What am I worth (salary wise)


Without disclosing my current salary what would you pay someone with these job duties:

Unlicensed, about 1/2 through IDP with 3 years experience, masters degree, working in a project architect/project manager type role.

Responsible for all aspects of the project from design through construction. I'm the primary client contact and am responsible for coordinating & selecting the GC, subs, consultants and have one person who helps me with drafting & rendering. I also draft when I'm not answering emails or on conference calls which often take up most of my day.  Also serve as occasional revit support in the office as we make the transition (there is a bim manager that I help occasionally). 

Have very little support from principals and at times travel independently (requires getting on an airplane) for meetings on the job site with the project team.  

My annual review is coming up and I'm trying to decide if I need to bring up an increase in salary for the upcoming year - will probably bring it up regardless but I'd like to be prepared with some numbers that are realistic. Cost of living is an issue but I'm not living in NYC or San Francisco so it's not the biggest concern I have. (coughstudentloanscough)  I've been through the recent AIA compensation report too for what it's worth. 

Aug 29, 13 12:24 pm

cheaper city:  about 44-50k

more expensive city:  about 47-56k

Aug 29, 13 12:46 pm

Med's numbers are pretty good. You are doing way too much and wearing a lot of hats with 3 years of experience. Without knowing what type and size of projects you are working on, if you are in LA or San Francisco, you are doing very good if you are making 45k in the current market. Salaries in cheaper cities are usually 10% to 15% less. Are you on the right track?

Aug 31, 13 6:56 am

you should be over40K, Check the budgets on the projects you are working on, are your projects profitable? if yes then ask for a bigger piece of the pie, if no be careful you may price yourself out of a job.

Aug 31, 13 10:13 am

Other lesser professions make more than us because they sell themselves better.  I would tell your next client that $xxx,000 is your monthly rate.   If they pay, then you're worth it.  If they don't, then move on to someone who pays you WHAT YOU WANT.  Forget what everyone else tells you, it is all about what you can command.

Aug 31, 13 3:12 pm


These questions need answering: The city, the size of firm, the building typology, size of project, the size of the budget, are you truly running SD, DD, CD, and CA; who is on your project team, what are their roles, are your 3 years only with your current firm? 

There is a red flag in your email. Three years of experience isn't enough time to develop into a project architect / program manager role unless the projects are extremely small with a quick turn around.

Be careful. The lack of information on your current project scope, type and budget indicates that you may be operating in a job captain position with alot of leeway.

Its better to be a heck of a Job Captain with three years of experience and a clear understanding as to what it takes to develop and move into a project architect / program manager role over the next 3-5 years, than overstating your current situation. Overstating your role title and level of experience on other job interviews can make you seem isolated and out of touch with a deeper understanding of quality professional development.

That said, I'm also all for people who create their own positions, don't measure themselves against the herd, create their own capabilities / opportunities and ask to be paid accordingly.

Equally important as salary would be: Are you are the right firm with the right people to develop into the kind of architect you want to be, working on the type of architecture that excites you. Find a job description on an AIA job board or archinect of a project architect role in the 5-7 or 7-10 year experience range for a firm that has the personnel size, building typology and scale of projects that excites you. Use this as a reference guide and start talking with project architects you respect about how to take control of your professional development. Use this information to negotiate where you think you are and where you want to go within your firm.

You seem capable enough to figure out where you should be salary wise. But without the information outlined at the beginning of this email, there is no way to indicate a fair range.

Good luck with your upcoming performance review!


Sep 1, 13 11:27 am

One final and very important question....(drum rolll).. Do you look good in a skirt?

Sep 1, 13 12:06 pm

aplee.arch  - I am aware i'm wearing a lot of hats for only 3 years experience. I have other friends who have worked in very small firms like me who have been in similar situations.  It's partially why I started this thread and why i'm re-evaluating my salary.  I'm young and doing a lot more than I thought I would when hired so I'm trying to balance lack of experience with my large amount of responsibility.  

Sep 2, 13 7:38 pm

We get f*cked ask for what you want. Architects are so highly educated compared to our friends and yet so under paid we need to do something about it oh and arch graduate school cost about 100k the world is f*cked.

Sep 2, 13 8:39 pm

Any arch grad has the metal capacity to do law [x10] or medicine or other careers that pat we get so screwed. Time to revolt.

Sep 2, 13 8:42 pm
won and done williams
What do you think you are worth? From your post it sounds like you have a pretty good idea.
Sep 2, 13 8:47 pm

Any arch grad has the metal capacity to do law [x10] or medicine or other careers that pat we get so screwed. Time to revolt.

