Archinect
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Two years in, I feel defeated by this profession.

131
davincenzi

Frankly, I feel like a sucker for having chosen architecture. 

I live in New York City and get to interface with a lot of people who are in other lines of work. A few of my closer friends work in finance, corporate law and tech. Frankly, I don't find my work any more fulfilling or satisfying than theirs seems to be, with the main difference being that they make quite a bit more money. One of my friends in finance just raked in a $120k bonus. That's their bonus. Let that sink in. I'm sure most of us here don't even make that in a year. This person is about five years my junior.

I spent seven years in school and went to an Ivy League architecture program and yet. I worked hard and really pushed myself. And despite that, I don't think it's a stretch to say that there are probably seamless couriers that make more than I do. I'm not saying I feel entitled to anything spectacular, but I do feel entitled to at least make enough to save money without every meal out or recreational activity feeling like a major financial decision, and to cover the actual cost of my student loans. I feel entitled to live in a decently sized space to myself without existing on the brink of insolvency, Sadly that's not possible.

I'm three years out of school and I absolutely loathe the work I do. Day in and day out for the last six months I've been working on wall sections and millwork sets. I can't do it. I can feel my brain turning into microwaved pudding, and never so much as a "thank you" from my project manager.

What I make isn't even enough to cover the cost of my own education. I'm barely able to make enough of a payment to scratch the interest on my loans every month, and I had a pretty substantial amount of financial aid. How is it fair that the work we do is for some of the most rich and powerful in society, and yet it is I that has to subsidize the cost of my own labor out of my own pocket for my employer? Isn't that kind of unbelievably fucked up?

I don't look up to anyone in my firm. I don't want the job of anyone above me. Seems like all you get as you advance is more stress for marginally more pay. My project managers live in a world of emails and mundane project management tasks. I see no spark of inspiration or intellectual curiosity in their eye's. My firm just seems to put out the same old shit again and again and again.

No one tells you any of this, they say "only do it if you're passionate!" Well, I am very passionate. In fact I still believe in what architecture has to offer. But I feel that even the "only do it if you're passionate" advice is out of date. Nobody should let their passion become their burden. And it seems that this is what architecture is destined to be for all but the privileged who have family wealth or who come out of school debt-free somehow.

Nobody in this profession has an interest in effecting any change, either. The owners of my firm would never alienate our clients by charging the true cost of our labor. The deans of the schools would never to anything to upset the stream of fresh students (read: tuition dollars) coming through the pipeline. Nobody in greater society really cares about architecture or architects, so why would we expect any real change to come about?

Thankfully I'm almost licensed. Once I have it in hand I'm gone from this miserable profession for good. Perhaps I'll go work in real estate or some other job. Perhaps I'll be a sellout, but I won't have to live with the feeling of being a complete and utter idealistic moron for having chosen this absolutely degrading line of work.

 
Jun 24, 21 12:26 pm
SneakyPete

You're massaging the elephant's anus, wondering why anyone would consider it such a magnificent animal. 

You need a new job or three before making such sweeping statements.

The money will always be less than you could make elsewhere. You went to an ivy, so you likely knew that before you got in. I have plenty of friends with more money and stuff than me, but it absolutely does not mean they're happier, just that they have it easier.  If easy it you want then architecture was an odd choice to begin with.

Regardless, I feel for you and hope things get better.

Jun 24, 21 12:30 pm  · 
10  · 
sameolddoctor

To be fair, most firms in our business deal with massaging the elephant's anus...

Jun 24, 21 12:55 pm  · 
7  · 
davincenzi

Thank you for your response. I suppose I don't want it easy. But it would be nice for things to not feel like such a struggle all the time. I honestly think I'd be fine with a little more pay and vacation time. But having let this vitriol out of my body, I'm now aware that what you say is true- I need to switch firms and see what's out there at least once before making the final judgement call.

Jun 24, 21 2:13 pm  · 
2  · 
SneakyPete

It's always depressing when I look at what my friends earn compared to me, but I am proud of what I do. Nothing beats the feeling of being able to inhabit what I do for a living.

Jun 24, 21 2:17 pm  · 
2  · 
davincenzi

I suppose the hope of imbibing in that feeling one day is what's kept me here until now. Thank you for your perspective, and all the best to you.

Jun 24, 21 2:20 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

You're right, you don't belong in this profession if a few years of "dues-paying" before you're trusted with the juicy work is too much for you.

Jun 24, 21 12:30 pm  · 
1  ·  2
davincenzi

I don't mind paying my dues, what I mind is paying my dues and feeling underpaid and underappreciated. And not seeing the way forward. How can anyone be expected to feel good about their work or their future under such circumstances?

Jun 24, 21 2:21 pm  · 
1  · 
january30th

This is idiotic. Plenty of industries don't demand people to "pay their dues" before being given responsibilities to make impactful work.

Jun 26, 21 2:15 am  · 
1  · 
Almosthip

to quote my mother  "Life is not fair"

Jun 24, 21 12:35 pm  · 
2  · 
davincenzi

It sure isn't. I suppose coming to terms with that is part of growing up.

Jun 24, 21 2:14 pm  · 
1  · 
flatroof

If you still like architecture, leave NYC to work somewhere else (and cheaper to live in) for a year or two. If you still don't like it move on. NYC caters to your friends' professions, not yours. Also if you get your license and never use it you still need to pay yearly dues and CEUs, unless it will be a fond memento worth keeping around. 

Loans suck, buy bitcoin. 

Jun 24, 21 1:29 pm  · 
1  · 
davincenzi

I've considered this. Though my significant other is also based here. They're seeking to start grad school themselves (in a different field, thank goodness. I cannot understand architects who date other architects! Not even where money's concerned, but it just seems so limiting to one's worldview.) , so perhaps that will be the opporunity for gaining a fresh perspective in a nother city.

