The average architect salary is $88,860 per year or 42.72 per hour according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). The median annual wage is lower at $79,380 per year or $38.16 per hour. This is 102% higher than the average median annual wage for all jobs.
You aren’t guaranteed to make that much if you become an architect though. Factors like experience, location, and industry can significantly impact your earning potential.
Highest and Lowest Average Architect Salary
The BLS also reports the highest and lowest salaries for architects, which are as follows:
- The lowest 10% of architects earn less than $48,020 per year
- The highest 10% of architects earn more than $138,120
Architects earning the least typically work in lower-paying industries like educational support services while those making the most tend to work in higher-paying industries like insurance carriers.
Architect Average Salary by Experience Level
All architects must earn a bachelor’s degree in architecture. After that, you can choose to pursue licensing or opt to work as an unlicensed architect. Some architects also go on to earn a master’s degree or a doctorate depending on their career goals and their undergraduate degree. However, your licensure status and years of experience influence your potential earnings the most.
By using the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Compensation Survey Salary Calculator, you can determine just how much you can make given your experience and job title.
Full-time entry-level architects are recently out of school and assigned a title based on how close they are to becoming licensed. Level ones help create designs but are still directly supervised by a licensed architect. As you gain more experience, you also gain more responsibilities like performing routine assignments and consulting on large projects.
Here’s how these positions are compensated:
- Emerging Professional on the Path to Licensure 1: $45,210 average annual salary
- Emerging Professional on the Path to Licensure 2: $50,700 average annual salary
- Emerging Professional on the Path to Licensure 3: $54,740 average annual salary
Licensed architects with five or more years of experience work more independently, exercising their own judgment regarding problem-solving and project evaluation. They can earn an average annual salary of $67,920 with an average additional cash compensation of $3,630.
Unlicensed architects that fulfill the same duties as Architect 1 earn a much smaller average annual salary of $59,830.
Licensed architects with eight or more years of experience can earn an average annual salary of $80,280 with an average additional cash compensation of $5,790. At this level, you approve finished plans, specifications, materials, and construction. You might also supervise a small group of people.
Unlicensed architects that fulfill the same duties as Architect 2 earn a much smaller average annual salary of $67,770.
Licensed architects with ten or more years of experience can earn an average annual salary of $99,360 with an average additional cash compensation of $9,060. These architects handle medium-to-large scope projects and typically oversee a large group of architects and technicians.
Unlicensed architects that fulfill the same duties as Architect 3 earn a significantly smaller average annual salary of just $76,210.
Architects with eight or more years of experience (regardless of licensure status) and a bachelor’s degree in architecture can work as project managers. They manage small projects, create plans, coordinate execution, and estimate scope and fees. Project managers earn an average annual wage of $85,710 with an average additional cash compensation of $6,920.
Senior Project Manager
Senior project managers have a bachelor’s degree in architecture and ten or more years of experience. They oversee project managers and all project efforts, including scope, plans, client management, documents, proposals, estimated fees, and contracts. Senior project managers earn an average of $107,740 each year with an average additional cash compensation of $11,370.
Architect Average Salary by Specialty
Architects might take up a specialty based on their experience level, education, and interests. Some specialties pay more while others pay less. For reference, architects earn a median pay of $79,380 per year.
Architectural and Civil Drafters
Drafters take an architect’s designs and turn them into technical drawings using special software. To become a drafter, you need to earn a certificate or an associate degree from a community college or technical school. Drafters earn a median salary of $55,550 per year or $26.71 per hour. Job outlook for this career is as fast as average.
Project designers typically work independently to create plans and creative-design concepts. This includes putting together presentations and design drawings. Architects with five to ten years of experience and a bachelor’s degree in architecture can work as project designers.
According to the AIA, project designers earn an annual mean salary of $81,760. Senior project designers, who have 10 or more years of experience, earn an annual mean salary of $105,040. One step higher, the director of design oversees project designers and earns an average salary of $136,710.
Architecture teachers/professors work for colleges, universities, and other post-high school educational institutions. Typically, architecture professors need a Ph.D., but a master’s degree might suffice. Architecture professors earn an average median salary of $86,980 with the top 10% earning upwards of $175,110. Jobs in this field are expected to grow by 15% from 2016 to 2026, which is a sign of high job stability.
Landscape architects design parks and other outdoor areas like those found at college campuses, recreational facilities, homes, and businesses. This job requires a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture or a master’s in landscape architecture if your undergraduate degree is in a different field. Landscape architects earn a mean annual wage of $70,880. The top 10% of landscape architects earn upwards of $108,470, so this specialty has a lower earning potential than just architecture.
Average Architect Salary by Industry
Your earning potential as an architect is also partially determined by the industry you choose to work in. Choose a high-paying industry if you want to maximize earnings.
