I get plenty of emails asking questions here at Life of an Architect – and over the last 12 months an increasing amount of them are either from students or associate/ intern level architects … and this is how most of them look:
Dear Bob @ Life of an Architect:
How much do architects make? I hear it’s terrible and I am starting to think that I should abandon my life long dream of becoming an architect because I can make more money doing just about anything else. Please help…
Desperate (which is why I’m emailing you)
I wrote on the subject of architects and their salaries back in January of 2010 (here) and even though my opinions haven’t changed, the data provided is outdated and things have changed a little since I wrote that post. I also thought I would take a moment and address a few things and point you towards a resource that can provide far more detailed information than I can. For starters, part of my response to every one of these sorts of emails is that architects can make a great living … but there is balance between money and happiness that must be found and only you can determine where that middle ground exists. There are lots of jobs out there that – strictly speaking – pay better than being an architect, but this is what makes me the happiest. As a result, I am willing to concede some salary to do what makes me happy.
The balance between creature comforts and personal enrichment is a consideration for everyone, especially comparing the pros and cons of being an architect versus some other job like a lawyer, doctor, ditch digger … whatever. There is also the added consideration of the different sorts of jobs within the field of architecture, the types of architectural practices, and the different areas of specialization.
Big Firm vs. Small Firm
Residential vs. Commercial
Private sector vs. Public Sector
The options within the field of architecture are virtually limitless and I can’t help but think that someone who really enjoys architecture can find some balance between what pays them well enough to live while providing that something that gives them personal satisfaction and fulfillment.
If you are curious to find out what architects make compared to other professions, the website you need to visit is the Bureau of Labor and Statistics – where you can search by profession to find out what the salary ranges are, where there are jobs, what areas of the country page the highest wages, etc. for ANY PROFESSION, not just architects. So if you are just dying to know what the salary range is for an architect in Dallas, Texas compared to a lawyer (or whatever), this is the site for you.
This is a screen capture of a search on architects/ engineers and wages – you can read that there are 5 categories in this chart – total reported, and then architects that work for the government at the state and national levels, in commercial and then residential practices. Would you have guessed that working as an architect for the Postal Service would pay you the highest Annual mean wage?
The map above indicated the Annual mean wage of architects by geographic region (by the way, the blue links in the graphic aren’t active since this is a screen capture but clicking on the graphic will bring you to the website where you can click away to your hearts content). Looking at this map can tell you what areas of the country have the highest salaries – but you have to take this with a grain of salt … for instance, Texas is a big state and there are areas within the state that have wildly different prevailing wages. You should also consider that the standard of living costs higher in some places than others so do your research.
Finally, the last screen capture I grabbed was of the map that indicates the states and regions with the highest published employment levels and wages can be found.
While the Bureau of Labor and Statistics isn’t the easiest or sexiest website to surf, there is a wealth of information to be found and used when trying to make educated decisions for your future. I am assuming that the reason so many people ask me is simply that they don’t know a resource like this one exists.
Or maybe they just want to see if I’ll respond to their email and send them an autographed 8×10 portrait …
Cheers and happy salary surfing