Is minimum wage reasonable?


I need some advice people!

I am a CC student transferring into a prestigious school next semester. I was offered summer internship (2.5 months) with pay of minimum wage (8.50/hr) at a firm that I have already interned at for class credit last semester. I have been mainly responsible for a lot of Sketch Up work, rendering, some drafting, working in InDesign, Photoshop and etc. Do you think that minimum wage is reasonable? I would like to mention that I do not possess B.Arch, or a B.A. in Arch or anything of the like. Like I said, I'm a transferring student going into something related to Arch.   

If its not, then what would be okay to ask for in this economy. 

May 8, 13 3:52 pm

It is more than reasonable. Take it and don't look back.

There are tons of people with a lot more to offer who are offered a lot worse.

May 8, 13 4:06 pm

Thanks Jack Spelling, I was thinking the same thing. 

May 8, 13 5:08 pm

It is certainly not generous. Have you made more than that previously?

May 8, 13 6:05 pm

It's garbage. Minimum wage means if they could pay you less, they would. You are treated as unskilled labor. Have you tried asking for more? 

The economy has been heating up. Really crappy companies are due what's been coming to them for a long time now. 

May 8, 13 6:28 pm

go flip burgers at McDonald's for minimum wage.. little stress, no headaches after you punch out each day

May 8, 13 8:04 pm

Since I do not have any other employment lined up for the summer, I think it's not bad. 

May 8, 13 9:24 pm

Its not reasonable, but if you don't have better offers then take it. Its good for the resume and that's what matters in a field that still has 30% more graduates than it needs. But let me and others be clear when we say that it is not reasonable for a professional field to pay someone the same amount (or less) that you can make doing literally nothing as night staff at a grocery chain. I made more than that doing nothing but getting high in a windowless tech support office all summer with my friends when I was in school...

May 8, 13 10:00 pm

I think it depends on whether or not you need to make more than that. If you don't need the money, I would do it. Minimum wage is kind of a slap in the face though. Since you have already worked there, you're more familiar with the office and what they need than a new hire would be so I think that entitles you to more than min. wage. A few more dollars an hour may make no difference to them at all.

May 9, 13 11:46 am

This probably doesn't apply but I'll say it anyway...if I was an employer and my employee was trying to negotiate a decent salary and totally caved and accepted an obscenely low salary, I'd be concerned about how they would deal with negotiating client fees. And not just client fees but any situation that involved standing their ground.

May 9, 13 11:52 am


I don't really know if those two situations are comparable for a first time intern.  Interns lack leverage of any kind.  How can someone negotiate without leverage?  That comparison is better suited after a period of time developed within the field. 

An intern cannot turn down minimum wage because there are only 3 choices for an intern level employee... Minimum Wage, working for free in the name of experience, and unemployed.  If any position in a firm is the most competitive, it's the intern role.  Every May, a fresh crop of new recruits surfaces ready to scan or staple DC, forward submittals, draw toilets who are all desperate to land a position. 

That's not to say all firms have positions available either.  I even had a friend who's father couldn't hire him on at his own firm (owned and operated).  That had to be a great conversation.

May 9, 13 1:33 pm


This is shameful. You are doing a disservice to yourself and the profession if you take this position. They will bill the work you do for much much more. Min wage is essentially working for free.

I don't care what experience you have or do not have. You can find other jobs that pay better. You can take art classes. You can practice architecture on your own, try some competitions, sketch, travel, expand your mind. Learning from an office at this point really is not going to help prepare you for undergrad. In fact it will probably hurt you by constraining your thinking to means and methods practiced by that office. You will probably end up doing a lot of shit odd jobs. Fetching coffee, printing yadda yadda. One should expect to get paid more for a job like that. Who pays their secretary or office staff min wage? THIS IS 2013 ! 

You should learn now to respect yourself. Respect the effort that you will put into the job. Respect the job. 

