How Much Does An Architect Earn?

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How Much Does An Architect Earn

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. I will only ever promote the products and services that I trust and 100% recommend. You may read my full disclosure policy for more information. Thanks for supporting my business in this way.

So let's not waste any time answering the question, How Much Does An Architect Earn?

Answer: It depends.

Unfortunately this isn't a straightforward question, so the answer requires some explanation. For this post I will go into a few of the factors that effect an architect's salary and dig into the numbers to help you find the best answer for your situation. 

If you are thinking about a new architecture job, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:

How Much Does An Architect Earn?

There are a variety of ways an architect can earn an income. This can be through owning his or her own firm, as an employee, as a freelancer or some combination.

The data used below does not break down salary by these subcategories so we are going to assume it is an average of all. In addition, since the majority of my audience is in the U.S. I will be focusing on this market.

The BLS  Data

As of May 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, architects earn a median annual wage of $76,930 per year ($36.99 per hour).

Well that was easy enough. So there is your answer.

Not quite.

As with many industries salary can vary based on your location and many other factors. For a more in-depth look into those issues check out my article on the 5 Factors Affecting Your Architect Salary.

Where Do Architects Earn the Most Money?

Looking at the statistics from the BLS again, the highest paid architects are in Georgia, Massachusetts and California.

As you can see from the chart below, there is quite a range of income even within the top five highest paying states. 

Note that this data does not indicate the years of experience they are using for these salaries. However, we can assume that since they are using the term "Architect" it means they are licensed in that state.

Highest Earning Cities For Architects

If we dig a little deeper beyond just the state averages, we can see the top paying metropolitan areas for architects. So according to the BLS, the highest paying place to work is Boca Raton, Florida. 

However, look at the number of positions for the top three. Only 50-300 jobs were used, so one very high salary could really effect the average.

San Francisco is a better bet if you are strictly looking for a high salary, yet this comes with an extremely high cost of living (trust me).

What If You Don't Want To Work In A City?

If you would like to avoid the high cost of living cities like New York and San Francisco there are some options as an architect. One of the great things with our profession is that essentially every city in the country needs an architect. 

Here are the top paying nonmetropolitan areas for architects:

So if you are looking for a nice income in a reasonable cost of living area, head to the Upper Midwest. Northwest Illinois offers an average of $85,690 per year. However, as with the other stats, the number of data points is low, so do your research.

What Is The Average Architect Salary?

Now that we have covered where architects earn the most, what are the averages?

Again looking to the BLS, the mean wage for all architects in the U.S. is $84,470.

The mean value above differs from the median of $76,930, which suggests there are higher earning architects pulling up the average.

You can also see why explaining how much an architect earns  is so difficult to answer. The lowest 10% makes just $46,600 a year while the top 90% makes $129,810. A difference of 278%!

For a comparison, we can look at the average and median salaries from the 2017 AIA Salary Calculator.  These values are based on an Architect 2 position, which is defined as:

"Eight or more years of experience, licensed architect with diverse knowledge of architecture principles and practices, uses advanced techniques, and has responsibility for finished plans, specifications, and material approval. May supervise a small staff of architects and technicians."

The AIA Calculator has the U.S. nationwide average for an Architect 2 at $80,280 and the median at $76,910. Although this uses a much smaller sample size, it is within approximately 5% of the BLS Statistics. 

Job Outlook for Architects

So what does the future look like for the profession?

According to the BLS,  employment of architects is projected to grow 4 percent from 2016 to 2026, slower than the average of 7% for all occupations.

They go on to cover a couple of interesting points for areas of specific growth within architecture.

"Demand is expected for more healthcare facilities as the baby-boomer population ages and as more people use healthcare services. Demand for architects with a knowledge of “green design,” also called sustainable design, is expected to continue. Architects should be needed to design buildings and structures that efficiently use resources, such as energy and water conservation; reduce waste and pollution; and apply environmentally friendly design, specifications, and materials."

This should give you some insight into potential areas of specialization. As we all know, sustainable design is something every architect should be utilizing.

See also: The Best LEED Exam Prep Materials

What Can You Do To Increase Your Architect Salary?

In my experience the shortest route to a high salary as an architect is to become licensed. This is an essential step to progressing within your firm and the profession as whole. 

The best resource I have found to accomplish this is the ARE Review Manual (often referred to as simply the "Ballast" study guide) is an 860 page behemoth of a book that contains all you need to know to pass the exams. It also happens to be the book I personally used to pass all of the ARE's. (USA and Canada).

I have since partnered with the publishers so that my readers now get 15% off any order (excluding the bundles).

Enter the Promo Code ARG15 at checkout to get the immediate discount.

I hope this summary of How Much Does An Architect Earn has been helpful. If I left out something you think is important, let me know in the comments below.

If you are thinking about a new architecture job, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:

Thanks for reading, see also my posts on:

The 25 Best Architect Lamps

The Top 50 Most Essential Architect Supplies

Good luck!

Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

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