25 Things To Consider When Choosing An Architecture Job Offer

Sara Mandeed
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Salary is one of the first things you think about when accepting a new job. It’s also one of the most critical decisions you’ll make.

It’s true that salary is not the only determining factor when accepting a job, but it’s one of the most important. Work and life are both expensive these days and, if you are in your late teens or 20s (when most folks are just starting out), it’s unlikely you can turn down a better paying job.

Plus, it’s better to enter the job with an idea of what you’re worth than to enter blindly.

Remember, salary is not just the base pay you will receive. It’s everything from your hourly wage, bonus, commissions, stock options, healthcare, 401k and all other trappings of the job. It’s the total compensation package. Make sure you’re aware of all the bits that make up the package since they can vary widely.

In dabbling with the idea of accepting a job offer, two things can dramatically influence your decision. One is the job itself and the other is the salary.

You want both, but salary plays a bigger role here.


Retirement Saving, Education and Pay.

Bonuses might not be standard benefits, but they do exist in the architecture field. Bonuses can be a nice perk, but they’re also one of the most common reasons why an architecture firm may not be offering the salary you expect. If a firm puts bonuses at the top of their list when they talk about pay, their base salary almost certainly won’t be as great as you’re expecting.

If you’re still committed to the idea of bonuses, do your research and find out if there is a similar firm in the area that has the same salary and bonus structure. If that second option exists, find out which firm will give you the higher total pay. That will help you determine just how much that bonus really matters.

Many firms have retirement savings or matching options. If your firm doesn’t have a retirement savings plan you’re in luck, because it means that you won’t have to save for your retirement outside of your own IRAs.

If retirement savings aren’t standard for architecture firms, they will certainly have a similar setup. Internships, part-time gigs, and freelance opportunities are great ways to supplement your income and build up a retirement fund.


Architects are typically very passionate about their work. There are many opportunities for travel throughout a career. A good architecture firm will make sure to adequately compensate for these opportunities. They do understand that you will be spending more time away from home than with it.

Also, if you are in school or not yet licensed, the firm might be short on benefits. That’s just something to be aware of. In a way, you are being compensated by the fact you get a foot in the door and have a chance to secure your license.

Public holidays

The United States does not require employers to provide any holidays. Also, there is no guarantee that the holidays recognized by a federal holiday will also be recognized at the state level. And unlike in the UK where everyone gets a bank holiday on the same day, in the US, banks and organizations choose which days to close.

As a result, your employer might not give you the vacation time you may be expecting. Some of the popular federal holidays celebrated in the US include Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Presidents Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Columbus Day, and New Year's Day.

Sick leave

Sick leave is generally the result of the company’s sick leave policy.

But it seems like most candidates don’t know what sick leave is.

They expect that when they get sick, the company will pay for their treatment.

Many people, myself included, had the very same thoughts. But now, after some thought, I’m starting to think, why not?

For example, in countries such as Korea, when you get sick, your company pays for your treatment.

So it’s the same system as unemployment benefits I suppose.

However, most people don’t know this in Korea.

If you ask, the company will tell you that they don’t pay anything.

It’s a good idea to figure this out before you start working at the company.

Here’s an example from someone I know. His monthly salary is 120,000 won. He’s been paying 20,000 won in a health insurance premium every month.

After he asked about sick leave, it turns out that the company DID pay for his medical treatment.


Architecture firms usually do not provide medical or dental insurance for their employees. This is an important matter to consider. Before taking any job offer, you must make sure that there is a viable means to continuing or beginning your medical and dental coverage.

Most architecture firms provide a large number of paid holidays, vacation days, and sick days. However, if you are a freelance worker, this may not be the case. You can still get medical and dental insurance on your own, but this will require a contract between your employer and yourself.

Dental, vision, life, long term disability insurance

Commissions, bonuses, profit sharing, 401k plans are all part of your benefits package!

Most people considering an offer from an architectural firm don’t have a clear understanding of what they are being offered … or how much it will cost them.

So I’m going to outline the benefits of each offer to make sure that you understand how much your benefits package will cost you. Then you can compare offers and make an educated choice about which job offer is best for you.

Retirement: 401K or similar

A 401K is an investment account that in the US is held at a company. There are other types of names for these accounts, like 403B for employees of universities and 457 for public-sector employees.

You contribute a certain amount of money to your 401K every pay period before taxes are taken out, and it is invested, initially usually in balanced mutual funds (a mix of stocks and bonds) or a target-date fund (a diversified mix designed to fund your retirement).

When you retire, you are able to withdraw from the 401K without paying taxes on your investment gains before you retire.

It is a tax-deferred account, meaning that you only pay taxes once on your investment gains, when you do decide to withdraw the funds.

401K / Profit Sharing

Although seemingly unimportant, knowing how much of your paycheck will be put separate to prepare for your future is one of the most important considerations you will need to make. If it is also a company with a 401K plan, even better as you will have control of the taxes and fees that the company will only match a percentage of for you.