May 9, 13 2:05 pm

I should have clarified this in the beginning, but minimum wage in CA is 8.00. So they are not paying me minimum wage but 50 cents more. Yay! 

Thanks for the input guys. I agree with what you're saying jarvvy. I do need to at least attempt to negotiate a higher pay and not accept the first thing they offer me. 

May 9, 13 2:26 pm

That is still WAY WAY TOO LOW! 

For reference the first job that I ever had in an architecturally relevant field. Was mostly hand drafting or more realistically cleaning up eraser marks and re-hatching shit by hand.

I was paid ten an hour. 15 years ago! In a depressed area of the Midwest. 

Min wage is for 14 year olds and their first job. If you set the precedent for yourself now, there is a good chance you will never overcome it. 

The argument that you have something to learn and nothing to offer is bullshit. You have plenty to offer; hustle, effort and other relevant experience from previous non-architecture jobs. Regarding learning: YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO LEARN. 

May 9, 13 2:47 pm

I would ask them for more. Minimum wage is insulting, whether you have your degree or not. 

May 9, 13 2:56 pm

Totally fair, experience should be your goal, not so much the pay. Minimum wage is in no way insulting, you expecting to be paid more, might be though.

May 9, 13 3:06 pm

here's an idea... take the job for minimum wage, and then keep looking.


School of thought... gain experience, broaden your search... at least you'll get paid something while you look.  Then, when you get a job that pays you $5 more, you can play the leverage game because THEN you actually have leverage.

If they don't play along, don't take it personally, they may not have been ready to expand.  Leave your bridges intact because you'll need to cross them many times.

Anyone who thinks minimum wage is insulting never worked hard.

May 9, 13 3:43 pm

Kevin, do you pay any of your employees min wage? Have you ever worked for minimum wage? While supporting yourself? 

It's incredibly short sighted to encourage this kind of behavior on both the part of the employer and employee. How do you justify your rate when paying someone so little?

I think its probably through an altruistic desire to teach and help up and coming people. But lets face it, the employer will not spend ALL of that time teaching the low paid employee. And if the employer was a good teacher they would probably have opportunities to work at an institution doing that or volunteer part time. The education that this employee would get will be misguided at best. 

Yes our profession has a rich history of apprenticeship. But this is not the middle ages and even then a true apprenticeship usually included room and board. Something min wage could hardly cover. 

The reality is if you are attempting to teach and run a productive office your will be doing neither. That is how this sort of thing is detrimental to both the individual and the profession.  

May 9, 13 3:57 pm

Yes, I was a minimum wage intern at one point. We hire summer help at just a little above minimum wage. This person has community college experience will be spending as much time training and hand holding as they will be producing. Since this person is probably not a bread winner of a family, and will be soon leaving to attend the big prestigious U...I think minimum wage....or what ever above that the employer is willing to pay is appropriate. I think unrealistic expectations are more detrimental to our profession than offering minimum wage toomeone who will require lots of attention.

Work, get real life experience, then expect more dough.

May 9, 13 4:25 pm

I understand your points. But let me counter.

If there is so little experience that the employer and employee can justify those types of rates then this is not the job for you. If you have to do that much training, then surely there is a detriment to your practice, time you could have spent towards a more productive end.

From the employees perspective there are much better ways to get that experience  Go work construction, learn a trade. We should not expect people to start their careers in an architecture firm. That leads to shitty architects with a very narrow perspective. 

By the time you are working in a firm you should be paid more. This type of low paying relationship really is detrimental. Our job is not to teach kids to walk. The teaching aspect of the profession has to be built on a certain core level of competences. If you don't have that then your right you cannot demand more, and you should not be seek a job in a firm. 

If you are hiring people at that rate then you are either taking advantage of them, and they do already have a certain level of competency or you playing teacher. 

