Why do architectural firms have more young architects than more experienced architects?


Why do architectural firms have more young architects than more experienced architects (ex. 50 years old with 30 years of experience)? Where do old architects go? Is finding a job going to get difficult as you age and get more experience?

Jan 1, 19 1:46 am

Newly grads seem more promising for them plus their compensation is lower. However, bigger firms are more inclined in investing to the loyalty and skills of their experienced architects.

Jan 1, 19 2:32 am

Because one experienced architect can supervise multiple CAD/BIM/Render monkeys.

Jan 1, 19 4:26 am

where do they go is a good question.  anyone have a good answer for that?

Jan 1, 19 9:36 am

To the poorhouse?


The experienced architects that left my office over the past few years typically went into business for themselves, to the GC side, or to the owner/developer side. I only know a few who have retired.


axo is right, but a lot also go to vendor side. I deal with vendors and sales reps all the time. Lots of architects there. And in most of cases it's a quality of life move. Fixed hours and low stress (compared to design side). Time becomes more important once you start pooping out children.

( o Y o )

Age and experience is a threat to many firms and they don't want to pay for it when they can hire 5:1 for the salary of a seasoned vet. Unless they're bringing in fat clients they are expensive paperweights. 

Many older architects are forced to go out on their own and try to eke out a living on a meager small practice. I've known more than a few, some of whom died in abject poverty. Those who didn't somehow managed to invest in real estate (30 years ago, it's much harder now, especially on a shit salary). These were experienced, highly competent, licensed people who cared about what they did. Which is another reason they were put out to pasture. Profit is rarely based on quality and ethics.

Many successful firms start when somebody steals (or - rarely - is given) a client. Some are simply vanity firms where money is irrelevent. I know some of these, too. 

Jan 1, 19 10:42 am

Some manage to escape the prison. Others get washed out in the periodic real estate recessions. Some go into allied fields. Age discrimination is always a problem in ANY industry if you are working for someone else.


They might simply move on to other related jobs in consulting, teaching, developing, managing, the public sector, etc. There are so many options for people with an architecture training, we have an eye for detail, can think conceptually, know how to translate ideas into visual representation, etc. etc.

Jan 1, 19 1:35 pm

Boils down to money. It’s as simple as that. I worked at a firm that abused new grads with minimum wage (7.25/hr) and then slapping a 1099 at them at the end of the year. Which is obviously illegal. I was one of them unfortunately and tolerated it for a number of years. Reason was this was the only firm that actually interviewed me during a horrible economy. I kid you not, I sent out over 100 resumes and only one responded and a stararchitect at that. I will not name names but basically at the end of the year I owed taxes with the 1099...  so my 7.25/hr really worked out to 4.50/hr. I lived with my parents so this was feasible as I didn’t have any bills... and in reality I was dealing with it for my IDP hours cause I wasn’t going to get any sitting at home picking my butt. I get paid okay now but no where that I should be as a licensed architect.

Jan 1, 19 1:56 pm

Think your case is the exception, not the rule at all.


You would be surprised how many small time architects hand out 1099 to their employers.


It’s not the rule but there is a lot of abuse to recent grads.


I got stuck with this scenario before. It was in the last recession, made it through 3 rounds of layoffs then it was my turn. All that was available was a terribly paid hourly job at 1099. Applied to anything for 8 months and finally got out with a good salary, bonus and benefits and better projects. The funny thing was they were confounded on why I was leaving. I figured it was
just a shown


*just a show. Saw one of the owners a few years later at a convention. He asked me again why I left. This time I was frank, “dude you were 1099, part time, no vacation and no benefits.” I then got the it’s not about the money lecture. I made around 27k a year there in a major California city. Apparently I only care about money....


I'm confused here. Is there some unwritten rule that if you work at an hourly rate or part time, you shouldn't pay taxes for your earnings? And was this not discussed prior to starting
work, that a 1099 was to be filed?


^ Dude... 1099 doesn’t work like that. You can’t control someone’s work in that manner and just label them a contractor to get out of the extra compensation costs (apparently without even making that clear in the first place).


You have to report all income to the IRS. Period. 1099 is for contract work where you work from your own home and supply your own equipment and supplies. This purposely done by some shady firms to not pay employement benifts. I was working 60 hours a week in this architects office.


