Jr. Architect Compensation in China


Just spoke to a recruiter about a Chinese firm interested in hiring me as a Jr. Architect. What is a reasonable rate to expect? Please provide the rate in RBM and $'s. Thanks!

Feb 22, 13 8:42 am

Im currently working in Shanghai here is the short answer

4000-8000 rmb a month if you 0-2 years experience,

im making about $15,500 USD a year, .. and i also work for a pretty good company...[good benefits, bonuses, paid overtime,paid lunches]

enough for China, but im certainly not getting rich over here, esp when i decide to go back home....

and heres the long answer

Feb 22, 13 11:40 pm

anywhere between 4,000 - 40,000 rmb/month. hope that helps!

Feb 23, 13 9:05 am

evan you've quoted these numbers before...

but ive been here for 6 months, and have met LOTS of foreign architects at varying levels of experience... and  i dont know a single one making even nearly 40,000 rmb... do you? or is this just something you've heard or read??  just curious

Feb 23, 13 10:16 am

just rumors. 

More realistic numbers for Shanghai: 8,000 - 30,000. Still a huge range.

Feb 24, 13 10:14 pm

Yah, it could be 40,000 but this should be for highly innovative person. That I guess he should win at least 2 competition each year.

Normally any figure from 5000 to 15,000 is a reasonable pay in shenzhen here. the tier 1 city in china is beijing, shanghai, shenzhen.

Feb 26, 13 12:40 am

Evan and Brittany...

Don't mean to hijack the thread here but.. what's the best way to get an entry level position in either Beijing or Shanghai? Is it easy to score one without being in the country? Also, what are the odds of landing a job within say 2 months if I were to just move over?

For reference, I'm a fresh grad with a MA from Australia with a great portfolio.


Feb 28, 13 7:01 am

Hey iamzap, i will give you the way i did it... 

PS evan was a huge help to me when i was considering moving over.. 

so to pay it forward you are welcome to PM or email me with any questions you might have, and i will do my best to answer.

As for the questions you've already asked here you go

what's the best way to get an entry level position in either Beijing or Shanghai?

*warning i have no idea if this is the best way

- the difference between my situation and yours, is that i didnt come alone, i came with my girlfriend, well she came a week and a half before me, shes teaching here with EF, and her job set her up in a hotel for free, and gave her a loan of about 10,000 rmb to cover deposits, and 2 or three months rent (what most apartments require up front), we paid that off in about 2 or 3 months.  So if you do not that this cushion you can always stay in a hostel, till you find an apartment (mingtown near East Nanjing is super cheap $7US a night...and very clean)  So to cover you ass when you get there as far as money is concerned i would recommend bringing about 15,000-20,000 rmb thats about $3,500 USD 

Three days before i got on the plane to meet my GF in Shanghai, i was basically glued to my computer applying to almost every firm in the city and looked at many chinese job boards this resulted in about 75 portfolios sent out.  i started to get replies from a few, and i let them know when i was moving to Shanghai, (most told me to contact them when i got in the city)  

I landed in Shanghai and slept a day, and then started contacting those firms that had expressed interest in meeting me, 

a couple later i was going on interviews, and by the end of the week, i had secured a job.

I dont know how easy it is a score a job without being in the country, because by the time the companies wanted to meet me i was on my way i China, i have heard that some companies will do Skype interviews, but you will be able to negotiate a better salary face to face.

your last question

Also, what are the odds of landing a job within say 2 months if I were to just move over?


I think coming without a job in hand is not totally a crazy thing, its what i did, and i have heard of others doing the same. I know alot of foreign architects and none are unemployed or struggling to look for a job, a few have even gotten several job offers.. and been able to choose where they wanna work.. so come on over and give it a try i say

how is the market in Australia? are you an economic refugee or just want something different?


OH i forgot ... the BIGGEST thing.. if you come without a job is getting a VISA will be your biggest hurdle and staying legal once you are here ... if you have any questions about this. you can feel free to email me .


Feb 28, 13 7:28 am

So, obviously your mileage may vary. It's hard to sum up "China" in a few-hundred-word post. The best advice i can offer is "just try it! why not?"

But, for reference, here's what my experience was, coming to Shanghai in 2010.

I graduated in 2009 and took a job as a junior architect at Fuksas in Rome (see other thread). After 9 months I'd had enough, and started looking around for other opportunities. The US job market was, perhaps, at the lowest point of the recession, and all the job listings I saw online were in Beijing or Shanghai, so I decided to apply to a handful of firms. I had a few Skype interviews, several promising, but all the companies wanted to meet face to face, so I scheduled a 'vacation' to go to China for a week of sightseeing and interviews. (I realize not everyone can afford to take a week off and fly to China for face-to-face interviews, so I consider myself lucky for that). 

I spent about three days in Shanghai, sightseeing and going on one-two interviews per day, then I went to Beijing, immediately decided I wasn't interested in living there, cancelled my interviews and went to the Great Wall instead. I returned to Shanghai, had one more job interview, then flew back to Rome a week after I arrived in China. This was 2010, right before the Shanghai Expo, by the way, and there was a palpable sense of progress in the air... plus plenty of concrete dust....

From the five interviews I went on, I got three job offers. I decided to move to China, put in my notice at Fuksas, and flew out to Shanghai about a month later.

My initial offers ranged from 8,000 rmb per month to 15,000. After 6 months working, I got a pretty substantial raise, and incremental cost-of-living increases since then. 