May 9, 13 4:42 pm

If this person has the knowledge and experience to step right in and work relatively unsupervised, then of course the pay should reflect that. It is my guess, that this person with 2 years of community college, and very little practical office experience will not have that type of experience to demand greater worth. I think you are giving way too much worth to a 2.5 month internship, and over thinking this.

May 9, 13 4:52 pm

A 2.5 month internship makes it an even poorer learning opportunity. We don't expect tenure professors to also take a few preschoolers. They would spend all of their time getting them up to speed leaving no time for the higher education of the rest of the class. Your office is the same way. You'r not going to be teaching all the time. 

As the employee why not use that limited time to get a more diverse and arguably better experience that makes you more money?

As an employer why not think about having an office where the education you provide is oriented towards the long term development and advancement of of your organization?

It's still a bad deal for the profession and employee.

May 9, 13 5:07 pm

Thank you everyone for your input, especially Kevin W., and JonathanLivingston. However I would like to clarify again. I have been interning with this firm for 9 months now and 6 months in high school (for class credit and unpaid). I have been doing a lot of Sketch Up modeling, rendering, InDesign Work, design reviews and drafting. So its not like I have only two years of CC experience. I think I have extended experience in arch, when you compare to some. I just think I'm getting taken advantage of and I've had enough of it.   

May 9, 13 5:25 pm

Good for you, that's really great, experience is power. I'm still not convinced that $8.50 is being taken advantage of, but, you probably would not be too out of line asking for up to $10.00 per hour. This industry does not pay well in general, and jobs, while somewhat loosening up, are still damn hard to come by. Just be sure to consider the realities of still are a community college transfer. I don't in any way mean that in a negaitive way....hell my college career ended at community college. I'm old school apprentice route guy, who worked his way up from filing part time at 6.50 per hour, to project architect at one of the worlds largest firms. I apprenticed with two great architects, and did it for little pay. That's me, you be you. I'm sure that you will do well.

May 9, 13 5:53 pm

$8.50 an hour is practically unsustainable in the long run.

If the effective tax rate is about 12%, your bring home pay is around $299 a week ($1196 a month). If you use IRS cost-of-driving figure of $0.55 a mile and commutes the average distance of 25 miles, that person spends about $137 a week or commuting ($550 a month) by car. After transportation, that gives us a total of $646 a month net-income to cover room, board, healthcare and other personal expenses.

The kind of employee you'll end up who sustains themselves on that level of income will not become a better person by any measure.

May 9, 13 6:03 pm

Get a summer job in construction. Pay will be double and you'll pick up indispensable knowledge and experience directly related to architecture.

May 9, 13 6:12 pm

Is there demand for unskilled labor in the construction industry? If so it's worth a try, but the guys waiting in the parking lot at Home Depot will most likely get first nod.

May 9, 13 6:33 pm

Jarrvy : I think it depends on whether or not you need to make more than that. If you don't need the money, I would do it. Minimum wage is kind of a slap in the face though. Since you have already worked there, you're more familiar with the office and what they need than a new hire would be so I think that entitles you to more than min. wage. A few more dollars an hour may make no difference to them at all.

Totally agree with Jarrvy... If it was my second internship working for the company, I'd actually be offended if they gave me a pay similar to minimum wage.  I've done a few internships and my first pay was $15/hr, the next jumped to $18.50/hr and then $21/hr.

May 9, 13 6:39 pm

J.James.....I'm guessing this is not a sustainable's a 2.5 month internship. Next, I'm guessing this person lives at home during summer, and probably is still under parents insurance, health, car, everything. If this was a full time position beyond the expectations of a summer internship between CC and the big U...that of course would be different.

O.P. if I'm assuming incorrectly, let me know.

May 9, 13 6:40 pm

And remember, so far this person has no other offers or options..

May 9, 13 6:41 pm

The other option is partying all summer! Yes, I do live at home at this point but will be moving out when I go to U. I could work with my father in an unrelated field and get paid 2x more. 

