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Typical Vacation Days at an Entry Level Firm

BuffaloArch

Hi everyone,

I understand that one's starting salary as an architectural designer can vary quite a bit, but I was wondering what people whose first full-time position at an architecture firm was in the US were offered in terms of vacation days, and what is the viability of negotiating this after receiving an offer?

 
Aug 24, 20 9:50 am
archanonymous

I think my first job had 10 vacation days. Currently get 15, woohoo. 

I think you have 0 negotiating power on this (in the USA at least) especially with the current job market.

Aug 24, 20 9:54 am  · 
2  · 
SneakyPete

It's a good thing to bring up if the salary offer is stated as firm, though.

2  ·  1
SneakyPete

Downvote for what, Koww? One of my relatives who works in architecture was given an offer that was stated as "firm" and was a fair salary amount. They negotiated more vacation days instead. It happens.

2  · 
Dank Gehry

not a good sign to express y our thoughts about vacation days before even starting to work

 ·  1

wow that is such an american point of view ;-) Our office works with the PTO system black orchid describes below. Makes the best sense. Unhappy staff makes for bad business and bad outcomes ...

1  · 
kaleksan

It depends on the structure of the company - it could either be 15 days, if sick days and vacation days are combined or 10 days vacation and 5 sick days, if separate. Also, depending on the state, unused PTO can be paid out when you're leaving the company, sick time doesn't generally get paid out. I wouldn't think it'd hurt to ask about additional PTO, especially if you're salaried (thinking being you'll still get the same amount of work done...) but at the beginning and in current conditions I'd say chances are low... I'd also caution against thinking demonstrated in Koww's comments - it's detrimental to the profession and people within it, I think that's partially why architects are so poorly compensated in the first place...

 · 
Black_Orchid

I would say 15 days starting is standard now. You can also negotiate PTO days as I have in the past, most people have the understanding you can and should be able to take days when you need them and not give you a number to work against. Tech companies offer "unlimited" PTO meaning as long as you get your work done, and it is ok with the team you can take days off when you deem fit. Hopefully most companies understand the importance of giving their employees more leniency with things that better their mental health and inevitably the health of the firm. 

Aug 24, 20 10:14 am  · 
2  ·  1
JBeaumont

The most typical is 10 days of vacation (or 15-16 days of PTO, which can be used as the employee's choice of vacation, sick days, and personal days, as needed.)  There are a smaller number of firms that only offer 1 week of vacation to entry level people.  Many firms do not allow any vacation to be used within an initial 3-month trial period.
Some firms do offer 3 weeks or more of vacation even to entry-level staff, and there are also a small % of US firms that operate on the unlimited vacation scheme (this sometimes sounds better than it turns out to be, as there can be expectations that nobody will ever use vacation during busy times or around deadlines, and if things are slow enough to finally use large amounts of vacation then layoffs may be around the corner.)

You can always try to negotiate for more vacation, but it's something that a lot of firms won't budge on, especially for an entry-level person.  You can sometimes be successful with saying that the salary wasn't quite what you were hoping for and then working on the benefits package, including vacation, to help make up the difference.

Make sure you discuss the firm's scheme for additional vacation in future years. Depending on the firm you might get a 3rd week when you've been there 3 years. Or 5 years.  Or 10 years.  In some firms 3 or 4 weeks is the ultimate limit, even if you've been there 25 years, while in others there are long-timers with 6 weeks or more per year.  Also make sure to discuss whether vacation can carry over into the next year (lots of firms have a use-it-or-lose-it policy, though if it's a state in which sick time is mandatory then they may be required to let you carry over at least 5 or 6 unused days of accumulated PTO each year.)

Aug 24, 20 10:16 am  · 
1  · 
senjohnblutarsky

Anything less than 10 is ridiculous. 

Focus more on carry over policies, and if they have a delay before accrual.  You can normally negotiate the delay out and start accruing immediately.  

