make good money? 

In this article we provide you with an overview of how much an average architect earns and what variance can be observed due to differences in location, age, experience, etc.

How much are architects earning worldwide?

Starting your professional journey can be a challenging prospect and one is always confused about what their salary expectations should be. In these cases, looking up the salaries of your peers and fellow architects can be incredibly helpful. It can be a source of motivation and will also clear up any doubts that you might have.

Useful information and salary guides will not only help amateur architects in deciding what salary they should demand and which firm to choose but also lets employers know what salary they should be offering to their new recruits.

Now coming to the main question, what exactly do architects make all over the world?

According to this survey that collected data from over 15 thousand architects located all over the world, we can see that the monthly income ranges from $200 per month to $10,000 per month, which depicts the disparity between wages that one can expect in the professional field. The data is represented in the diagram below.  

Keep in mind that this is generic data without accounting for experience, education, country, etc. These factors do affect the salary ranges quite a bit, for example, the starting pay for architects in any region is not a lot, with many bordering on $190 or less per month. 

Of course, the fact remains that in most western countries such as the USA or UK, the average salaries for architects will be better than for those in under-developed or developing countries. This is discussed more in detail further below.

Where do architects get paid the most?

Average salaries are subject to the region where the architect is practicing. And due to the multiple discrepancies that arise when surveying on a country-to-country basis, it is difficult to attain a global average number. However, after analyzing surveys carried out by various external sources, we can conclude that the following 7 countries have the highest monthly salaries for architects. 

  1. Switzerland (Average architect gets paid $7,374)
  2. UK (Average architect gets paid $6,146)
  3. United States (Average architect gets paid $5,918)
  4. Australia (Average architect gets paid $4,750)
  5. Canda (Average architect gets paid $4,745)
  6. Qatar (Average architect gets paid $4,665)
  7. Ireland (Average architect gets paid $4,651)

The above-mentioned data will provide a generic overview of what salary one might expect in certain countries. But suppose you want further to investigate the salaries of architects around the globe.

In that case, you can always access that information at salaries.archinect.com, which is a formal polling platform for architects to anonymously input their salaries and compare their earnings to those of their peers. A graph depicting the average annual salaries from the said site is displayed below for your convenience.

Note: Keep in mind that these surveys are dependent on many variables and not all have been answered by the same demographic. Hence, each may differ from another.

What determines your pay level?

Now that we have established that not all architects have the same salaries and pay ranges, let us discuss the various factors that can affect these numbers (later on, we provide a few tips and tricks that can help to increase this).

Firstly lets discuss the two universal factors which have a significant influence on what a client or company will be willing to pay an architect, regardless of the country or region they are based. These two factors are age and gender. 

How does your age group/experience affect your salary?

As one grows older, their age isn’t the only number that escalates. In most industries, architecture included, a seasoned professional will be able to attain a better salary than a younger counterpart.

More often than not aging is accompanied by increased experience in one relevant field, which makes their service more desirable for clients. In fact, according to a Paylab survey, the peak earning potential in all fields is from 37 years to 40 years.

The following graph depicts data collected from all over the globe, which shows the correlation between an architect’s salary and their years of experience in the field. The data has been attained from The Architecture Salary Poll.

Analyzing this chart reaffirms the census regarding age and income, i.e. as one grows older and gains more experience, their value in the professional field also increases. Which in turn improves their salaries. 

However, one interesting thing to note is the slight dip towards the end of the chart. After one has spent over 35-40 years in the field, the salary and demand (in most cases) tend to decrease. Because, at that point, the professional has reached an age of 65-70 years or more. 

And whether we like it or not, these architects over 70 years of age are no longer able to understand and work within the current market trends and contemporary design methodologies as well as their younger colleagues.

Other factors affecting an architect’s salary

Apart from experience, there are multiple other factors that can determine your salary range, such as:

Gender

Pay equity has been a priority of many social activists and multiple organizations are working to remedy the median difference between salaries offered to males and females. And while the gap continues to grow smaller (the gender pay gap has reduced by over 10% since 2002), there is still a long way to go before we reach income equalization. 

And as with all other professions, architecture also observes a slight disparity in salaries offered to either gender. Currently, women in architecture are paid 7% less than their male counterparts. Only 17% of all architects are women and hence the field is clearly dominated by men (especially in senior roles).