May 9, 13 7:10 pm

You can use whatever criteria you want to justify hiring people at those types of rates. The economics might support it. You might be able justify it, but does that make it morally right? 

How many other work place scenarios can we apply that same logic to? Before long you end up with a sweatshop. But hey at least your giving them a job right? And i bet those sweatshops make some really good custom goods too right? 

The reason there is so much competition for those entry level jobs is that they are entry level jobs. A job in an architecture firm is not an entry level job and should not be paid entry level wage. We can continue to fuel a race to the bottom with "good intentions" but it really is short sighted, opportunistic behavior and we should demand better. It starts with our own practices and not taking the easy route of cheap labor, but rather one that properly values employees and fosters a true path for growth. In the end it will be reflected in the final product. 

May 9, 13 7:18 pm

The profit margins in the average firm are quite different than say WalMart, perhaps that is all the firm can afford. And I must disagree with you, 2 years of CC and 8 months of computer help still qualifies this person as entry level. JL what are you willing to offer this person?

I have had my share of new grads to oversee, and they are pretty entry level...their eventual value comes from practical knowledge, which is gained through doing.

May 9, 13 7:32 pm

So, then work for your father, and earn twice as much. Should it be your resposibility to see that the Architectural firm changes it's pay scales?

This is a larger issue in the industry...Architects want to demand higher fees. Architects through the years have become responsible for the fees dropping. Competition is beyond fierce, bringing fees even lower. Somewhere something has to give. Architecture (industry) is scrambling to find their lost relevance. Architecture is like the Republican party in many 8 track industry in an ipod world, and in disarray..the future does not look kind for our beloved profession. I think it somehow needs to find it's identity, and it's looking in the wrong places...but that's another topic...sorry for the ramble.

May 9, 13 7:42 pm

I'm willing to offer them nothing..... I do not have a need. That mentality might seem harsh but lets be honest about the situation. You are getting something from the "new grads" and for you to value you that equivalent to the market rate says a lot about how you value the work your doing. 

yes margins are tight for a lot of architecture firms. This mentality is the reason they are so tight. It is pervasive. We cannot expect people to value the work we are doing if we do not value it yourself. This begins with employees. 

Do you value the work your firm does based on the market rate? Are your bids simply the result of time and materials? There will always be someone who will do it cheaper, just like there will always be someone willing to work for less. Ultimately we must decide where our values lie.

May 9, 13 7:44 pm

And Kevin I just want to apologize if my comments seem to be a personal attack. This is a topic that I feel strongly about. I don't mean for my comments to be directly aimed at you. 

I think this change starts with us. There are many opportunities along the way from start up to success to define where our values lie. The idea that our compensation rates just like our our fees are governed by market forces and the need to be competitive has done a great disservice to this industry. 

If we all want to change this situation it comes down to the employers. Growth must be done in a way that values the employee and then we can begin to appropriately value the final product. 

May 9, 13 7:55 pm

No apologies necessary, It didn't even cross my mind. Just a good old fashion discussion as far as I'm sound like someone I would enjoy having a few brews with, well done.

May 9, 13 8:00 pm

I used to say this when I ask for the amount I consider non-insulting and truly reflective of my capabilities and efforts: “I must first respect my own value, before others will recognize and respect my value.  This is what I believe I’m worth….”  I used to honestly believe this, and it has worked out with my own salary negotiations. 

However, on project level, I had potential client say “OK, we respect that you respect yourself, but we are going with the cheaper offer. Sorry, and good luck to you.”  And at the large firm I work at, the practice of low balling to “buy work” is also very prevalent.

I don’t agree that this discussion has any bearing on moral or ethics.  Let’s not forget that we are all in the BUSINESS of architecture.  From firm owner’s point of view, one must try to pay as low as possible that is still satisfactory and engaging to the employees you intent to keep.  From employee’s point of view, one must try to push for as high as possible an amount that does not break the deal. 

