question about salary


Happy holidays everyone.  Sorry if this has been asked before but have a question about salary in San Francisco area.  I have both a undergrad and Masters in architecture and have been working for about 6 years.  Proficient in the typical (autocad, photoshop, etc.) and have learned basic Revit recently but not fully master it.  Have a lot of SD, DD, and CD experiences but not many CA experiences.  I am not licensed but is looking to start my exam in the new year.

I was working for a small firm in the city for the time after M.arch and made about 53k (25/hr).  Unfortunately, they had to let me go earlier this year because they are not getting any new projects with the poor economy.  I was on unemployment for a few months and found a consultant job (30/hr) in summertime.  A month later I found my current job in a mid size firm.  The office in SF is part of a bigger office in another state.  They offered me 48k to start but I counter-offer 50k.  Did I make a right move or I should have ask for more?

We just did a year end review this month.  They gave me a raise for 1000+ and a small bonus.  They said the company is not doing very well so they couldn't afford to give me more.  Should I look for something elsewhere? 

Dec 25, 12 4:27 pm

i mean honestly, its a job.  you could look elsewhere but if you like this place and its pretty safe than i'd stay until you've got a license... then you can quit and use that as leverage somewhere else.

Dec 25, 12 6:45 pm

After working there for few months now I do not really like the type of projects in the office.  Good thing is I am able to do a lot of CA work.

Dec 25, 12 7:03 pm

Getting CA experience is extremely valuable (and fairy rare) in and of itself - regardless of how well you like the project design.  You're in the phase of your career where you need to soak up as much experience as possible.  Salary sounds ok given the recession - I say, hang on, soak up that CA experience (which well help you with your exams), start taking your exams, and once you're licensed in a year or so and the economy has picked up, start looking around for something where you like the design better.  Also for the record it is not easy to find a design firm whose design vision perfectly matches yours - not as easy as you'd think.  I made the mistake of always thinking the grass was greener for awhile in my early career and the truth is, it takes awhile to find the right place that really suits all your needs.  So if you're in a place that matches all your needs but one, that's not actually that bad.  Just to make you feel better about the spot you're currently in.

Dec 26, 12 12:34 pm

50k is for entry level.  

Do you really have six solid years of experience working for reputable practices in the US?

Is your portfolio up to snuff?

Do you have experience in multifamily residential construction?

If so, I have a job for you for at least 60k.

Dec 26, 12 1:13 pm

@Mantaray: Yeah, at my old firm (non-profit) I didn't really get to do a lot CA since most of our projects have a owner rep so he/she will handle a majority of the CA.  The CA experience at my current firm is definitely valuable.  I was not talking about the design direction of the firm.  I am talking about the types of projects we have in the firm.  I am more interested in housing/ community based projects.  Also, my boss can be mean and rude at times.  One of the person who worked here for few years just quit; I think he finally had it with my boss.  For a small firm of only 3-4 people I was really expecting a more team-oriented environment but actually it is not so I am a bit disappointed.  Salary is not as important for me at this point as to a more positive working environment.

@nothing_is_everything: I used to work for a non-profit arch firm in the city specializing in SRO renovation and ADA requirements.  They also do child care centers, homeless shelters, and other community based projects.  Most clients are other non-profits and the City.  I can forward you my resume and portfolio.

Dec 26, 12 2:18 pm


    Im not trying to be a "Richard", but hell sounds like you are in a really great position (from all your hard work of course)!! i have 5years real work experience, a M.Arch, 10 years of autocad 2d experience, adobe etc, and all i could land once i lost my last job was working as  an estimator detailer for $16/hr working 34hrs a week! i decided i'm going to stay with this co. until i get my license.  i also have a classmate that i graduated with that also has a M.Arch. they were working at wal-mart during school and still work at wal-mart now in the deli dept. so count your blessings

Dec 26, 12 3:36 pm

@tmston2:  Are you in Bay Area too?  Oh, I am not complaining.  I know it's tough times out there.  I was glad I was able to find another job so soon.  I am just checking with others to see what they think about my situation.  Also, I went to a few interviews already so want to see what compensation should I be looking at really. 

