Average compensation for architectural staff positions is still recovering from the Great Recession, but is nevertheless on the rise—and expected to continue on an upward trajectory, according to the 2015 AIA Compensation Survey released last week. The report, which includes salary data for 39 architecture-firm positions in 27 states, 27 metro areas, and 15 cities, found that average compensation for staff positions rose 3.5 percent since early 2013 (or 1.75 percent per year). This growth is up from the Great Recession, during which annual compensation increased an average of less than 1 percent, but moderate compared to the past two decades, when annual compensation increases ranged between 4 and 5 percent.
The AIA notes that compensation for architectural staff positions should continue to increase as business conditions are set to improve, which healthy figures in the monthly Architecture Billings Index suggest.
To see how your salary stacks up to the reported average, see the charts below.
All major categories of architectural positions saw compensation increases, which were relatively uniform across experience levels. Interns have seen the least compensation gains in the past four years, due to a surplus of recent graduates entering the field and competing for a limited number of positions.
Note: New England—Conn., Maine, Mass., N.H., R.I., Vt.; Middle Atlantic—N.J., N.Y., Penn.; East North Central—Ill., Indiana, Mich., Ohio, Wis.; West North Central—Iowa, Kan., Minn., Mo., Neb., N.D., S.D.; South Atlantic—Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Md., N.C., Va., S.C., W.V.; East South Central—Ala., Ky., Tenn., Miss.; West South Central—Ark., La., Okla., Texas; Mountain—Ariz., Colo., Idaho, Mont., Nev., N.M., Utah, Wyo.; Pacific—Alaska, Calif., Hawaii, Ore., Wash.
Larger firms traditionally offer higher levels of compensation and more comprehensive benefits packages. That trend continues with this report, with firms of 50 to 99 employees offering the highest levels of compensation, as compared to the national average.
Of the surveyed firms, 74 percent offer employees salary premiums upon licensure—a figure that has decreased slightly in the last two years. Meanwhile, 44 percent of firms pay a premium for BIM or Revit expertise, a modest increase from 2013.
Compensation gains for architectural staff positions have been trailing behind the averages for the broader economy in recent years. In looking at aggregate compensation increases since 2002, architectural staff saw major gains up until 2008, while the private sector experienced slower growth. Since 2008, annual compensation gains in the broader economy (averaging at 2 percent) have nearly doubled that for architectural staff.
Overall, the percentage of average annual compensation for architectural staff positions is rising as the construction industry continues to recover from the Great Recession and is outpacing the low inflation levels in the U.S.
Methodology and Definitions
The AIA Compensation Survey has been a biennial report since 2011; it was previously published in three-year increments. This year's survey was administered this year by Readex Research of Stillwater, Minn. The AIA sent survey invitations to 7,785 architecture firms and published open calls for participants. The AIA received responses from 923 unique firms by the March 16, 2015 deadline.
The data was screened, with the top and bottom 1 percent trimmed to enhance reliability. Where an entry is blank, data was not available or not provided.
The following definitions were used for
architectural staff positions:
Architect 3: Ten or more years of experience; licensed architect who plans medium- and large-scope projects with many complexities; executes and coordinates projects; and may oversee a large staff of architects and technicians.
Architect 2: 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. who may oversee a small staff of architects and technicians.
Architect 1: Five or more years experience; licensed architect who exercises independent judgment in evaluation, selection, and use of standard techniques; solves problems when encountered and receives guidance on complex projects.
Intern 3: Full-time intern on the path to licensure with three to six years of experience; works under the direction of others; responsible for projects' technical design; provides planning/design/coordination consultation on large projects; reviews/approves conceptual designs.
Intern 2: Full-time intern on the path to licensure with two or three years of experience; works from the designs of others under supervision; and performs routine and limited architectural assignments.
Intern 1: Full-time, entry-level intern on the path to licensure with fewer than two years of experience; develops design or technical solutions under the supervision of an architect.
To order the full report, visit aia.org/store.
Check out the 2013 report here.
Credit for the interactive charts: Jess Rubenstein
Note: This post has been updated since original publication to clarify the chart on growth in compensation over time.