Mid-career jobs e.g. Job Captain / Intermediate Architect


We are looking for Job Captain / Intermediate Architects with 4-8+ years of experience (which we have posted on this site). It can be a challenge to find local, experienced architects in our region who are looking for such mid-level, not-quite-project manager roles. 

We have done a good job of preparing our more junior and design staff to take on more production tasks, but right now there are a lot of projects going into working drawings. 

What would attract you to such a position at a firm? What would you look for when applying to such a role? Or have you been on the other side of the table and found success getting quality candidates?

Sep 23, 19 8:33 pm

back when i was at this stage i did change jobs for the first time. the offer i accepted was only slightly higher in salary, but offered a move to a city i was interested to live in, a friendlier office environment, and more involvement in the whole design process.

you've got to see it as a way to develop talent that isn't quite at that level yet, and advertise it accordingly. at that experience level, good people are looking for career advancement and meaningful support for their individual development.

at that time i was halfway through my ARE's and my interviewer was clear i would be eligible for promotion on getting the license. the firm was very supportive of completing the exams, paid a good stipend for the license, and helped me advance in a short time by guiding me towards useful work that was a bit challenging.

Sep 23, 19 10:11 pm

Pay 10k to 15k higher than average and be in the top 90% of the bell curve for compensation and the caliber of talent knocking on the door will also be in the top 90%

Sep 23, 19 10:19 pm

Its all about the money Lebowski! Seriously, other than standard benefits etc. if employers aren't willing to pay, why should they expect to find quality and skilled talent? I have no sympathy for employers (especially big firms) that complain and whine about finding good employees or employee retention. You get what you paid for and anyone (regardless of profession) worth their salt will know better not to work for below or market rate unless they're desperate or the economy is in the tank.

Sep 24, 19 12:33 pm
Chad Miller

I'd counter that it's not all about the money.  Offer team members the opportunity to learn and grow.  Treat team members as an asset and show you appreciate them.  

Don't treat them as just production staff.  

Sep 24, 19 12:40 pm

...and then pay them in increasing amounts in order not to lose them when five years down the road they look at their peers who get a new job that comes with a 40% salary bump.


Yeah but isn't that a given? Architecture is a team working environment and that is to be expected and I would argue (at least in my region) that is the norm.


Raises that keep pace with the attractive bump that causes the minor issues to become enough to become the straw that breaks the camel's back? No, that's not the norm.

Chad Miller

GridBubbles, you'd be surprised. Some firms work as a team, others work as a dictatorship. It's all about the management style of the partners.


We're never going to get the "perfect" work environment no matter how much you push for "equity" in the office. Someone somehow will find a reason to be dissatisfied with another's working style and management (be it culture, attitude, temperament, emotion etc.). Design is subjective thus conflict arises but unless management is run by a bunch of hostile a**holes who break the law (ie harassment etc.), team collaboration is needed regardless if it is a dictatorship or not. You simply can't get a project completed without team effort, period. "Money isn't everything, but not having it is" - Kanye West

Chad Miller

Sorry for my poor phrasing. I wasn't referring to everyone working for a common goal - that's a given regardless of someones role in an architectural firm . I was referring to the management style where your principal dictates everything you do where staff have little to no autonomy and all decisions are made by the principal.  I've seen this happen in a lot of firms and to me that isn't being part of a team but nothing more than a sharpened pencil.  