@bench, so if you're not working as an "official" employee are you not a "contract" worker? If the 1099 was requested after the term without prior knowledge, then don't sign and don't submit it. Therefor forcing the employer to deal with the consequences. If it was discussed during the interview or prior to starting work, then why not negotiate your compensation? And if you have to submit all income to the IRS then what's the problem with just accepting the 1099? I'm not clear what you mean by employment benefits too? Please know that im being sincere, as this is commonly discussed amongst me and my peers.


A contractor per 1099 must have reasonable self-determination.

So if a ‘contractor’ is at the firms office, during the firms mandated opening hours, working on the firms computer, using the firms revit, drinking the firms coffee, that is an employee to the firm, not a contractor, no matter what arbitrary title is given - and therefore not eligible to get 1099’ed (in the eyes of the government/IRS). A 1099 agreement is meant for individuals who properly contract out work in the real sense, set their own schedules, take on multiple contracts at once, etc.

The profession had a big issue with this during the recession as it is an underhanded way for a firm to weasel out of providing full compensation. I don’t think it really happens anymore.


^ Thank you.


if someone else is stamping the drawings you're working on, then you are required to be under their direct supervision. can you be under their direct supervision if you're a contract worker with self-determination and such?


The point was I looked for jobs for 8 months during that time. There were no other options so in order to pay rent and eat I took that job. There’s additional taxes you pay when you are filing as a contractor vs an employee, taxes the employer usually pays. Again I was fully aware that what they were doing was illegal but I needed a job when there were very slim pickings. The fact that they were so weirded out that I left makes me believe this is quite common in tiny practices.


Funny - I knew a firm that paid its unlicensed hourly employees overtime as they were technically non-exempt as non-professionals. The argument was that only licensed architects were "professionals" .


That's a trickier situation in reality and not as clear cut as that. As there are many professionals other than those licensed. It really depended more on their actual roles and duties in the firm that dictated whether they are exempt or non-exempt more than licensure. Licensure will certainly indicate someone in a 'professional' capacity or should be. The federal and state laws regarding whether an employee is exempt of non-exempt from overtime, don't really have hard rules referring to licensure. They are factors they will consider but even a non-licensed person in roles of professional capacity. They are usually salary employees, anyway but not always the case. 

What is MOST important is what there role and duties actually are and how much independence and often level of leadership and supervisory capacity they have. If they are exercising substantive self-direction over the work and substantial decision-making authority then they are clearly someone who would likely fall into overtime exemption (considering they are likely getting a salary or substantially higher hourly rate). 

It would be a misleading and technically false argument that only state licensed persons are 'professionals' when it comes to labor laws and matters of someone being non-exempt or exempt from over-time. To drive the point, it is what the role, duties, and level of responsibility, and degree of leadership and supervisory control over their work that matters. I might add that a PM maybe considered exempt from overtime even if licensed. It really depends on many little factors that all factored in makes the determination.


To be legally deemed an independent contractor, there are multiple factors. Independent contractors can not be hired or fired. There contract can be terminated. Independent contractors are basically their own business. They can hire & fire their own employees. They have their own place to conduct business with their own equipment and supplies. While it is possible that they may rent out an office suite in a building owned by a big firm that happens to be their client. That's again is a different situation. An independent contractor may have more than one client at a time. Employees works for that employer and owes a sort of employee loyalty of a sort. Independent contractors are usually for a single project or group of projects per one or more contracts but that independent contractor may work for others as clients. Independent contractors sets their own business hours. THINK.... INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS ARE BUSINESSES whether they are a sole-proprietorship (regardless if they are using an assumed business name or not) or any other kind of business entity. Most of these I.C.s are sole-proprietorship type businesses and they may work from home or commercial place of business.

You need to have several of these key attributes to be properly deemed an independent contractor. You may not have to be the top-level decision maker but you have to have some degree of self-direction and control over the work even if it is under close oversight and directions of your client.... which maybe the Architect firm. The architect has to exercise sufficient oversight over the preparation and make appropriate changes to the final deliverables with their stamp affixed to their client(s). 



Jan 1, 19 5:13 pm

Because the younger ones are less experienced so they end up doing more of the production work for less pay. 

Jan 1, 19 7:06 pm

sounds like experience opportunity to me


Hahaha, I hope your're being sarcastic but I found your perspective on it is bang on!


