Salaries and Corporate Culture in Architecture
Salary ranges in a small to medium-size firm are usually anywhere from $30,000 for lower-level positions to $80,000 for positions higher up the food chain. Employees at larger firms can make more money, and certainly, well-known architects can command more also. Average architectural salaries range from $25,000 to $80,000, depending on a person's experience and the size of the company they work for. Partners can earn well into six figures, particularly at large firms. Salary.com states the national average for architectural salaries as $36,715 on the low end, $54,522 for the middle bracket and $69,276 on the high end.
Though architecture is known for long hours and late nights, this is more accurate at some firms than others. Some firms maintain fairly stable nine-to-five, forty-hour work weeks, while others are more stressful. Hours worked often depends on the type of projects the firm undertakes and the deadlines it agrees to; some companies take on publicly funded or other institutional projects and face contract provisions that require absolute deadlines on certain phases of the project. This requires the architect to meet deadlines, no matter the overtime involved.
Corporate culture varies depending on the size of the firm, larger leaning more conservative and hierarchical, smaller ones usually allowing greater freedom. Architecture certainly allows for more creativity than professions such as banking or accounting, but it is still business-focused and requires one to turn an artistic vision into something useful and functional. Asked if architecture is creative, one architect responded, "I would say yes, but not in the same way school is creative. Clients generally don't give us free rein and some firms also separate their staff into design and production groups, the former being more freely creative on a conceptual level and the latter being more technical. The production staff figures out how to build what the design staff creates."
Like fashion, entertainment and other creative professions, certain industry stars glamorize the profession and create misunderstanding about the reality of working in the business. The Michael Graveses and I. M. Peis (architect of Hancock Place, the tallest building in Boston, not to mention the controversial Louvre Pyramid) of the world are rare; much more common are architects who love their job but work on average projects and receive average paychecks.
Pay fluctuates depending on firm size and an architect's area of specialization. Small to mid-size firms offer greater freedom in terms of creativity and structure, but generally do not compensate employees as well. Unlike interior design, architecture is more of a necessity than a luxury. Any person or company that needs to create a structure has to enlist the help of an architect, so clients don't tend to have as much expendable income across the board as those enlisting interior decorators. Perks include travel and social invitations; architects attend many of the same events frequented by interior designers and other professionals in the design arena. Although architects may not need to be as image-conscious as their interior design colleagues, they still must maintain knowledge of trends and culture. Appearing knowledgeable and speaking eloquently on historical architecture and famous buildings is essential. Being published in trade magazines is extremely helpful for raising awareness about a particular firm and the talented individuals it employees.