Aug 24, 20 10:19 am  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

10 is our standard here and increases to 15 (and is capped) after 5y of employment. Vacation accrurent is taking into account with new hires only after their first 3months.

1  · 
Almosthip

I negotiated 15 when I started, and we are capped 15 too. Its hard when you are in a small firm. Not a lot of vacation to go around. Everyone cant be at the beach at the same time.

1  · 
sameolddoctor

I'd have thought that Canada has 3 months of vacation time lol

1  · 

What is vacation?

Aug 24, 20 10:43 am  · 
2  ·  1
senjohnblutarsky

Also... this. Take your vacations while you can. The higher up the ladder you go, the more of a pain in the ass vacationing is. I spend days catching up when I get back from time off. Then you have to catch up on the days that were displaced by your catching up days.

5  · 
atelier nobody

I've had enough health problems in the last couple years that my PTO is pretty well wiped out - if my health improves, I might be able to take a vacation late in 2021...

1  · 
thatsthat

senjohn, I feel you on this. Basically, I have to spend an hour every morning of my vacation forwarding emails so that someone can take care of the most pressing things while I'm away. Otherwise I'm completely underwater when I return and my fun vacation becomes working on a weekend to catch up.

1  · 
justavisual

Set an out of office reply with a contact per project who takes over for you, the important stuff will get handled and the unimportant will wait for you to get back.

 · 
thatsthat

We start all new hires at 10 days (prorated depending on when you start), years 2-4 you get 15 days, years 5+ you get 21 days. It's not divided up as vacation vs. sick; it is your own business what you do while you're away from work. Days don't roll over as a way to encourage everyone to take their vacation during the year. I've only heard of one person trying to negotiate more PTO and they didn't get hired as her requests were far too much for what we can offer as a smaller middle-sized firm. Also it wouldn't have been fair to the rest of us!

Aug 24, 20 12:25 pm  · 
1  · 
JBeaumont

I've successfully negotiated an extra week most places (got them to start me at the next rung on their vacation ladder) - but that's always come with a request from the employer that I not mention it to other staff and be discreet about using the time. I guess some firms might have nosy clock-watcher types who would notice if somebody took 20 days off over the course of the year vs. 15, but I never ran into a problem with it. If you're doing PTO, vs. separate sick time and vacation time, check with your state to make sure it's ok to not allow time to be rolled over into the next year. Most of the states that have laws about sick time require that it be able to roll over by 1 year. Some municipalities have more stringent laws than states.

1  · 
justavisual

Its "not divided vacation vs sick", as if you choose to be sick. In Europe its unlimited sick days and 21-28+ days vacation. There are also special rules for moving days, births, deaths and calamities.

 · 
Jay1122

Do people seriously care about vacation days when they are considering architecture jobs? I never care about those tiny benefit differences. I always look at the project they do as 1st priority, then my pay, then the firm culture (overtime pay? exploitative?),then office environment (physical office condition and atmosphere). Once went to an NYC firm for interview when i just graduated, the entire office is smaller than my bedroom LOL.

Aug 24, 20 12:45 pm  · 
 ·  1
Non Sequitur

you should.

2  · 

You really should care Jay.

2  · 
midlander

yes... i have even considered lunch benefits and insurance as part of the package. when it comes to compensation more is more.

1  · 
SpontaneousCombustion

The question wasn't about choosing a firm based on benefits such as vacation (though there's no reason one should not do that) - it was about the viability of negotiating more vacation once there's an offer on the table. Once you're in a negotiating position, you should negotiate for everything you want. Even if the quality of the firm's work is your first priority, you listed money second. Vacation can literally turn into money, because when you leave a job your unused accrued vacation time has to be paid out to you (though if it's PTO that includes sick time, some of it is allowed to be paid at only 50% in some states.) Pretty much all benefits are money, directly or indirectly. They all add up and you should maximize everything - even in great firms with excellent work and super firm culture.

1  · 
natematt

^If you have no interfering commitments in your life, don't like to travel, don't get sick, or have never had to take unpaid time-off for something... then you wouldn't.