Rather than ask who leaves and to where and why, who stays and why? 

Jan 2, 19 12:24 am

People stay for lots of reasons, but the most common are A) people can't/don't want to run a business (they just want to focus on doing architecture without assuming any financial risk) and B) people don't want to take on any professional liability for projects (its easier if someone else does that). In either case, such people will never truly take any ownership of any work that comes from the office they proudly boast they are "staying at" because they'll always be hiding behind someone else's skirt.


It's a valid question tintt poses. Basically, from what I've seen, those who stay and aren't bosses, are essentially invaluable to the firm where they aren't easily replaced, nor can anyone else really fill those shoes. They've also been around for a long time, possibly since the firm inception and so intertwined into the firm and its process that routing them out would break the systems in place. Oh, and hint... look at the specialized sorts like financial officers, contracts, spec writers, CA specialist, networking/marketing and QAQC. Rarely are the 'old dogs' run of the mill architects or PM's... they tend to rule some particular firm focus where most architects have little background, or expertise, or desire to do that role.


i mostly stay for the steady pay check. i don't want to own my own firm because i would rather spend my time thinking about buildings rather than marketing and business development.

Architecture is a team sport with different positions to be played. Nobody is good at all of them. Thus the necessity of having a good team.


@miles nice anology! Problem is too many folks want to be the quarterback.


There is no one under 40 at the firm I'm at now and I love it.

Jan 2, 19 12:25 am

Substitute Muslims, minorities, women, LGBT or some other group for "under 40" and see how that statement sounds. Not too good.




They tried to find a young person but none are there. It's mostly a technical firm and not a fancy graphics firm. Maybe the young people aren't interested? We do have majority female. :)


And has minority representation.


I misread your post. I thought you were happy that everyone was younger than 40. My bad. Anyway, I wish we would all quit obsessing over identity and just celebrate competence. The clients might appreciate it as well.


Oh no, I'm the least experienced person there and in my very early 40's. And the future looks bright. I used a different model to find employment. I'm technically self-employed with several contractorships. I learned this model from another archinector.


“I misread your post. I thought you were happy that everyone was younger than 40.“

So you would object to the statement if you perceived it against yourself, but not in reverse? K.


Just pointing out that ageism is another form of bigotry, like all the others. Competence should be the criteria, not membership in this or that identity group.


No Geezertect! We need every identity group to have equal representation regardless of skills!

Non Sequitur

what about people who identify as unskilled? Can't ignore them.


Even the sentience challenged should not be ignored.


uh oh........someone let the cat out of the bag and has revealed one of the secrets of the profession as  it is currently practiced in firms.......tint your remark may seem funny and snide to you now, but wait until your over 45 in the profession.....

I have said it before and I will say it again. Architecture is similar to athletics, entertainment and street drug culture in that even if you are good at it and succeed sooner or later someone or some product (with less value) that is younger or cheaper will come along and replace you because this profession currently races to debase itself for the forever lowest fee to get the project. This creates perpetual self inflicted cannibalism and or Logan’s runnism in order for firms to survive.  It’s simple young people are cheaper and in theiir ignorance and or exuberance are willing to work 40 extra hours a week for free.....people  with mortgages, children, an appreciation for their self value and a few years  under their belt are more informed and less likely to be taken advantage of .......firms want to take advantage of the youth ignorance and exuberance and exploit young cheap labor.

youngsters need to be aware and notice the number of staff members over 45 in your firm or the numbers of staff with children.........a firm with just youth and with no one with children is not a healthy environment.

I used this as a metric of  (an age diverse staff and the quantity of staff with children) to help me decide where to work as my career has progressed.

Youngsters take heed.!!!!!!

Jan 2, 19 6:43 am
( o Y o )

re 1099 and contract workers

State laws vary somewhat but are reasonably consistent on this matter. 

  • If your primary source of income is from one source, you are an employee.
  • If you work under the direction of another, you are an employee.
  • If you work on the premises of another, you are an employee. 
  • If you work with tools and materials supplied by another, you are an employee.

As an employee you are entitled to certain benefits and protections under law (unemployment insurance, workman's compensation, minimum wage, overtime, etc.).

