Vacation Time in Architecture Profession


I work in a shared office with many newly graduated architecture interns. I'm personally not in the architecture field. When I got hired I was given a pretty fair but higher end salary for my line of work and also got almost 4 weeks of vacation and unlimited personal days as a new hire. When discussing with my friends who are in the architecture part of the office who are also new hires they only get 7 days of vacation until they've worked two years and then it goes up to 14. While I know vacation isn't mandatory, this seems to me like a crazy arrangement. But is it normal, are most jobs in the architecture profession like this? Its a pretty decent sized firm with over 60 employees in the host office. Is it unreasonable to expect higher action time starting out? 

Jul 4, 18 10:53 pm

"newly graduated architecture interns"

Poor bastards.

Jul 4, 18 11:19 pm
Most places give at least 2 weeks. What is your line of work? And are you also a fresh grad?
Jul 5, 18 7:32 am
Non Sequitur
2 weeks by default here in the civilized world to all junior staff.
Jul 5, 18 7:36 am

My first job was 7 days, with increases at set intervals.  After 6 years I think I was at 12 days. I was going to have to wait until year 10 to get any more. Then they changed policy and gave 3 sick days.  Which then was changed to "personal days" because everyone just used the sick days.  

I had more vacation days in my first year at my current employer than I had in my 6th year at the previous one. I think I'm at 16.5 days right now. 

To be honest, it's almost not worth taking long vacations in this industry.  Clients expect you to respond to emails and calls while you're on vacation.  There is no respect for your personal time. When you get back, there's a mountain of work and correspondence waiting on you. Usually some contractor has done something they shouldn't have done while you were away. 

I said "almost".  It's still worth it to get away for a few days. 

Jul 5, 18 7:52 am

Where I'm at, newbies start with 11 days of PTO.  We don't distinguish between sick or vacation - if you're off, that's your business as to what you're doing.  I actually really like that.  Years 1-4 get you to 14, then 5+ you get 21 days.  The running joke is that if you have 5+ years experience, you're never going to use all of your PTO because you're too busy.  We get a lot of newbie staff from out-of-state and it's hard to keep them around as they want to go visit family a few times a year.  It's hard to do that on 11 PTO days.

To echo senjohn, taking off a big chunk of time is hard unless you're one of the younger ones.  My boss took off 2 weeks to go to Europe, and told me and all clients not to contact him as he planned to be unreachable and non-responsive.  He came back a lot of fun as some of our projects had stalled because of his vacation.  

Jul 5, 18 8:43 am


Jul 5, 18 9:00 am

Two weeks seem standard.  I started with 8 days at a place that added a couple days and a raise every 6 month review I had there for the two years I was there.  I was at 16 days when I left for my current place that does 2 weeks (10 days) standard until you're associate.

As an associate I'm at 22.5 days (weird number) which is a huge jump from 10.  At the same time I agree with everyone else here, I have no concept of when I'm going to take 22.5 days off and every other associate I know here loses days at end-of-year.  We get something crazy like 160 or 180 hours banked roll-over, but that still doesn't cover anyone who's been an associate for more than 2 years.  My understanding is that scratch PTO days at end of year is solely based on having to pay PTO out if the company wishes to downsize, which happened a lot last recession.  Too many companies needed to cut 10+ employees and suddenly had to pay out fat checks to them.

Jul 5, 18 10:51 am

Does this include your sick time or is that a separate bank of time?


PTO - Paid time off, they don't differentiate. I thought that was becoming standard everywhere. No sick vs vacation time.


Makes sense. Was just curious since some here are differentiating and some include it as a total.


Hmm I guess that seems normal then. I work in for a sort of publishing type company that's based out of Sweden. So I guess it's the international perks that play out per their own vacation policies. Some of the head people in my office get almost 12 weeks of vacation a year! Work slows way down over the summer months because its pretty common for people to take off long periods over the summer. Taking longer vacations is almost encouraged from what i've gotten here so far. 

Jul 5, 18 2:15 pm

While im thinking about it, Do US architecture graduates have the opportunity to work overseas? Like is that common? I read somewhere that architecture isn't universally recognized outside of the country but wasn't sure what that meant exactly? My friends talk about moving to firms in AU, or Thailand, or Europe. Is that possible for architects with little experience. Just curious. Would it be easy to do?

Jul 5, 18 2:22 pm

Jeez, I have 27 holidays, 5.5 weeks per year, excluding the 10 official holidays like Christmas, New Year's day, Easter, King's Day etc. which add another 2 weeks. My boss just literally forced me to expand my summer holidays so we can get some things done this autumn, so now I have to do work around the house this summer :(

Jul 5, 18 3:13 pm

are you referring to paid vacation time?
hhhhhhhhhhhhahahahhahahahhaha can't stop laughing, ahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh

Jul 5, 18 3:30 pm

Just curious but why do you think vacation is so frowned upon in corporate America especially in architecture? (wow that sentence got intense quickly) You don't think people would be able to successful handle their jobs if they have more than two weeks of vacation a year? Clients or what-not, maybe, but i feel like if a company is that busy then why not just hire another staff member to support the workload and give people time to refresh their minds every once in a while? Just wondering.


it's not frown upon, I just don't get paid if I don't work, I take about 2 weeks off a year, but I don't work crazy hours or deadly deadlines like most here appear to do. I have worked in 4 countries in the past 28 years - 20 of those years I haven't got a contract to speak of, much less paid benefits. It's the laws, and who pays attention to them....not the professions.


Don't know if you're referring to my post JLC but yes all my holidays are paid holidays, and did I mention the 13th month's salary? Because, you know, you can't go on holiday from your regular salary, that's for the regular costs in life.


I've been in meetings for example, on the Monday before thanksgiving, or on July 1st, where my bosses are trying to get something turned around before the official holiday and our clients are staring at them in disbelief. Some clients even say, "yeah... right after this meeting I'm headed out to catch my flight with my family. We're taking the rest of December off" and my bosses are still pushing for a 'call-in', skype, WebX, or some such just to touch bases and "keep the ball rolling". I think we actually hurt ourselves when we push this much in our clients eyes. They've got to be *shrugging* and thinking in their heads, ok, these people work too much, don't value my vacation time, and have trouble seeing the big picture.

Non Sequitur

I've got a total of 4weeks per year in paid vacation and PTO.


Rando, I know - I have worked in italy and spain, civilized countries. I'm now in america....

Non Sequitur

"I'm now in america...." There's your problem


I know, I started working in Chile, which is like saying the united states without the salary; basically everybody I knew was on a contract basis until they opened their own practice, and at that point you are the one paying yourself for vacation, so....but I don't have a problem, I make enough to take nice caribbean vacations and live where people build their 5th homes, away from cities and things.


One firm that I worked at early on only gave new hires 7 days of vacation for their first year.  I haven't encountered that anywhere else.  Two weeks is pretty standard.  If it's mixed with sick days - i.e. all time off is just "PTO" and how you use it is your business - then three weeks is pretty standard. 

What's less standard is the rate at which you get more days.  At some firms it's another week every two years, up to a total of 6 weeks.  At others it's another week every five years.

Jul 5, 18 4:16 pm

I don't take vacation - too easy for my P.A.s/P.M.s to assign my work to someone else, thus making me redundant and a layoff target for termination for "cause"

Jul 5, 18 4:41 pm
Non Sequitur

You definitively need to get out of whatever work place or mindset (probably both). It's not "your" work... it's the office's work anyways but if you're so paranoid about being layed-off, perhaps the problem lies in the colour of your glasses.


Every time I ask Xenakis about his/her career path you never respond?!? starting to think you love being miserable and down trodden with all the doom and gloom


Kanye had a great quote about that recently...