Jun 24, 21 2:14 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

If you get licensed, definitely keep the license active, lest you need to pay exorbitantly to get it back (might even need to restest, ugh) but definitely let your NCARB certificate lapse, no need to pay those thieves, as they cap their penalties for reactivation at a max. It's still roberry.

Jun 24, 21 2:19 pm  · 
1  · 
Jay1122

Your observation is fair and nothing new. But, you really should not compare architecture to finance & tech. Architecture is an arts degree. There are many replacements that can do your job. Each decent job in NYC gets hundreds of applications. There are many other firms gunning for your firm's commission and client. Finance and tech field is also very competitive. The difference being, their pay is much higher once they made the cut. But I think the fundamental is more that architecture is service based. You charge by hours. And competitors are willing to cut their fees in order to get that commission thus driving the overall fee down. If you are studying for the PJM section you should know how your fee turns into hourly billing rate and hours for each phase. The margin of profit is not that high. Being a service based, cant even benefit from economy of scale unless you do simple repetitive jobs much faster than projected hourly billing. Simply say raise the fee is stupid because your competitor will cut it down in order to get the job and let the employees work 60+ hrs without pay to make up for it. There are people lining up out the door? Only fix is probably have less people attend architecture school to stop the supply of cheap interns and slave labors.

Anyway, I am just curious on how much do you make now and how many hours do you work in average. Are you actually in a slave farm firm? I've heard NYC jobs pay 50K for junior level and work 60-80 Hrs.

Jun 24, 21 1:46 pm  · 
1  · 
davincenzi

I'm actually rather fortunate that I don't work insane hours. I used to on a few of my old projects, and the hours were completely unpredictable, it was horrible. Many people that I worked with could not tolerate it and left. But these days I'm clocking a solid 40 a week. Won't offer a specific number, but I make in the $60-$70k range.

Jun 24, 21 2:17 pm  · 
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flatroof

This is going to piss you off more but make my point above more clear, 65K in NYC (going in between your said range) has the same purchasing power as being paid 37K in Chicago, going by COL calculators. If you even take a small paycut to work in Chitown, say 55-60, that's like living on 100k in NYC. Same would go for other cities like Portland, Atlanta, etc.

Jun 24, 21 2:28 pm  · 
1  · 
davincenzi

Nah, that doesn't piss me off quite as much since it's something I'm pretty aware of. I have friends in Chicago and L.A., and even my friends in L.A. seem to be able to make their dollars do more for them there than I can here. I've heard, also, that the pay is nominally higher in L.A. for people with my education. Only thing keeping me in NYC at the moment is wanting to be with my S.O. but they're also considering a move for school soon. So we'll see!

Jun 24, 21 2:33 pm  · 
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trimtab28

I mean honestly, 60k-70k range isn't really terrible compared to most people- that's actually considered pretty comfortable by most standards. There definitely is a "grass is greener" element- most of my friends in law earn around that. And I'm saying this as a born and raised New Yorker, and they moved back after completing school.

Yes finance is grossly overpaid- my girlfriend is in the field. She also works until midnight pretty frequently, as well as weekends often. I don't work those hours and calculating things on an hourly basis, I actually out earn for hours worked (and I make similar to what you do, albeit in a different city). You do need consider your friends' lifestyles, cost of living where they are, etc..  Plus I know plenty of people who from the outside look like they're earning a lot based on their consumption/lifestyle, but in reality they have six roommates, a ton of debt, and are effectively living hand to mouth- even in high paying industries like tech and finance.

Jun 26, 21 3:40 pm  · 
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trimtab28

If we're being frank about this one... architecture does require considerably more training and technical expertise than going into finance does. Finance always appears to have overinflated salaries due to that high echelon/Ivy League bias to going into it. Most people in "finance" are getting paid peanuts as bank tellers and other backroom type work. You need to go to a good school (i.e. need a lot of money or be a genius) in order to make a high earning in finance. It's similar in law- the high earners are the ones in private sector jobs connected from big name schools, and those are the ones that are the public face of the profession, while everyone else is making modest cash (if even) due to how saturated the field is. You're at the point where in these fields you won't make much (if you're lucky enough to get a job) if you don't go to a top 10 or top 20 school, which requires money from the get go. 

One thing I can say about architecture- at least where I live, you have people from state schools barking out orders to GSD grads. With the portfolio requirements, I've found the field certainly to be more meritocratic and democratic insofar as who get good jobs and get ahead. And I speak as someone with a girlfriend in finance and family in law- those fields are nowhere near a cakewalk for anyone casually walking into them, much as it is gross how much people at the top in them make. 

Jun 27, 21 9:50 pm  · 
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BabbleBeautiful

There are three variables here:

1: Office culture including salaries
2: City culture including cost of living, average salaries, etc...
3: Your profession

Try changing #1, #2 or both before you move on to #3.

But if this is about that 120k bonus, then skip to #3. 

Jun 24, 21 1:49 pm  · 
8  · 
davincenzi

Thanks for the perspective. I think I'll take your advice and try finagling #1 and #2 first. I know these people with money; having it does not make them happy. I suppose I just envy how easy it does make certain things for them.

Jun 24, 21 2:24 pm  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

I can't imagine considering life choices based on the money other people get, steal, or earn, but hey, you do you.


I've decided to do what I do, and steal from those who get $120k bonuses.

Jun 24, 21 1:53 pm  · 
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davincenzi

Interesting perspective, thank you. Hopefully I too can charge fairly for my services someday.

Jun 24, 21 2:25 pm  · 
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lower.case.yao

Sounds like you need to transition to real estate or learn coding.

