Architect Salary 


Career as an Architect


By Diane Turner

There are currently over 114,000 “traditional” architects working in the United States.  This number does not include specialty fields such as Naval Architects, Marine Architects, Environmental Architects, Landscape Architects, Interior Architects or Classical Architects.  Unlike other professions, architects have extensive proficiencies extending into other career fields such as plumbing, electrical contracting, environmental regulations and testing, and engineering and design of specific materials. 

The average salary for an Architectin the traditional field is $72,550 per year while Interior Architects average $54,000, Landscape Architects average $62,090 and Naval Architects average $77,000 per year. 

Often, people think of architects as artists who design buildings and layout interior spaces.  In fact, architects design, plan, layout, test and ensure that the design is completed on time and budget as designated.  This means that it is the architect who oversees every facet of a client’s project from beginning to end.  The most important value that an architect brings to a project is to guarantee public safety in the process and after the completion of a structure.

While it is true that a career as an Architect can be either general or specialized, there are additional personal qualities and interactive skills that will determine how successful an individual can be in this field.  Practical and creative abilities are needed in each specialty with an emphasis on one more than the other according to the specialized field of interest.  The NAAB recommends that you choose your architectural field early in order to avoid delaying graduation by taking classes that are not part of your ultimate goal. 

The most important qualities that are needed beyond the educational skills include the ability to analyze a structure, understand the internal systems necessary for that structure and the affects each system has on the operation of the structure in question.  Creativity, an ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing, critical thinking and organizational skills are necessary to become successful.  Being able to visualize the completed project as well as how each part of the structure interacts with the whole is a skill that should be developed through your studies.

All architects must be licensed by passing all seven phases of the ARE examination after receiving a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and 3 to 5 years of internship. Licensing is done through the state where you choose to practice.  Additionally, in order to practice in other states, a Certification from the National Architectural Accrediting Board is necessary even for consultation.  Once you are a Registered Architect, plan to take continuing education classes in your field of expertise since this is now becoming more prevalent in the requirements of each state.  

The Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture is designed to take four to five years to complete.  After that, graduates must work with an architect in their field from three to five additional years of internship.  These two requirements must be met before they can be considered for the ARE – Architectural Registration Exam.  

The ARE is compromised of 7 different exams, which in total takes 33 ½ hours to complete.  Each segment is broken down by categories that include written and hands-on testing.  All segments must receive a passing grade in order to become licensed by the state.   

The job description of an Architect includes interpreting what the client wants, designing the initial plan for approval, creating detailed plans that show exact placement of each system – mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and air conditioning ducts – developing computer drawings, creating models to scale and understanding all state and local regulations for the project.  Additionally, an architect may be in charge of hiring the contractors, locating and ordering the materials, and overseeing the project for the client. 

Architect Average Salary

The average Architect salary for an architect is $72,550 but that varies according to several important factors.  The first is the general economy of the nation, which is getting better but very slowly.  Other factors that are determinative include the state in which you work, the need for architects in your field of choice, the field you choose, the competition in your specific locale and the expertise and talent you are able to present. 

As is true of nearly all professional career fields, it takes years of dedication to be rewarded the title of Architect.  According to the National Architectural Accrediting Board, an associate’s degree at one of the schools that they recognize will prepare you for support staff careers in architecture.  However, to become an architect, a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from one of the schools that is accredited by the NAAB is a prerequisite requirement – no exceptions.  The NAAB recommends that you check with them online before enrolling in any school even if it claims accreditation. 

Architect Salary Factors and Influences

Before choosing any career, it is important to know the range of salary you can expect when you have reached the required goal.  The range of salaries can fluctuate greatly within the architect field and understanding these variables can help you determine if this is the career you seek. 

Currently, the bottom 10% salary for registered architects is $44,600.  Yet, the top 10% salary for registered architects is $118,000 with those of the elite architectural class seeing numbers over $250,00. 

Unlike other professions, demand in a specific area or locale rarely influences the salary amount that an architect can expect to be paid.  Generally, the demand means greater competition but not greater salary increases.  The two top influencers for increased salary is the perception that an architect is necessary for a project and the talent / expertise of any individual. 

In general, the greater your talent the easier it will be to command top dollar in your field of practice.  For the number of years required to become an architect, the entry-level salary of an Architect – approximately $45,000 per year for interns to $60,000 for a junior partner – might seem inadequate.  However, if you are able to bring additional business to the firm even as an intern, you could easily exceed the average earnings when you become a full-fledged architect. 

Architect Salary Compared To Related Fields

Related fields that require a bachelor’s degree as an entry-level requirement include civil engineers, graphic designers, industrial designers, and landscape architects. 

Average Architect’s Salary: $72,550

Average Landscape Architect’s Salary: $62,090

Average Industrial Designer’s Salary: $58,230

Average Interior Designer’s Salary: $46,280

Average Graphic Designer’s Salary: $43,500

Comparatively, the salary for an Architectat the entry-level is $10,000 to $20,000 per year higher. 