What is bad about that too is that you have to take vacation days to take your exams which wipes out an entire newbie's vacation allowance for a year or more. I don't work for a firm, so I don't get any vacation days but I swim all day on Tuesdays. 

My sister-in-law and bro-in-law work in finance and they are taking their third international vacation this year alone. They each get about 10 weeks a year.

Jul 5, 18 5:06 pm

Our firm just added 1/2 days extra for anyone who take and pass their exam. So many interns weren't taking the exams that they kept trying to add benefits to taking them. All the benefits are contingent on passing though.

Couldn’t agree more in regards to being able to refresh ones mind. It’s common sense and widely studied that decent time off boosts productivity and reduces sickness. Of course architects in general tend to be rather hard headed about basic facts like all nighters being a waste of everyone’s time. Personally I took my current position over a *slightly* better one primarily because of the generous vacation allowance. Says a lot about a company’s culture.
Jul 5, 18 7:24 pm

yeah i always got 10 days vacation and 3 to 5 days sick time as a jr staff, which was annoying because it's a lot easier to use PTO as a jr and you're more likely to be travelling to see your family/friends so it goes quickly. i am now a sr associate and get 24 day PTO which will go up next year to 29 b/c of tenure - which is a lot for the US. i have way more time off that i actually can use, which is a nice problem to have. i could take it off if i wanted to, i suppose, but the projects are so needy and i just don't have any particular vacation plans so here i am. i guess i like my job fine so don't feel a special need to take a bunch of time off? plus we're americans so you gotta save it up if you might need time off for parental leave..wheee

Jul 5, 18 7:44 pm

thats not going to happen at OMA, every week is hell week, no sleep, and yo take a vacation after you burn out out and they throw you out or you just die

Jul 5, 18 8:37 pm

Wrong, OMA is held to the Dutch law, at least at their main Rotterdam office. I know people who work their for years already, that didn't burn out, and have plenty of holidays...people have permanent contracts, they can't be thrown out and have rights. What's with all the scare tactics? Trying to justify your fear of holidays because you are not competent and confident enough your employer would keep you on? If you can be replaced that easily, or so you think, that says more about you and your abilities or lack thereof than about your employer.

Non Sequitur

Amen Rando.


I'm curious how many people here do any amount of work while technically taking PTO.  I'm talking answering emails, reading emails, making a call or two, reviewing specs while on a plane to vacation, etc.,

I've personally only had this happen a few times.  On vacation to see family (for Christmas holiday) and had to take a morning to do a conference call (which ended up being 3 hours long) on a Dec 23rd because it was the only time others were available/still not on vacation.  I normally read/flag emails (for maybe 15 minutes/day) just to make sure things are forwarded to others who can deal with the situation while I'm away.

Jul 6, 18 9:55 am

Took 4 days out of the office to visit my mom on mothers day, Spent 5 hours one day re-drafting a building section that was drawn wrong in a check set I brought along to redline

I try not to but always do a little bit of work while technically on vacation. It happens most frequently on projects that are in construction: I don't ever want to hold up progress on a jobsite because I'm out of town, so if I can answer a few easy RFI's or whatnot to keep things moving I do.


If I do work while on PTO, I bill that as work, not PTO. Seems obvious.


At my current job, we just have pto. which is 7days first 2yrs, 14 days 2-5, 21 days after 5yrs and max is 28 days after 10yrs. But we also have flex time for all season staff which is mandatory office hours M-Thurs 9am-3pm and our staff meetings are friday at 8am, so 8am til Noon is mandatory office hours that day. Long story short, I rarely have to use pto because im usually in office mon -thurs at 6:30am til 5ish and fridays reg schedule. typically if I know ahead of time I need time off, I will just work to make up the hours instead of using pto. so three 12hr days or four 10hr days

Jul 6, 18 10:24 am

I'm 7 years into my career and get a total of something like ~23 days PTO.  But my office also treats us like professionals (hence salary and not hourly) so if we need more time off for a decent reason, we just take it.  It is hard to schedule actual stretches of holidays though.