PTO is part of firm culture to me. The amount they give is a reflection of how much they care about the well-being of their employees. 10 days of mixed vacation/sick PTO is pretty trash. 

It's not a big deciding factor to me, but I don't think it's something to entirely dismiss. 

Aug 24, 20 1:44 pm  · 
3  · 

PTO is a big sticking point for me.  I work to live, not vice versa.  My current firm only offers 10 vacation days for the first 10 years you're with the firm.  Five days of sick are also included but never go up.   This is out of whack with the national averages for a small firm that I'm at. 


I've done some research and firms of my size (13 people) nationally should be around:

0-5 years experience: 10 days vacation

5-10 years experience: 15 days vacation

10-15 years experience: 18 days vacation

15 plus years experience: 20 days vacation.  


Aug 24, 20 2:45 pm  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

I’m at 20+5

2  · 
natematt

Honestly, dons't sound like it was that big of a sticking point?

 · 

It is. I'm asking for more. Else I won't be here for another year.

1  · 

Non, you're at 20 days vaca and 5 sick?

1  · 
Non Sequitur

Yes. 20 vacation and 5 personal/sick.

 · 

How many years have you been at this firm Non?

 · 

I should also add that the firm is closed from the day before Christmas Eve through New Years. You can choose to work, take vacation, or leave without pay (salaried staff as well).

 · 
Non Sequitur

^11years. We're closed between dec 25th and jan 1st but the non stat days are not paid. It's up to the staff to either bank OT, take vacation, or leave them unpaid. Management gets them paid tho... so I no longer need to worry about that.

 · 

We don't get to bank hours - no flex time.

 · 
Non Sequitur

Chad, banking hours used to be permitted at any time of the year but it became too complicated for our accountant to keep track and certain staff members took too many liberties and scored extra days (or borrowed from the next cycle). Now the only banking allowed is within the month of december to compensate for the unpaid time between xmas and nye.

 · 
code

were in a recession, don't take vacation days unless you want you're work assigned to someone else and when you get back, you get laid off, not worth it

Aug 24, 20 7:34 pm  · 
 ·  6
Non Sequitur

Jawknee gives better advice than this.

3  · 
square.

code's posts are incredibly sad.

2  · 
tduds

I just took a week off and none of this happened. My principal covered for me and punted 90% of the non-critical work to my Monday morning schedule. Yesterday was my busiest day all summer.

If your work is being taken from you you're either working for someone who doesn't value your talents or your talents are not good enough to value. The best way to not be replaced is to stop behaving as if you're replaceable. 

3  · 
natematt

All the people knocking code are pretty optimistic about how firms operate. While I generally don't agree with Code's statement, I do think the validity of his advice is dependent on the situation you find yourself in within your firm, and it's stability, and your market....

At the very least, be a good employee about how you use your PTO. 

 · 

Code's blanket advice is BS. If you're good at what you do, and speak with the firm about scheduling your vacation time in advance no decent firm would have an an issue with this.

1  · 
SneakyPete

Every boss I've ever had, when I get back, asks me what I did and whether I had fun then brings me up to speed on what went on while I was away.

 · 

First off, don't listen to code on this. If that is the case at a firm, you don't want to work at that firm anyway. 

Second, don't accept anything less than 10 days. Ideally this should be 10 days vacation, 5 sick days + however many paid holidays your firm has. 

Aug 24, 20 7:39 pm  · 
4  · 
natematt

... Most people would still rather work at an abusive firm than not be able to pay their bills though.

If someone finds themselves in that situation, I can't entirely blame them for staying given the recession, but i'd GTFO as soon as I could.... 

1  ·  1
tduds

In my experience the most abusive firms are the ones that actually pay the worst. The low pay is part of the abuse.

2  · 
atelier nobody

The most abusive firm I worked for actually paid quite well - I think they expected the high pay make up for the abusiveness...