Jun 24, 21 2:01 pm  · 
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davincenzi

Those are plan B and C as of now. Waiting for a very rainy day to flip that particular switch.

Jun 24, 21 2:25 pm  · 
 · 
OneLostArchitect

“Just learn some coding” Joe Biden

Jun 27, 21 5:39 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

This is why intro to arch 101's first lecture should be titled:  You're not Tom Brady, so don't expect Tom Brady money.  


Jun 24, 21 2:20 pm  · 
4  · 
davincenzi

Ha. Very true.

Jun 24, 21 2:25 pm  · 
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square.

to be fair, i don't think the expectation from op was a lot of money as much as the inability to afford the loans that bought the education.

one of the biggest issues, as mentioned, is the ivies that continue to sucker people into believing that a degree from their institution is worth the indentured servitude it will cause later.

Jun 24, 21 2:44 pm  · 
3  · 
Non Sequitur

to be fair, your compensation is not relative to the loans you (global you) decided to take. Dead horse beating aside, it is unfortunate that this information is not made clearer to new grads before they sign up for big money loans. Much angst would be spared if it were.

Jun 24, 21 2:49 pm  · 
2  · 
square.

sure, but i don't know of anyone, not a single classmate in either program (nor any of my colleagues), who went into architecture school looking to make a lot of money.. it's a straw man argument at best.

Jun 24, 21 2:53 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Plenty of money to be made in architecture tho... just not in offices like the OPs. It's not tech-bro or bankers' dollars but it's there.

Jun 24, 21 3:13 pm  · 
 · 

I agree it's a straw man, but it's also not completely untrue based on my experience. I knew quite a few classmates that went into school thinking architecture would be a good career to make decent money ... me included.

Of course it was all relative. When the careers we saw in our hometowns were things like farmer, truck driver, mechanic, contractor, dentist, doctor, lawyer, accountant, grocery store manager, franchisee of some fast food chain, multi-level marketing salesperson, etc. and you don't know any real architects ... pop culture leads you to believe it's a decent paying career. And it is if we could make what an architect does and live in the town we grew up in. If my dad was making what I do now at my age, we'd have been one of the richest families in my hometown. But where I live, I'm lucky to be considered middle class on both mine and my wife's incomes.

Blame me for not knowing this more clearly in high school when I was applying and getting into architecture school, but at least I figured it out pretty quickly once I got there. If I wanted to chase the money I'd have changed majors. Some of those classmates did.

Jun 24, 21 3:26 pm  · 
2  · 
Non Sequitur

I don't see it as strawman... maybe it's not as solid as a brickman, but definitively in the woodman category when the big bad wolf comes by. Besides that (and clearly I'm threading water here... trying to just not get involved in the racism discussion in another thread), while you can't necessarily blame a student for being upset that the cost of their education is not proportionate to what the market will pay them, I can't completely absolve them either. You want to live/work in an expensive place and want to take out 6-figure loans? Don't come back and complain because 50k is all you can get.

Jun 24, 21 3:39 pm  · 
 · 

Maybe you're in spindly-twig-man territory, and I only say that because you threw in the "you want to live/work in an expensive place and want to take out 6-figure loans" bit. I think that subset (while memorable or vocal or whatever) is pretty small. A lot of us didn't go to a school with 6-figure debt expecting architecture to pay it off. A lot of us don't choose to live in NYC or another expensive city. Most of us don't fit into both of those categories simultaneously. I'd say most of us fit into the took out average debt (for an arch student) and make average money in a place that is slightly above average to live in. But it is getting harder and harder to make that salary go as far as it used to.

I do agree with you though that you can't completely absolve the student of taking on the debt for a degree that won't lead to a career able to pay it off. I think you can look at the rising costs of education, the ease of taking on too much debt, couple that with the insistence that people get a 4-year degree just to be employable, add to that you need 5-7 years in order to get a NAAB-accredited degree, and sprinkle on the top the insistence from professors that you can't take on a job during school or your grades will suffer, and add the cherry of you need to be completely devoted and passionate to the profession ... and you can understand the dilemma of the student taking on quite a bit of debt. But no, not completely absolved because they could have chosen a different path anytime.

Jun 24, 21 4:41 pm  · 
2  · 
monosierra

Well, OP did go to an Ivy program. Most folks there figure they have a shot at being the starting QB. When you find yourself in the practice squad instead, the fallout could be devastating.

Jun 24, 21 8:13 pm  · 
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square.

at the end of the day you either believe that the system is broken because people make bad decisions, or that people make bad decisions because the system is broken. i go with the latter.

Jun 25, 21 10:23 am  · 
1  · 
caramelhighrise

If schools lectured their students on how little money they will make, the schools wouldn’t make any money themselves.

Jun 30, 21 12:34 pm  · 
 · 

This may go over like a lead balloon, but I'll offer it anyway: Check out the posts on Money Central. I don't mean look at them and compare yourself to people posting over there, but do read about what other people made it through to get to where they are at now and see if you can glean any worthwhile information from them. If anything, it might just offer a different perspective than what you are seeing in your office with your coworkers. My goal with that thread was to be inspiring and encouraging and I think it does an ok job of that if you go into it looking for that outcome. 

That being said, I agree with the others here that you probably need to find a new firm to work for (probably better if in a different city but that seems less like it is "on the table" for you at the moment). 

I don't know what type of work or projects you're doing, but I couldn't manage when I was doing meaningless work at the beginning of my career and had to move on. Don't get me wrong, people need strip malls to go shopping in and all that, but I could never find any meaning in that work that I was comfortable with, let alone excited about. For me, getting a job where we were working on civic projects, or healthcare, or housing, or things that I felt brought value into this world was really helpful in those early years. YMMV.

