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How Much Do Architects Make? What You Need to Know

5-minute read

Learning how much architects make can help you establish your own rates, like this architect.
Mariah Bliss

Mariah Bliss

12 February 2021

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Interested in starting your own architecture business - but not sure how much you should charge for your services?

That's why we're here to answer this pivotal question: How much do architects make?

You see, learning about the average salary for an architect can help you get a better feel for the kind of rates you should charge once you start your own business. That way, you can be more confident you're charging the right amount, rather than too much, or worse, too little.

So if you're ready to start building a business as an architect (no pun intended!), let's take a closer look at how much money architects can make, and why.

Stay tuned, because at the end of this article, we'll also be offering a FREE business plan template, which can help you build up your architecture business even faster.

How Much Do Architects Make? Here's the Inside Scoop

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). Additionally, 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, such as:

  • If you're running a larger architecture firm versus a small operation as a single architect.
  • If the region of the country you live in is saturated with architects, the money you could potentially make may be lower.
  • The more skills and certifications you have, the more you can charge as an architect.
  • The market conditions in your area affect salary.
  • The diversity of your work portfolio as an architect could make it easier to charge higher rates

Location makes a big difference in how much architects make.

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 charge a decent amount as an architect business owner, 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 on how much do architects make.

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.

Want to Charge More for Your Architect Services?

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.

Finally, architects who are licensed and carry business insurance may be able to command higher rates than those individuals who don't. That's because having a business license and insurance shows clients you're a trustworthy individual, which can make all the difference in convincing a client to hire you vs. one of your competitors.

Additionally, some states require architects to carry professional liability insurance, as it can help protect you and your clients in claims involving negligence or mistakes.

For example, if a client claimed that your certified building designs contained an error that required their general contractor to fix (thus costing more time and money), your professional liability insurance could pay out that claim, plus any legal fees if the claim is taken to court.

And don't forget, having professional liability insurance means you only have to pay the deductible in cases of these claims, meaning your business and personal finances remain protected.

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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.

Ready to Start Your Architecture Business?

Now that you're ready to set your rates, it's time to get your architecture business off the ground. And a business plan can help you do that!

Download our FREE business plan template - it's completely editable and carries lot of writing prompts, which means you're just a few minutes away from building out a solid plan for starting your architecture business.

Free PDF Download

Want some help creating your best business plan? Download our FREE business plan template here!

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Written by

Mariah Bliss

I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!

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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