1  · 
randomised

The minimum here is 240 hours per year based on 40hrs of work per week.  Which is mostly divided in 2 weeks around Christmas/New Year and 4 weeks during the summer break. And it’s paid...

Aug 25, 20 6:40 am  · 
1  · 
BuffaloArch

Where is " here?" That sounds much more reasonable than the standard in the US. There is more to life than work.

 · 
randomised

52.1326° N, 5.2913° E

 · 
Dank Gehry

who's counting? just work on corporate projects and take a mental and moral vacation every day. your tax dollars are going to work for corporations anyway so might as well reap some of the benefits

Aug 25, 20 6:44 am  · 
 ·  1
SpontaneousCombustion

Once you have an offer, negotiate vacation just as aggressively as you negotiate salary.  The worst that can happen is they'll say no, they have to stick to their usual 2 week policy.  Nobody will rescind an offer just because you asked for an extra week of vacation. 

Ever since I left my first architecture job around 25 years ago I've always put the amount that the firm paid out for my accrued, unused vacation time when I left into my investment account named "Vacation."  It was never more than 2 weeks max of salary from each job, and I've only left a handful of jobs, but through the magic of compounding returns over a 25 year career that account now has about the equivalent of my current annual salary in it.  Little negotiations do matter and can add up. I could take a pretty epic vacation with it at this point... but 2020 doesn't quite seem like the year for it

Aug 25, 20 11:37 am  · 
3  · 
SneakyPete

Folks in this thread seem to miss the connection between vacation and value.

4  · 
tduds

I look for firms that promote work-life balance, so I tend to prioritize PTO / Holiday. Thankfully that's pretty easy to find in the PNW. As a result, I've never had less than 15 days PTO (+ holiday + sick time).

For entry level, I would outright reject any offer less than 10 days (I'd settle for a pro-rated accrual if other factors about the firm are enticing). If I'm at your firm for more than 2-3 years, I'd expect that to increase to 15. 

Aug 25, 20 12:49 pm  · 
2  · 
tduds

Within reason, you get the value you command for yourself. If you debase yourself to get a "foot in the door", you're just putting yourself at a permanent disadvantage because you're signaling to your employers that they can exploit you. Get paid, kids.

5  · 
SneakyPete

While not perfectly applicable, well worth the watch.


https://vimeo.com/22053820

1  · 
przemula

As I'm reading this thread, seems like I was right to be pissed of when I saw that in my current firm have only 5 PTO days (got hired here 1.5 month ago). I realized that after I started working here and got employee handbook. I had 10 days in my previous job and thought it's not a lot, oh boy...

Aug 25, 20 5:41 pm  · 
2  · 
SneakyPete

You'll never make that oversight again.

1  · 
SpontaneousCombustion

If your PTO includes sick time, then that's remarkably stingy (and in a few states that require a minimum of 6 days of paid sick leave it wouldn't even be legal.) But be just a little pissed at yourself too, for not finding this out until after you'd accepted an offer: chalk it up to a learning experience, and try to renegotiate at your first annual review - though this is a lot harder than doing it before you're hired. Next time ask to review the employee handbook before you commit to an offer.

1  · 
tduds

Even if your PTO doesn't include sick time that's remarkably stingy.

2  · 
natematt

Come back in a year and let us know what you think about the firm and if their actions reflect this stupid PTO standard.

1  · 
przemula

I double checked employee handbook, and it's just 5 PTO days, no sick days. After a year with the company it increases to 10, and they're adding 2 sick days. Before that, I'm not allowed to get sick. They also have like only 4 holiday days, but I agree, it's absolutely my fault, for not checking it out before I signed the contract. My only excuse is fact that in my previous job (where I had 10 vacation days) every time I mentioned that, all my friends were surprised, saying "oh I have 15 days", "oh I have 20 days", etc. So I thought 10 is really minimum and it can't get any worse. Again, boy was I wrong. And I won't be there for a year, planning to find different place quicker than that.

2  · 

Did you sign a contract? If you did, this just got more interesting.

