All The Great Jobs For Architects Are In Cities

Sara Mandeed
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The average salary of architects in big cities across the world is way above the average salary of architects in smaller cities.

There are two possible reasons for this:

The high demand and good salaries in big cities attract many architects from smaller cities and across the world to these big cities.

The high salaries in big cities are a result of the high cost of living in big cities.

Either way, you can be more or less certain that if you want to live and work as an architect in a big city, you will be handsomely rewarded with a good salary.

The top 10% makes almost 3x the bottom 10%! It pays to be the best.

Here’s a graph of some of the highest-paid jobs in the country based on average salary.

Unfortunately, the highest-paid jobs aren’t very common, and as you can see, architects are in the top 10% of wage earners … along with doctors and chiropractors. So using this chart is tricky. It’s helpful to compare the jobs in your field of interest and determine which ones have the highest average salary.

The highest-paying jobs in the country are all highly educated professions. Also, many of these jobs are in very few states. This can be difficult for those of you looking for a job in a certain geographic area. Certainly, there are plenty of opportunities in different areas; however, if you’re looking for a very high-paying job, I’d suggest that you consider relocating to a state where the pay is really high.

For example, the highest-paying jobs in the country are all in Washington state. You might consider this if you’re someone looking to capitalize on a high-paying job in the short term.

Firm Size

Firm size is important as you are able to enjoy greater potential as you firm grows. Your pay increases become more substantial as the firm grows due to the size and the scope of the projects you are offered.

If you are an employee, your boss will be able to attract more talented people to your firm if he has more clients or money. This allows your firm to expand faster and helps you to get more experience and responsibilities as you go along.

If you are a consultant working for yourself, you can get more clients, but you also have to manage that you don’t lose your star designers to big employers. When you exceed a certain size, you might even need to set up a headquarters and then a support office in other regions.

In this case the mean salary is $97,300 , an increase of $26,400 per year!

So, if you want to make a lot of money and live in a metropolitan area, becoming an architect is a really good idea. A particularly good idea if you really enjoy designing and don’t mind the stress of being an architect.

​But where should you go? You’re facing a big decision. You may not have thought about it before, but now it’s probably the most important decision in your life.

You could stay close to home, or move off to any number of different cities, each with its own unique and exciting flavor.

Where would you go? If you’re waiting for the answer to fall from the sky, you’re in luck. Because now we’re going to tell you all about the best cities for architects; give you all the vital facts and figures and show you which cities are the best bets and which ones are a waste of time.

We’re going to highlight all of the best cities for architects to work in, as well as provide you with tips for how to secure a job in each one.


If you’re in a one-horse town with very few, if not zero, project proposals and little design experience, you might be wondering “what are my job prospects?”

This is where a small design project will set you apart from the competition. Projects that really allow you to stretch your creativity while still being viable in a small community are exactly what you need.

These projects will give you a platform to advertise your firm, which gives you the potential to advertise and display your original ideas.

Some creative ideas that would be perfect for a small rural community include:

  • Grant writing for green initiatives (school lunch program, recycling pool or town facility)
  • Design for a community garden or community center
  • Park repair projects (boardwalks, lighting, general upkeep)
  • Design for a fishing pond
  • Design for a walking trail
  • Design for a horse arena
  • Design an outdoor swimming pool

While this may seem like fun and games, some great opportunities to network and establish connections will present themselves during the process. These small projects can put your company in a big-city environment, even if you’re not living there.

And, hey! You are getting paid to do so.

Interaction with other architects

The other great advantage of land-locked cities is that everyone in the profession lives and works in a friendly and creative neighborhood.

You’ll get to interact with other architects, get to see what other people are doing, solve problems collaboratively and just get your ideas fixed.

It’s easy to forgo this advantage and just keep working in your isolated office. But I’ve found that this is the most rewarding part of the job.

It’s also important that you understand the difference between meeting with other architects to improve your work and socializing.

However, many architects make a mistake here as well, by build social and professional life completely around work. The great thing about these kind of interactions, however, is that it develops your project consciousness.

You’ll reflect on the reasons why your profession exists and why people need buildings. It will help you keep the bigger picture in mind.

Meeting consultants

Architecture is a resolutely urban industry. This makes sense: The majority of the largest employers in architecture are in cities. (For example, architecture firms in New York account for about 80 percent of the jobs in the city’s design industry.) And the top-paying cities are also the ones that are the most architecturally interesting.

We took a look at the best- and worst-paying U.S. cities for architects, as measured by average salary, and found that they’re the ones that also stand out architecturally:

Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington

The other cities that make the cut are all midsize cities that are bucking their country’s larger trend toward suburbanization. They’re a mix of older cities like Pittsburgh and Dallas, which have traditionally clung to their dense urban cores. And they’re also a mix of younger cities with relatively new downtowns, like Austin, Raleigh, and Oklahoma City.

These are some of the town’s top design firms:


Landscape architects share certain traits with highway engineers and environmental scientists in that all of these professions typically work in a metropolitan region.

While most environmental engineers and environmental scientists work for city or county government, there are a few that do work for companies or on their own.

And while most landscape architects are employed by a city, county or state, there are some that work for companies, or even directly for the federal government. In fact, only 11.9 percent of landscape architects work for the federal government, less than the average of 14.9 percent for a collection of 16 professions in the social sciences sector and 19.4 percent for all 273 professions in this database.

Table 1 presents the employment distribution for landscape architects, both locally and nationwide.

Table 1. Employment distribution for landscape architects, by sector


It is interesting in many ways to think about where the best opportunities for Architecture jobs are.

I had thought that many of the great jobs for Architects existed in rural settings; however, architecture is something that is very urban based. The best architecture jobs are in the big cities.

For some of the highest paying jobs in architecture they need to be close to where the major jobs for architects are.

So, the great jobs for architects today are in the New York City area, The Dallas Fort Worth region of Texas, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Chicago, and Seattle. So, if you are looking for a career in architecture the list of the top cities for jobs in architecture starts with these.

Not to say there are not jobs for architects in other areas or that you cannot make it in some of these areas without being there, but the great jobs for architects are right there in the big cities.