Stay or Go


maybe there is no easy answer, but I'm thinking about leaving my current firm in metro detroit...

I've been licensed for about a year, have worked here for about 1-1/2 years.  I have about 7 years experience.  Currently I do interior build outs for franchisees, new strip malls, drive-thru's, small scale commercial.  I basically run these projects, coord with consultants, spa meetings, etc, make about 61k, and get ins. through my wife.

I've worked at a couple different firms over the years and suspect that I should be making at least 10k more.  I asked for a performance review at 90 days and again at about 1 year, response was "ya we should do that"  but nothing else.

I like to work, and the experience is fantastic, esp if I ever decided to go out on my own.  My previous jobs were all at fairly large firms where I did a lot of drafting but had no contact w/ clients, govt, or contractors.

As much as I like the work, i think I'd like an extra $1,000 a month more.  Should I stick it out for a little longer for the exp. or just move on for the money?

Jan 11, 17 10:46 am

Discreetly send out some resumes, do some interviews and see what happens.  There's no harm in looking around.  Every big salary bump I ever got was obtained by switching jobs.  61k seems a little low, unless there is a sizable additional bonus at the end of the year.

Jan 11, 17 11:14 am

If you need money then the obvious choice is to jump ship.

I've worked two years, unlicensed and earn similar to you.
Jan 11, 17 11:22 am

We're at about the same experience level.  I work in a town about 1/16 the size of Detroit, but drive an hour to get there (from a smaller town).  

You're in my ballpark paywise, in a much larger area.  Cost of living is assumed to be a bit more.  I'd probably look to get a bit more money, either out of your current employer, or elsewhere. 

Jan 11, 17 11:23 am

Seems low for that much experience and insurance not included as a benefit. I'd casually look if I were you. 

Plus that kind of work has to be somewhat dry. I know I couldn't do those project types.

Jan 11, 17 12:04 pm

If you need more money and they are not willing to pay you what you need/should earn, just look for another job. Don't know how well connected your current firm is, but I was once discretely looking for another job and a potential future employer decided out of the blue to call my boss for a reference before I even told him I was leaving...which was quite awkward after that, until I got another job.

Jan 11, 17 12:20 pm

Looking at the AIA salary calculator you probably do deserve a little extra. I don't think the AIA report is the golden ticket, but some firms try to keep employees fairly close to the averages so they can remain competitive in terms of salary. Additionally, you should be getting more money in your salary, or better benefits. You mentioned getting healthcare through your wife ... do you get anything extra because your employer isn't paying for that?

In terms of the report, you're right on the cusp of Architect 2 (even if your years of experience don't exactly line up, based on what you're telling us you'd meet the other criteria). Average salary numbers for your region are about what you wish to be making. I'd encourage you to get your hands on the actual compensation report. It probably has a breakdown for Michigan as well as the Detroit Metro Area. It should also go into more detail on size of firm, etc. I was able to take a look at the report at my local AIA office. Also keep in mind the report is old. Numbers should be higher given the job market right now.

Then you can either use that information to leverage more pay at your current office, or find another office ... up to you. If it helps, think of your compensation in terms of what your employer will have pay out to replace you. If you are seriously contemplating leaving ... this is exactly what your employer should be thinking about. The trick is getting them to think that way without needing to make a threat to leave ... if you want to stay. If you want a different experience at a different firm, then don't even bother with your current employer ... just go.

Jan 11, 17 12:26 pm

Ah, the famed report. Isn't this the crux of the matter though, do you consider yourself an Arch I, II, or III? What's your boss consider you? On my 6th year of traditional architecture experience, with another 5 in Construction and quality control work (PCAs, Pay App/field reports, document reviews for banks) handling my own projects for the firm as well. Learned about 6 months ago that I'm considered Arch I and am paid accordingly (slightly below my region average, more slightly below Atlanta specifically) but wait... aren't I Arch II? Long story short, time to jump ship. Interns will always be viewed as interns by the firm that first hired them. Same as newly minted registered Archs. You've got to convince a firm in an interview that you've handled projects before (with examples) and then you'll be an Arch II at the new firm.


the cusp of Arch II is how I think of myself as well.  I believe that I got an extra $1500 or so by being on my wife's ins, I assume the the average AIA salary all include ins.  Forgot that I also got a 1500 bonus a couple weeks ago.

A previous firm offered me 65000 and a small bonus when i told them i was leaving a couple years ago.  That firm also gave fairly regular 3000 bonuses.  The firm I left them for laid me off after 8 months, so I ended up here, basically took the first reasonable offer I got.  Now that I think about it, if I'd taken the 65k, 2 years of decent raises would put me at 70ish, plus that firm converted to an ESOP as I was leaving.  crap!

I'm "ok" with the work here, only in the sense that I like running the jobs.  I dislike that the projects are scheduled so fast that I don't think we are really doing quality work.  I look at other people's desks or pull up old jobs and am astonished by the way wall sections are detailed. The contractors must fix a lot of our mistakes without telling us.  

