Appropriate Salary?


Stasis - may pay is in stasis

Say what? I work in SF too and only get $20.00/hr for 3 years exp.1099 which works out to $15/hr after taxes - you want a raise?  - are they hiring where you are at? 

Feb 29, 12 12:20 am

After hearing your case, not so much.  However, I find it puzzling that a BIM manager/ Revit Specialist in bay area isn't doing so well.  I thought people with that skill set are in heavy demands. 

Perhaps there is something I can do for you.  If you can shoot me an e-mail with your Resume, and perhaps work samples.  I can connect you with some people i know. 


Feb 29, 12 1:25 am



Sure will

Feb 29, 12 11:43 am

I posted an individual thread before I found this awesome thread, so I though I would pose the same question in this thread: OK here is my situation I started working at a firm in salt lake almost a year ago. I am just about to graduate and start working full time so I want to discuss a pay raise with them. When I working with then a year ago I had 5 years worth of experience from another firm in salt lake and they were happy with my portfolio and experience. Due to the fact that I was still in school and was only part time they started me at 17 an hour. When I tried to get more they said they would reevaluate in my next review and adjust accordingly. Now I am coming up on a year and I will have my degree as well as a couple of successful projects that I worked on in the office under my belt.... so what am a worth? I keep reading 45k is the magic number for m arch grads but does my previous experience not count? Am I dreaming if I think I am going to jump from 17 to 22+ an hour? Thanks in advance Swegin

Feb 29, 12 1:01 pm

check this out.....hopefully this means we will all be high can dream right?

Mar 1, 12 11:59 pm

I've just gotten an interview with a potential employer (~20 person firm) in Santa Barbara, CA and am wondering where to start the negotiating line. I have an M.Arch and about 2 yrs experience as an intern (I graduated this past summer). This is my first offer and I am curious what others have to say as far as a baseline and any important pointers for an entry-level offer. I am single, and 40k/yr seems reasonable (though I am not familiar with CA taxes). Thoughts?

Mar 10, 13 1:12 am

SoCal scares me(SF does too). I don't know how interns survive. 

Annual Gross Pay $40,000.00
Federal Withholding $5,378.75
Social Security $2,480.00
Medicare $580.00
California $1,301.88
SDI $400.00

Net Pay = $29,859.37

Mar 10, 13 11:25 am

So do you think 40k sounds at least reasonable? It sounds like less than that is essentially unlivable in SoCal. Perhaps I should start the line at 45k and see where it goes?

Mar 11, 13 12:24 am

Hey Xenakis -- if you'd like to send me your resume and portfolio, I can forward them on to my manager. We're looking to hire right now, and are pretty desperate for designers who are also competent in Revit (and eventually want to get licensed), which are surprisingly hard to find in the Bay Area (which is bizarre, considering how badly other firms seem to be paying, as if the supply is super high...). I'm hesitant to post my real email on here lest the bots get it, but you can send something to and I'll pass it along.

Mar 12, 13 1:34 pm
La A

Hello all,

Found this thread and would like advice. My situation: currently working part time (20h per week) at a 30 people firm in Central Washington State, no benefits, and I am paid 17$/h. I recently saw a bill the firm charges to clients and my hours are charged at 50$/h. I was upset to see that for the hours I put in the firm gets into their pocket three times more then what they pay me. I understand the need to make a profit and pay overhead but three time my pay seems a bit unfair, either I am getting payed to low or the client is getting overcharged. 

I have a masters degree and 2 years of previous experience in another state. I had a four year gap between that job and going back to work. From the getgo I asked to get paid what I received at me previous employment which was 21$/h. They said that the economy, that this was a small town.... I am looking into working full time but I am really unmotivated by the pay. The overall firm is very pleasant, my complain is the pay. Suggestions anyone?

Apr 23, 13 5:55 pm
La A

Sorry for the typo, I meant: paid.

Apr 23, 13 5:57 pm

^ Yes. Your salary is low, and is especially made worse by no benefits, but once below 30 or 32 hours, that's what happens.  Do you remember when taking your Pro Practice class in school?  Three is the STANDARD multiplier for rate of pay.  I've seen up to 3.25x.   So, you don't have anything to complain about there.