Architect Salary by State

One major factors that determine the Architect salary by stateis thelocal need for architects – or rather the perception that architects have special qualifications that are needed by the general public.  An Architect’s salary is completely dependent on the value that an individual client places on the value of the service

Below are the top five states with the greatest number of employed architects comparing the salaries of each.

Architect  salary in California:  $92,000

Architect  salary in New York:  $81,550

Architect  salary in Texas:  $77,270

Architect  salary in Florida:  $77,730

Architect  salary in Illinois: $73,080

Below are the five states with the highest concentration of architects and their average salaries:

District of Columbia: Average Salary: $94,710

Washington State: Average Salary: $69,680

Colorado: Average Salary: $79,960

Massachusetts: Average Salary: $83,020

New York: Average Salary: $81,550

What each of these states have in common is greater interest in government projects for parks, recreation, naval operations and heritage sites.  The other factor each shares is that large corporations who are likely to hire architects for major construction and remodeling projects.

Architect Types of Salaries

Usually, when a general field is broken off into specialized areas, there is a greater variance in the salaries than there is in the architectural industry.  In time, these specialties may become more in demand and that the salary ranges will widen.  Architectural firms are expecting that in the next 10 years this may happen with Environmental Architects who specialize in Green aka Sustainable Design.

The Architect average salaryof $72,550 is for those who have passed the ARE and are Registered Architects rather than graduates in internships.  In some states, interns are not allowed to be referred to as architects in any way in spite of their diplomas. 

Traditional Architects:$72,550

When you think of the term “architect”, this is most likely the type that first comes to mind.  They work directly with clients designing projects to the client’s needs.  This could be anything from a kitchen-remodeling project to the design of a mansion or theme park.  Traditional architects work with both private and commercial consumers. 

Classical Architects: $66,000

Classical architects are in charge of restoration and preservation of historical buildings and heritage sites.  This requires a love of architectural history as well as the ability to develop your own business.  Reputation for integrity is one of the most important elements in becoming successful in this corner of the industry.

Interior Architects:$40,000

An interior architect focuses on the safety standards and codes involved of a structure.  These are detail specialists who make sure that every system is functional, safe and efficient in the overall scheme.  Some firms use junior partners to serve as their Interior Architects. 

Landscape Architects: $62,090

Landscape architects work either for a government agency such as a city planning board or directly with the client in private projects.  These specialists design highways, airports, recreational parks, and subdivisions.  Additional knowledge of EPA regulations is mandatory in this field.

Naval and Marine Architects:$79,920

Naval Architects are the most highly specialized field whose job targets the designing, building and maintenance of all types and sizes of watercraft including submarines, tankers and carriers.  They also are limited to design rather than all the engineering and planning of system logistics that are necessary.  The naval architect is responsible for going out on the ship that they design to test them and verify the safety of the craft. 

History of Architects

The history of architects and architectural design goes back to Neolithic times.  Probably, the greatest architectural design occurred in Ancient Egypt with the structures of temples, pyramids and palaces.  But, these same architects designed cities, public buildings, stores and dams that controlled the flow of rivers. Without architects, towns would be chaotic lacking systems that enabled people to travel efficiently from one area to another easily.  Plumbing and electrical supply may be hodge-podged together.  Architects manipulate the physical environment to meet the needs of a given population in a specific era.  Today, architects ensure that buildings and public structures are safe for use. 

Architects Salary Outlook – Conclusion

With the downturn in construction since 2009, the difficulty for graduates to find a firm where they can do their internship has increased.  According toleading professional architect magazine, the unemployment rate in 2013 for architect graduates with a bachelor’s degree is at a dismal 13.9%.  However, those with a master’s degree are finding much better hiring rates with unemployment at 7.7%. 

Nonetheless, the NAAB and other professional groups believe that the need for architects will grow more than 24% over the next 10 years.  With the length of time that is required to become an architect, this would be the perfect time to begin a career in architecture.  As demand increases, average salary of an Architectwill also see rewards. 

If you wish to become an architect, we suggest these steps in order to improve your chances of employment and success.  First, research the various architect specialties.  If you are artistic and highly creative, you may find your niche in landscape, green or classical architecture more so than in the traditional field.  If you are geared more toward engineering and mechanical aspects of life, investigate naval, marine and environmental architectural disciplines.  Narrow your goals to two areas of interest and find a school that is on the NAAB list of accredited schools for those specialties.

Take as many classes online as you can from that specific college since changing colleges will automatically cause you to lose up to 24 credit hours toward your general degree. This is not only costly, it is time consuming to make up later.  While in school, go to the ARE site and download the practice programs for the ARE test so that you are gearing your study to meet the requirements on the test.  If you are lacking in an area, while you are in school is the best time to upgrade your performance and abilities. 

Finally, at the end of your second year, find an architectural firm in your hometown where you can serve part of your internship during breaks in classes.   NAAB will accept a small portion of time you worked with a firm during your college years – so don’t overdo and expect that it will all count.  However, you could accrue enough hours to receive credit for a year served before you even graduate.