Skill set

In any profession, your worth is defined by the quality of your work and the skills you exhibit. Similarly in architecture, a person who has a broad and up-to-date knowledge of the latest legislation and software packages will be favored over others that don’t when it comes to recruitment.

Most employers are willing to pay more for specialized and skilled architects.

Continuing to learn and improve your skills isn’t just something that inexperienced architects need to do. Even seasoned professionals should continuously upgrade their skill sets in order to stay in high demand.

Simply working a normal 9-5 job will not allow you to grow, and learning BIM softwares, rendering, building codes, the latest modeling software, and getting a LEED certification for example, will help you in attracting new prospects and increase your overall income.

Portfolio

When an employer starts searching for potential candidates to hire, they are more interested in what previous projects that person has done instead of their education or soft/hard skillset. So it is extremely important for professionals, especially architects, to have a good visual gallery of their previous work. 

An architect with an impressive portfolio (whether academic or professional) is more likely to attract new clients and this also makes one more desirable for recruiters. Many firms look for people with a specific design language to join their task force. And if your portfolio can showcase a similar design approach, you are more likely to land the job. 

Sectors and niche

Architecture is a vast field and each sector has a different pay range for its professionals, hence the sector you work in will immensely affect your earning capacity. For example, if you are a senior architect employed in a government role, you are likely able to earn more than a counterpart who has similar work experience and skills but is employed in a private firm.

Many architects also opt to work as a freelancer which might expand their income sources.

There are various niches that you can choose as an architect based on your interest and skill set. So the kind of architect (landscape, urban, commercial, etc.) you are will dictate how much you can earn, e.g., an architectural planner who designs on a smaller scale (e.g. houses, offices, etc.) will most likely earn less than an industrial architect who specializes in designing large-scale commercial facilities.

Company size

For those architects employed in a firm or corporate office, the company’s size, revenue, work structure, and clientele will greatly affect their median salary. Companies with a more stable market presence and loyal client base will be able to provide a greater salary to their employees.

Generally speaking, smaller and close-knit companies tend to provide full-scale salaries to their workers but this differs from firm to firm. The only way to find out which company pays better is by doing market research on multiple firms and comparing their salary packages.

Location

The disparity between the pay ranges for architects in various countries has already been discussed. But another thing one must keep in mind is that different cities in the same country might have contrasting median incomes.

So if you are a practicing architect in a region where salaries are higher than in other areas, it is probable that your salary as an architect will also be greater than that of those architects in low-salary areas.

Let us take the example of the United States, where professionals in Washington, on average, earn more than professionals in Illinois or Indiana. So your salary will be dependent on the country as well as the city that you work in.

Mobility

Mobility refers to a strategic shift between employers and companies by a professional. Many believe that if they stick with one firm/company and prove their loyalty, they will be rewarded. But this is a utopian concept that hasn’t seen much application in the harsh corporate life. For permanent employees, the average annual salary increase is less than 5%. 

As an architect employed at a firm, you need to be constantly on the lookout for better opportunities. And this isn’t just a tactic to maximize income, but even for professional growth, it is important to continuously keep shifting from ones comfort zone and seek better prospects. 

Firm’s revenue

As discussed briefly above, a firm’s revenue is one of the biggest factors that will dictate your income potential. The bigger your firm’s revenue generation is, the higher salary packages will be offered to the employees. 

Getting employed at a large-scale firm with greater revenue and profit will eventually translate into a better income potential for an architect. And generally larger sized firms generate large revenue so before taking a job, make sure you have researched their market presence and income.

What kind of architects get paid the most?

We have briefly touched upon how your niche will define your income potential but for your ease, we have listed below 9 of the highest paying architectural professions in the current market along with their average salary information. The list is non-chronological.

Note: Keep in mind that this information is generalized and the salaries may be subject to change across various regions.

Architectural designer

Average salary: $63,547 per year ($4,499 per month)

An architectural designer is the most common architectural niche and basically refers to the entry-level position at a corporate architectural firm. An architectural designer is responsible for the design envision of a part and works with a team of multiple other professionals to ensure a successful outcome.

