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An In-Depth Look Into How Much Money Architects Make

4-minute read

Stephanie Walsh

Stephanie Walsh

30 August 2018

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Whether you’re interested in becoming an architect or you’re just curious how much they make in a year, there are a lot of different factors that go into an architect’s salary.

From education and experience to specialties and where they operate, let’s take a look at how much money architects make, and why.

How Much Can You Make Working as a Architect?

Let’s Look at the Basics

First, let’s define what we mean by architects. Professional architects can own their own businesses, either as a sole proprietor, with a partner, or as a limited liability corporation (LLC). In addition, architects can also work for an established firm or choose to freelance.

With that in mind, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which keeps track of data and information on jobs and salaries of hundreds of thousands of jobs, reported that architects earn an annual average wage of $76,930 per year, or $36.99 per hour. While this figure is an average, many factors can either increase or decrease your salary. First, larger firms tend to award its architects a higher salary than smaller firms. Second, if the region of the country you live in is saturated with architects, your salary will be lower. Third, the more skills and certifications you have, the higher a salary you can command. Fourth, the market conditions in your area affect salary. Fifth, your diversity as an architect will also help you earn more money.

Location Makes a Difference

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the states where architects report the highest salaries are in Georgia, Massachusetts and California. In Georgia, the average annual salary for architects is $97,000. In neighboring North Carolina, the salary is $6000 less. The city with the highest-paid architects is in West Palm Beach, Florida, with an average $120,000. However, an architect in Mississippi can make less than $50,000 a year. Of course, all of these salaries depend on the cost of living in the area. Architects in Mississippi can expect to have a lower cost of living than architects in California. This is something you need to keep in mind while you are looking at architecture jobs.

If you prefer to work out in the country, rather than the city, you can still expect to command a good salary, although it won’t be as high as those city architects (keep in mind though that your cost of living will be much lower). Let’s say you love the outdoors in Montana and Wyoming -- no problem. You can earn from $75,000 to $80,000 per year, with a far lower cost of living. If you want to live close to a big city, such as Chicago, without Chicago’s cost of living, you can do that too. Architects in rural areas of northwestern Illinois can make $85,000 per year.

What the Numbers Really Say

If you look at all the numbers together, the reality is that architects earn a median salary of $84,500. This differs from the earlier Bureau of Labor Statistics median salary, which is $76,000, most likely because the higher salaries of other architects in higher-paying area. The median salary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also takes into account both the highest paying salaries for architects, which are around $129,810, and also the lowest 10% salaries for architects, which are about $46,000 per year. The difference between the lowest salary for architects and the higher salaries for architects is 278%, which is a huge swing.

Part of the salary discrepancy comes from the different levels of education and experience of the architect, and these factors might be more important than the region of the area where you live. For example, if you are a newly-minted architect, not yet licensed, and with very little work experience, you can’t expect to make the same salary as an architect with experienced, who is licensed.

How Can I Increase My Earnings as an Architect?

First, you need to be sure that you have a college degree. You must have a Bachelor’s or a Master’s Degree in Architecture from an accredited college or university. Second, you must put in a significant number of hours (around 6000) before you can even be considered for accreditation. However, you can begin to put in your hours while you are in high school or college, so if you are really thinking you want to be an architect, go find some places you can volunteer your time to count towards your hours. Third, you must take and pass the Architect Registration Examination, which is a difficult test that must be studied for. Once you have completed your education, internship hours and passed the test, you can then apply for licensure in your state. Some architects have found that applying for and receiving a certificate from the NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) enables them to apply for jobs in any state, as well as Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Mobility allows architects to move around and look for the best location for them in terms of money.

Job Outlook for Architects

You need to keep in mind that in the future, the employment for architects is expected to grow at about 4% over the next 10 years, which is less than the average job growth of 7%. Interestingly, there are subsets of architecture which are expected to grow at a higher rate than other area. For example, architects that specialize in designing healthcare facilities are expected to be in demand as the population continues to age and the need for medical centers increases.

In addition, there is greater demand for green design or sustainable architects, as more and more companies look for designs that work with environmentally friendly materials, rather than materials that are dangerous or harmful to the environment. Green architects know how to conserve energy and water, reduce waste and the levels of pollution, as well as design to be aesthetically pleasing.

So, to sum it up, the amount of money you can make as an architect depends on lots of different factors, including region, education and licensing.

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This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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