Jun 24, 21 2:47 pm  · 
3  · 
randomised

Who would ever pay  120k for doing wall sections and millwork sets? You’re not paid more because the work you do is not important at all, if you screw up nobody cares or notices and that’s reflected in your salary or lack thereof. Don’t work for a boring ass firm with shitty pay if you don’t have to...explore other options, you are still young without any responsibilities in life, don’t be afraid to fail there’s always millwork and wall sections out there somewhere. Change jobs, environment, city, country, etc. You’ll be surprised. And don’t compare yourself to lawyers or people in finance, it’s just architecture, fine arts with an excel sheet...

Jun 24, 21 2:48 pm  · 
4  · 

Architecture is just fine arts with an excel (spread) sheet? Maybe that's why you don't make much money?

Jun 24, 21 4:20 pm  · 
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randomised

But architecture is just doodling on a shoestring, don’t kid yourself ;-) I make plenty of money, so much so that I only need to work 4 days a week...

Jun 25, 21 3:00 am  · 
 · 

You spend the rest of that time on here though so . . .

Jun 28, 21 10:21 am  · 
1  · 
archinet

Stay close to your friend with the 120k bonus and make more friends like him. They are potential clients in your future. 

Jun 24, 21 3:00 pm  · 
7  · 
atelier nobody

And at the very least, should be throwing better parties now.

Jun 24, 21 5:55 pm  · 
1  · 
Rusty!

You need to make more friends in NYC that are not just part of your ivy bubble. $60-70k is more than most teachers in nyc make, and they all need a masters degree to work there. Plus your salary ceiling will be much higher. Right now you are the ugliest house on a super posh block, whereas you could be the prettiest house on an decrepit one. 

Or move somewhere else and be equally miserable. NYC has ridicilously high concentration of architecture firms. Work that to your advantage. Being stuck with a shitty firm in Cleveland is understandable. But in nyc it's on you. 

Jun 24, 21 3:29 pm  · 
7  · 
square.

agreed- bouncing around firms early in your career in nyc is a must, especially to distance yourself from the assholes who thrive on exploitation. it takes time to find a good firm, but it's more than possible.

Jun 25, 21 9:15 am  · 
 · 
howdidigethere

That you don't like what your bosses are doing now seems to be the big red flag. Those duties are pretty much the same at every firm great work or lousy work. And being the owner is even further away from design. The debt is there no matter what, I assume you are on an IBR plan? Make the change sooner rather than later, there are some low-cost online CompSci programs out there for career changers. What's a few more loans on top of loan mountain? You might make enough to pay them with your new fat tech bonuses. 

Jun 24, 21 4:16 pm  · 
 · 
Koww

nothing wrong with millwork details and wall sections. I think the problem is your office sucks. or you suck, judging by your entitled attitude. maybe you want to want try a real job first? you could be hanging drywall all day.

Jun 24, 21 6:37 pm  · 
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RJ87

You work in an industry that allows folks without a license to do 99% of the job. That keeps wages lower by minimizing the barrier to entry. The way to make significantly better money in the profession is to get your license & start doing the other 1% yourself. You don't get rich in architecture by working for someone else.

The Ivy League loans & NYC cost of living are a different financial decision / issue.

Jun 25, 21 9:50 am  · 
 · 

That's not entirely true. I know plenty of architects and firm owners who don't make much money. Hell, I know several old classmates who run their own small firms and I make more than them as a project architect.

I agree with you about ivy league school loans and living in NYC being a choice made by the OP and not something systemic the profession of architecture. 


Jun 25, 21 11:19 am  · 
2  · 
RJ87

My point isn't to say that if you have a firm you're automatically raking in the dough, it's to say that if you don't have a firm you're almost certainly not raking in the dough. Exceptions are out there of course but as a general rule you can't act surprised that you're not making more money if you're not using the only thing that legally separates you from someone that went to a drafting college.

Jun 25, 21 2:44 pm  · 
1  · 

Very true. I just assume that anyone with a degree in architecture is perusing their license. If not why go into the profession? Then again I've always been hired and paid based on my design skills.

Jun 28, 21 10:24 am  · 
1  · 
RJ87

It's never made sense to me why you wouldn't take that extra step post graduation & get you license. Is it fun to take the exams? No. Does it allow you to do something that 99.96% of Americans cant? Yes.

Jun 28, 21 3:38 pm  · 
 · 

You dont always need to be licensed to get ahead in the field. Almost all project managers i have worked with are unlicensed architect grads. Experience is still a big factor in your pay more and can sometimes pay more than being licensed. Really depends on where you work and what you do.


I make 120k in LA, working for a private developer with only 5 years out of school experience. The work is niche, but it is insulated from any economic downturn. 


Like i tell people, if you want to design then you will have a low salary working at traditional firm.  Construction is where architects, designers, BIM can flex both some creativity and set themselves up for great incomes.

Jul 1, 21 12:09 pm  · 
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archiwutm8

lets be honest here, unless it's something that's in demand and what you do fucks up someone's day if done wrong, you won't make money.


I do honestly think I get paid reasonable but then again I don't hang out with lawyers and such on a daily basis even though I have a lot of multimillionaire peers from university.


Your environment is just shit it sounds like.

Jun 25, 21 1:07 pm  · 
3  · 
Jay1122

OP makes 60-70K with 3 yrs experience working 40 Hrs week. It is fairly on par with the NYC market average on a traditional firm. I live 1 hour drive away from Manhattan, I know the area. The complaint about NYC cost is laughable to me. Why do you think you should live inside NYC? You think it is bad? Go look at SF bay area. If you work in the city, you always have to live far and have long commute time. This is the rule of all major cities in the world. Only two types are in the city. The rich and the poor. The rich can afford things. The poor have small apartments and roommates. The middleclass moves to suburbs and suffer longer commute time. Even if you move to 2nd tier city like Chicago mentioned above, it is not that much cheaper. Does grocery cost significantly less? We can order most things off amazon. Does amazon offer lower price if shipped to cheaper location? Do you buy cars cheaper? Only major difference is just housing price. And look at architecture job openings on archinect as a gauge for opportunity availability. 1200+ jobs, 460+ in NY, 410+ in CA, The 2nd tier Chicago for example? 28 in Illinois.