Professional benefits

You normally have the option of signing a mobility contract, meaning that you can work remotely from time to time, on a project by project basis. If the office environment is important to you, it may be wise to decline this option.

A lot of architecture firms are happy to provide you with software licenses and latest hardware like Macbook Pro or a Windows or Linux PC.

Some firms even have a gym or a table tennis table to keep their employees happy and healthy.

Finally, many firms offer translators for their foreign employees or even their foreign interns. Communication difficulties are usually quite common in a foreign country.

Continued education

The focus on learning has to change. You are no longer in school, meaning that you do not need to constantly be hearing about new trends and technologies. Instead, you should choose your own education. Read whatever interests you, take classes that build your knowledge, and join professional organizations.

It is important to remember, however, that it is not possible to be an expert in everything. You will always need to know about new trends, technologies, or practices. Think about the field you are in and the relevant areas in which you need expertise. Find the best ways to get knowledge in those areas and do it.

Business expenses

This point is frequently overlooked by many but it is an important one and it can even be the difference between a happy and an unhappy experience.

Whether you are going to work for a local company or for a firm doing projects around the world, ask your future employer about expenses and reimbursements.

There is a chance you may be able to negotiate it. If you are working onsite for a company, the advantages are obvious: you won’t have to pay travel expenses. On the other hand, if you are working from home or for a company which is located far away, you still get to deduct your business expenses related to your work.

Your business travel cost and you get to claim expenses that go beyond the limits of your employment contract provided you are not traveling for leisure or personal purposes.

Office space

If you’re a practical person, this might be the first thing on your list. Not everyone wants their office space to look like the set of Mad Men, but most people want some flexibility in the design and functionality of their office.

Some companies will have a standard office setup for everyone, and others will provide the flexibility of “bringing your own space.”

Some companies will allow you to design your own workspace, and other companies will give you a choice between various standard workspace solutions (typically in a range of two or three different styles). Many companies have “standard” furniture sets that they’ll supply for your office.

However, it’s your own discretion how you use them … so if you want a window office but you’re furnished with cubicle walls, you can just take them down and dress it up however you see fit (obviously, not violating any code or fire regulations).

Project type

This is the most critical feature in every architecture position, as it shows you exactly what kind of project you will be working on for the next few years. Will you be designing highway interchanges and retail complexes, or museums and libraries? Some architects love working on skyscrapers while others prefer to focus on smaller residential or commercial projects.


Golden rule: don’t take a job offer with a start date more than thirty days away

Any job offer that doesn’t allow you to get a good start in your career and gain industry experience immediately is a bad offer, whether it’s your first job or your twenty-third. In fact, if you’re fresh out of school, a job farther than 120 days away shouldn’t even be remotely considered, unless you already have a job lined up to start in between.

Being able to take a job, do a good job, shine, make lots of connections and, most importantly, learn and grow in your niche and/or industry is invaluable once you hit the workforce. Remember that if you take a job offer and quit within 120 days, you’ll be at a huge advantage in the job market.

Everyone in the world knows that you have to build your network to get a job. You may have heard all this before, but it’s even more important if you hope to land a dream architecture or design job, within a dream company or even in a dream location after you graduate.

Office location

In the world of architecture, telecommuting isn’t a common thing. Most jobs have you at the office for most of the day and that’s where you’ll spend most of your time.

So make sure you like the environment and that it’s close to home or the office. Ideally, the office should be a place that’s reasonably quiet to allow for focused work but also social enough to interact with your co-workers.

As you weigh your options on a job offer, check out the office and ask some questions about the work environment.


Can you show your boss a portfolio of your work that they find impressive?

If you can’t, your boss probably won’t have much autonomy over the projects you’ll work on in the future. If your current mentor can’t get in touch with your next boss, it’s unlikely that new boss will spend time teaching you how to do good work.

It’s a slippery slope. No one wants to hire the new guy who has not completed any projects of his own, and no one wants to train an intern who will leave when he finds a better job.


It’s true that you don’t really need as much money as an architect as you do for a lot of other professions. But the job is hard and rewarding, and you deserve a decent paycheck for all the hours you burn making sure that your clients are happy.

With this in mind, it’s important that your salary be commensurate with your education and experience. When you’re looking for an architecture job, you don’t want to accept a position that pays significantly less than the going rate for your level of expertise.

However, don’t be an easy negotiator or you might lose a potentially good job offer for a few hundred dollars more. This is why it’s important that you get a clear understanding of what your skills are worth when beginning an employment search.

You should also find out what benefits the company offers and what percentage of the payroll those benefits take up.

For example, you’re likely to pay a little more in health insurance premiums at a large company than a small one, but you will have more choices. The same can be said for vacation time. Do you prefer a well-rounded plan or a few extra days to make up for the low salary?