Long story short, I think its time to start looking

Jan 11, 17 1:25 pm

It is a good time to see if the grass is greener and it probably is, so go for it. It's too bad employers in architecture don't reward loyalty but it is true that getting a new job almost always comes with a higher salary and a better job description. Plus, you sound a little unchallenged and probably could use a change of scenery and some experience seeing how things work elsewhere.

Jan 11, 17 2:02 pm

Running jobs and handling clients makes you a much more well-rounded architect.  Doesn't matter whether the jobs are glamorous or not.  You are much better off in the big picture than the person who is stuck behind a computer at some super-prestigious glamor firm. 

Jan 11, 17 2:13 pm

in my opinion I would wait it out for a wile. like someone said maybe at a good time mention or hint around that you would like a raise, but do it in good taste.

but personally I would wait it out im not a big fan of chasing $$$$ around, maybe after a 18 months or so i would consider leaving after asking for a raise a couple times and not getting it.

Jan 11, 17 4:36 pm

Go out on your own and join my co-op.

Jan 11, 17 6:11 pm

I would definitely start casually looking. We have historically low unemployment rate that likely will not last much longer. I'm doing the same thing now just to see what's out there. You have the benefit of being selective since you are currently employed. 

Jan 11, 17 10:37 pm

But! Let me also give my experience. I have jumped jobs ALOT. And while I now have a good salary, I don't feel I have very good experience because every time I started to get more control and more independence I jumped ship chasing some $$$. I'm currently at a good firm but doing tasks way below my previous job and will probably be waiting a year just to feel like I'm learning again. I'd say send some resumes out and with that leeway be like hey I've worked here over a year what do I do to get to the next level of pay, what value do you need to see for me to earn that? Makes you not seem like a whiny gimme gimme person and also holds them accountable while you have an escape plan in case they are short sighted and get mad. 

Jan 11, 17 11:13 pm

Archi-dude - you raise a good point. I suspect that every time you switch jobs there is a learning curve before you're really trusted to take on a project with minimal supervision.  

I hope i don't sound like a whiny person, just don't want to feel taken advantage of, making 15% less than I could be.

Jan 12, 17 9:19 am

I think you'd be an asset to a large firm. You understand the business side of practice, you know what it's like to work with clients and GCs. You know how to lead a team. You would benefit from the collective knowledge of specialists and production staff at a large firm and would likely be a quick learner. If you can figure out how to navigate inter-office politics you'd probably do well.

Jan 12, 17 9:38 am

Whoops. Wrong thread

Jan 12, 17 9:45 am

Can we place bets on these kind of threads? I got $5 on "go".

Jan 12, 17 10:06 am

^ $10 go ends up being bad idea.

  On another note archi_dude, I plan to take your advice and walk into the owners office today and ask  "what value do you need to see from me here at "Blankety blank blank & blank" going forward?"  hopefully the response is yada yada yada and maybe june a $8,000 bump :D

Jan 12, 17 11:07 am

is there a time limit?  I'll prob go in the next 6 months, will be pretty picky though.  Possibly return to the firm from a couple years ago.

Salary survey is interesting.  Mostly software architects, the "real" architects seem to make less than I do as is.  One of my former firms in high on the list too.  I suppose that means the survey skew young.

Jan 12, 17 11:10 am
Jan 14, 17 8:25 pm

had a review today, said everything is great, you're doing a great job, keep up the good work.  Said that they'll review my salary in about 6 months.


Mar 15, 17 4:28 pm

didn't everyone say go?  good luck.  update the linkedin.

Mar 15, 17 5:45 pm

any update? what was the result? did the op switch job? was the grass greener on the other side?

Apr 15, 18 1:37 pm

update: yes I did switch, and am much happier for it.  I followed a co-worker and went from 61k to 71k, now at 80k a year later.  Plus the work is far more challenging.  Went from strip malls and buildouts to municipal, helping out on some commercial and industrial too.  Before the only challenge was the schedule and budget.  

The same guy ended up leaving a couple months ago (was accused of sexual harassment) He's now trying to get me into a new place for around 100k.  

We'll see how that goes ...……... 

Nov 20, 18 12:03 pm

100k woe


Wow where at? It wouldn’t happen to be downtown Detroit would it?


metro Detroit, but not downtown


Thats the co-worker you followed, or the prior employer, has now moved on and trying to get you for 100k ?


same co-worker that I followed to my current firm (the sexual harasser) the place he is at hasn't offered me a job yet , but I know what he makes and wouldn't accept any less.


why would you follow a sexual harasser?




He's more of a Michael Scott idiot than anything else. I did get the
offer after a phone interview this morning, will take some time to consider it


Congratulations and thanks for giving your story an ending(for now). 

Nov 20, 18 12:28 pm

At least for this chapter.... until the next chapter.

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