Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures. But how much do architects make? Pursue a career as an architect in Massachusetts, Alaska or the District of Columbia and you’ll likely be a top earner.
Just remember, money isn’t the only thing you’ll earn as an architect. If you want to see your work literally become part of the landscape, this is a rewarding career.
How Much Do Architects Make?
An architect’s salary varies, but 50% of architects in 2018 made $79,380 or more. The lowest 10 percent made less than $48,020 and the highest 10% made more than $138,120. But according to one article, architects have $40,000 in student loan debt.
|District of Columbia||$92,490|
In May 2018, the median annual wages for architects in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||78,460|
What Do Architects Do?
We’ve looked at how much do architects make, but what do they do? Architects, as you imagine develop designs for structures, but they also:
- They meet with clients to determine objectives and requirements for structures
- Give preliminary estimates on cost and construction time
- Prepare structure specifications
- Direct workers who prepare drawings and documents
- Prepare scaled drawings, either with computer software or by hand
- Prepare contract documents for building contractors
- Manage construction contracts
- Visit worksites to ensure that construction adheres to architectural plans
- Seek new work by marketing and giving presentations
People need places to live, work, play, learn, shop, and eat. Architects are responsible for designing these places. They work on public or private projects and design both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Architects can be commissioned to design anything from a single room to an entire complex of buildings.
Architects discuss with clients the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project. In some cases, architects provide predesign services, such as feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses, and design requirements.
Architects develop final construction plans on the initial proposal after discussing with clients.
The architects’ plans show the building’s appearance and details of its construction. These plans include drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems; electrical systems; communications systems; and plumbing.
Sometimes, landscape plans are included as well. In developing designs, architects must follow state and local building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those requiring reasonable access for people with disabilities.
Architects use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) for creating designs and construction drawings.
However, hand-drawing skills are still required, especially during the conceptual stages of a project and when an architect is at a construction site.
As construction continues, architects may visit building sites to ensure that contractors follow the design, adhere to the schedule, use the specified materials, and meet work-quality standards. The job is not complete until all construction is finished, required tests are conducted, and construction costs are paid.
Architects may also help clients get construction bids, select contractors, and negotiate construction contracts.
Architects often collaborate with workers in related occupations, such as civil engineers, urban and regional planners, drafters, interior designers, and landscape architects. Many architects become project managers.
Where Architects Work
Architects held about 133,900 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of architects were as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||69%|
Architects spend much of their time in offices, where they meet with clients, develop reports and drawings, and work with other architects and engineers. They also visit construction sites to ensure that clients’ objectives are met and to review the progress of projects. Some architects work from home offices.
Most architects work full time and many work additional hours, especially when facing deadlines. Self-employed architects may have more flexible work schedules.
There are typically three main steps to becoming a licensed architect: completing a bachelor’s degree in architecture, gaining relevant experience through a paid internship, and passing the Architect Registration Examination.
Education: Most Architects Get an NAAB Accredited Degree
In all states, earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture is typically the first step to becoming an architect. Most architects earn their degree through a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program.
Many earn a master’s degree in architecture, which can take 1 to 5 additional years. The time required depends on the extent of the student’s previous education and training in architecture.
Find an Architecture Program in Your State
A typical bachelor’s degree program includes courses in architectural history and theory, building design with an emphasis on computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), structures, construction methods, professional practices, math, physical sciences, and liberal arts.
About two-thirds of states require that architects hold a degree in architecture from one of more than 120 schools of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). State licensing requirements can be found at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
All state architectural registration boards require architecture graduates to complete a lengthy paid internship—generally lasting 3 years—before they may sit for the Architect Registration Examination. Most new graduates complete their training period by working at architectural firms through the Architectural Experience Program (AXP), a program run by NCARB that guides students through the internship process.
Some states allow a portion of the training to occur in the offices of employers in related careers, such as engineers and general contractors. Architecture students who complete internships while still in school can count some of that time toward the 3-year training period.
Interns in architectural firms may help design part of a project. They may help prepare architectural documents and drawings, build models, and prepare construction drawings on CADD.
Interns may also research building codes and write specifications for building materials, installation criteria, the quality of finishes, and other related details. Licensed architects take the documents that interns produce, make edits to them, finalize plans, and then sign and seal the documents.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
When looking at how much do architects make, you have to consider how much training and credentialing is required. All states and the District of Columbia require architects to be licensed.
Licensing requirements typically include completing a degree program in architecture, gaining relevant experience through a paid internship, and passing the Architect Registration Examination.
Most states also require some form of continuing education to keep a license. Continuing education requirements vary by state but usually involve additional education through workshops, university classes, conferences, self-study courses, or other sources.
After many years of work experience, some architects advance to become architectural and engineering managers. These managers typically coordinate the activities of employees and may work on larger construction projects.
Important Qualities Architects Should Have
Analytical skills. Architects must understand the content of designs and the context in which they were created. For example, architects must understand the locations of mechanical systems and how those systems affect building operations.
Communication skills. Architects share their ideas, both in oral presentations and in writing, with clients, other architects, and workers who help prepare drawings. Many also give presentations to explain their ideas and designs.
Creativity. Architects design the overall look of houses, buildings, and other structures. They must ensure that the final product is both attractive and functional.
Organizational skills. Architects often manage contracts. Therefore, they must keep records related to the details of a project, including total cost, materials used, and progress.
Technical skills. Architects need to use CADD technology to create plans as part of building information modeling (BIM).
Visualization skills. Architects must be able to envision how the parts of a structure relate to each other. They also must be able to visualize how the overall building will look once completed.
Most architects work full time and many work additional hours, especially when facing deadlines. Self-employed architects may have more flexible work hours.
The Job Outlook is Good
Employment of architects is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
Architects are expected to be needed to make plans and designs for the construction and renovation of homes, offices, retail stores, and other structures.
Many school districts and universities are expected to build new facilities or renovate existing ones. In addition, demand is expected for more healthcare facilities as the baby-boomer population ages and as more people use healthcare services.
Demand for architects with a knowledge of “green design,” also called sustainable design, is expected to continue.
Architects should be needed to design buildings and structures that efficiently use resources, such as energy and water conservation; reduce waste and pollution; and apply environmentally friendly design, specifications, and materials.
With a high number of students graduating with degrees in architecture, strong competition for internships and jobs is expected.
Employment of architects is strongly tied to the activity of the construction industry. Therefore, these workers may experience periods of unemployment when there is a slowdown in requests for new projects or when the overall level of construction falls.
For information about careers in architecture, visit
American Institute of Architects
National Architectural Accrediting Board
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