Internal support

The company needs to have employee growth in mind. If there is no career plan for you, the job will be a short-term one that will challenge and push you. You may even get left out of the loop as others grow in your stead.

If the company has no vision beyond the current year, the company is lacking vision. Why did they hire you if they have no real future plan for your success?

How are the employees treated? Employees are the ones who keep the engine rolling. How are they appreciated?

Employee development programs are great. Remote working or flex-working options are good. Company retreats and opportunities for growth are excellent.

When you’re weighing your options, look for signs of internal growth for you and your team. Recognizing the talents and employing them right is a highly employable trait in a job.

Contract type

Before you reject or accept your offer, make sure you have the contract details in front of you. Read all of it carefully. This is your new job security, so don’t sign anything unless you understand it. Look for:

  • Probation periods (in every job). – Salary details.
  • Hours/week (in every job). – Bonuses and/or commission.
  • Sick and vacation days. – Vacation time.
  • Where you will be working.
  • Responsibilities and duties. – Performance bonuses.
  • Health care benefits. – Lunch or dinner allowance.
  • Job perks. – Dress code.
  • Authority. – Expected behavior.

Direct Hire

Vs Contractor?

One of your first decisions will be whether to accept the job as a job offer as a contractor or a direct hire employee. A contractor provides his own benefits and tax withholding and often has more control over where he will work.

More and more architecture job offers today are being made as employees. This can be a good thing because there is more stability and certainty in your salary and benefits.

As an employee, you will have a regular income and will be entitled to a variety of employee benefits, including health and dental insurance, retirement plans, disability insurance, and paid vacation.

Benefits can have a significant impact on your take-home pay. But they are not the only reason to become an employee. Doubling your pay as an employee is not uncommon. If offered a job that is more than double what you typically make as a contractor, then an employee offer can be a great opportunity.


Vs. Academic: Which Is Right?

You must decide whether you would prefer to work as an academic or as a consultant.


A contract-to-hire position means that the person will be hired on a temporary basis until something permanent becomes available. In order to work as a full-time employee during the interim period, you must be able to demonstrate the same level of performance that a permanent employee would show.

Keep in mind that a contract-to-hire job offers with a new company are often one-time deals, so it’s important that work hard to keep your reputation intact and make sure you continue to deliver results.

Furthermore, it’s in your best interest to make sure that the contract-to-hire offer is in writing and that it includes a set duration.

Start date

When should your new job start? Any answer that comes with a bit of certainty is better than I don’t know or it depends.

Though some companies will let you choose your start date, there are certain standard times of the year that jobs typically start. July, August and December are popular starting periods.

In most cases, the sooner everything is set up and finalized, the nicer it will be to settle in and get started. It won’t feel like you just jumped on a plane and got off at the wrong airport.

"Good for resume"

Vs. "right job for me"

It can be just as important to consider why the job offer is appealing as its overall quality, because they are very different things. Some people take up an architecture job offer because they feel it might be more beneficial to their resume than others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll enjoy the job. The best way to know if a job is right for you is to ask yourself whether or not you think you’ll enjoy it.

It might be tempting to choose the first job offer you receive, but it’s generally a better idea to weigh out multiple options. If you do receive multiple offers, research and consider each one carefully. Make sure your decision is based on something concrete, like the location of the job, the salary, and the benefits package.

Match for your experience

Skills and passion.

When you are choosing between offers, the first thing to think about is whether your offer actually matches your skill and experience.

Look at how this job matches your skill set, or if it is a challenge. How is it part of your game plan? Is it a stepping stone to something better?

Sometimes, compromises are necessary, especially if you are a junior architect just starting out. But you should always keep in mind that you can eventually get to the top as long as you don’t take a step down the career ladder.

Make sure you also look at the job in terms of your long-term goals. It would be a waste of time to join a company that you dislike even though you are getting a great offer. The same thing goes for the role.

Also, is something missing because of a lack of goals, or are you afraid to be too ambitious? A good option is to find a balance between your career objectives and the work you’re doing.

Match for your goals

Architecture job can look pretty awesome from the outside, it is a big part of your career and you need to be prepared. Make sure you consider the pro and cons of the jobs, look carefully at the reasons you applied to that job, and then make your decision.

For example, if you really love designing then working for a big company where the focus is more on commercial viability could disillusion you.

So make sure you are aiming for a position and company that you are most interested in and fits your goals and values.

Fun stuff

If juggling a few balls isn’t satisfying enough for you, don’t forget about the little things you can add to your desk to give your imagination some exercise.

There’s always something in those cheap party supply stores that can liven up your desk. For instance, you can get a few bouncy balls, a silly desk clown (or the more artistic red nosed green nosehairs), or some desktop hula girl.

You could even hang up a funny desktop calendar to commemorate every year that you’re employed. You can also find posters and artworks to spruce up your desk.

Or you can get some of your favorite movie characters like a talking Darth Vader to spice up your day.