In the run-up to the Expo 2010, visa regulations were pretty relaxed, and the job market was on fire. It's cooled down a bit now, but there are still plenty of jobs available for expats with a "western" education, both in local Chinese-run firms and big international companies.

There is a huge differential in pay between local and international firms, related, of course, to the size of projects they're able to get. But the good news is Shanghai is a very "choose your own adventure" city... you can live comfortably on 8,000 a month (noodle shops, subway, tsingtao from the corner store) or on 30,000 (french cuisine, taxis, belgian beers at a bar). Whatever your pay rate, you can dial-in a comfortable lifestyle. 

The visa issue is a complicated one, and I think it's harder now than it was when I moved here (relaxed rules during Expo 2010). Local companies may make you figure it out on your own. Large international firms will usually help you with this, and (usually) pay for any "visa runs" to HK. 

So, I guess, to conclude, it's not at all crazy to move first and hope to find a job - you'l most certainly be able to find something within a few weeks. Getting the visa sorted, and finding a job you enjoy is another story, but once you get here you'll figure it out. I had the luxury of coming for a week of interviews and vacation to 'test it out' but I have many friends who just took the leap and moved to China on a whim. It's one of the most dynamic and interesting countries in the world today, in the midst of a fascinating period of transformation, and witnessing that firsthand is an incredible experience.

Feb 28, 13 10:07 am

Thank you guys. I appreciate the detailed response from the both of you. It will definitely help me in making my final decision. 

Brittany, your figures were very helpful. I am definitely looking into seriously making the move. To answer your question, the economic climate for Architects in Australia is pretty bad especially if you are a fresh graduate looking for an entry level position. Most of the guys who graduated with me are either still unemployed or getting short term contract work. So I am definitely looking to leave for economic reasons but probably more than that, just a change of scenery. Shanghai sounds like a great place, and I love what Evan said about the country being a "choose your own adventure city". Its probably THE city I would move to if I can get my head around making the great leap..

Like Evan, I've had a couple of Skype interviews with international firms but no concrete offers. There is also the issue of the two year experience required for the work visa which I've read about in another thread. I've got about 16 months from internships and whatnot, so I'm not sure if that will be a real issue.

Also, I am of Chinese ethnicity but I do not speak a lick of Chinese. Have you had any experiences with foreign born Chinese architects? Is it frowned upon by the locals?

Another question I had was, what type of work are you doing? I've heard and read all kinds of stories about foreign designers doing mostly sketch design for projects. Is this true? My concern is that, working on only sketch design for a local firm will make me highly unemployable in 5 years time should I decide to return home or to Europe or even States without any experience past DD. One of the firms I had an interview with was an international office about 30 strong and they said that they did everything up to CD too, but I'm not sure if this would be true if working for a smaller office. 

I guess I am just worried about what the future holds for architects leaving China. I'm sure I will enjoy the experience but I do not see myself working there for more than 4-5 years. 

Mar 2, 13 2:00 am

iamzap, your question about "sketch design" is interesting. As I guess you've heard, foreign architects in China only go through SD or DD. The government-affiliated LDIs (Local Design Institutes) prepare all the final construction drawings. Some foreign firms will prepare "CD-level" drawings, to ensure the LDIs get the details right, but this is not required. As a foreigner, yes, you're likely to be on the 'concept' side of things. I wonder about this, too - how valuable is experience in China, when the scope of an architects work is limited in this way? I don't know the answer, but experience in China must look better than unemployment or odd jobs back at home.

Mar 3, 13 9:27 pm

You will have some issues with your visa, but if you run into problems you can send me an email, and i can tell you how i solved my visa issues...

as far as being foreign chinese, i dont know that many only knew one, that came here.

and only stayed or about 2 months, but he told me that he felt like it hindered him from getting a teaching job, but i think with architecture, that it would be such a problem, they dont care what you look like as long as you are a clear foreigner and were educated outside of China, i know some firms (and also with my own) they will take a foreigner along on business trips, just to show they have foreigners..(it makes them look good).. even though alot of times the foreigner has nothing to do in the meeting, and you just sit there for hours while everyone speaks Chinese... maybe you wont get to be that guy that gets to go.. but otherwise i dont think its a problem.

It is true as a foreigner you do alot of design work, my firm does alot of construction documents (bc its a chinese firm) but i dont do them personally, mainly because i dont write chinese and also i dont know all the chinese construction laws and what not, and there is no English manual to consult, so they dont bother to have you do those kinds of things..

i agree with Evan, experience is better than NO experience, but i also wonder about the transition i made a thread here asking about that very thing..

here is the link:

my advice, is that even though you maybe in China, keep abreast as to what firms are looking for in your country... and practice things on the side..


like i dont use revit here in china, but i know when i go back to the US its almost an across the board requirement, so i will learn this on my own time to make sure i stay marketable

Mar 3, 13 11:26 pm

Honestly, just sell ur self and your portfolio. Plenty of opportunities in China (based on my experience in Shanghai for the last 3 years).

Your best bet would be to work for a firm on SD and CD phases (maybe some DD too) which requires, some autoCAD, good illustrator/indesign/photoshop and rhino is a big help.

I have about 3 years experience but only my bachelor degree. getting around 15k after tax. Which apparently is pretty good for my credentials. Point being, end of the day sell your portfolio and show that you are an asset that they should pay for.

Mar 4, 13 3:12 am

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