1  · 
bowling_ball

We offer new hires (say, under a decade of experience) 10 days to start, plus 6 sick days and 2 personal days. Unless you abuse it, there's some wiggle room there. If you're more senior or we're poaching you, we'll negotiate and you'll get probably get more. 

Aug 25, 20 7:30 pm  · 
2  · 
SneakyPete

What's a personal day as opposed to PTO?

1  · 
bowling_ball

It's just a paid day off to do whatever - no questions asked. Think of them as mental health days that everyone gets.

3  · 

My first jobs out of school were paid hourly so no PTO at all. If you didn't work, you didn't get paid. They were pretty good about letting you take the time off you needed though so it worked out. 

Once I was put on salary after those first jobs, I've always had at least 15 days vacation and a minimum of 40 hours of sick leave per year. That first firm where I had a salary would calculate your vacation time based on total industry experience. I asked what counted for industry experience in my orientation when they were going over all this, and they looked at my resume and gave me credit for all the jobs working construction before and during school, and other tangentially-related office-type work. So even though I had less than two years architectural firm experience, I had over 7 years total experience in their eyes and qualified for 15 days vacation. Once you have that at one firm, it's easy to negotiate to that same level (or more) at the next firm, and the next firm, etc. Especially if you're getting hired at the next firm(s) as a "titled" employee (associate, senior associate, etc.), or if you're a strategic hire for the firm.

Aug 25, 20 10:04 pm  · 
1  · 
BuffaloArch

Thank you everyone for your insight/advice.  On the note of Everyday Architect's comment regarding taking time off but not getting paid for it, if you run out of PTO or simply want to save it, is it unheard of to take a day off and simply not get paid for it? Pardon my naivety.

Aug 27, 20 1:30 pm  · 
 · 
SneakyPete

Not unheard of, no. Be sure to know your project's deadlines and potential heavy workload periods (RFI and Submittal Schedules, end of phases, etc) and don't request days off during those times unless you feel comfortable with your boss and team.

2  · 
thatsthat

I think it depends on the firm. At my office, they don't mind as long as you're not taking advantage of it (i.e. going on a two week vacation on unpaid time while your team has a deadline) and you're around when you are supposed to be around. But say you are a few days of PTO short at the end of the year, not a big deal. Other offices may be more stingy about it though.

1  · 
tduds

I took an unpaid sabbatical for my honeymoon, so not unheard of. But like Pete & that said, it's dependent on the firm and also on whether or not you're shirking responsibility by taking off.

1  · 
midlander

i took a 3 week unpaid leave (vacation) in 2010 when my firm was struggling to keep everyone employed and salaries had been cut. they were quite happy to let me do so.

1  · 
natematt

My office has always been good about letting people take unpaid time off. Which is nice.... but it's not a replacement for PTO either...

1  · 
poop876

We should link this to "The USA is far more better than Europe"! In addition to lack of maternity leave lack of vacation time is one of the worst things about working in the US. It's truly sad that 7 days of vacation became a norm for most of employees. 

Aug 27, 20 2:49 pm  · 
5  · 
Jaetten

I get 32 days P/A in the UK, with untaken days carried over. Think we're very lucky here.

2  · 
poop876

Yup, that is what I'm talking about!

2  · 
whistler

I let my staff take what time they need.  If it's a month then so be it, but i will only cover their pay for two weeks plus typically what ever we shut down for over Christmas.   Just need to work around project deadlines and schedules accordingly .  I end up taking a lot of extended long weekends. Works better for me and it's surprising how much you can see in North America in 5-6 days, at least up until recently.

Aug 27, 20 3:35 pm  · 
3  · 

Is anyone's firm tracking the number of extra hours worked beyond the typical 40/week and allowing you to use those "extra hours" for time off? Kind of like a flextime arrangement only where hours in one pay period might fill out the hours in another pay period months later rather than in that same pay period. 

Aug 28, 20 1:50 am  · 
1  · 
randomised

All overtime can be taken as time off within 3 months at my office.

