TheStreet

Say the world "Architect," and images immediately come to mind of grand homes or buildings, artistic designs and blueprints. But what an architect actually does, and how much one actually makes, varies widely. 

What Is the Average Salary of an Architect? 

According to ZipRecruiter.com, an online job-search site, the average salary of an architect in the U.S. as of July 2019 was $6,783 a month. 

The average weekly salary of an architect was $1,586, while the average hourly salary was $40. 

ZipRecruiter said it is seeing monthly salaries as high as $11,708 and as low as $3,000, though it noted the majority of Architect salaries currently range between $5,208 (25th percentile) to $7,500 (75th percentile) across the United States. 

ZipRecruiter actually broke down its research to provide a chart of annual salaries of architects, with the 25th (or lowest) percentile being $62,500, the 75th (or highest) percentile being $90,000 and the average being $82,479. 

The site, which conducted a survey July 28, said the average pay range for an architect varies little, about $2,292, suggesting regardless of location, there aren't a lot of opportunities for increased pay or advancement, even with several years of experience. 

The company added that, to estimate the most accurate monthly salary range for Architect jobs, ZipRecruiter "continuously scans its database of millions of active jobs published locally throughout America." 

Another job-search site, Indeed.com, conducted its own survey July 27, a day before ZipRecruiter, and came up with a slightly different average salary. 

According to Indeed.com, the average annual salary for an Architect in the U.S. is $109,055. The company said it determined the average salary based on 2,689 salaries submitted anonymously to the site by Architect employees, users and collected from past and present job ads on Indeed in the past 36 months. 

The company noted the average tenure for an Architect in the U.S. is one to three years. 

And, lastly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that as of May 2018, the median annual wage for architects was $79,380. The lowest 10% earned less than $48,020, while the highest 10% earned more than $138,120. 

What Factors Determine an Architect's Salary? 

According to research done by Forbes.com in 2017, where an architect is located has the greatest impact on how much an Architect can make. 

For example, Forbes learned the Northeast has two states where architects make more than $100,000, on average: New York and Massachusetts. 

But there are more factors than just location that affect how much an architect makes. Including, what an architect does. 

According to the blog lifeofanarchitect.com, an architect writes that ones salary depends on, of course, location, but also what kind of firm they work for and a host of other factors. 

"Some architects design houses. Some design schools. Each is a very different experience. Some architects sit at a desk all day. Some architects are outside all day visiting construction sites. Some architects draw all day. Some architects never draw. And some architects do a little of everything," according to Enoch Sears, a member of the American Institute of Architects, who wrote the blog post about what architects do.

For example, an architect could be a "design architect" at a large firm, meaning part of a team focused on the initial design of a project. Design architects are involved in the artistic side of a project: Sketching freehand, making initial computer-generated images of projects, and putting together client presentations. 

But a design architect, especially at a large firm, isn't usually involved in the drawing of building plans or how a project is to be constructed. Still, competition for such jobs, which usually involve teams of a few people consisting of senior architects skilled with sketching and drawing, and younger less-experienced architects skilled in computer modeling, is fierce, according to the blog, because it is what most architects like to do. 

Another type of job architects look for is "production architect" at a large firm. This is a job for someone who likes to work exclusively on production of building plans or "blueprints," which a contractor will use to build the building. According to the blog, young, unlicensed architects on a production team - with up to 10 years of experience - spend their day correcting or modifying building plans with Computer Aided Design or Building Information Modeling software.

As with lawyers, a principal or partner at a large firm has reached the top of the firm. Principals are paid the most -- $100,000 to $200,000 - because they usually have more than 20 years' experience and bring in new work with profitable relationships and connections. "They frequently pull in 6-figure-plus salaries and are involved in the design and planning of projects," according to the blog. 

Another type of job architects look for is "contract administration." This is a position for architects who work exclusively on projects in the process of being built. It also is a position for architects with more than 20 years' experience, because it requires deep experience for dealing with builders, researching drawings, visiting job sites and coordinating corrections to drawings.

An architect could earn a salary as a "spec writer" - compiling books of project specifications that are physical descriptions of the quality standards and materials used to build a project. Spec writers are architects who spend their days researching building materials and editing large Word documents. But even spec writers aren't entry-level positions.

If you work as an architect at a mid- to small-sized firm, you may not have a chance to work on large skyscrapers or other major projects, but you may have more opportunity to be involved in every aspect of a project, Sears noted.

You could be a sole practitioner or a firm owner. But sole practitioners and small firm owners work long hours, and have tight finances. Typical salaries for solo architects, with 10 or more years' experience, are between $60,000 and $70,000 a year, he said.

Before you qualify for any of the possibilities above, you have to pass three to five years of internship doing (mostly) menial tasks, according to Sears. 

Geographic Breakdown of Architect Salaries: 

At the time of Forbes' research, the highest average annual salary, $109,520, was earned by architects in New York; $103,920 was the average annual salary for an architect in Massachusetts; $99,580 was the next-highest average annual salary, for an architect in Texas; $95,220 in Arizona; $95,060 in California; $93,390 in Alaska; $91,380 in Alabama; $89,260 in New Hampshire; $89,200 in West Virginia and $88,020 in Minnesota. 

Also according to Forbes' research from 2017, the most recent available data, states where architects make the least amount in annual salary are Utah, with an average annual salary of $67,540; Arkansas, with an average annual salary of $69,470; Maine, $70,470; Idaho, $71,190; Vermont, $71,770; New Mexico, $72,740; Mississippi, $72,780; Colorado, $73,090; Kentucky, $73,580 and Nevada, with an average annual salary of $74,620. 

Becoming an Architect

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are typically three main steps needed to become a licensed architect: Complete a bachelor's degree in architecture; gain relevant experience through a paid internship; and pass the Architect Registration Examination. 

A Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) program typically takes five years to complete. 

Aspiring architects who already have earned a bachelor's degree in another, related field, such as architectural history or construction management, can apply to a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) program, the BLS says. Such programs are also open to applicants holding a professional B.Arch. degree who want to specialize in historic preservation, design theory, solar design, or another related field. 

Depending on an applicant's prior education and experience, an M. Arch. degree can be earned in one to five years. Students, for example, with a pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture, can earn an M. Arch. degree in two years, or three years if they have a bachelor's degree in another field. Students who have already completed a B.Arch. program can usually complete an M. Arch. program in a year.

To become licensed, prospective architects must complete a three-year paid internship administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), and pass the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). Under supervision of a licensed architect, interns may assist with designing projects, building models, preparing Computer Assisted Design drawings and writing specs. 

In addition, to maintain a license, architects in most states must pursue continuing education through classes, conferences and workshops. Some architects are licensed in more than one state, by obtaining voluntary certification through the NACRB, the BLS noted. 

Payment Outlook

The BLS also notes that architects can expect a 7% on average growth in job opportunities between 2014 and 2024. Between 2016 and 2026, the rate of employment growth for architects is less, at 4% -- slower than the average for all occupations. 

Part of the reason is, the number of graduates of degree-offering architecture programs is increasing, and architect jobs are tied to construction prospects. However, green and energy-saving design and facilities architects for such things as schools are seen having the most likely growth in the coming years.