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Why I'll never say 'Take a short term hit on salary this time...' to an Architect EVER AGAIN!

Matt Kirk Architeture salaries, Architecture in the North, Architecture Jobs...

I work with Architects (and Architectural Technologists, and Architectural Assistants). If you happen to be one of these, you're going to find getting a pay rise more than difficult, unless of course you are grossly underpaid even for the industry.

Unfortunately, if you are in the profession, you're probably under paid, even if you are well paid in comparison to your friends and colleagues.

When I tell a candidate a job pays well, I'm talking relatively. Here's the low end of the scale as I see it.

  • Juniors / Assistants - £17k

  • Non Senior Technologist - £24k

  • Less than 5 years PQE Architect - £27k

  • Senior Technologist - £30k

  • Post 5 years PQE Architect - £32k

  • Associate / Director - £35k (That's right)

  • Director (Below Board level) - £45k

Here is the shocking bit, the average salary for individuals doing the same job (for companies both large and small):

  • Juniors / Assistants - £22k

  • Non Senior Technologist - £30k

  • Less than 5 years PQE Architect - £32k

  • Senior Technologist - £35k

  • Post 5 years PQE Architect - £35k (Yep!)

  • Associate / Director - £45k

  • Director (Below Board level) - £60k

This isn't a rule. There are individuals on more than this. But they are too few and far between. I also take London out of the equation, though there usually isn't much difference.

Architects! You train as long as Doctors a lot of the time! Why are you so underpaid!?

I think I've got an idea as to some of the reasons why this is...

  • The instability of the industry. Everyone takes a hit when the economy is tough, and be it through greed or necessity, wages are slow to rise again.

  • Competition. So many practices are competing to 1% - 3% of a job. Even on the larger jobs this isn't going to line anybodies pockets.

  • Too much risk work. Out of that 1% - 3%, inevitably Architects will pay their staff to do work for nothing. The goal is to get projects off the ground.

  • Intellectual Property is also being passed around for nothing. Mostly to try and get projects off the ground. Often this as well as the risk work will come to nothing. To make this profitable you have to outlay a lot, again at risk.

  • Payment terms, one of the biggest complaints I hear. Forget 30 days or 60; try funding a large project for 90 days. That is three months that you are paying your staff and overheads, and there is no guarantee it won't be later than that! Factoring can help, but it can also help you lose up to 10% of your turnover too!

I'm guessing the list can go on if you're running an Architecture business. It's a genuinely tough industry to be in. I don't for one second think that 'Architects don't make good business people', in fact I find it is a bag as mixed as any other industry.

By Comparison: M&E and Structural biased individuals can expect a 10% - 30% higher salary for a very similar job

If you became a Structural Engineer you can expect in some roles up to £15k more for a similar level of experience... It's annoying, and I don't fully know why! They even tend to get company cars and better pension more often. The only saving grace of this is that if an Architect works for a consultancy they will in general be on more of a level with their Structural cousins, though this isn't guaranteed.

I don't think there is any obvious solution...

I'm certainly not going to propose a solution. Though I am going to do my bit. I could bang on a generic bit of information to this post and tell you 'how to get a pay rise', but I'm fed up of those posts. Instead I've decided that I'm not even going to deliver offers to candidates that don't significantly improve their basic salary by at least 5% - 10% unless there is a VERY good reason. Too many in the profession accept this and never break the £35k(ish) barrier.

Saying that there is nothing more annoying than someone who over values their experience...

These cocky (often young) Part II's and Techs, will tend to have a public school edge to them. They come a long and tell me they want £37k for 2 years PQE or less!

Firstly they usually will be very good candidates (for their level), but they know it and spit their dummies out when they get offered £7k - £10k less than this. Sometimes they will sigh and accept it, sometimes they will stick it out for more money; 90% of these end up (eventually) working out that they aren't THAT special and will get a modest pay rise with a promise of more in the future. This isn't a bad way to go. Even more annoyingly, 10% of them end up getting closer than I can even believe to their ridiculous target! Still these are the type that will call me 12 months later saying their employer can't give them any more money and they are now worth £45k!

Perhaps we should all admire these individuals, they stick it out for more (albeit probably losing out of some very good opportunities) money because they are so sure of themselves and won't take advice to the contrary. Perhaps all Architects should take a leaf out of this book, I'm sure it would end up forcing Architects fees higher across the board and end up being a good thing, though I can see it tipping a few companies into cash flow problems in the short - medium term, possibly including mine if the offers didn't flow as a result!

If you've got thoughts or ideas on this I would welcome them. I leave you with this to consider:

The average Chartered Engineer = £63,000 Per Annum

The average qualified Architect= £44,885 Per Annum

(Slightly smaller but still notable disparity in Technicians, even when comparing only Associates to this level this disparity is eye watering)

(If you are an Architectural Professional) Ask yourself have you done less to deserve this disparity? Trained for less time? Less Qualified? Do less?

I don't think so…