Architecture Is a Diverse Profession
Licensed architects have access to some of the most interesting and diversified jobs on the market. However, because the positions can be so varied, so too is the financial compensation across the board. So, if you’re looking to take the next step in your architectural career, it literally pays to be mindful of your next step’s salary.
It’s worth noting that these salaries are specific to the United States and vary (sometimes drastically) depending on where you live. For example, just because a position offers $90,000 in New York City doesn’t mean you’ll be taking most of that income home. As of the time of writing this article, Georgia tends to pay the most for its architects, given the cost of living and taxation.
We’ve separated this architecture jobs list into three brackets based on income, starting at low-paying to high-paying positions.
Many architectural jobs considered “low-paying” are that way because they’re either entry-level positions taken by those who just received their architecture degree, or they provide niche services to clients that tend not to have deep pockets. Even so, these “low-paying” positions are still living wages, depending on your personal expenses of course.
Architectural Technician – $53,000
An architectural technician is something like an assistant to the primary architects on a project. While not responsible for the initial creation of a project’s blueprints, architectural technicians will often find themselves editing an architect’s work to clarify specific details.
For example, they may create several versions of the same blueprint, each one detailing different features like plumbing or electrical plans. Architectural technicians also serve as liaisons between the architect and the construction crew to ensure the project is being constructed as planned and to account for any setbacks along the way.
Architectural Drafter – $57,000
The architectural drafter does much of the leg work when it comes to the design of a project. They will take the sketches from an architect and convert them into blueprints using computer-aided drafting software (CAD). It’s the architectural drafter’s job to gather information about the work site and the materials needed to ensure the project is completed correctly as per the blueprint’s design requirements.
Architectural Designer – $60,000
The first of these positions to be included in the initial design phase of the project, Architectural designers are present at the very beginning of the design phase. They assist in ensuring the project’s design is visually pleasing, functional, and they create a cost estimate for the client. They will then work with the client to figure out budgets and timetables and create an outline for the construction of the project. As a result, architectural designers end up taking a partial role as accountants to sell the full design to the client.
Historic Preservation Architect – $64,000
Historic preservation architects find themselves in a particularly unique niche in the industry. It’s their job to preserve sites of historical importance, which is a lot more involved than you might think. To do this job effectively, the architect will need to research the specific needs of the site to keep it maintained, as well as have a working knowledge of national rules for the treatment of historical sites.
For example, is the site located near ocean air? What are the humidity levels? Is it located in marshlands? Are earthquakes common in the area? These are all things a historic preservation architect will need to know to properly take care of a site.
The architects will need to be able to determine whether a site is worth preserving as per architectural history guidelines as well. A working understanding of chemicals is also a hard requirement for some jobs, as special cleaning products and chemical acids might be needed to carefully clean sites without damaging them.
Starting from $65,000 to $74,000, these positions pay what most architects can expect to make once their careers begin to take off. Many of these positions require some years of skill, experience, and an impressive portfolio before employers will feel comfortable enough to hire.
Urban Planner – $65,000
Urban planning is the first “big picture” position on this list. Rather than focusing on specific buildings, urban planners need to designate entire zones for specific construction. They do this by first gathering a plethora of information, including:
- Geographical data like ground quality and river paths
- Market research
- And more.
Urban planners must interact with builders, public officials, and the public itself when planning urban centers. Once an urban planner has developed a blueprint for the area, builders will come to them with projects in mind. It’s then the architect’s job to cross-reference these project ideas with the building zones they’ve drafted to see whether the project will fit, or if anything can be edited to allow its construction.
Green Building & Retrofit Architect – $67,000
One of the newer professions in the industry, a green building & retrofit architect is responsible for the creation of, or retrofitting of green buildings. They take the most modern technology on the market, be it solar panels, lighting fixtures, digital thermostats, etc., and use them to lessen the power output of a building and bring it more in line with modern-day green standards.
Though the goal is to maximize green efficiency, these positions are largely guided by the building owner, who will dictate the kind of changes the building should undergo. It’s the architect’s job to figure out how to make effective changes within those parameters. For example, a building owner might want to lessen power usage but doesn’t want to utilize solar panels due to damaging hail in the area, or maybe they just don’t like the appearance. Green building & retrofit architects need to find solutions to these problems.
Landscape Architect – $67,000
Unlike the grand majority of jobs in the field of architecture, landscape architects don’t work with buildings. Instead, they primarily design public green areas, like college campuses, playgrounds, parks, gardens, etc. Their primary objective is to make visually pleasing areas to either increase the value of nearby properties or to specifically create social spaces for the community. In the case of universities, the greenery is designed to convert what would otherwise likely be an austere environment into a more welcoming one for marketing purposes.
Architectural Manager – $74,000
These are the project managers of the architectural world. Architectural managers are concerned with the big picture of a single project. They keep in close contact with all the architects under their supervision to ensure their work continues to fall under the client’s direction and local building codes, as well as to direct their efforts if changes need to be made.
Being the boss means the burden of knowledge rests mostly on the shoulders of the architectural manager. What that means is building codes, reasons for construction delays, the outcome of the project, it all comes down to the manager’s ability to communicate and guide several different teams to ensure the building’s design comes out correctly in the end.
The following jobs are some of the highest-paying positions an architect can attain in the industry. This is in part due to the importance and need of the position. Experienced architects continuing education beyond their Bachelor’s degrees can expect to find themselves in the running for these positions.
Architectural Historian – $80,000
An interesting mix of both the education and architectural industries. Architectural historians are similar to historic preservation architects, but they take it a step further. Architectural historians will typically work with universities by teaching the subject to budding students.
When not attending to teaching duties, they can find themselves taking flights to historical sites to either assist in the historic unraveling of a building or lending their expertise to assist in the preservation of it. Architectural historians can find themselves working for private land owners and custodians of historical sites, to governments in charge of World Heritage Sites.
Commercial Architect – $91,000
Though they may not be the most visually appealing buildings most of the time, industry requires architects as well. Industrial architects are given the task of designing buildings for a wide selection of industries. Chemical plants, oil processing facilities, manufacturing plants, they all have separate yet equally stringent codes their buildings must adhere to. The task is then up to the architect to create a worksite that keeps employees safe and greatly reduces the chances of critical mistakes.
Similar to an industrial architect, the commercial architect is responsible for the creation of non-residential buildings. However, rather than focusing on factories, they’re typically responsible for creating office buildings. In addition to building codes, commercial architects need to keep in mind,
Extreme Architects – $100,000+
One of the most demanding (and rewarding) positions a person can take in this industry is extreme architecture. Architects in this field are tasked with designing buildings or structures that need to endure in extreme environments. Buildings erected in both extreme cold and heat undergo stresses that would quickly erode most designs used in temperate climates.
This position requires intensive training, a vast list of technical skills, and a deep understanding of what building materials are capable of withstanding, as lives are typically on the line, be they in the arctic, beside a volcano, or on the ocean.
Contact Us to Take the Next Step in Your Career
From city planning to historic site preservation, we feel it’s safe to say that architecture is one of the most diverse fields you can get into. Whether you’re interested in drafting skyscrapers or a perfectly harmonious green space in your design studio, there’s a specialization in this industry for you.
Interested in taking the next leap in your career? For the best in high-paying architect recruitment, contact us to learn more!