OP is not even suffering in some architecture slavery sweat shop firms. If you can't accept the reality of the field. It will just be the same no matter where you move to. Either firm or location.

Jun 25, 21 1:35 pm  · 
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OneLostArchitect

How do you know how much he makes? Im making 70k after 15 years!!!!

Jun 27, 21 5:42 pm  · 
 · 

This isn't true Jay. 

The OP's situation won't be the same anywhere they go. There is a lot of variation in cost of living and pay when you're outside of a metropolitan area.  

I'm not quite making six figures after 15 + years experience. Then again, if I lived in NYC or the Bay Area my pay would be in the mid six figures to be comparable with my cost of living where I'm at.

Jun 28, 21 10:31 am  · 
1  · 

So you're thinking Mega City 1 from Judge Dredd?

I think most of a persons spending is:

1. Housing

2. Health Care

3.  Food

4.  Transportation

Jun 28, 21 1:30 pm  · 
1  · 
square.

i make 80k+ after 5+ years in nyc (licensed). the 50k comparison to 65k isn't an accurate one- making 50k elsewhere probably puts you in the 70k range in nyc.

also food, and even drink, isn't what is expensive here (relative to other cities, not just the largest ones), it's mostly housing costs.

this is why it's important to gather information from people who can actually directly speak to things like living in nyc...

Jun 28, 21 3:06 pm  · 
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square.

Commuting isn't a nightmare

i'd rather sit on a train or bus for an hour than in gridlock traffic in a car. the nice thing is i don't have to do either- i can bike and walk to the office.

Jun 28, 21 3:13 pm  · 
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square.

rent is typically around $2500 and up... a MONTH. For the apartments that would be $350-500 a month where I am, would be around $2000 a month. Rent being typically up at $3000 a month and higher. You're looking at $30,000 a year on rent within 150 mile radius of Manhattan.

another false statement. a) most people who pay that much in rent either have roomates or partners (a more typical rent that INDIVIDUALS pay is in the range of 1000-1500 PER PERSON), and b) there are plenty of places in further out neighborhoods in brooklyn and queens where you can find much cheaper rent.

Jun 28, 21 3:15 pm  · 
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square.

long story short there are a ton of assumptions here that are totally off- i wouldn't trust rick on his "analysis" of living in nyc.

Jun 28, 21 3:17 pm  · 
1  · 
square.

i don't care what you do while you don't live in nyc, but your summary of what you think people pay and how they pay rent here is totally off, which was in response to the op's quality of life in nyc. stick to sharing the facts that you can speak to.

Jun 29, 21 9:10 am  · 
 · 

square - one thing I'd like to point out is your comment that pay for a grad right out of school in NYC is around $50k. Where I'm at it's $38K. In my area that's enough for a single person to rent, live alone, own a used car, and still have discretionary income.

Jun 29, 21 10:16 am  · 
 · 
Jay1122

people just complaint too much. I live and work in the suburb of NYC. The pay is way below NYC average while the housing cost is almost as high. When I was looking for a job after graduation in 2016, asked for a $20 Hourly(41k annual) in an NYC small firm, the principle says they can't pay that high. Then interviewed at another Manhattan office with office space smaller than my bedroom, literally, a small room with desks facing walls. You guys just have not seen the bottom yet. Of course, I have no ivy masters. That is when I know this field is oh shit.

I Probably will look for a job in NYC and suffer long commute time since all the firms doing big projects are in the city. I am more concerned of unpaid overtime in NYC though. 3 Hr commute time each day + 8 Hr work is already 11. Add unpaid overtime, I may as well sleep in the firm.

Just so you guys know, there are way worse. You just haven't seen it yet.

Jun 29, 21 11:07 am  · 
1  · 
RJ87

38k sounds low, but I'm not saying you're wrong in your area. When I graduated a few years ago my peers all came out of school making somewhere between 48k & 54k moving to a variety of areas (Denver was a hot choice).

One thing that people don't think about enough is how state & local taxes gut you too. Having been born & raised in Florida the idea of the government taking an extra 4-10% on top of federal income taxes is crazy to me.

Jun 29, 21 11:12 am  · 
 · 
RJ87

We all used AIA as a rough guideline. They've got recent grads at 49k-56k.

Jun 29, 21 11:31 am  · 
 · 
square.

chad it's probably higher than 50, close to 55k+. not to mention in nyc there is no need for a car, and the costs of living with roommates are weighed against the costs of being in a cultural capital like nyc. i've always had discretionary income; maybe not as much as in other cities, but there are a lot of things that you can do for free here that you can't elsewhere.

the point is these are all apples to oranges comparisons, one isn't better than the other, but there is nothing inherently "worse" about being in nyc than anywhere else because the high costs can be offset with many other things that make it worth it- my main point was to let people know at the very least rick's numbers were way off, and that the op's woes might have less to do with nyc specifically and more with the shitty firm they are at (i will admit there are a ton of shitty firms here, but also many good ones.. it just takes a bit more time to find one).

Jun 29, 21 12:15 pm  · 
 · 
Jay1122

square, OP said he makes 60-70K with 3 yrs exp unlicensed working 40 Hrs week. If you call that shitty firm, I don't know what is a good firm, compensation wise. I am licensed with 4 yrs exp and get paid less than OP. I wasn't even complaining. OP probably thinks the ivy master is worth a lot more. Truth is, it does not increase the salary, maybe a few thousands in some firms. Only benefit is getting your resume through for an interview easier. And perhaps inflate your ego a bit. Columbia GSAPP has the 1 year 3 semester post pro master program churns out ivy arch grads like a factory If you pay 100-150K for it.

