How to Make Money as an Architect | Earning Six Figures in Architecture

The salary of an architect is undoubtedly one of the most discussed topics in the design community.

While there are multiple factors that influence monthly income, what you should know is that some avenues are more productive than the others. Therefore, in this guide, we’ll emphasize the areas and opportunities where a design professional can get maximum return on their time and effort.

While earning in 6 figures may no longer be the yardstick for an upper management job, it’s still a significant milestone and, as such, an achievable goal. However, making the climb is not an easy feat. But you can always reach this target with the right practices.

Without further, let’s discuss the path to 6 figures.

How to Earn More in Architecture

How to make money as an architect 2
  1. Start Immediately

If you just stepped into the realm of architecture, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll start with a yearly income of $100,000+. However, this is the time to learn, grow, and focus. More often than not, professionals lose sight of their objectives and twenty years down the line, end up earning only half of what they should.

This is suicidal for your career since the overall progress in qualifications and experience is anyway quite staggered in this field. Therefore, the sooner you master certain skills, the more advantage you’ll have over your peers, in terms of salary.

  1. Foster Your Skills

Logic takes a backseat when you repeat the same thing and expect a different outcome each time. This holds true in the field of architecture as well. Basically, if you’re taking the same course of action every day, you cannot expect your compensation to sky-rocket.

Therefore, the line of thought you should pursue is – what can I do today that will better fetch results in the future? The answer, my friend, lies in ‘hard skills’. That said, hard skills are easy to develop and build upon when you’re younger. So, start ASAP.

The following are some of the most valued hard skills in the design industry:

  • Software knowledge
  • Hardcore design skills
  • Coding skills
  • Hand sketching
  • Data analysis
  • Industry awareness
  • Vocational degrees
  • Qualifications
  • Foreign languages

Other than that, you must also cultivate the following soft skills to stand out amid the crowd.

  • Communication (written and verbal) skills
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Leadership skills
  • Decision-making and problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Time management skills
  • Creativity and zest for innovation
  • Willingness to learn

These skills usually take longer to master. Therefore, we suggest working on individual aspects rather than trying to achieve it all in one go. Adjust your work-life balance accordingly, and implement changes wherever needed.

  1. Change Jobs and Job Role

If you’ve been on the job for a while, you must already know that the average salary hike an employee receives when switching jobs is somewhere between 10% and 20%. Therefore, say if an individual earns $58,200 a year, he/she will be offered an increase of $5,800 to $11,600.

Getting your current employer to give a raise beyond 3% – 5% is a herculean task. So, you might as well quit trying and instead make strategic moves so you can convert opportunities and get a hefty hike on your base salary. At the same time, keep your eyes peeled for new and higher positions as they usually come with additional perks, besides a fat paycheck.

Best cad program for architects
  1. Try to Reduce Stress Among Your Colleagues

You’d be surprised to find the effect of reducing stress among your co-workers. In the current scenario, it has been considered as a significant marker for success.

Basically, your presence should have a calming effect on your peers and supervisors. This usually happens when you have proven yourself reliable and a team player. Your colleagues will soon consider you to be a natural leader, and they’d prefer working with you than other people.

Also, when you actively work to reach targets and objectives, you instantly win the management’s favor. Therefore, you’ll be entrusted with more challenging tasks where you can push your boundaries.

  1. No Matter What, Be the Best

This goes without saying that specialization is a prerequisite for a high salary. Every employer wants to know what you can do better than other candidates. Your expertise might be in some specific building typology, creative designing, or in something as niche as airport BIM management.

In a recent publication by Architect Salaries, a unique revelation was made. It was stated that 10% of the highest-paid professionals made around $121,910. On the other hand, the bottom-most section earned only about $44,940.

Long story short, the top 10% earns approximately 3 times more than the bottom 10%. So, we wouldn’t be wrong to surmise that it pays (in several hundreds of dollars) to be the best.

Furthermore, if we go by the numbers in New England, you’ll be surprised to know that the mean salary is $104,600.

However, you should understand that this is an average figure, meaning that some people earned more while others less. While reaching this milestone takes almost 10+ years, you can shorten the time by starting a job while in school, so you don’t miss out on any opportunities during the post-graduation years.

  1. Be More Responsible

Responsibility and accountability is not something you can develop overnight. Also, you cannot just expect people to rely on you without proving yourself worthy. Therefore, you gotta take the initiative and step up when the situation demands.

Not everyone has it in them to deviate from routine. Therefore, most people fail to see the opportunities right in front of their eyes. You have to put yourself on the map by delivering above and beyond the ordinary.