Negotiation is a skill gained via practices, not a moral choice.  You shouldn’t be insulted, it’s not personal, it’s all about what you can get away with and what you allow the other party to get away with.

May 9, 13 8:05 pm

Yes negotiation is a skill that takes a long time to master. I too have had the “OK, we respect that you respect yourself, but we are going with the cheaper offer. Sorry, and good luck to you.” response. You have to have thick skin and be willing to let more then a few projects walk away. In the end it has been my experience that those are not the types of projects I enjoy working on anyways. Lets not let the "BUSINESS" of architecture devolve to the basic of a service. Ultimately we are talking about a final product and the value that product has as a commodity is in no way tied to the production costs of that product. It is our job to articulate to the client that value. That's how we get out of "buying work".  I believe that it's easier to articulate that value when you have already established it yourself and with your employees. 

May 9, 13 8:23 pm


I hear you.  Yet, I feel what you are saying is part of the problematic thinking that contributes to our profession’s being a “bad” business.  There’s this belief that we can somehow convince / articulate our value and have the paying party (client) magically agree to it.  While in any other business, the value of any commodity and service is what the market agrees it has.  It really doesn’t have much to do with the effort went into producing it.  I’m sure some farmer feels it’s a “slap on the face” that the produce they’ve lovingly grown sells at low price, but that doesn’t stop you and I from flocking to the grocers when their produce goes on sale.  Nobody feels that there is any moral obligation to pay 2 bucks for an apple.  And if it’s somehow lower than that, we don’t make the ethical choice to boycott the stores.  Architecture is a business same as other businesses.  What makes us exempt from economics?

May 9, 13 8:41 pm


I don't know if I would go so far as to say that we should be exempt from economics. Perhaps it would be better stated that the value of our product and the economics of the situation are what is in negotiation.

To take your produce example. I would argue that there has been a huge resurgence in small local and sustainable farming that has been brought about through the articulation of the kind of value they can bring compared with large conglomerate agriculture. While people do not feel a moral obligation to pay 2 bucks for an apple there are some who will pay that because they find additional value in: The lack of pesticides, care in handling, quality of taste, size, color, environmental impact, and social impact of that apple. 

I would like to see a similar resurgence in the world of architecture. So, yeah 7 times out of ten someone will probably still go with the cheap apple. But wouldn't you like one with all that extra value? What are you willing to pay, above and beyond the price of a mass produced, pesticide laden and bruised apple, to have it?

That added value is not just a marketing scheme. It is a different way of thinking about how the product is cared for, nurtured and produced. 

That is where a comfortable profit and a sustainable business exist. It begins with the methods of production, and to bring thing back to the conversation over wages, how can we claim to have a superior product when the methods and minds used to produce them are as cheap as the market will allow? The reason we should pay our employees more is because with better employees we can have a better product and more easily articulate that value beyond what the market has set. 

May 9, 13 9:29 pm


I told them that I wouldn't work for $8.50 and asked for $10. They said they would meet me half way and offer $9.25.

I took the position. 

May 23, 13 2:02 am

goof job, congrats!

May 23, 13 12:27 pm

Good for you!  Feel fortunate to even have a job ( sadly )

Still terribly low IMO, however nowadays employers get to jerk everyone around and take their pick from the herd - so you're lucky you even have the job.  To me, it is very unfortunate that employers take advantage like this and do not demonstrate they value their employees.  This doesn't allow the economy to improve, it helps to hinder it. 

To offer minimum wage, or close to it, pay rates for jobs that require skilled knowledge in programs like CAD, technical drawing, and such, is very shameful for the employer.  Even if you do not know much in the field, you still needed training in those programs / methods of drawing, etc. You have to pay and invest to learn those.  Surely that is worth more than $1 or $2 extra?  - especially with even a small amount of prior interning experience?    It is not the same as going to to get a min wage job to fill tacos.