Average Architect Salary in the Top-Paying Industries
On average, architects working in the following industries make the most money:
- Insurance Carriers: $127,720 average annual salary
- Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services: $120,030 average annual salary
- Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution: $109,570 average annual salary
- Utilities: $109,570 average annual salary
- Privately Owned General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: $109,400 average annual salary
The number of jobs available in the highest paying industries is limited. For example, only 40 architects work in the insurance carrier industry. If you want to earn an average of at least $100,000, your best shot is working in the Management of Companies and Enterprises industry. Approximately 890 architects work in this high-paying industry.
Average Architect Salary in the Lowest-Paying Industries
These are some of the lowest paying industries for architects as of May 2018:
- Educational Support Services: $62,710 average annual salary
- Wood Product Manufacturing: $67,120 average annual salary
- Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing: $67,380 average annual salary
- Accommodation and Food Services: $69,820 average annual salary
- Building Material and Supplies Dealers: $71,870 average annual salary
The average salaries for these industries are lower than the average architect salary but that doesn’t mean you can’t make decent money. For example, 10% architects working in the Accommodation and Food Services industry earn more than $103,360 per year.
Average Architect Salary in the Most Popular Industry
Unsurprisingly, the BLS reports that most architects (86 percent) work in the Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services industry. This includes companies like drafting firms, architecture firms, or building mapping firms. On average, architects in this industry earn $88,390 per year with the highest 10% earning upwards of $137,620 per year.
Average Architect Salary by State and City
Where you choose to work greatly affects your earning potential. For reference, the national average architect salary is $88,860.
States with the Highest Average Architect Salary
The BLS identifies the follow as the top five states/territories that pay architects the most on average:
- New York: $109,520 average annual salary
- Massachusetts: $103,920 average annual salary
- District of Columbia: $100,770 average annual salary
- Texas: $99,580 average annual salary
- Arizona: $95,220 average annual salary
Keep in mind that earning more doesn’t necessarily mean more money to spend on luxuries or more money to put toward your student loans. Cost of living plays a big role. For example, D.C., New York, and Massachusetts are the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th most expensive states to live in according to CNBC.
Cities with the Highest Average Architect Salary
Salary also varies based on the specific area you work in. The BLS identifies the following cities as the top-paying metropolitan areas for architects:
- Salinas, CA: $121,440 average annual salary
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $111,870 average annual salary
- Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $111,110 average annual salary
- Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX: $109,330 average annual salary
- New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: $108,290 average annual salary
States with the Lowest Average Architect Salary
Some states pay architects much less. Here are lowest-paying states for architects:
- Utah: $67,540 average annual salary
- Arkansas: $68,470 average annual salary
- Maine: $70,470 average annual salary
- Idaho: $71,190 average annual salary
- Vermont: $71,770 average annual salary
In a lot of cases, low wages indicate that the state has a low cost of living. This isn’t necessarily the case with architects. Vermont and Maine both have higher costs of living than at least 36 other states, but architects working in Vermont and Maine make significantly less on average. Vermont architects also have a much lower earning potential. Only 10% of architects in Vermont earn an average salary higher than $99,710. In other states, 10% of architects earn upwards of $158,000.
Is Becoming an Architect Worth It?
Architects need at least a bachelor’s degree in architecture to work as an unlicensed architect in the United States. If you’re planning to become licensed, your undergraduate program must be a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). B.Arch programs take roughly five years to complete, a year longer than a normal bachelor’s degree. If you want to become licensed but don’t have a B.Arch degree, you’ll need a Master of Architecture (M.Arch) degree.
For many students, adding on an extra year of school or an extra degree means borrowing more money. In a 2012 survey, the American Institute of Architecture found that B.Arch students graduate with an average of $42,300 in student loans—much higher than the average for all graduates. Master of Architecture students graduate with an average of $72,000. Notoriously high tuition costs, the added years of schooling, and hidden costs like textbooks, special software, and modeling materials help explain the large amount of debt.
Is all that debt worth it?
That’s a question only you can decide on for yourself. It really depends on where you want to work, what specialty you want to pursue, whether you want to become licensed, and how you plan to pay back your loans.
In general, architecture is a solid field to go into. Architects make well above the average median salary for all occupations. Plus, as you gain more experience, your potential earnings and your average earnings significantly increase even without obtaining an additional degree.
Job availability is one risk that you’re taking if you become an architect. The BLS shows that the job outlook for architects from 2016 to 2026 is just 4%–the average for all occupations is 7%. You’ll still have options though. The BLS predicts an increased demand for architects with experience in green design (sustainable design), school/university design, and healthcare facility design.
Architects also need a plan to manage student loan payments during their first few years after college. As an entry-level, unlicensed architect, you’ll have a much smaller salary than the average architect salary. Thankfully, federal student loan repayment plans and private refinancing can keep your monthly payments manageable until your salary increases.
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine. (2)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (3)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. Information advertised valid as of 9/24/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. (4)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 9/24/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.