I think it is hard to quantify "emotional" feelings of management without specifics. Just because one doesn't get their way, doesn't mean the other-side is to blame. As I stated earlier, design is subjective. In any creative profession, it is extremely hard to divorce the sense of control from the author because of the inherit conflict of in interest. Every designer thinks they have the next greatest original solution, but seriously, leave that ego at home. As an employee, we are nothing but an expense line item on their balance sheet. If an employee is consistently disagreeing and disobeying "orders" to perform their task, they're nothing but baggage to the team. I've seen too many of my colleagues and fellow graduates that think they're "hot sh*t" only to find themselves unemployed after their probationary period is up. Their resumes are riddled with short stints at many firms in a short period of time. The common denominator you ask? Its their bloody ego that they can't keep in check. I am in the position that being part of the team (as far as the profession is concerned) means that you listen and be a good follower in addition to the fiduciary duties. Obviously don't make decisions that are illegal or not advisable from a professional point of view. HR buzz words like "transparency", "inclusion", "equity" are nothing more than just legal jargon to not get sued. Unless you're at a pro-bono/ non profit firm that is just the way it is. Look, I get it, designers want autonomy when it comes to design but you're truly never going to get it unless you go out and start your own firm. Ces't la vie. Just my 2 cents.

Chad Miller

That's fair. My view is that firms should be hiring talent. Your talent could be a variety of areas, CA, details, conceptual design, ect. My point is that it makes no sense to hire talent then disregard what they have to contribute to the process. A firm won't always go with your ideas but a good firm will at least listen to them. This is assuming you're good at what you do.


Well said Chad, firms SHOULD be hiring talent and retaining them where possible. The unfortunate reality is that most firms don't because there is little to no incentive to do so (be it financial, convenience or just laziness). Companies that truly want to retain talent can't afford to, those that can won't. There is always a balance to what the market can accommodate. I think its healthier to lead realistic expectation about the architectural profession and what you value really. Some people accept not "designing" but get paid much better so they can lead a happy family life/ house/ kids etc. Others chose to sacrifice pay and work life balance so they can be part of high profile design projects. It really just depends on the individual because at the end of the day, architecture (as a profession) is not just theory, its a business. What are the fundamentals to business? Supply and demand, hence its all about the money Lebowski! No point in worrying about management when you don't have money to feed your family! (Sorry, I hope I'm not coming across as a condescending prick, but that is the capital T truth.)

Chad Miller

All depends on what firm you work for and how talented you are.


"Some people accept not "designing" but get paid much better so they can lead a happy family life/ house/ kids etc. Others chose to sacrifice pay and work life balance so they can be part of high profile design projects. "

This simplistic dichotomy fails to include the rapacious individuals in the market that RELY on the latter in order to maintain the status quo. If the profession stood up for ALL of its members we'd ALL be better off, and the choice wouldn't be money and shit design or great design and shit pay.


Supply and demand. Employers will ALWAYS pay whatever the market is willing to accept. It up to the individual employee not to sell themselves short of their value. You will never find a firm that will pay higher for the same work and talent that someone else is willing to work for less, period. Firms of high caliber know this and hence when there is excess talent, they get the upper hand to dictate the terms. They are "opportunistic" not "rapacious" as you put it. No one is forcing employees to sacrifice pay for design, either calibrate your own expectation of design or start your own firm. I'm tired of hearing people whine and complain about not having the opportunity to work on "design" projects yet not willing to put in the sacrifice. If you want to be paid better, you're in the wrong industry. Employees need to demand higher wages collectively and force the employers hands to pay better. As long as naive "design hungry" employees are desperate to make their shot at the big leagues, the problem with exploiting low wage high output labour will continue to persist.


Good to see the Stockholm Syndrome is alive and well in Architecture. You are talking out of both sides of your mouth, simultaneously bemoaning the lack of willingness to accept lower wages for higher design focused positions and the lack of employees demanding higher wages. 


Supply and demand. What is hard to get? My message has always been consistent.


People beaten down and convinced that demand isn't a good idea get high enough to be part of the supply and suddenly decide to enforce the "I PAID MY DUES SO NOW THEY HAVE TO AS WELL" bullshit cycle that keeps us at the mercy of stingy clients who don't understand our value because we're too fucking busy eating our own to make it known.


At this point, I'm just really confused on what you're getting at. I'll just end it with this... in life you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.