I had a similar experience right after I licensed.  I liked the firm, despite a minor "alumni club" problem, because I like the building types they did, some of the coworkers were casual, and there was rarely any overtime, despite steady work.  Well, the more I researched, the more I realized they were below market and I got a nice bump from changing employers.  As time goes on, you might have to do that.  The pleasantness of the environment and ease of the job couldn't balance out the below market salary.

Yes, the pay rate of $ 17 translates into about $ 35,000 to $ 36,000 a year, on a FULL TIME basis.  If they were to go full-time with you at that rate, that's low.   Chances are they are billing low ($50 is low) to keep work coming in the door.  I've seen differential pay for marital status, even after licensing, and chances are you will find that information out by "accident," as did I.  That can suck the wind out of your sails and is indicative of a backward firm.

I don't think it sounds like a long-term relationship.  Too bad ... because it's nice to work in firms where the work environment is laid-back.

Apr 23, 13 6:31 pm
La A

Thank you observant for your insight. Highly appreciated.

Apr 24, 13 12:06 am

A person with 3-years of relevant experience in the architecture field, and having a M-Arch degree should get at least $55k. 

Apr 24, 13 2:20 am

I ran into this thread tonight because I was interested in what other architects were making. I work for an Architectural firm in London, Ontario and seem to be having a lot of the same issues many of you are. I am a graduate of a 4 year college program in Architectural Technology where I of course studied the technical side of architecture which I feel built a very strong and important base for my further studies. I then went on and attended the Bachelor of Architectural Studies program at Waterloo University to get a more theoretical approach. For my final year of study I went across the pond and attended a school in Europe. I then returned to Canada and completed my M.Arch at the University of Toronto. I now have about 11 years of post secondary education in the Architectural field and about 4 years of work experience from co-ops and time off between programs. As stated above, I work for a firm in London, ON which employs about 8 people and I earn a salary of just under 40k a year and have no benefits or vacation time (yet). Like any other intern architect, I get taken advantage of and usually work long weeks (up to 50+ hours) but see no additional pay because I am on salary. As of lately it has become quite frustrating and stressful.

I have known that I wanted to be an architect since about the age of 10 and have put myself through 11 years of little sleep, tight deadlines, no money and many boxes of KD dinners to end up with something so disappointing. I think it goes without say that I am extremely passionate about architecture and would not have put myself through all I have (Anyone who has been through architectural schooling would agree) if it wasn't something I didn't enjoy and wanted to do for a long time. After a few years of working, I find it amazing at how fast that passion can get sucked out of you if the conditions at work aren't the best. You tell yourself through the many many sleepless nights in school that once you get through that, things will be better and you will have more money and time to yourself and then when that time comes, it's really not that much different. It blows my mind how underpaid and under appreciated architects can be; especially the new ones. 

I guess this turned out to be more of a rant than anything. It's too bad that so many others are in the same situation. I wish I was able to blame it on the poor economy but I don't think that is the case...

Oct 13, 13 2:06 am

Arch14. As someone a bit further down the career path, I can tell you that it does get better as you gain experience and you get more responsibility. I'm not sure about the passion part, I do think that comes and goes. You should keep an eye on where you want to get with your career and concentrate on what you can do today to get yourself where you want to go later in life. If your current job isn't helping with where you want to go, then be confident and look for another job. Best! 

Oct 13, 13 10:30 am


I have recently been looking for other jobs quite frequently but rarely do I see anything come up in London. We have one of the worst unemployment rates in the country (hah). I recently had my employee review at work and it went well. They asked me at the end if I had any concerns or questions and I wanted to bring up the money thing, but before that I brought up the fact that I am not doing what I expected. In previous jobs I was able to work with projects through the entire process from start to finish which meant I was able to develop the project from sketches to the design stage all the way through to working drawings and then out for tender. I really enjoyed this because I felt I gained so much valuable experience and knowledge. Right now I am currently working on detailing only. I literally get handed a job after all the prelim stuff, design stages, modeling and most of the working drawings are finished. Once the project has been signed off on by the client and are ready for working drawings, I get them and usually have detailing and sections and schedules to finish. I have yet to get the chance to work through an entire job on my own. I told them I've got a portfolio of 300-400 projects I developed on my own at other firms and I would like to do this here as well. I am not one who is able to sit in front of a computer for 10 hours a day doing the same thing over and over (details details details) I need variety. I figured they would like the fact that I wanted to take on more work but they turned it down and told me that this is how interns gain their experience. My boss said that all interns are hired at low salary and work lots of over time and gain design experience by doing detail after detail. I disagree with him quite a bit actually and have yet to see how drawing technical details for projects I know very little about actually help me learn about developing ideas through different stages into final designs. It's become quite frustrating. He is also quite the prick to work for, if you haven't realized that yet. Anyways, he then went on to say "We have other people in the office who want to design. I want to and so does anyone else. We have plenty of designers so you are going to be doing what you are doing for awhile." It's even more frustrating when I sit in the studio space at work and I listen to him complain about how much work he has to do and how many new projects he has to design and because he needs to have his hands in everything, will not pas any on to me. Then I sit 5 feet away from him and a few others while they develop concepts together and I continue on with details from projects they completed 90% and I just complete the details they don't feel like doing. I just feel that if this was the job I wanted, I wouldn't have gone to university. I feel like they hired me for my technical arch tech college degree rather than my 7 years of university after that.

Oct 13, 13 11:24 am

Arch14, when did you graduate from M.Arch? That'sreally the only pertinent question, as that degree supercedes the others.

Oct 13, 13 2:08 pm

I graduated April 2011. Have experience before that in firms designing because I was already an architectural technologist

Oct 13, 13 10:08 pm

It seems like you are definitely underpaid, however there's so much competition for work in Toronto that salaries have been driven down.  Vancouver is even worse, for the same reason - I make more in a mid-size prairie city (with MUCH lower cost of living) than when I worked out west - and I had to negotiate like a madman for those peanuts, too.  Your market may just be oversaturated.

Oct 14, 13 12:16 pm

I think interns get paid pretty well.  I remember doing an internship during undergrad and got paid $19/hr.  One of my co-workers, a full-time employee with a Masters degree who had been at the firm for 1 year, asked me how much I made?  He didn't seem pleased I was making more than him xD  I think he was getting 18.50/hr  Not surprisingly, his attitude took an about turn and it became really hard to get any help from him.  He went to another firm within 6 months also.

Oct 14, 13 1:42 pm

thanks for the input bowling_ball. I work in London, a few hours from Toronto so I am not really in the same market. Rarely do we try and compete with the larger firms on jobs in the GTA. London has a population of about 350,000 so I wouldn't really call it a large city. Either way, I am definitely underpaid. Not having any benefits at this job hurts me a lot. No vacation time yet either, which sucks. Again though, right now my biggest concern is the lack of design and involvement I have in projects. I have been doing strictly detailing for so long now that I am really losing passion for my job. I don't have that desire to get up and go to work in the morning like I have with some of my past jobs. I have been looking for a new job for the past little while so hopefully something comes up. I will keep all of this discussion in mind.

Thanks all!!

Oct 14, 13 3:02 pm

Arch14, somehow I forgot that small detail that you are in London. As it happens, I was born there. Moved away at 18 and never looked back. The truth is that London is extremely conservative and that area has been hit HARD by the recession over the last 4 years.

I don't have many (any?) current connections in the field in London but if you want to send me a private message on here, I'd be happy to chat through email. I enjoy my relative anonymity here.

Oct 14, 13 3:07 pm

Arch14.. i think you shot yourself in the foot when you told your employer you're an 'architectural technologist' xD 

It reminds me of of the time when a principal interviewing me for an internship position told me to cut down the number of 3d renderings in my portfolio unless I wanted to get stuck as a rendering specialist xD  Its a very good skill to have and use at work but have to be careful with labelling yourself with it if you expect different responsibilities :)

Oct 14, 13 3:28 pm

Ya, it was pretty tough to find any job openings once I graduated, let alone one I was qualified for. I know it was hit hard and the unemployment rate was one of the worst in the country. I have seen a lot of job openings in the tri-cities, so I may expand my searches to there.

Thanks for all the help!!