They are usually supervised by senior certified architects who also act as mentors. Architectural designers may have various duties such as creating architectural drawings, renders, 3D modeling, data compilation, etc. This differs from firm to firm.

Landscape architect

Average salary: $71,842 per year ($5,087 per month)

As the name suggests, a landscape architect is responsible for designing the landscape of various spaces. Their job entails conceptualizing a space and designing structures within that space, incorporating plants, walkways, etc. Landscape architects use digital or manual methods to present these ideas to the client and once approved, oversee the successful completion of their plans.

Landscaping can be done at a small scale such as landscaping of house gardens or could be large-scale, such as parks or communal gardens, etc. In recent times, landscape architects have seen gradual growth as people realize the importance of well-designed green spaces. The profession is projected to grow 1.6 percent by 2031.

Architectural technologist

Average salary: $62,255 per year ($4,408 per month)

Architecture is a multi-disciplinary field and requires concise communication between all included parties (e.g. architects, construction managers, and engineers). An architectural technologist assumes the role of an intermediary between these professional groups.

They are associated with the technical aspect of the construction and are rarely ever included in the design process. However, they do assist both the architects and the civil engineers to ensure cohesive drawings and construction guidelines.

Green building and retrofit architects

Average salary: $75,003 per year ($6,250 per month)

A green/retrofit architect is essentially a professional trained in designing and developing efficient strategies to make buildings more environment-friendly. By reducing their energy consumption and decreasing negative environmental impact, retrofit architects make these buildings more sustainable.

As the name suggests they are responsible for retrofitting existing buildings but they also conceptualize and design new eco-friendly buildings. Green and Retrofit architects are now in high demand for commercial buildings because many people are looking for new and improved ways to make their buildings more sustainable in order to combat global warming.

Preservation architects and architectural historians

Average salary: $69,238 per year ($4,902 per month)

Preservation architecture and architectural history, though separate professions have many overlapping aspects. In fact, many architectural historians also work in architectural preservation and vice versa. Architectural preservation entails the study, preservation, and restoration of old buildings while architectural historians study the history of architecture and what sociopolitical or geographic climate impacted the built environment.

They may work as academics in a school, university, or college, etc., or as independent researchers. It is with the help of these professionals that so many great buildings from the past have been studied and preserved, and are now available for the general public.

Commercial architect 

Average salary: $106,389 per year ($7,532 per month)

As the name sounds, commercial architects design commercial buildings and spaces. Since most commercial spaces are categorized as large-scale niche projects, specialized architects are often hired and paid well to oversee the design and construction of these projects.

Commercial architects use their experience to design spaces like malls, offices, and apartment complexes that consider the movement of people, influx ratios, and climate requirements. Commercial architects may be a part of an independent architectural firm or they may work with a real estate developer who specializes in commercial projects.

Industrial architect

Average salary: $79,038 per year ($4,888 per month)

Industrial architects are professionals who have specialized in designing efficient buildings for large scale industries (factories, power plants, warehouses, etc). These industries often have sensitive requirements due to the heavy machinery that is to be housed in them along with the materials that need to be kept under specific environments e.g. chemicals, heavy metals, etc.

So these industries need to be designed by specialized professionals who have the skill to efficiently fulfill this task. Most industrial architects complete an architectural design degree followed by a specialization in industrial architecture.

Architecture project manager 

Average salary: $77,176 per year ($5,464 per month)

Due to the multiple steps involved in the completion of an architectural project, a project manager is required who assists other professionals throughout the entire course of the project.

An architectural project manager manages the design and execution of the project. They organize and oversee the activities taking place at any given point in the project and make sure the communication between various teams is carried out effectively.

Architectural project managers usually have a bachelors in architectural design and follow it up with a degree in project management. But some architects learn management through their first-hand experience in the field without formal management education.

Senior Architect

Average salary: $80,000 per month ($6,666 per month)

Senior architects are usually the most experienced architects in a firm. They oversee project design carried out by junior architects. They often have the last say in design decisions along with budgeting, marketing, schedules and project delivery, etc. Senior architects are tasked to manage and lead design teams, maintain good communication between all members and help them in making sustainable design decisions.

Do architects feel underpaid?