Dec 26, 12 3:56 pm


No, im in the north country (northern Midwest) 3hour outside of Minneapolis. my last job was with a commercial firm, in more of a asst. project management role/ marketing/ production, salaried at $38k (and that is with M.Arch and 3years working experience) with only gym membership benefit, along with office coffee, and tea but if you wanted soda you had to pay for that yourself. when i was initially hired they paid $150 of my idp, and they offered to pay reimbursement for passing ea. ARE exam but i was working abt 55hrs a week on average. so i really didnt have time. just recently i saw one of the drafters that was there when i was there working at the cosmetic counter at the mall. i asked her politely did she quit and she said, "no, she's just not making enough $$$$"!

Just a couple months back i went on an interview with a high end residential firm and they asked me in the interview how much are you looking to be compensated? they were smiling up until the point i said low 40's haven't heard from them since.

Dec 26, 12 4:45 pm


Oh I see.  I think in general the paid is higher in the Bay Area but of course the cost of living is much higher too.  Well, I am not surprise she needs a second job cause the paid in our industry suck considered the schooling, money, efforts and time spent.  I definitely want to obtain my license but might go into a different but related field eventually.

Are you still looking for other opportunities now?  How is the job market in your area?  In the Bay Area is still pretty tough. 

Dec 27, 12 12:36 pm


No, i am no longer actively lQQking. My new design at this point is to:

1). Stay working as estimator / detailer (pay sucks but its a job)

2). Get my license( Before end of 2013)

3) Continue beefing up my revit know how

4) Redo my portfolio with just one project that speaks abt who i am, what i have done, am doing, and can do.

5). Hire my self if all that doesnt open up more worth wile opportunities

Dec 27, 12 12:57 pm

'non-profit arch firm in the city specializing in SRO renovation."

That's a fancy term for prisons, internment camps and humiliating undignified homeless shelters.

Dec 27, 12 1:18 pm

@J.James R:

I guess architecture school didn't teach you "when you don't have anything nice to say, you should just keep your mouth shut!"

Dec 27, 12 1:30 pm


Have you taken any ARE exams yet?  How is your Revit skills?

Dec 27, 12 1:32 pm


the site design will be my first exam, i have studied the past 8weeks, i just paid the balance of my idp off $150, and next week i will schedule to take the exam $210.

as far as revit i have never done an office or client paying project. i have just been through the tutorials, in which i try to beat the time each time i do them

Dec 27, 12 2:14 pm

I guess architecture school didn't teach you "when you don't have anything nice to say, you should just keep your mouth shut!"

what architecture school did you go to?  they teach the exact opposite at pretty much every school i've heard of.

Dec 27, 12 2:33 pm


"what architecture school did you go to?  they teach the exact opposite at pretty much every school i've heard of"

LOL! i second this motion

Dec 27, 12 2:52 pm

Who are you people?

38k? 8 weeks to study for Site Planning? 

Is this the B squad thread or what?

How is your revit skills, indeed.

Dec 27, 12 8:10 pm


im not one to make excuse's, so it is my own fault for going back to school at 26, it is also my on fault for getting married and having 3 children in the midst of finishing my undergrad and grad while holding down full time employment through out my academic career. its also my own fault for taking 8 weeks to study the first exam i will be taking in a few weeks while working 40hrs a week job, then home to fulfill my family obligations as a husband and father, and it my own fault for being involved in several community organizations to give back to my community.

i'm sorry nothing_is_everything

Dec 28, 12 11:03 am


Sound like a lot had happened in your life and you have accomplished so much.  No need to apologize!  We are all individual and we all have separate lives and decision to make each day.  This what make life interesting.   

