Help me help other architects! This blog is an excerpt from the first draft of my book: Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect. You can help by leaving a critique in the comment section below. And if you are just starting I suggest you check out the table of contents for an easy road map. Thx you rock! -Steve
The question you should be asking is not: “how much will I make as an Architect, but how can I make more money as an architect?” In this article I share 5 ways to increase your income as an Architect.
#1 - Become a Licensed Architect
The #1 thing an emerging professional can do to increase their salary is to become a licensed architect. As a licensed architect, you provide a much greater value to your firm. You will have the ability to serve as a project architect, stamp drawings and it also shows that you have taken initiative. Most firms will provide a healthy pay increase after you become licensed. If your firm does not provide a pay increase after licensure then you should consider a different firm.
#2 - Achieve other Credentials: LEED, CDT
Other credentials will add value such as LEED and CDT.
LEED is short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is currently the most recognized measuring stick for sustainable building design. LEED offers multiple credentials: LEED Green Associate, LEED AP and LEED AP BD + C. For more information on LEED accreditation check out: http://www.usgbc.org/credentials
CDT stands for Construction Documents Technologist and is a certification from the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). For more information check out: http://www.csiresources.org/certification/cdt
Each architecture firm will put a different value on credentials. Passing the LEED exam may not translate into an automatic raise however it shows initiative and could help future salary negotiations.
#3 - Create Profitable Projects
When architecture firms hit their profit goals, they are able to give salary increases. Therefore, you can increase your chances of receiving a salary increase by helping your firm become more profitable.
Remember: An Architecture Firm is a Business that sells architectural design services. A successful business must make a profit to survive. Your designs could be the greatest thing since Palladio but if your projects regularly lose money then you will likely lose your job.
As an emerging professional, you may not have the greatest ability to affect the profit on your projects. Whenever given a task, you should ask your supervisor: "how much time do I have to complete this task?"
The quicker you are able to complete tasks the more likely the project will be profitable. By openly communicating with your supervisor you make their job of managing the project much easier. This communication also highlights your maturity and dedication to the business side of architecture.
#4 - Work Overtime
Working overtime is one way to increase your salary as an architect. I hesitate sharing this because unpaid overtime is a major problem in the architecture industry. Despite my disdain for overtime, it is a practical way to increase your salary.
The more overtime you work the greater the chance that your projects will be profitable. Remember, your firm is not paying you to work overtime but they are charging the client. This translates into greater profits. Greater profits translate into greater potential for salary increases.
In addition to greater profits, working overtime shows initiative and highlights you as a team player. Imagine that your firm has the potential to give a $6,000 pay raise to only one of their five interns. Interns 1-4 put in no more than 1 hour of overtime a week throughout the year whereas intern #5 regularly puts in 50-hour workweeks. Which intern do you think will get the raise?
Now here is the bad part.
Working overtime purely for the desire to earn a greater income is a terrible investment. In most cases, you will not get out what you put in.
For example: Architectural Intern Kevin has an hourly salary of $25 per hour. Kevin averages 5 hours of overtime each week, which equates to 260 overtime hours in one year (5*52).
If Kevin were paid for that overtime at his full rate this would equal $6,500 of additional pay. Many industries pay an overtime rate of time and a half, which would be $9,750.
Unfortunately for Kevin, it is extremely unlikely that he will receive a bonus or a salary increase of $6,500 or $9,750 purely based on his overtime efforts. Maybe Kevin receives a $3,000 raise but $6,500+ is very unlikely. Sorry Kevin.
This little math exercise shows that working overtime purely for additional income has a poor Return on Investment (ROI).
Although overtime in the architecture profession has a poor ROI, it can help you advance within a firm. The Overtime Paradox is very complex and I will delve much deeper in Chapter 19
#5 - Leave and go to Another Firm
If options 1-4 are not working for you than you always have the last resort: Leave and go to another Architecture Firm.
In 2007, I switched architecture firms and in doing so got a healthy pay raise. I got a pay raise despite the fact that I was leaving a high paying state: New Jersey and moving to a low paying state: South Carolina.
I was still the same person.
What was the difference? The difference was that I was a new hire and that new firm really needed me. They were willing to pay a little more to entice me to make the move.
Getting a pay bump by switching companies is very common in most industries including Architecture. I am not advising you to do this, but if finances are your priority than this is an option, you could consider.
But I did those things….and nothing happened?
You may have recently passed the A.R.E. or you have put in a full year of 55 hour work weeks. You check your bi-weekly pay-stub hoping to see a change in the deposit amount and it is the same as last month.
You are an architect now. You are LEED AP. You have been working like a dog!
Where is your raise?
Did you ask for a raise? Sometimes you have to ask. In part 3 I share tips for asking for a raise.