Though most architecture firms have benefited from a steady upturn in the economy over the past few years, architect salaries remain low. According to U.S. Census Bureau, architecture firms have experienced a 11 percent increase in revenue from 2011 to 2012. However, as reported by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the average total compensation for architecture positions—including base salary, overtime, bonuses, and incentive compensation—has increased only slightly over 1 percent per year between 2011 and 2013. This is barely more than the average increase in compensation between 2008 and 2011 when the construction sector was still in steep decline.
With the elimination of many entry level positions during the downturn, it is possible that this 1 percent increase may reflect a higher share of more experienced - and more highly compensated - architects. Regardless, while the average compensation for architecture positions increased a mere 0.7 percent per year compounded between 2008 and 2011, growth increased to only 1.1 percent per year between 2011 and 2013 (Exhibit 1.1).
Historically, compensation levels vary by firm size. According the the AIA’s findings, Intern 1 positions averaged 10 to 15 percent below national averages at firms with fewer than 10 employees and 10 percent above the national average firms with more than 250 employees. A similar pattern held for Architect 1 positions.
On the flip side, benefits packages have modestly improved. While declining between 2008 and 2011 as firm revenues eroded, benefits rebounded modestly by 2013, with packages averaging 18 percent of base salaries for professional staff. Keep in mind, however, that benefits have bounced back faster at larger firms and remain significantly higher than those offered by smaller firms.