Part of the confusion is stemming from GridBubbles and SneakyPete using opposite understandings of the terms "supply" and "demand". GridBubbles is using these terms in the conventional sense: "demand" is the employer who needs to fill a role and has a job to offer. "Supply" is the talent seeking to fill that role. But SneakyPete seems to be using "demand" to mean the job seekers who he thinks should be doing the "demanding" for better compensation and conditions, and the employers as "supply" - of employment, and projects on which to work.  I'm not sure if this is a deliberate flipping, or a misunderstanding.


In the context of the discussion, the economic definition of supply and demand is implicit. I don't understand why SneakyPete would be flipping the definition unless they're obviously changing the vernacular definition of the term or just using the wrong terminology to begin with.


Make it clear that they will have production staff to help on projects, their project load won't be overwhelming (and if it is you compensate on overtime if that's the case), and they also be in a position to move up as skill increases overtime... and a hefty bump in pay would be nice too. :)

I'm at the level you are looking for in your posting.  The reason I've stayed at my current firm for as long as I have is what I describe above. I have help.  My project load is generally very manageable.  I am always learning and given the opportunity to take initiative where my interest lie as long as it brings something to the firm.  The only times I've considered leaving is when I felt stifled or like I was left alone to man a project all on my own with no help or resources.

Sep 24, 19 3:08 pm

I was poached from an office where I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the environment.  

My total compensation didn't change much.  Actual pay was a good bit higher, but I was getting other perks that helped the previous firm to some degree.  

Requirements for any job going forward, if I'm allowed to make demands, are as follows:

Flexible work schedule.  (4) 9's and a 4 makes for a nice work week with a little extra weekend. 

Option to work at home one day a week, minimum. VPN with remote desktop at minimum. 

Holidays and PTO.  Don't be stingy here. PTO should carry over. 

Reasons I'll leave:


Or managing without any clue what you're actually managing.  Making decisions on a whim. 

Sep 24, 19 4:45 pm
Chad Miller



Excellent answer. I'm about 8 years in to my real career and have most of the benefits you describe. When I hear about the working conditions of many of my friends, I remember how fortunate I am. On the other hand, at any given time I'm managing $50M+ in construction alongside personnel management within the office. This is a busy period for most architects.


Agreed. A arch firm I rent to does a great job at attracting. 2 days a week you can telework... not VPN, but through cloud based solutions. Additionally, hours are set by school hours for the times you need to be in the office and you can set however the f'k you want to hit the the expected 40-50 hours. That's attractive to starting families trying to avoid daycare costs. Starting 3wk vacation. They don't pay as much, but once you figure out how much daycare is you get to keep more of your money than otherwise, skip a long commute and rush hour, and work in the evenings... it's a good alternative.


I got poached by a large CM/GC. 8 yrs post-grad experience. Registered. Have all the accreditations. I manage ~$200m of active mid to high-risk projects. Here’s what I found appealing and what you’re up against.

-Market rate pay. Though it’s not much higher than my former classmates who are now registered, depending on market sector.

-More independence. I know how to detail and  produce deliverables. I don’t need micromanagement to do bathrooms, stairs, code review, etc.

-Greater involvement in contract negotiations, project pursuits, and CA/construction.

-A workstation that can keep up with the software we’re using.

-On site time. You become a significantly better designer seeing how things are actually built and what can go wrong in the field.

-Work remote 1x/week. Especially valuable if their commute is long.

Sep 25, 19 8:55 am

To add, you’ll likely be most successful  offering more PTO and either paid or limited OT. Construction isn’t quite a fair comparison, but the higher pay is to help offset the weekly OT expectations and stress. In construction PTO and less OT is something almost impossible to negotiate, regardless of your seniority. 

The builder often doesn’t get to pick their trades. The architect often gets to pick their consultants. If you have a good working relationship with them and they do quality work you can leverage that. 

We’re stuck with the low bidder whose end of project cost is usually greater than one of the higher bidders who are competent and significantly less stressful to deal with.