Oct 14, 13 3:37 pm
gentle puppies

Just an update for everyone.  So I ended up negotiating a $48,000 starting salary... that was 18 months ago.  Since then I've gotten 3 increases, without even asking, for a current salary of $61,000.  This is with Revit experience, 3 years co-op experience, and currently 1.5 years of post M.Arch experience.    Thought I'd share, just so no one sells themselves short.

Mar 14, 14 10:51 pm

61 k 3 years of experience? holy crap, im making minimum  wage

Mar 15, 14 9:32 am

Hope no one thinks I meant actuall minimum wage literally,  that was little joke. 

Mar 15, 14 11:44 pm
gentle puppies

Also, my skillset isn't extensive either.  The only tools I use at the office are CAD, Sketchup, Revit and Illustrator  I can barely render anything (we farm that stuff out).  I haven't done any envelope detailing yet, and have mostly been put on the design stream at the office, because admittedly I can generate ideas and solve problems pretty quickly ... which is funny because industry wisdom keeps telling us that design skills won't get you hired.  And my people skills are well below average, so I doubt anyone would feel pressured to pay me any more than I deserve.  The only other factor is that I did well in studio at a top Canadian school... though without any extra curriculars, being mostly invisible to my profs, and with only 2 design awards under my belt.

This firm has also been giving me the good work, as they've accommodated my request to work on just one particular project from concept design to tender, as well as my subsequent request to do the design work on the first downtown institutional/highrise/mixed-use project by our office.

Mar 16, 14 2:39 pm

ask for 55k at least. that sounds reasonable

Mar 16, 14 3:44 pm

There are a few things im bothered by in life that never seems to fade. First is the auto-centered life, then religion and somewhere in 10th is the idea about what is fair pricing and into that goes salary. Obviously its mostly irrelevant what your yearly salary is. I cannot believe people still use this measurement (it should be abolished together with the imperial system) and we should just switch to hourly.

You mention some hourly rates but then switch to yearly and the reason for this I guess is that you got offered a yearly salary? It is not unreasonable at all to ask "How many hours per week am I expected to work with this salary?". If they say it depends then you should say that your salary should depend as well.

By focusing on hourly, not only would you get a true estimate but it will probably make it a lot easier administratively for the coming revolution with people wanting to work 50%, 75% etc etc with accepting the lower pay grade. I know I personally would prefer a 35h workweek with lower pay in my life situation right now but unfortunatly most companies still doesnt realize that 3 persons working 30 hours per week is the same as 2 people working 45 hours per week (and the people working less probably does a more motivated and energetic work).

May 31, 14 4:45 am
gentle puppies

OP is back lol.  So it's been 2.5 years and counting since M.Arch.  I just got my 4th raise, plus $5K bonus.  It seems to have plateaued:

Start job: $48K

6 months later: $51K

6 months later: $56K

6 months later: $61K

12 months later: $65K

I was surprised that the last raise was smaller than my last 2, especially since I waited a full year for this one.  Our firm is also doing way better now than when I started; back then they were laying off staff (we're 30% larger than when I started, and 50% larger than in 2013).  I'm also got LEED accredited during that time, worked on extremely profitable projects, and dabbled in CA work for the first time, hence I was expecting a bigger raise.  Friends tell me it's a common tactic to lure promising employees with good money to make them stay and form a relationship which they then test.

To answer questions about hourly rates, I get paid for overtime along with a bunch of other benefits, so my T4 says I actually made $69K last year (with 80 hours of overtime - which includes flights on business trips lol).  I would never accept a job that doesn't pay overtime (too risky).  My hourly rate was $30, now $32.  I'm making an average amount compared to my classmates, but am dirt poor compared to my engineering friends.  I'm 26, in case that's relevant.  I also have no clue what my coworkers are making, as much as I want to know!

Mar 12, 15 2:20 am

I'm quite shocked by some of the salaries mentioned here.  Most of you make less than them high school dropouts who collect garbage or tokens at the subway booth for $27/hr.  Lol I was hoping to start at $35/hr or $70K once I finish M.Arch.  Is it unrealistic to want to make as much as an entry level plumber or nurse?

