How Much Can You Earn as an Architect with a Firm?

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how to become an architect

An architect’s job is perhaps one of the most challenging ones, but at the same time, one of the most exciting and creative ones as well. As an architect, you get to design someone’s dream home, literally make their dream come true in brick and mortar. If you are designing a workspace, you have a contribution to make in how the design enhances the productivity of the employees and thus contribute not just to that business but also to society as a whole. If it is a leisure space you are designing and building, you give people a space where they can unwind, forget their day’s problems and simply enjoy life. It is also a job that can keep you creatively satisfied in every possible way, and if you are passionate about design, the sky is literally the limit when it comes to how innovative your designs can be and how much you can explore your own potential.

For a skilled, talented architect, it is not a big challenge to take home a substantial income. If you have set up your own architect’s firm, you can turn a profit right from initial stages, provided you have a sound business plan and a set up allowing you to focus just on excelling in your work. Of course, you have to put in a lot of groundwork if you want to achieve this, but it’s definitely not out of reach.

Many architects start-off by joining a well-established architect’s firm so that they get the experience they need, the hands-on exposure to clients that they need before they venture out on their own. This gives you experience and also helps you build a network of contacts quickly before you start your own firm.

As a business owner

If you are setting up your own architect’s firm, the average salary data tells you what cost you should expect to incur in this respect when you are hiring your new team. Use your contacts to find out what other firms in your location are paying their staff too before you come to a final decision on the pay you want to offer.

You do not want to overextend in this respect because you also have several other critical costs to address for your firm. For example, you need to protect your business from litigation from clients by taking out architects professional liability insurance that will safeguard you from financial liabilities in case a disgruntled client sues you. Keep in mind that you still have to fight the case in court, incurring legal charges even if you are not in the wrong at all and you can prove this beyond doubt. A good architect’s insurance policy protects your finances in such contingencies and allows you to focus on your work rather than worrying about the cash outflow to your legal advisers.

Expected salary as an architect

If this is what you plan to do, one of the first questions you may be asking yourself is what kind of salary you can expect. It is difficult to give an exact idea here because salaries depend on many factors, such as:

  • Your location- Salaries are not the same across the country. Some states record a higher average salary than others. According to a US News report, the locations that record the best pay scales for architects are Oakland (California), Bridgeport (Connecticut), Lowell (Massachusetts), Austin (Texas), and Vallejo (California).
  • Your area of specialization- If you have specialized in an area/skill set that very few architects choose, then you are likely to be able to get higher pay.
  • Your internship- Where you did your internship and what you did there, plays a key role in determining how valuable your new employer thinks you are.
  • Your work timings- Do you want to be a full-time architect or a part-time one? The number of hours you want to put in will definitely affect your salary.
  • Your firm’s size- The size of the firm you work for plays a big role in determining how big your paycheck is. Firms with less than ten employees may pay significantly less than the national average for both experienced and new architects. Similarly, firms with over 250 employees may pay significantly more than the average.
  • These are just some of the factors that impact salaries. While exact figures cannot be given, it is possible to have a general idea of the kind of salaries you may be able to draw. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, median salary per year that architects earned in the month of May in 2018 stood at $79,380.
  • Gender also does play a role in determining what salary you draw. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture has carried out a survey and compiled data that can be very helpful in finding out what salary you can expect as an architect in a specific state, with a specific kind of firm. According to this data, a male architect with less than a year’s experience can expect to earn around $36,619 while a woman with the same profile can expect slightly lower at $36,082.

A male architect with 4 to 5 years’ experience can expect around $52,221, whereas a woman with the same profile can expect around $51,163.

Keep in mind that the survey was carried out much earlier, in 2013- 2014, and changes have taken place since. However, these figures still give you a good idea of the difference you can expect in salary on the basis of gender.

Growth of employment

The BLS has predicted that the growth in the number of jobs in this niche will be about 4% for the period between 2016 to 2026. While this is slower than many other fields, what needs to be kept in mind is that specific areas within the niche will enjoy better growth than others. For example, the move toward environmentally friendly building design places architects with special training/skills in green construction techniques at a significant advantage right now. If you are still studying, this is one area you may want to specialize in to put yourself in a better negotiating position when it comes to salary.