This is a major problem with the attitude of some architects. They think that we are so much smarter and better than everyone else, which causes major problems when working with other trades and professions, which is funny because so much of our job revolves around utilizing the knowledge and information from other professions.

If you go the route of a B. Arch, you go to school for 5 years, one more than the average 4 year Bachelors degree. A lawyer goes for 4 years plus 3 extra years at the minimum, a doctor for 4 years plus 4 extra years at the minimum. They go to school for at least 2 extra years from the minimum amount for an Arch. degree, which amounts to a lot of extra loans. I'm not saying we are compensated close to what we should be, but I do understand why Doctors and Lawyers are paid more, especially Doctors, since they have people's lives in their hands.

If you go to school for an unrelated major and then have to do a 3-4 year M. Arch following a bachelors, that is your own choice when you could have done the 5 year B. Arch. We have more education than some, and we deserve more respect and better pay, but doctors and lawyers deserve respect as well. 

Sep 3, 13 10:46 am

or as one recruiter said " there are just too many of you"

Sep 3, 13 12:11 pm

So many good points mentioned. Yes we should respect each other no matter what your professional job or lack of. These past almost ten years have severely affected all people involved in design jobs. Companies architecture Inc's continue to make profits for at least the past 2 years. During this recession we accepted jobs no matter what the pay scale. Who can forget how terrible it was in 2007 to 2010. Companies hired us at a lower wage during the recession and don't expect them to offer you more now. You need to move on if you feel you are highly underpaid. I know I am. There are so many many economic dinam ics unique to architecture. A surplus of architecture interns willing to work for 12 dollars an hour. Even during the hardest economic times Architecture programs were packed with students. And banks were happy to approve student loans. People fall in love with the romance of architecture. Sad but true. So companies will continue using dozens of fresh bodies to get the job done. The more experienced architects can't be taken advantage of in pay. They are irreplaceable to a certain degree. This is an old song heard it too many times. Analize your situation and as hard as it may seem you might just have to move on. PS lawyers only go to law school for 3 years after a 4 year degree in anything. Doctors get a bachelors in a related major then about 4 years of graduate college. Followed by about 5 to ten years learning in the field. Yes they deserve respect but we architects also protect the public, and it takes us about 10 years to be fully competent architects. I'd say 8 years after architecture college is the standard amount of time to truly be competent. I'm not even talking about the license because we all know that the license does not mean you are a competent architect. Anyways that's it. It is what it is.

Jul 31, 14 6:05 am
pale shelter

Any arch grad has the metal capacity to do law [x10] or medicine or other careers that pay - we get so screwed. Time to revolt.

Laughable... and a disgrace to professions that are in fact very difficult and for those who are in general very driven and intellectual.

Having a family network of several doctors and several lawyers, I've seen their study materials, their books, their countless hours of studying. SORRY but countless hours in studio and drawing pretty ground-figure drawings does not equate to intelligence, important information gained or jumping some hurdle of excellence. I was "weeded out" of engineering school because of the advanced math and physics.. perhaps it bored me too death. Either way; my 2.5 engineering GPA turned into a 3.8 ARCH GPA from a top 10 institution.. the transition to 'real science' subjects in architecture was a cake walk. Our degree and coursework is NOT on par with real advanced degrees like engineering, medicine or law.  Noone can understand the realities of others, or the extent of their studies until you yourself are engaged in them.

We make shit pay and do not have the responsible or RISK involved to make economic gains;BECAUSE ; we are not narrowly focused in our expertise and did not gain advanced knowledge that takes years to attain.  The barrier of entry is quite easy in architecture. We are jacks of all trades architects. Get over it.  It is a vague degree and it borders on science/art. No reason AT ALL for more than 4 years in college.

Jul 31, 14 5:08 pm
Non Sequitur

Pale Shelter, rather on point but I've still see people leaving school with top grades who still can't put together CDs. Perhaps another side to this is the plethora of graduates with little transferable skill in the working world. But I think this is why so many bash their heads against the wall repeatedly screaming that they are equal or better to everyone else with comparable length of schooling: Confusion.

Everyone gets a gold star in studio courses but I wonder how many would happily work 80+ hours a week in studio designing strip-malls and generic office complexes...

But, why is this resurrected anyways? The OP is surely long gone from this by now. I'm ready to bet that with only 3 years xp and half IDP, he got a 90k raise.

Aug 1, 14 8:24 am


Are you out there? Curious what happened with your salary negotiation?

Aug 1, 14 9:27 am

As far as Doctors and Lawyers go... next time one highlights the importance of these professions (or any other professions) ask yourself how many of these people do their work out in open fields.

Difficult to practice law or medicine without a building to do it in.  Farmers.  They can work outside.  Circus people.  They can work outside - kind of.  Would it be impossible to get a medical degree without a building to study in? Youbetcha. Who were the philosophers that walked around shouting at people in the street?  You can do that outside.  The problem with people not wanting to work 80+hours a week on strip malls is that the people they work for will still only want to pay them for 40 hours. 

Architecture, place-making, and shelter are the things that make civilization possible.  Medicine and Law may help sustain civilization, but civilization doesn't exist without architecture.  Look at the barbarous areas of the world.  Impermanence of place breeds barbarity.  Now law can take hold in places where there are no places.

Lawyers and doctors should pay architects a monthly "Thank you" fee (especially the lawyers-there's no property law without property) for continued use of the buildingsthey use and shelter from the rain.

Aug 1, 14 10:03 am
Roark’s Revenge

i like the way you think Menona

Aug 1, 14 11:03 am
pale shelter

Menona... i think you're building on what previous posters meant in saying "this is a major problem with the attitude of some architects"... (but I take it your being facetious)

Don't forget, every building you touch with your designer ferry dust, is brought to you by an Owner or tax payer money,  or corporations, etc...and laborers and contractors and crane operators... Don't you find it odd how obsessive architects are over the buildings they  designed ... as if they own them and are entitled to their existence? ... "civilization doesn't exist without architecture" is a huge claim.  I suppose we then dismiss the central plains Indians for having a mobile tipi community. 

Aug 1, 14 11:35 am

No I don't think I was being facetious.  I think I was inflating the issue in such manner so that it would be more apparent.

I don't think that the "civilization" claim is that huge, really.  I think it's rather basic.  Permanence of Place allows civilization to begin.  I would offer the distinction that Law and Medicine (as we know it) are results of Civilization, and Civilization doesn't exist without Permanence of Place (Architecture). 

I would say the central plains Indians are/were tribal.  Medicine and Law in tribal communities are more a part of, and result of, custom and small localized interpersonal relationships. 

Law and Medicine in Civilization are the products of Philosophy and Experiment.  These are abstract entities that only exist when a human being is displaced from his position within Nature.  He can then consider the problems abstractly (what is the nature of Justice) rather than localized concrete problems (Billy killed Bobby: what should we the tribe do with Billy?).

And (I'm going to be a jerk right now) it's fairy dust (sorry - can't let it go, but only a friend will tell you there's spinach in your teeth).  There would be no taxpayer, or contractor, or corporation, or crane, or crane operator without Civilization.  There would be no Civilization without permanence of place.  There is no permanence of place without Architecture.

To counter your premise, (here comes the jerk again) so go get a Corporation, some Taxpayers, some contractors, and crane operators.  Put them in a room (you're welcome for having a room) and tell them to build a building.  What they'll say (the Contractors) is, "Where are the plans?  Whadda ya mean there are no plans?  We need to call an Architect."  The architect makes all others' livelihoods possible.  The Architect makes the resultant lives enjoyable.

I'm sure most members of plains Indian tribes these days don't live in tipis.  I say that though I've never seen a plains Indian.  I don't dismiss them - they just don't exist in nomadic, tipi cultures any more.  The Native Americans that do exist in large numbers these days are the ones that were generated from the Aztec and Inca populations.  And they built cities. 

Sorry, this is all way OFF topic from the OP question.  And that all wasn't meant to be "Rant-y" so I hope it doesn't read that way.

Aug 1, 14 12:31 pm
If you think all of that is true, I would tell you to read Jared Diamonds book "Guns, Germs, and Steel". I can't say I agree with him entirely but, civilization is everywhere. It doesn't mean it is an advanced civilization. Civilization happens when tribes are no longer nomadic hunter-gatherers. I agree that civilization is brought forth by permanence, however, architecture is not the main cause of permanence.
Aug 1, 14 12:48 pm
Or, if you don't want to read the book you could watch the documentary.
Aug 1, 14 12:49 pm

I would add to CDArch:

Architecture isn't the cause of permanence.  I would say it's one of the very first signifiers that permanence is being established.  Then it re-feeds that permanence by creating something in a place that people want to invest in protecting.  They want to protect it because they have invested their -what - uh, "Existential capital" (I made that up) in manifesting that permanence with Architecture.  Really the most important people in Civilization are the Garbage Men and the Water and Sewer department.  Without them you can't build anywhere because it stinks too bad to stay after a month.  And then everybody dies from drinking water from their toilet.

Aug 1, 14 1:12 pm
Non Sequitur

CD.Arch, good recommendation on Diamond's book.

Aug 1, 14 1:29 pm

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