I've heard that in Montreal, most of the construction industry takes the same 2 weeks off in July/August. Architects, contractors, engineers, everybody. That way, everything is just put on hold and nobody gets behind on their work. On the other hand, you don't really have a choice as to when you get vacation time off.

Jul 6, 18 11:32 am
Non Sequitur

Bowling, there is such a thing as construction holidays in Quebec (last 2 weeks of july I think) and it does heavily impact schedules... however, it is limited to manufacturing and trades. Professionals typically do not take that time off.


I know a lot of people at a bunch of different firms that get Christmas through New Years off without taking PTO. The whole firm just closes down, and because it's winter, there's no construction happening where they are. The firm builds the time off into their production schedules like they would any other holiday. Very jealous since that's where the bulk of my PTO goes.

Non Sequitur

My firm is like that. Although construction does carry-over in winter, our offices closes shop between dec 24 and Jan 2. The non stat days are not paid for, but staff is allowed to bank OT in december to compensate for the 2 or 3 days.


Yes you're probably right, it's Quebec and not just Montreal. But I have a couple of friends (architects) who live in Montreal and they adhere to the shut-down schedule. I'll actually be in Montreal from the 13th to 18th so I'll make sure to ask again.


Also, yes our firm also closes down between Christmas and New Years, with PTO. So my PTO is more like ~28 or ~30 days, whatever it works out to. We also have a corporate retreat where we shut down for a couple of days in the summer to go camping / drinking / etc. Plus, as long as it's a client/ supplier / contractor / firm partner inviting me, I can take as many days off as I want for things like golf. I have it pretty good. We work "summer hours" which means going in 30 minutes early M-Th, and 1/2 day Fridays.

Non Sequitur

We're in very similar types of firms. Enjoy Montreal.


My NYC office begged for summer fridays since it seems to be the thing to do in NYC. But the owner of the firm (not in NYC) denied the request since the other office (also not in NYC) would get wind and be pretty pissed off. But the point he missed is that... all of the offices could have summer fridays and no one would be mad at all! :)


Summer fridays are typical at just about all firms in my area as well


15 days first office. Then contract Work and desperately needed a job during the recession so didn’t call out employer but quit ASAP (0 days) then 10 at the next spot and then at the next spot 10 first year followed by 15 At year 2. Now I’m CM, it’s 15 to start plus lots of “let’s leave early today” days. I always have taken vacation and always take my full lunches but have shown my face late when needed. That seems to do it, no one has ever questioned my work ethic. The mentality of not being able to take vacation time has always mind boggled me. At the very busiest times I sit one on one with a manger a month in advance about how I can help him to make sure that my planned trip won’t screw over the office. That’s all that’s really needed.

Jul 6, 18 11:33 am

When you get back, there's a mountain of work and correspondence waiting on you.

^^^ This.

Architecture in a nutshell.

A constant stream of massive amounts of dull, inert and tedious data, which requires an open-pit mine bucket-wheel type of excavator, in order to sift through it.

Jul 6, 18 12:35 pm
Superfluous Squirrel

Does anyone get unlimited pto? Lots of huge corporations like IBM are switching to that because people end up takeing less time off. 

Jul 6, 18 2:00 pm

yeah, a lot of tech companies do that...those lucky bastards :(


Noooo!!! It’s a gimmick where you feel pressure to take less, you don’t accrue and you don’t get a pay out for unused time. I hope this doesn’t spread.


Exactly, it's simple reverse psychology...


For all staff, a minimum of 15 days plus an additional 15 "Friday's" off year round, that coincide with holidays. So lots of 3-4 day weekend trips are possible. Everyone incrementally obtains more from one year to the next. Not sure of the exact numbers. 

Jul 7, 18 11:01 pm

As I know in most fields the legal vacation is 4 weeks per year.And of course sick days as per every country's law.

Jul 9, 18 4:36 am
Wood Guy

You're clearly not in the U.S. No such laws here, unfortunately.

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