Architects' salaries outpace professional wages

July 01, 2005 |

It pays to be an architect. At least that's what the American Institute of Architects is suggesting after releasing its recent compensation survey.

Architects, on average, earn slightly more than $60,000 a year, including overtime, bonuses, and incentive compensation, according to the AIA survey of 1,200 firms, conducted in Q1 2005. That's 33% higher than the average $45,000 wage of typical white-collar professional jobs.

Wages at architecture firms have grown faster than salaries in other professions for the past nine years, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Architect wages grew at a 10% clip between 2002 and 2005, while compensation for general professionals grew just 7% during the same period.

Principals and partners made the biggest gains during past three years, jumping 9% to $159,800 in average annual compensation. Managers and department heads ($85,800), architects and designers ($57,700), and interns ($38,000) all experienced gains of slightly more than 3%. An increased demand for technical staff, such as 3-D modeling specialists, helped boost their average wage 5.7%, to $53,700.

Large firms are willing to pay more for architects, according to the survey. Those employed at firms with 250+ staff members earned $74,200 on average—4% more than architects working in firms with 100–249 staffers and 8% more than designers in companies with 50–99 employees. Firms with fewer than 10 employees paid just $59,400 on average—25% less than firms in the 250+ category.

"We thought there would be plenty of small, niche firms that could afford to pay higher salaries," says Diego Saltes, AIA's director of economics and market research. "But that wasn't the case. The larger firms pay more across the board."

For a presentation of the survey results, visit:

The complete report is available for purchase at

Principals and partners pace architects' compensation gains

Average compensation
Position 2002 2005 Total gain
* Includes department heads, senior mgrs., and project mgrs.

** Includes senior architects and designers I, II, III

*** Includes entry-level, second-year, and third-year interns
Source: American Institute of Architects
Principals/partners $123,400 $159,800 9.0%
Managers* $77,300 $85,800 3.5%
Architects/designers** $52,600 $57,700 3.1%
Interns*** $35,300 $38,800 3.2%

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