Jun 29, 21 12:54 pm  · 
 · 
square.

to clarify jay- wasn't speaking about compensation, but experience/satisfaction with the job. plenty of nyc firms where one can get paid well but have an awful experience doing it.

also if you're licensed with that much experience you should be making a decent amount more.

Jun 29, 21 1:08 pm  · 
 · 
Jay1122

Man I just negotiated my current low salary with the principle a few months ago. I am sure he is still not too happy. But the principle promotes his inner circle team buddy like crazy. Office politic and buddy system beats actual work. Anyway, what is a good salary number to ask a typical mid to large NYC firms? 4-5 yrs exp licensed. Don't want to get laughed out the door.

Jun 29, 21 1:29 pm  · 
 · 
RJ87

Check the salary poll / AIA compensation report, it should give you a good idea. I'm not in NYC but it's what I used to negotiate my post licensure bump a few months ago. I just picked the higher numbers from the salary poll & used that as my basis.

Jun 29, 21 1:35 pm  · 
 · 
Jay1122

AIA salary, Architect 1(3-5 yr). For the mid Atlantic region. Median 68k. Upper 79K. Hmm I guess 75K is a good number? I am at 60K now.

Jun 29, 21 1:53 pm  · 
 · 

RJ87 wrote

"We all used AIA as a rough guideline. They've got recent grads at 49k-56k."

Is that the national average?  I ask because AIA tends to only have information on the larger metro areas of the country.  Mid to small sized communities tend to not be represented very well.  

Jun 29, 21 2:04 pm  · 
1  · 
square.

70s seems reasonable for sure. i've also used the aia compensation report as my basis for negotiations.

Jun 29, 21 2:05 pm  · 
 · 

RJ87 wrote:

". . .  When I graduated a few years ago my peers all came out of school making somewhere between 48k & 54k moving to a variety of areas (Denver was a hot choice). . . . "

There is no way fresh grads where making that amount the the Denver area a few years ago.  

Jun 30, 21 7:23 pm  · 
1  · 

Jay - You have 4-5 years experienced total or that much after licensure? If that's your total work experience I'd say that asking for $75K in NYC seems reasonable.

Good luck with the negotiations!  Remember, you're worth it! 

Jul 1, 21 12:07 pm  · 
1  · 
quasi-arch

“Nobody in this profession has an interest in effecting any change, either.“



I don’t think that’s true, but the problem is that we’re taught in school and especially your thesis year that architecture will save the world and fix social problem XYZ. The reality is you’re at the mercy of bldg codes and your client’s pocket book, not to mention the construction industry in general which is very slow to adapt to new ideas and technologies that aren’t “this is how we usually do it.”

Jun 25, 21 3:50 pm  · 
4  · 
square.

i was not taught this.

Jun 28, 21 9:49 am  · 
 · 

I wasn't taught this either. I was taught that the built environment impacts humans and our societies to certain extents. I distinctly remember a professor (who had worked for 30 plus years as an architect) saying that architecture cannot save the world or fix social problems but it can have an impact on them.

Jul 2, 21 11:09 am  · 
1  · 
midlander

OP, do you have a specific thing you wished you were doing instead, or is it more just the sense you hate spending time doing work and not having enough money to feel rich?


sometimes it's just a mood and i get through it by googling "i regret becoming x" for lawyer, accountant, programmer, etc. it's helpful to see everyone hates working and feels underpaid. many of them actually do work more for less money too.

Jun 27, 21 10:29 am  · 
3  · 
x-jla

my philosophy is that if you work at a firm that is chock full of markers and trace paper don’t fret that your not making as much money as someone in a firm that’s chock full of suits and heart disease.  

Jun 27, 21 11:17 am  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

I left all my fountain pens, trace, and markers at the office when we were sent into the latest lockdown... which was mid march? maybe. I'm being reunited with them tomorrow and it'll be glorious.

Jun 28, 21 1:58 pm  · 
1  · 
randomised

Since when are you in lockdown non, the 80s?

Jun 29, 21 12:18 pm  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

Rando... I typically have at my office desk 3 fountain pens, a 6mm dia 6B graphite stick (in a well worn Canadian maple holder), and a customizable 24-function 12-button revit mouse (with customizable LED lights)... oh, and a loupe.

Jun 30, 21 12:03 am  · 
 · 
OneLostArchitect

this is the saddest profession in the world. Licensed and been in the biz for 15 years now I’m going to cut my loses and become a SkiptheDishes driver

Jun 27, 21 5:51 pm  · 
1  · 
SneakyPete

You want to make even less?

Jun 28, 21 1:33 pm  · 
 · 
OneLostArchitect

actually not that far off from what I've been witnessing

Jun 29, 21 11:53 pm  · 
 · 
z1111

My 2¢:


1. get your license


2. work on your oeuvre-even if it is un-built. a lot of great architecture is un-built.


3. work for a firm that does schools or a non-profit. most architecture isn't but that doesn't mean that a good building has no value.


4. seriously, get your license. even if you never stamp anything it will give you immense satisfaction.



Jun 27, 21 10:12 pm  · 
 · 
OneLostArchitect

Ya I got my license… didn’t resolve anything. It’s that magically pinnacle in this profession which brings an
empty happiness

Jun 27, 21 11:12 pm  · 
 · 
RJ87

Did you actually use your license? If you don't actually use it the financial benefit of having it only goes so far.

Jun 28, 21 11:41 am  · 
 · 
z1111

Yes, and I still use it.