Sep 25, 19 9:05 am
You get what you pay for. Period. Especially in this economy which is doing well, there’s a lot of work, a lot of people hiring.
Sep 26, 19 7:41 am

Ill speak personally: Coming from someone with 3-1/2 years of experience who has been in a job captain role for 2-1/2 years, I want upward mobility, wide ranging responsibilities, and mentorship. I have experience from concept to drafting, detailing, consultant & client management, and CA, and will be undergoing exams for licensure at this next employment. 

More than anything, I want to know that I'll be involved in and mentored/supported where my knowledge is thin, in all of the aspects of the design process. I want to be an architect. I want my own practice in the future, and every position I could take that pidgeonholes me in drafting is a half step forward, while a varied workload is a full step and a varied, mentored workload is a step and a half forward in my career. Expecting this much commitment to developing me from the firm may be a lot, but I know the opportunities exist, and I will pass up anything less unless I'm in a pinch, but the markets good, so I'm not.

I also want to stick around, but would be foolish to do so if both responsibilities and compensation don't grow with my experience in this transition period of my career. I read of people getting licensed and then moving firms for a pay boost because they were of no different value to their current firm with or without a license. Thats such a loss for the firm.

Sep 26, 19 1:48 pm
atelier nobody

Yep, at that point in my career, I was very frustrated at being pigeonholed. Sadly, the firm I moved to pulled a bait & switch - they said all the right things in the interview, then when I'd been there 6 months they shoved me right back in the same pigeonhole.

Am I the only one that did a spit take when reading "mid-career jobs" in the title and the OP's description of what they're looking for? Since when is 4-8 years mid-career in architecture?

Blame it on the younger people who left the profession during the last recession (or the older people who let them go), but I'd argue that people with 4-8 years experience (those that graduated as the economy was coming back) are realizing they can skip over the not-quite-PM roles and into higher paying full-PM roles because there is a vacuum that needs filling. Very few people in that experience range want more responsibility for production when their friends are moving into much higher paying full-PM positions. Those who did find themselves in those not-quite-PM roles are looking to get out with a raise, not a lateral move for a few extra benefits. The labor market is tight and employers that want to hire people for those type of production positions need to be willing to pay a premium, and offer competitive benefit packages. 

Sep 26, 19 2:20 pm

I'll also add that the comments about supporting, mentoring, and allowing more freedom to these employees is crucial as well. But those things should be standard employment practices as they will benefit the firm overall. But what doesn't benefit the firm is providing those things and not compensating employees properly. Nothing worse than investing in the growth of your employees only to have them go somewhere else for more money.

atelier nobody

I had about the same experience getting into the profession just after the early 90s recession. My problem was that I _wanted_ to fill those intermediate roles before moving higher, but management was always pushing me either to take on PM duties, or to pigeonhole me doing only one thing I was good at.


Everyday Architect: Is your spit-take because you think 4-8 years is entry-level?  Or because you think it's senior?  As someone with 25-ish years' experience I think 4-8 years IS mid-level - because "entry-level" would be 1-2 years, maybe 3 at most - and I wouldn't consider someone to be at a senior level in an architecture career until they've got about 20 years on the job, so... that would leave everything in between as "mid-level"...

Part of the issue could be confusion about job titles.   This firm's "Job Captain" ad is asking for more experience than their "Intermediate Architect" position.  In a lot of firms that would be reversed.  "Job Captain" is a particularly problematic title, because in some firms it's a person with 2 years of experience who is responsible for some small facet of the construction documents set, while in other firms it's the whole in-house half of what a PM does in firms where that's not split into client-facing and behind-the-scenes.  So some people who read your ads might be scared out of applying because the Job Captains in their past firms have all had 20 years of experience, while other people with your stated range of required experience will think they're way past Job Captain because that's an entry-level title where they currently work. 

Sep 26, 19 3:06 pm

Spit-take was because I think "mid-level" does not equal "mid-career." One speaks to responsibility levels, the other speaks to timeline from career beginning (graduation/first job) to retirement.

P.s. I wrote about how entry-level didn't seem to mean entry-level a number of years ago. Has this changed?