Dec 28, 12 1:25 pm


Thanks, but i was only entertaining the inept comment of nothing_is_everything

Dec 28, 12 2:18 pm

we can throw a pity party if that's what you want; but all of your new supporting evidence only reinforces my bewilderment at the situation you've chosen to accept.   

i refuse to believe that you can support a family of 5 on 38k without major assistance.  your friend at the mall counter has the right idea.  if you can't find a sane salary in architecture with a professional degree, then get the hell out for the sake of your dependents and the sake of your colleagues in the profession who are trying to advance and take their careers in serious directions.  Your professional situation sounds like a grave violation of human/civil rights, and on top of that, you don't even enjoy what you are working on. 

Also, a few clarifications:

-Going back to school at 26 is more commonplace than unusual in architecture programs (my own class age avg. was 26)

-By saying you studied for 8 weeks implied you studied for 8 weeks.  In reality, you meant it took you 8 weeks of intermitent and spotty cram sessions to finish reading through the study material.  Good luck with the more challenging subject exams, including Structures and Building Systems - at your rate, that will take about 4-6 months each.  (Why is it important for you to be licensed, btw?)

-Being involved in several community organizations has contributed to your hardships as well?  What a martyr!  It sounds like you are just fulfilling NCARB's 40 or so odd hours of required community service on your path to complete your IDP hours.  Before you award yourself a medal, know that we all have the same obligations and you are not the only one who may choose to volunteer beyond professional duties.

Every decision you have spelled out in this thread has been your decision.  No one is holding a firearm to your temple to force you to inhumane conditions.  Take responsibility for your choices and man-up to a respectable position or consider other options that will provide speakable financial compensation, a degree of satisfaction, and a respect from your peers.    

Dec 30, 12 12:39 pm


initially i was going to ignore your daft and blindly prideful rant, but its to tempting for me, so.....

1) Lets remember you took the first swing here, and i love a good fight!

2) No, me and my family are not on Gov. assistance, my wife is employed full time as well. also if you chose to live a life within your budget and not trying to keep up with the Jones's (eating out everyday, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and $5 latte's) i don't mind driving a 12 year old vehicle. I do all my own auto maintenance(my father was an auto mechanic and i started working in his shop when i was10).

P.S. you may want to read Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Make over" or Lee Jenkins "Taking care of Business" & learn urself sumthin before exposing ur ignorance again

3) when it comes to volunteering work my friend, its a lifestyle for some and a chore for others. I grew up in a community of gangs, drugs, and prostitution. My older sister was raped and stabbed to death in a blighted property a few blocks away from my then home. so volunteering my time to protect someone else's daughter or child or maybe even you future child is more important to me than impressing someone with your mentality with a pity party or questioning my dedication to community service.  im home on these charts people like you are just visiting. i will not judge you for only fulfilling your IDP hours but its a marathon not a sprint.

4) last but not least "why do i want a license". This is the most retarded question / statement of all your inept pontification. (out side of referencing fire arms in the wake of such recent tragedy and heated debates over gun control) if i have to spend any time explaining this to you, you are a much bigger fool than i thgt. God Speed my friend and good luck with you career if you have one

Jan 2, 13 10:37 am

Putting words into my mouth?  Here we go again.

A)  I never said Gov. assistance.  I was referring to your wife (or family member) who seems to be the real hero here - making it possible for you and the rest of your family to live while you struggle (unnecessarily) to keep a mediocre job which you've stated you don't enjoy, at an unthinkably low wage.  If you don't wise up to the situation, one of your offspring will soon pass you up with one of those 'mall jobs.'  BTW... you might want to revisit that auto mechanic idea.  According to, the national average salary for automobile mechanics is $52,492!

2)  I'm not here to argue with you about your past.  Your story is a chilling tragedy. Yet, how in shit is that relevant here?  You've made your point that you enjoy volunteering as a lifestyle. That does not mean that everyone else thinks it a chore.  Your experiences volunteering with under-privileged youth are very personal and specific and in no way represent the breadth and diversity of experiences that other people (including myself) partake in and enjoy.