Jun 28, 21 12:17 pm  · 
 · 
SneakyPete

It certainly makes it harder to equivocate when people ask you "Why are you still working for x at a lousy salary instead of for yourself??

Jun 28, 21 1:32 pm  · 
 · 

I don't know what some of you are talking about. Every firm that I have worked with offered a bonus and pay raise with licensure. The one I'm at now offers a $3k bonus and 10% raise.

As for your license not resolving anything and only bringing empty happiness . . . . You're right.  It's up to you to resolve your own career and become happy.  You don't need a license to do that and having one won't solve these problems.  If you're looking for a license to make you a good designer, have people respect your opinions, or get your career on track then you're in for a rude awakening.  

Jun 28, 21 1:33 pm  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

I've seen many people, both colleagues in the office and my arch intern friends drag their feet with the licensing process... just because of the licensing fees or because of the last mile of paperwork. I don't get it... unless you're in an office that purely pumps out production with no communication between management and cogs, you are more valuable to the office with a license but it's up to the individual to make it happen... so I've never understood why some wait so long and miss out on the additional income they could have earned if they talked to management in advance and negotiated better terms. I did a few months prior to mine and it resulted in a +\-17% raise within 2 weeks once I got the piece of paper. You just need to know that your role & responsibilities' have to adjust if you want to justify the increase wage.

Jun 28, 21 1:46 pm  · 
1  · 
square.

agreed- if you get the professional degree, not getting the license is essentially forgoing the full potential benefits of the education. you might as well do that last 10%, at the very least to say that "you've done it."

Jun 28, 21 2:28 pm  · 
2  · 

I agree. Why go to school and not take your licensing exams. They can't be that hard . . . I passed them.

Jun 28, 21 2:37 pm  · 
2  · 
RJ87

@Non Sequitur I'm of the same mindset. I knew the fastest way to increasing my potential income was through licensure. The Friday after officially receiving it I went in & asked for a 20% raise and they gave it to me no questions asked on the grounds that I was now viewed by the office as a licensed professional. It wasn't a shock when I asked for it, they knew it was coming when I was wrapping up my IDP hours. The other reason was that I hated trying to describe what I do for a living or correcting people when they called me an architect. It's so much simpler when people ask now. If you spent all that time & effort in school what's a couple of weeks studying.

Jun 28, 21 5:04 pm  · 
2  · 

I know. I said all of that above . . .

Jun 28, 21 5:44 pm  · 
1  · 
OneLostArchitect

RJ yes I used it at a firm with no financial gain

Jun 28, 21 5:56 pm  · 
 · 
RJ87

By using it I mean stamping drawings for yourself. I suppose you could say I "used" mine to get a raise, but really I don't consider myself to be using my license at all right now because I don't stamp drawings under my license working for someone else. That's where the biggest utility / chance for economic impact comes from.

Jun 28, 21 6:10 pm  · 
 · 
msparchitect

I disagree with you a bit rcz1001. I'm a project manager at a mid-sized NYC firm and my licensure has come up at some point or another with all of my clients. Some clients see it as the authority to make certain decisions or the ability to know certain things (right or wrong). It has definitely been an asset in making myself an expert in the room, even if the principal of the firm who is also licensed is sitting right next to me. To some clients, it does matter.

Jun 29, 21 12:24 pm  · 
2  · 
square.

rcz i neither a project manager, nor doing architecture, nor living in nyc... i'll go with msp's take here.

Jun 29, 21 1:10 pm  · 
 · 
z1111

That was not the point I was trying to make.

Jun 28, 21 12:24 pm  · 
 · 
RJ87

When I asked if they used their license I was asking OneLostArchitect not you, sorry for the confusion. I tend to think people who talk about licensure being useless are the ones who don't actually use it. I'm fully on the get your license bandwagon.

Jun 28, 21 3:30 pm  · 
 · 
z1111

No worries. I was saying that getting your license would enable someone to take control of their career. This thread is really depressing. If you are unhappy working at a firm-change firms. If you aren't doing interesting work-do your own work on the side. If you want more money-justify a higher rate (get your license).
.

Jun 28, 21 3:58 pm  · 
3  · 
bofillintheblank

Sounds like you're an Ivy ideas man instead of a build a buildings guy. Try to parlay that degree over to tech as a PM or UI/UX guy. Might have to learn to code (c) a little but much more upside. GSD people seem to have an easy time getting into tech companies. Get out of this HELLFESSION /s

Jun 29, 21 2:08 pm  · 
1  · 
SneakyPete

PMs should not be idea-people. PMs should be looking at spreadsheets and thinking about money, staffing, client relationships, and schedule.

Jun 29, 21 2:44 pm  · 
2  · 
bofillintheblank

I meant more a "Product Manager" in the tech world. Bit more focused on marketing and strategy in that role.

Jun 29, 21 2:58 pm  · 
2  · 
archiwutm8

RCZ1001, no one calls a product manager a PM. I've worked in manufacturing and I've never heard anyone say that at all.

Jul 1, 21 5:41 am  · 
1  · 
tduds

Some of my tech startup friends use it interchangeably. But they also use "Architect" incorrectly and I shame them for both.

Jul 1, 21 11:24 am  · 
 · 
CrazyHouseCat

OP,

Title of your post: two years in, you feel defeated by this profession.  My personal take: I started feeling defeat from day 1. Now 15 years in, I still feel defeated, all the time, by this, our chosen profession.  We choose to be architects for different reasons.  But few picked architecture to "hedge" against life.  

Whatever the reason, it was usually a choice of courage.  My first day in architecture school, dean told us to look to our left, then right, and said "out of the 3 of you, only 1 will make it through this program". Our subsequent education is made not of praises or encouragement, but of criticism as a means of advancement.  Going through this "forging" takes its toll, but we emerge brave souls.  No?