Coming back to add that "level" in terms of entry-, mid-, etc. is not just about responsibility, but also skill, expertise, knowledge, etc. Generally, I would agree that 4-8 years might be getting into the start of mid-level for dedicated, driven people. Still a lot to learn, but have come a long way from entry-level status. They are probably still early-career though. Mid-career might start in another 4-8 years ... or more.


I feel like the most crucial thing when trying to fill these positions is to be as clear as possible about what responsibilities and types of work the job entails - as specific as you reasonably can - and this goes back to the very beginning of the process - the job listing itself. This isn't just a favor to the applicant, it will actually save you guys a tone of time and trouble because it will weed out the applicants thinking this job is something else. I feel like positions at the very bottom of the pole are really clear and easy to interview for, because they're almost entirely skill-based. It's these mid-level ones that are very tricky because they're not very well defined. you kind of have to be a jack of all trades and the master of none to be best prepared for them. 

Case in point - I had an interview at a medium sized company for an 'intermediate designer' (also posted here, almost exactly a year ago), during which I felt like I was at the wrong appointment. I came with a portfolio of professional design work - 5 or 6 projects, spanning about 8 years and a little bit of grad school work. I was told it was strange that I didn't come with a drawing set. And was also asked if I have ever put one together in the first place, and how much experience do I have doing city submittals. 

Of course in my tenure of working at architecture firms I've put together countless sets, generated some from scratch, and my revit skills are formidable to say the least, however, it suddenly appeared that I was at an interview for a technical position. The title I was applying for specifically said intermediate DESIGNER. Which is why I showed up with a graphic portfolio featuring renderings of original designs done by me for previous firms, photographs of physical models for competitions, as well as some built work, along with a little bit of M.Arch II work. And I came ready to discuss approaches to style, design strategy, matters like presentation - rendering styles, model making skills and techniques, and being able to show these skills as well as being able to manage people trying to hone them - you know, the Intermediate Designer stuff! 

So we didn't really connect. I was disappointed in how it went but I also felt bad for wasting their time, because they were clearly very busy and looked like they hadn't slept in a while. It's a good firm. and hopefully they found someone, but it definitely wasn't going to be me. 

hope this helps!

Sep 27, 19 2:01 am

I’ve seen this happen first hand as well. In that case I think the issue stemmed from the firm mantra that everyone was a designer. It’s a nice thought and attempts to communicate that the firm wants design input at all stages from everyone involved in the project, but it gets confusing in situations like the one you describe above.


To add to the confusion, the title Designer is often used to indicate someone who is not yet licensed regardless of their level. This is probably why they assumed you were going to be producing; it's often nothing to do with the actual Designing of anything.

In general, the job titles people use are supremely confusing.  At my office, a PA develops an entire set of documents, oversees staff (kind of like a job captain), details out work for younger staff, does product research, etc., all under the review of a PM; they both work together to perform CA.  In other firms we sometimes consult for, the PA is basically the equivalent of our PM.  


in both my previous and current firm the titles are only descriptions of tiers in the hierarchy, and give no indication at all of the work role. so designer


... designer below associate below principal below VP. principals have no executive authority, just a compensation scheme more closely based on project performance. i get the sense big firms prefer to keep roles flexible in order to adjust to work needs. when people have a specific title they tend to fit themselves to that role.


Our insurer recommends "Designer" as the one and only title for all unlicensed staff, regardless of duties. They don't want us to use anything that could imply supervisory capacity or unsupervised decision making by anyone unlicensed (such as any titles with the words "captain" or "manager" in them), or anything that will run up against any state's statutes (so anything with "professional" in it is out, as is anything with words starting with "archi"), or anything that could be construed as indicating seniority or ownership (anything with "associate" is out.) Basically if you're not a licensed architect, and you work in an architecture firm, and you're not some sort of clearly non-design/production administrative support role like receptionist, bookkeeper, or IT technician, then you're a Designer.

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