How To Earn A Six Figure Architecture Salary

Sara Mandeed
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Of course, you have to be good at what you do. But a six figure salary takes more than that. It takes hard work, dedication, and patience. You need to take time to reach the highest possible level of skill. This may involve some tuition and education, but the payoff of a high salary is worth it.

Once you’ve shown this dedication and have reached the level that you want to reach, you will need to decide what to do next. You can either stay where you are and enjoy your success or move to somewhere else and try and earn even more.

There is no right choice and no wrong choice when it comes to this. It is a personal decision that you need to make. But if you want to earn a high salary in architecture, stick with it and invest in your education.

It could be the best investment of your life.

Develop your skills

The most important thing to learn initially is that architecture studio work at an architectural firm is much different than architecture school work.

Most architecture school studios have built-in teams where you work through each exercise with everyone else, so if you have teammates who are extremely studious and organized you end up with little to do and you learn the process by watching others do the work. In the real world work pace is hectic and deadlines are tight so you have to do everything yourself. As soon as you learn how to do that, you promote yourself to the next level of responsibilities, which requires a whole new set of skills.

So when you enter the real world, you must be ready for the learning to begin. Architecture firms know the kind of person that will succeed at this profession and push you beyond your limits to build those muscles. As long as you are willing to develop your skills and to grow as an individual, then you have a real shot.

Hard skills examples:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • AutoCAD
  • Revit
  • Google SketchUp
  • BIM 360
  • SolidWorks
  • CATIA
  • AutoCAD III
  • SketchUp-

However it is just as important to develop your "soft skills".

Here are some of the main driving forces that are key to earning a six-figure salary as an architect:

Having industry contacts:

Construction jobs are often lucrative, and individual owners and developers will look to architects for design services when they are setting out to remodel a house or developing a commercial space. In order to get these jobs, you need to have good contacts with the construction industry and show clients that you have the capacity to undertake projects at a professional level.

Also, remember that construction is still a fairly small industry, especially outside of the big cities. By maintaining a good reputation, you can build up your contacts and have a higher chance of getting the architecture jobs you want.

Finding things that need your architectural skills.

There is a demand for your services. This is where being a typical "architect" may be holding you back. Think about it- if you are an architect, you may think you should only be working on what you think are good projects. However, if you are open to taking on more mundane projects, you will get more work. This is why it is so important to be skilled at talking to other professionals. Even if they don’t have the funds to pay for your services, you can offer to work for free in exchange for adding your name to your portfolio. There are also other ways to find more work possibilities.

Soft skills examples

Kenneth D. Kueber, a certified financial planner and vice president of Boulder, Colorado-based DJK & Associates, says personal interactions are the most important thing in the field. “Being able to effectively communicate with clients matters so much. Architecture is very detail-oriented. Many prospects come to you with a vision of what they want, and you’re the person who wants to tell them whether it can be done. I’ve seen great architects lose deals because they were unable to effectively communicate.”

Other soft skills that may be relevant to architectural careers include:

Understanding leading-edge technology (for example, computer-aided-design programs might influence your ability to create a functional design and a viable budget).

The ability to juggle multiple design projects at once.

An interest in the environment and sustainability.

The ability to work with a team.

The ability to express yourself well.

Switch jobs

You need to work in the industry for about 5 years to make a real difference in your salary. You may be able to get a higher salary with a master's degree, but most people will not receive a big raise for a masters.

Find an Architecture Job in a Larger City where Architecture Is a Big Industry

Large cities have many architecture firms competing for employees, so salaries are often higher. Cities we consider large cities include New York City, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Kansas City, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Denver.

Apply for Jobs Abroad

You do not need to be in the country where you want to work to search for jobs in that country. Visit the country's version of craigslist for jobs and the architecture companies websites.

The pay may be a bit lower, but the cost of living will also be lower. Also, remember expat packages.

You can lower the cost of living in a lot of these places by moving to a less expensive city in that country.

Look for Non-Traditional Architecture Opportunities

Unions often keep the salaries of their members artificially high because they fill a monopoly. If the market is competitive, salaries often go down.

Reduce the stress of others

And you will reduce your stress.

Being a busy architect is in part, a result of not being able to do everything as fast as needed. It is far too easy to promise than deliver, to allocate more time to a project than you can commit to, or to simply taking on projects you can’t handle. All that adds stress to an already busy life.

Go back over your workload and see which projects are still outstanding. Then set priorities. High priority projects need to be dealt with as soon as possible. For lower priority projects, set yourself a target date to complete them.

If you seem to have a never ending stream of low priority projects, take a critical look at what you are charging for your time. Are you charging enough to make it worth getting involved in the project? Are you ignoring the non-monetary value of a project? Do you really want to get involved in this project or are you rushing to take on any projects that come your way?

