Architecture office

US architects see salaries rise as economy strengthens

Business is booming for American architecture firms, who say staff salaries are going up as workloads increase and the country's economy makes progress, following a report released by the AIA.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2017 Compensation Report found that the average salary for architectural staff is now $84,000 (£65,000) per year, up about 2.8 per cent from early 2015.

Over the same time period, average annual earnings for senior team members increased from $103,400 (£80,000) to $111,000 (£86,000), while professionals on their way to licensure receive $53,100 (£41,000) – a jump from $48,900 (£38,000).

The heads of several small- to medium-sized studios corroborated the findings from the survey, which took data from 39 different architecture firm positions in 26 states, 25 metro areas and 17 cities.

"We have had an increase in business volume over the past year, but more importantly, we are working on more significant projects with more substantial fees," Jeff Jordan, founder of his eponymous New Jersey studio, told Dezeen. "As a result, our salaries continue to go up."

The architect attributes the rises to a booming real-estate market, which has led to an increase in both the volume and scale of his firm's projects.

"The housing market is strong, especially in the New York Metro area, and that has given our clients the confidence to take on bigger projects," said Jordan.

Kirsten R Murray, owner and principal of Seattle-based firm Olson Kundig, said that overall confidence in the US economy was a factor behind higher salaries.

"Our salaries are growing both to reflect the growing capabilities and value of each individual staff member," she said. "As well, one can expect salaries to increase at least proportionally to the increase in the general economy."

Murray Legge, who runs his own studio in Austin, also backed up the report but gave a slightly less optimistic outlook for the future.

"We've seen an increase in salaries over the past year, although the market seems to be levelling off a bit," he said. "After the recession there was a flood of new projects, so we're seeing demand for design services levelling off to a more typical level."

Legge added that he thinks that the data might be skewed by the inclusion of larger architecture offices, who generally pay their staff more.

"We're a small design-oriented firm, so we do not do a lot of new hiring like larger corporate firms," said the architect. "I think the pay in a lot of the large corporate offices has increased pulling up general pay expectations."

The AIA released the biannual report earlier this month, along with an updated version of its Salary Calculator. The online tools allows professionals to work out how much they should expect to be paid based on their level, location, and size of the firm they are working for.