I had an interview where they specifically told me that they don't want to invest in a person until they know they will stay because they have a high turnover... well, with the pathetic rate they were offering ( which was much lower than what average entry level pay for this job was supposed to be ) maybe they wouldn't have such a high turnover if they offered a livable wage.

May 27, 13 1:43 pm

it really just comes down to basic economics.  there are too many "suppliers" and not enough "buyers", so the price goes down.

fix one:  labor unions, price floors, government regulation.  while this makes one group (architects) benefit, society and the economy as a whole will technically suffer.

fix two:  let the market sort itself out, forcing many existing and prospective architects to leave the profession, eventually forcing the price higher.

So there you go architects, unionize and/or get the AIA to pull some political strings (architect required for all residential construction anyone?), or let the profession thin itself out.  as unethical as it may seem, minium wage wherever this guy lives is the market value of a person with his skill set, otherwise it wouldn't be offered.

May 27, 13 2:03 pm

hey guys how about a fresh grad of Archi(w/ 3 months intern experience) offered to be an intern for 300$ / mo stipend for 3 months. is it fair? 


"I had an interview where they specifically told me that they don't want to invest in a person until they know they will stay because they have a high turnover... well, with the pathetic rate they were offering ( which was much lower than what average entry level pay for this job was supposed to be ) maybe they wouldn't have such a high turnover if they offered a livable wage."

i feel you sir, this also happend to me. I apply for a position such as a draftsman/junior designer. then after 1-2 months they reply via e-mail saying that they need their new employees to undergo a 3 months w/ 300$ allowance or stipend as they call it intern first before they'll put them on a salaried position. 

May 27, 13 4:06 pm

Backbay89, foolish over regulation is the problem. Interns are paid shit because of Idp creates an unfair dependency and gives the employer the upper hand. Requiring an architect for residential is a stupid idea and its the kind of thinking that turned this profession into shit.  Regulation cannot be used as professional protectionism.  It is unconstitutional and also does not work. Architects have been trying to protect the Title with all this protectionist bullshit and because of this we created an environment where the stamp is sought rather than the knowledge. We reduced ourself to nothing more than another beurocratic obstacle.  Competition is the only way to fix this shit. Let young people get licensed easier and enter the arena. First step is to form an intern union and create a class action suit against ncarb. Interns would likely win unless ncarb could prove that Idp protects the public which is impossible because it is a non reactionary regulation. They will lose. The courts very often rule against protectionist regulation.  

May 28, 13 12:31 am

The courts, like the government, are owned by corporate interests. A large amount of this nonsense is driven by insurance companies.

"an environment where the stamp is sought rather than the knowledge" ++

And where education ignores practical training in a highly technical field. Go figure.

May 28, 13 9:07 am

I always get a good laugh when people on this forum rant about "protectionist" practices by the likes of NCARB, AIA, etc. If that we're even remotely reality, then the guys paying protection money - presumably the evil "firms" - aren't getting much bang for their buck.

I've been practicing for a VERY long time. In my whole career I've never seen competition for new work as fierce as it is today. Ask any firm principal you can find - you'll get the same answer.

Of course, another way to assess the reason that intern wages are so low is a) low fees - driven by intense competition - restrain what firms can afford to pay; b) many young graduates emerge from the academy with few skills of real value to firms; and c) firms are saddled with the expense of teaching young graduates what they were not taught in college.

But hey - that's just my view. I really hate to get in the way of another poorly informed rant.

May 28, 13 10:20 am

Really. So please tell me how Idp has helped the profession or the overall quality of architecture.  Is the world safer.  The only beneficiaries seem to be existing architects.  They get highly educated and skilled grads and get to pay and treat them as interns - a term usually reserved for people still in school.  

May 28, 13 11:53 am

The funny thing is that when you pay people shit and create an environment where upward mobility is limited, you end up degrading the profession and the perceived value of the title.  

May 28, 13 11:59 am

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