Mar 13, 15 8:35 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

considering you learned nothing in school, yeah a low salary is what you should expect...

plumbers and nurses go to trade schools where they learn skills.

you're a big time Critical Thinker now, think yourself out of the low salary!

Mar 13, 15 8:44 pm

depends on how long you spend in school. In 10 years, maybe inflation will have caught up to your expectations... 

Mar 13, 15 8:59 pm

Where are entry level plumbers and nurses making 70k? 

My sisters been a rn for over 20 years, makes about 52k. I started in 2009 at. 22/ hr with 4 years of internship /summer exp in landscape arch. 

Mar 14, 15 12:46 am

I'm with Larchinect, this is crazy talk.

70K? Dude, unless you are going into nuclear or petroleum engineering 99% chance of no.

Mar 14, 15 2:07 am

None of these professions you listed make anywhere near what you seem to think...

Mar 14, 15 2:21 am

SoCal scares me(SF does too). I don't know how interns survive. 

Annual Gross Pay $40,000.00
Federal Withholding $5,378.75
Social Security $2,480.00
Medicare $580.00
California $1,301.88
SDI $400.00

Net Pay = $29,859.37


Seriously, you can't live on nearly $30K a year. If you already have a family before getting into architect, forget architecture. It's not a second career field.

People live on minimum wage for less than that in raw pay. So your problem is?

Alot of people live on $20K-$25K so your problem?

Mar 14, 15 5:25 am

$27/hr at Subway..... kidding me.... if you're a manager or something like that. Then again, in a billion dollar company or nearly that. Not a problem because the capital to direct labor rate is generally approaching or exceeding 10:1 ratio. You don't find that in personal service / consultant service industry business. 

Mar 14, 15 5:34 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

East Coast wages....I rented from a guy in Brooklyn who had three (3) big homes in Trinidad, he was subway conductor.

I remember at my first job site talking to the GC super in NYC,  he told me the laborer who was Union was somewhere around 6 digits....I was making 30k.

Mar 14, 15 8:23 am

If the AIA is supposed to represent the profession they should publish general expected fair ranges of salaries in different markets for different levels of expertise. And praise those firms by name that at least meet the minimum. Never happen.

And if you are working overtime without getting paid you are being played like a piano.

Mar 14, 15 9:14 am

You mean the salary survey they publish every 3 yrs?

Mar 14, 15 9:41 am

No, I mean publish a fair salary for the metropolitan area and experience level of the employee and recognize those firms that meet this minimum standard.

Mar 14, 15 9:56 am

Why do you think firms don't share wage information among employees? 

Mar 14, 15 10:17 am

I think in most well-run firms people know pretty much who is getting what. The point is that the AIA could recognize those firms who treat their employees fairly with respect to the cost of living in the different areas of the country. No need to mention the sleaze firms that don't by name at all.

Mar 14, 15 10:29 am

@richard B

SoCal isn't so bad. San Fran and NYC are the crazy places. I live in LA and make the same as my friends in NYC, but my rent is half as much. I live within 10 min of my office, which is downtown.

Mar 14, 15 12:29 pm

Volunteer - "fair" is a pretty malleable concept when it comes to compensation and means wildly different things to different people. I recall an incident that incurred during my first year out of school. I and two other classmates all accepted positions at the same firm and, insofar as I know, we all started at the same hourly rate. 

After about 9-10 months, one of these classmates started becoming very vocal in the studio about how hard it was for him to live on the wages being paid and he started lobbying actively for a big raise. As it turned out, his primary rationale for a bigger wage for himself was that he was married and already had two children. Long story short, he felt it was "unfair" that he should be paid the same as me (who was married w. no children) and the other classmate (who was single) because his living expenses were so much higher than ours.

In the end the principal in charge of making those decisions refused to adjust his pay, stating very clearly that compensation at that firm is determined by "what you contribute" and not by "what you need".

That episode made a big impression on me at the time.

Mar 14, 15 4:20 pm

How is $70k unrealistic? Gentlepuppies is making $32 an hour 2 years out of school. Look up the garbage man and subway collectors salaries in Toronto.... $27 an hour min.

Mar 15, 15 12:28 pm

It depends on where you live, better chance in high cost areas if you look at the any salary survey the op is very unusual

Mar 15, 15 12:53 pm

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