1  · 
Non Sequitur

All time beyond the typical 5x7.5hr week is paid out with each payroll at a fixed rate (employee year salary/1950hr). You can bank extra hours but you need to make special arrangements with management and accounting in advance... or else it’s automatically paid out. Management and equity owners do not get OT paid out but receive profit % instead.

1  · 
midlander

in my previous firm non licensed staff had this comp time off. a good reason not to get licensed tbh, though it also limited promotions and ultimately salary / bonus

2  · 
poop876

We do that. All over time, can be paid out or if you request it you can add it to your vacation time to be taken whenever...even if it's next next year.

1  · 
tduds

My first job out of undergrad allowed flex time in lieu of paid overtime. It was pretty great. 

Paid overtime is also great. I miss that.

1  · 

I do miss paid overtime at time and half rate. That added up quickly as a young intern.

My firm tracks it and it can be used in lieu of vacation or sick time, but during the same year. No carryover to the next year. Also, there is no option to get paid for that overtime (we're all exempt/salaried employees), but it's nice that they don't expect more than 2080 hours per year (40 hrs/week * 52 weeks) and you can manage your hours as needed to get there. If you do work more than that at the end of the year, you've just gifted the firm your time ... that's the exempted/salaried part. 

Better than my last office which would sort of allow* flexibility within a pay period, but not beyond that. *Technically it wasn't allowed, you were supposed to have at least 40 per week, but no one ever enforced it as long as you had at least the total hours for that pay period covered (8 hrs/working day * # of working days in the bi-monthly period).

1  · 
SneakyPete

My friend told me their firm paid overtime at half pay for probationary employees (vs no ot at all for salaried). I always wondered if that was legal but never checked.

1  · 

Probably depends on whether the probationary employees were classified as exempt or not. If exempt employees, the employer is not required to pay overtime. They can if they want to, but it’s not the labor laws that are making them.

2  · 

Here's an overview from the Dept. of Labor. Note that most architects and aspiring architects could be classified as exempt per the professional exemption assuming they get paid enough ($684 per week or $35,568 per year). https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/17a-overtime

1  · 
Bench

"Is anyone's firm tracking the number of extra hours worked beyond the typical 40/week and allowing you to use those "extra hours" for time off?"


Hahahahahahahahahahahaha
Oh you're serious

 · 

We track overtime for salaried employees as it's how much you get as a 'bonus' at the end of the year. Not really a bonus if you ask me but . . .

 · 
Bench

Should clarify, we also do the bonus structure, which often correlates to overtime, but i have a hard time believing there will be any bonuses this year...

 · 

If I don't do any overtime I don't get a bonus. Typically only do around 100 hours a year.

 · 
poop876

So if you work overtime you get a bonus? That's not a bonus, it's your earned money! What a fucking scam!

 · 
WanderLust

22 PTO days at my NYC firm, I believe it goes up to 25 or so up the ladder. Most folks I know (including myself) take all of it. 

10 sounds ridiculous!

Aug 28, 20 9:05 am  · 
2  · 
sameolddoctor

3 weeks PTO (which includes Sick Leave), for Associates and Above, 2 weeks for everyone lower. We do have a max of 40 that can be transferred to a new year and you lose the rest if you dont use it. Many bozos i know have lost it...

Aug 28, 20 4:46 pm  · 
2  · 
spiketwig

I work for a large firm (500+ employees) and we get between 17 and 30 days of PTO in addition to mandated sick leave which varies by office based on the local laws (certain states/cities/countries require different things). You accrue PTO on the based of both title and seniority (5 year increments) - so you can get to 30 days by having the lowest level title + >15 years of service OR the highest level title (years of service are not applicable in that case). 

People do take the PTO time too - not just lip service. You can accrue up to your max allotment of PTO time and carry it over year to year. Or cash out at the end of the year, if you'd rather have the $$. 

Sep 8, 20 4:44 pm  · 
 · 

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