The profession, the firm, the PM, the contractor, the client... can all suck.  We can pivot, change, maneuvers towards more favorable conditions.  It can be disheartening to find that the suck persists despite our best efforts (and all the posts above is evidence).  But how is this different from pulling all-nighters and still get bad review at desk crits or midterm?  I don't believe you or I went through architecture school for the grades or to have a good social experience.  We enjoyed it and was able to feel so proud of it because of how difficult it was.  Not because we fantasized it will bring us a well paid easy job.  

The reason why I stay in this sucky profession is because I feel constantly defeated, at the edge of my abilities (be it design, negotiation with unreasonable code officials, having to butter up the boss, solving that stupid water proofing detail).  All of them problems, by overcoming which will bring me the thrill of knowing I'm rising to fill my full potential.  

No other professions challenge every aspect of your being quite like this one.  Your PM not saying "thank you", is a challenge in building relationships and leading up, which when the day come, will be very handy in dealing with clients.  Casework details will not end? Become an expert, build one, learn more.  Turn suck into fuel.

The critical thing they didn't teach us in school is not how little money is in the profession, but how to be kind to ourselves.  We were trained to be super critical, often towards ourselves. But if you look at if from a different angle.  If I change the setting of your story, imagine a tiger mom "worrying" for her child's career, 2 years in, comparing her to her peers in terms of pay, and constantly remind her of the cost of her ivy education.  If this were a movie, you'd see that tiger mom as an antagonist.  And if you could talk to her child, you'd say "stick to your dreams, stay positive!"

Encourage yourself.  Listen to yourself. If you do decide on a change.  Don't just ask the head (rational thought).  Ask also your heart (emotional choice) and your guts (instinct).   

Best wishes!

  

Jun 30, 21 3:23 pm  · 
1  · 
tintt

I worked a 17 hour day yesterday and was still told that I'm not doing enough by a client. 

Jul 1, 21 10:08 am  · 
 · 
square.

time to gtfo

Jul 1, 21 10:22 am  · 
1  · 
tintt

I wish. Client also forbade me to have other clients. Ridiculous.

Jul 1, 21 10:23 am  · 
 · 

Your client is a dick. I assume your client is yourself. ;P

Jul 1, 21 11:16 am  · 
1  · 
tduds

Take your hourly billed rate * 200 and if they'll pay that, then they get to be your exclusive client for a month. Repeat monthly.

Jul 1, 21 11:22 am  · 
3  · 

As soon as the current invoice is paid take a week or two off and don’t answer the phone.

Jul 1, 21 11:40 am  · 
2  · 

I somehow don't think you're getting paid that much from your 'client'. ;)

If you are then please send 'em my way!  

Jul 1, 21 11:40 am  · 
1  · 
RJ87

Clients are fun aren't they! I told a client a year and a half ago the pros & cons of a particular building element & that their selection would be expensive to change down the line so consider it carefully. They've now decided they wanted to know how much it would cost to change it mid construction. Sent over our number & we've heard nothing but crickets, which is perfect. Either it's a hassle & our fee nearly doubles or it's a change they no longer wish to make.

Jul 1, 21 11:56 am  · 
2  · 

Funny how those big cost changes seem to go away when the client gets the proposal.

Jul 1, 21 12:04 pm  · 
 · 
RJ87

All I had to send was our Architectural fee. I didn't even mention MEP, the cost of materials already on site, contractors labor, etc.

Jul 1, 21 12:14 pm  · 
 · 
paddockhills

I didn't read all of it but it looks like almost everyone is responding to your concerns about money. What struck me was your comments about drawing wall sections and millwork all day and not wanting the job of anyone above you. I HEAR YOU! IMO, you should be very careful not to let your career "accidentally" follow a path into project management. That is agony and not what we were trained for. My education was not ivy league but was VERY design focused. They trained us all to be designers and then sent us into a profession where only 10% are doing the actual design work. So my advice to you is: don't give up on the profession yet. If you want to do creative work -- then document every creative thing you do, keep your portfolio up to date and ONLY INTERVIEW FOR DESIGN JOBS. You may end up with a little more money and a lot more satisfaction.

Jul 2, 21 4:53 pm  · 
2  · 
randomised

Yep, don’t apply for jobs you don’t want to do...

Jul 3, 21 3:33 pm  · 
1  · 

.

Jul 3, 21 3:39 pm  · 
 · 
Archi880

Im reading this quite late but I Wonder if the guy who posts this thread is still working for the same company? 

Sep 12, 21 1:28 pm  · 
 · 
flatroof

Hopefully they leveraged their Ivy connections to get a job at Google or other bigtech firm.

Sep 13, 21 4:04 pm  · 
 · 
OneLostArchitect

focus! time to grow a pair of balls son. Nothing in life is fair. What you gonna do now! Brag the bull by the horns that’s what! 

Sep 12, 21 11:52 pm  · 
 · 
On the fence

This first real problem I address in these threads is schooling.  7 years to work in architecture is simply dumb.  Schools and NCARB have decided that everyone now needs a masters degree to work as an architect and it just is not so.  On top of it, your peers that you have to compete with have climbed onto this wagon because its 2-3 years more partying at university so why not.  Well, why not is because you are never going to make enough in the real world on a salary based on a bachelors degree (at best and even then - right?) when you are $150,000 to $300,000 in debt.  Probably picked the wrong school as well if you went Ivy unless they offered you a free ride.  

I have tried to explain this to many with no success at stopping the stupid.  The amount of time and money going into this profession at the academic level should be considered a crime at this point.  The schools, NCARB and the profession itself all know the shortcomings here.

Sep 13, 21 4:38 pm  · 
 · 

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