If you think that you are not charging enough, raise your rates … or at least do something to boost your income to allow you to buy yourself out of taking less important work. If it’s not possible to increase your income, be selective about what you take on.

Be the best

Before you can earn a six figure salary, you have to clearly understand what it is about your profession that will make you stand out from the crowd. You can then build your CV and your LinkedIn profile around it.

If you are good at coding or convincing clients, offer some proof of this in the form of a portfolio.

If you have strong social media presence, develop your Twitter or LinkedIn account.

If you have loads of experience in a certain field, display this to everyone.

If you have a professional body membership, then this indicates that you’re dedicated and professional.

If you’ve got industry specific training or accreditation, make sure you promote this.

As your experience and skills build up, you will be in an excellent position to command higher wages.

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

Designing, building, and maintaining buildings and landscapes is a profession that takes intelligence, passion, and commitment. Architecture is a rewarding field that spans multiple sectors of the economy. It encompasses fine art, business, and science.

Take responsibility

Self-employment and architecture have been naturally joined for centuries. Through most of the 20th century, your only real choices were working as an employee or on your own. This was the case even if you were highly qualified. Simply put, most architects had to self-promote early and then work to have a few lucky breaks over the course of their career. They had to be willing, in other words, to do the work of creating an architecture firm regardless of whether or not someone was willing to pay them for it.

Starting around 10 years ago, the landscape for new members of the architecture profession changed. Many companies have decided that growing their own in-house talent is more cost-effective than running job fairs to attract new talent. Not only has this reduced the traditional demand for architecture graduates, the upshot is that graduates no longer need to be as flexible when looking for a job.

This is a great example of how the Internet and technology have dramatically altered the career landscape for architects. And the idea of having to build your own firm is becoming less important … to the point where it’s no longer an absolute necessity for your career. This new world means you can shift your focus away from the fear of not finding a job and put your energy into doing the work you love.

Have regular performance reviews

An architecture salary review at least once a year is essential to your career development and a major contributor to your earning potential. Analysing your performance review will put you in control of your destiny. The higher your salary goes, the more options you will have regarding your work in the future.

The regular review of a architecture salary package should include an analysis of your business and technical achievements.

This will allow you to be aware of what is expected of you in the future and to assess whether the salary you’re currently being paid or the salary you’re expecting is reasonable and fair.

The sizing of infrastructure is related to the number of people that will be using it. To determine the number of users you can have, you’ll need to consider the number of expected transactions, how many people will be accessing the database, the capacity of the disk, the available memory and your hardware’s capacity.

When sizing a server’s hardware, you want to keep in mind the technical performance and the physical and economical footprint. Keep your database files and logs on different devices. This will allow you to add additional disks as a coping mechanism when your hard drive fails.

Maintaining your server’s operating system will keep it running smoothly, as well as keep it secured against hacker attacks.

Get your license

The first step to a six figure salary in architecture is to get your license. Not only will the architectural license give you credibility with your employer, but most states require you to be at least a licensed architect to legally practice on your own!

In case you don’t know, the different types of licenses that you can have are:

  • Professional Architect: can be used alongside another title but denotes full licensure
  • Limited Architect: cannot be used for self-employment
  • Intern Architect: temporary status during apprenticeship
  • Limited Intern Architect: same as above, but only until you pass the exam
  • Associate: has not passed the exam but isn’t technically an intern

While you’re getting your license, you can continue to work for someone else. Depending on the state you work in, you may have to complete exams to include core courses, design studio credits, and project experience

Starting at the entry level, you can earn nine to twenty five thousand dollars in an entry level position. It largely depends on the number of years of experience, your current location, your path to licensure, whether you’re working for an architecture firm or a government, or one that specializes in a particular structure.

Move to an urban area

Develop multiple income streams

The most successful architects generate the majority of their income through a diverse set of revenue streams. Some architects manage to make a decent income off of just one or two services they provide, but most architects rely on a number tools to increase their income while also providing them a means to identify clients that are the most appropriate for their services.

There are multiple ways to earn additional income as an architect. Some ways require you to develop additional design skills, while others require your clients to take on a greater role in the design process.

The key to establishing multiple income streams is developing the skills and offering the services that you know will lead to income. It’s great to focus on multiple services, but it’s a bad idea to spend your time trying to develop skills that you can’t make a profit off of.

If you can design and develop multiple skillsets you will be able to diversify your income streams, which provides greater financial security. For example, some of the most successful architects are able to provide their clients with interior design and decorating services as well as architectural design services.

This is one way in which many architects have been able to diversify their revenue streams while at the same time provide an added value to their clients.