III)  I'm serious, why do you want a license?  In the face of all the adversity you are encountering, why is it more important to you than spending time with your kids?  It is a well-known fact that unlicensed professionals practice architecture and work directly with someone else who can stamp their drawings.

y) If we don't have a dialogue about gun control, the NRA will install armed guards at every one our schools. 

ZZ) I've always wondered what kind of suckers supported books like the ones you've cited.  Thanks for clearing that up.  I did a quick google search and found some advice that you should apply to your own (professional) situation:

“For your own good, for the good of your family and your future, grow a backbone. When something is wrong, stand up and say it is wrong, and don't back down.”
― Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

I would add, that you would be doing a service to your fellow architects and architects in training if you were to seek more out of your professional degree and career choice.


Thank you for the pleasure of responding,

 Yes, I have a career in architecture which I enjoy.  With the same number of years experience as you, I make a hair less than double your salary. I volunteer with the humane society, I am anti-firearms, and have one more exam  till I obtain a professional architecture license.  I do not have a spouse or children or a car.  I take public transportation to work.  I am a woman and I do not intend to let inequalities in the discipline interfere with my potential.

Jan 2, 13 4:23 pm


Honestly, from the depths of my heart, I wish you all the continued success in you career and all of your life endeavors.  Keep being a go getter and a wonderful example to us all

Thank you,

Jan 2, 13 6:03 pm
boy in a well

humane society, huh? lucky dogs.

Jan 4, 13 12:09 am

Firms are starting to hire again, but it still means they are in low-ball spirits.


I agree, 50k is fine at ENTRY level.  You should be around 60-70k.

Jan 9, 13 4:42 pm

humane society, huh? lucky dogs.

if we could 'like' posts, i would have totally 'liked' this one.

Jan 9, 13 5:10 pm

SF - entry level @53K? - I am here 4+ years All Revit and Revit 2013 and 42K 1099 at that

the programmers down the street make 80 - 120K - 

Jan 9, 13 5:45 pm

i think who if you like this work place you must keep close,but if you do not like him so much you can  search elsewhere because you must love your work otherwise  early you get tired!!

Jan 9, 13 6:43 pm

Xenakis - 

The unionized Valet Attendants in SF start at 80K.  Go join them.  (No degree needed.)  You are bringing down the median architecture pay scale (which many firms use as a litmus test for adequate salary) for the rest of us. 


Jan 9, 13 7:09 pm


You see - in the depths of the recession - I had no choice - 15 months w/o a job - I had to take what I could get or quit architecture - I was broke - NO EXCUSES - get a better job or leave

Jan 9, 13 7:43 pm

Personally, I would have taken a sabbatical/hiatus from architecture and done something else for a respectable salary.

So what are you doing now? The recession is almost behind us, there are job postings on AIA SF, and none of us are getting any younger.  You have more experience now, and there is more demand.

Jan 9, 13 7:59 pm

@Nothing is everything

Well, people have to do whatever they do to survive!  If you have a good job, good for you but not everyone is as lucky as you.


I heard you.  I was fortunate to find something within a few months once laid off.  I don't like my current job though because the people at my place are difficult to work with.  I have been looking for another one since two months ago.  One of the place I got an interview told me I was one of the top candidates and they have received 50+ resumes on the position.  It surely doesn't sound like the recession is behind us any time soon.  

Jan 9, 13 8:11 pm

spoken like a true coke-starved prostitute.  

Come on, you're better than that!

Jan 9, 13 8:32 pm

Yeah, you probably do have to be a prostitute to do well in architecture.  I am sure you are doing well.

Jan 9, 13 10:10 pm


Looking - going to SF-AIA meetings and ideate Revit User's Groups with all the activity in SOMA Fremont through 12th + over by Twitter - I don't want to miss out and get left behind the 8 ball - I have a good deal of PT Concrete Core and shell exp. 

Jan 10, 13 1:18 pm

Randolph, randolph! what Mortime, were back in business!!!!

Jan 11, 13 1:48 pm

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