In every profession, there is a disparity between what each person is earning, and similarly, in architecture, many people earn an amount that they are not happy with. This raises a few questions that we have attempted to answer below

How many architects feel underpaid?

A social survey was conducted which asked professionals in the field whether they felt they were paid sufficiently. Out of the approximately 15 thousand responses, 80.9% felt they were underpaid, and 17.2% felt fairly paid. While only 2% felt that they were overpaid.

Now keep in mind that this survey is subjective to the demographic it has managed to reach and most of them have been people between the ages of 25-35 years, which means they have been practicing for 8 to 10 years at most.

And as we have established, an architect’s salary does get better with age and experience so it can be assumed that while these people may feel underpaid at the moment, this sentiment has the possibility to change within the next 5 to 8 years.

Why are some people paid less than others?

The salary that is offered to an architect is subject to the architect’s location, experience, skill set, and portfolio among other things. This explains the disparity that is observed between various professionals within the field. But it also provides a hope that with enough effort and experience, most architects can reach their desired income range.

Apart from the architect’s own skill and effort etc., there is a major impact of the local job market that will affect that architect’s salary. All these factors along with the immense workload contribute to architects feeling underpaid.

How can architects increase their salaries?

If you are a practicing architect and want to increase your annual income, we have provided a few insights on how to improve your monetary prospects. Applying these to your professional practice might help you reach a more comfortable annual salary.

Consider your remuneration package

A remuneration package is part of the employee benefits bundle that a company offers to its recruits. This includes additional (cash and non-cash) incentives e.g. health insurance, a company-allotted car, workspace (desktop or laptop), sports membership, bonus, pension, holiday packages, etc. 

Some jobs have attractive base salaries but incredibly poor remuneration packages. When negotiating your salary, always consider the entire package instead of only focusing on the income. A good remuneration package provides a considerable monetary advantage in the long term.

Bonus scheme 

Bonus schemes are extra cash incentives that the company provides aside from your monthly income.

Bonus schemes are entirely dependent on the structure of the company that you work for. As an architect, you should opt for firms that have bonus schemes for the successful completion of projects or company profitability. A good bonus can substantially increase your income.

And if you are working in a company that offers these bonuses, make sure to aim for your best and earn as many rewards as you can. This not only helps you monetarily but also builds your credibility.

Commission 

Most companies offer their employees a commission if they can bring in new and profitable clients.

If you build good connections outside of your daily job, you can network and market your company to your contacts. This will allow you to take a part of the profit that the company makes off of that client. Good marketing skills can come in very handy for architects in this regard.

Learning and investing in yourself

No profession allows you the opportunity to sit idle if you want to be successful. Similarly, architects must keep learning the latest trends and techniques to attract more clients and income.

Learning new skills is a personal long-term investment that will prove useful for architects in their professional and monetary growth. An architect can keep their usual job while also investing a bit of time and effort in learning a new skill and aiming for a better job with better salary packages.

Obtaining your license

Working for a well-settled firm is a good path but if you are looking for more growth and autonomy, it is advisable to aim for a professional license. Many architects start their careers by working under other architects and gaining experience.

Once you feel you are ready to start your own practice, consider sitting for a registration exam. This will be the initial step to setting up your architectural firm but even if you do not opt for this option, a license will immensely increase your value as an architect.

Freelancing

Last but not the least, freelancing is an excellent option for any architect looking to expand their working horizons or earn some extra cash on the side. Multiple platforms allow architects to offer their skills to clients or other professionals. More details on this topic are available here.

Now, coming to the big question…..

So, do architects make good money?

Having read through all the statistics and opinions, we can conclude that there is no straightforward answer to this question. Architects all over the world make as little as $500 per month and as much as $7,000 per month. The income range varies from region to region, country to country. 

What we do know is that the field has a great margin for earning. While the starting pay is not a lot and leaves many feeling unsatisfied, it provides a lot of opportunity for growth and once you have established yourself as a worthy professional in the market, you increase your chances of success tenfold.

Overall, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that being rich in architecture should not be your end goal, instead, it is a gradual journey that if taken can reap great rewards. And it is not a given that an architect will earn a great deal but if you stay committed to your work and spend 7-8 years building your professional rapport, you can earn as much as any other profession.

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