Employers who violate labor laws are subject to prosecution and penalties under law. Tax authorities in particular tend to be aggressive in these matters. Failure to pay FICA and comp by falsely classifying employees can end a business. 

Those who are being abused should take action and help end this practice. If you are afraid of losing a recommendation, remember that all you've lost is the endorsement of a slave driver. You may also make legal claims for lost wages and benefits.

The farm system (architectural school) does an excellent job of NOT preparing students in so many ways ... 

Jan 2, 19 9:24 am

Yep... I had to nail my last employer who had me under a 1099. They let me go. And as a older experienced person, it took several months to find a job (in a hot economy/hiring market). So I had to claim unemployment... for that, you had to be an employee. So the unemployment office looked at my appeal, and I met all those requirements (plus set office hours I had to be there). They ruled I was a employee; not contract.


There is a recession, roughly, every 12 years.  That weeds out some midlevel people.  They're more expensive than the younger folks, but sometimes not doing that much more work.  Higher ups tend not to get touched because they're in charge.  Cheap people don't get hit as hard because they are sometimes cost effective.  The recessions weed out non-productive and non-cost effective employees.  They go on to other professions. 

Jan 2, 19 10:55 am

"That weeds out some midlevel people"

I read that as "weeds out some medieval people"


Someone hit the big score

They figured it out

That we're gonna do it anyway

Even it doesn't pay

Jan 2, 19 8:05 pm

Architects generally don’t do their best work until they are over 50 years old.  It takes that long to get any good at it.  

Jan 6, 19 12:26 am

Erik, I agree with your statement. I'm still in my late 30's and everyday I still learn something new. Most importantly, I see the world differently than when I was in my early 20's (when i started practicing architecture). This is probably the major factor of me still "learning something new" as i practice architecture. - Going back to the OP's question, I believe that architecture is a game of patience. If you pursue this profession with money in mind you will lose. Architecture to me is having to work really hard, being patient and making a lot of sacrifices. All of this with the idea that you're doing architecture for the greater good which people will use. I'm fortunate enough to have architectural mentors/friends who are over 50 and remind me of this. They've also informed me that when you're in your late 30's to early 40's the value as an architect will become more apparent. Most architects do get weeded out over time due to it's competitive nature, typically before their mid 40's. This is for not being able to adapt or evolve to the constant requirements of learning new technology, building-codes, building technology, market rates, client types, etc..... Some architects get touched by the hands of the "architectural gods" and just have this beautiful way of making it work past their early 40's, such that others adapt and evolve around them. I'm thinking of architects such as HdeM, Peter Zumthor, Rick Joy, Glen Murcutt and others. And I've also seen work from other architects who only a few people have heard of and do amazing work, but luck has just not struck them in hopes of not making all this noise, hence still grinding to stick with their believes in their architecture. Knowing that architecture is a practice which walks the line between a capitalist industry and the free-spirit arts, is what gives it a special place in our world while being seen as a respected professional. Perhaps i'm being biased with this statement, but my lawyer and doctor friends seem to agree with me. Not a whole lot of people that graduate from school in architecture and pursue the profession realize this, and when they do sometimes it becomes too uncomfortable and check-out.


Here is a fictional story about architectural internship that might shed some depressing light on the issue.

Jan 7, 19 1:50 pm

The young fresh out of school types are more up on the latest technology and are better at critical thinking, they are just smarter

Jan 11, 19 11:46 am
Non Sequitur

citations required.

"...are better at critical thinking, they are just smarter". Respectfully, that's just nonsense.


Haha, that's just your Xencuse for when fresh grads get the better positions again and again. Still doing just BIM fodder instead of designing or managing projects?...It is not because they are by default smarter or better at critical thinking, it's just that they are architects.


Actually I am designing projects

Jan 11, 19 12:59 pm

Please share the wealth of your superior intelligence by posting up some of your magnificence for all us stupid old farts to drool over.



it not about age 

but about possible to have fresh ideas more i think

Jan 11, 19 4:42 pm

Yeah, fuck that ageist bullshit.


i just say my opinion so fuck off for here


rakan, sneakyP actually agrees with you as far as I can tell...just sayin'


ok thanks I misunderstood I am sorry for him I do not know how to edit the comment


You can only edit the first 5 min. or so. You'll just have to live with the consequences :)


hhhhhhhhhhhhh ok

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: