An architect creates detailed designs and plans for office buildings, homes and other types of structures. She typically has at least a bachelor’s degree in the field, and may have additional training as well. Many architects are self-employed, while others work for architectural firms or developers. This job can provide a very good living, but it may also require more hours than the average career, since architects sometimes have to work nights and weekends to meet project deadlines. For those who enjoy this type of work, it can be a rewarding field.
The salary for a beginning architect depends in part on where she works, since some areas of the country, such as California and New York, typically pay higher wages. A few states, including Mississippi, North Dakota and Maine, have the lowest wages in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 the lowest paid 10 percent of all architects nationwide received just under $43,000 per year. These are typically new architects who lack experience. The highest-paid architects, those who've been on the job for years, earned over $119,000, and median pay for all architects was about $72,000.
According to the American Institute of Architects, the size of the company has a lot to do with how much money an architect is able to earn. Architectural firms with more than 250 employees typically pay at least 18 percent above the national average in wages for experienced architects, and 12 percent higher for those just entering the field. Firms with fewer than 10 employees report salaries about 21 percent below the national average for those with experience and about 11 percent below average for new architects.
While not usually calculated as part of an architect’s salary, benefits offered by an employer can make a significant difference to an employee. Such benefits include health insurance, life insurance, sick pay, paid vacation and similar incentives. Firms may also offer their employees bonuses, overtime pay and other cash incentives. The AIA reports that these types of benefits contributed about 14 percent to the overall pay of experienced architects, but only about 7 percent for those new to the job.
According to the BLS, the job outlook for architects is better than average. Job growth is anticipated to be faster than average, increasing about 24 percent during the decade between 2010 and 2020. Many of these jobs will be for architects who can design environmentally-friendly buildings. There’s also a need for architects who can create well-designed medical facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes, retirement communities and other places that will serve the large population of baby boomers as they age.