That said, you can’t be lingering at the bottom of the pyramid for too long and expect miraculous things to happen to your compensation. Aim higher and accept more challenging assignments where you can be held directly accountable. However, this doesn’t mean you have to slog for hours. The key is to work smarter and not harder.

If you just started on a job, you should take baby steps towards this bigger goal. For instance, you can take on a small part of a bigger project and make sure that your contribution gets some highlight. This way, you’ll gain more mindshare, and your supervisors will start to see you as a reliable team player.

African engineer constructor designer architect analysing new bluilding plan in cad program working in business office. Industrial woman employee studying prototype idea showing cad software on device display.
  1. Enroll for Performance Reviews

This is a golden opportunity for professionals to discuss with supervisors about their performance and contribution to the firm’s growth. Also, these reviews are usually arranged by the HR department, but in a small office, you may need to request a meeting.

When it takes place, be prepared to speak about your direct involvement. Share your objectives, long-term and short-term goals. Make sure that your manager appreciates your initiative and sees you as an ally.

Consider this to be a re-interviewing for the job and prepare accordingly. What we essentially mean by this is that you should sound convincing enough to get an appraisal. Usually, these reviews take place once every financial year. However, if there’s a vacancy in the top tier or a change in your job role, it can happen much sooner.

Remember, you must always earn your hike, and, as such, you can get a higher percentage if the company considers you to be an asset and wants to retain you. That said, your personal financial situation is never a good enough reason for an appraisal.

  1. Get a License

This may seem too obvious, but getting licensed is a sure-shot path to a higher salary. However, it’s easier said than done, considering the expenses and the time it takes to advance in this field.

If you’re still skeptical, find out about the senior employees in your firm. Chances are, that most of them are licensed architects, working in a top position. While there are exceptions, it’s still the best course of action.

The best material to achieve licensure is undoubtedly the ARE Review Manual. This brick of a book contains everything you need to study to pass the exams.

Thanks to the new rules drafted by the NCARB in the U.S., it’s comparatively easier to get your license. The agency has reduced the total number of tests and also minimized the internship experience required. So, just prepare for the assessment and get it done. Honestly, the longer you delay it, the tougher it gets to complete all the exams.

Some states even allow candidates to complete the exams before finishing with the Intern Experience Program. This allows you to record more than 40 hours of internship experience per week.

Therefore, you have all the advantages of getting your license much earlier. Also, it’s commonly agreed that the longer you hold a license, the more valuable you are in the job market.

Engineer constructor designer architect creating new component in cad program working in business office. Industrial woman employee studying prototype idea showing cad software on device display
  1. If Possible, Shift to an Urban Location

While this may not be possible for everyone, we have included this suggestion as a quick route to a 6-figure compensation. Basically, if you take out some time to map the cyclical construction booms, you can soon find opportunities that fit your profile.

Furthermore, the most significant advantage of working in a city-based company is that the salary will always be higher than a similar job, in the rural belt. That said, the compensation is generally higher because of the increased cost of living. So, it’s not like you’ll save a lot more.

However, you’ll always have ample growth opportunities due to a larger volume of work. This way, when the time comes, you can switch to bigger and better companies that offer higher packages.

  1. Create Multiple Channel of Income

Since we are essentially talking about a 6-figure salary, this may seem off-topic. However, this is quite relevant if you’re looking to have a total annual income of $100k. You could earn it from different sources and still enjoy all that cash in your bank.

Therefore, we recommend diversifying and expanding the sources of income. When you’re getting paid only by your company, you close yourself from all other opportunities. In this case, you should list your skill set and look for ways to supplement your income.

You’d be surprised to know that there are thousands of ways to earn some extra cash, in terms of small-scale assignments related to this profession. And you never know when your side hustle becomes even more profitable than your full-time job.

So just go ahead and pick up some freelance work and generate the much-needed surplus. In fact, in many cases, the side gig turns into a full occupation once you start to make a name for yourself as a freelancer.

Furthermore, this practice will allow you to forge some long-term relationships with valuable contacts. Once you have these connections, you can ensure a steady flow of work and maybe even a lucrative position, in the future.

However, before you take on any personal projects, make sure that there is no conflict of interest with your current job. Long story short, you do not want these two jobs to interfere with one another.

How to make money as an architect 3

That’s all from us!

We hope our guide helped you in making the right decisions, career-wise.

Even though making money in this industry is not an easy task from the get-go, you will get ample opportunities to make breakthroughs. That said, you gotta be patient and enjoy the learning process.

As a creative individual, it’s essential to look for challenging projects that’ll bring the best out of you. If you feel that your work environment is getting stagnant, consider it to be a major red flag and move out of it ASAP. While you may have enough time to experiment, do not waste your energy in looking for jobs that provide very little satisfaction.

As an architect, it’s important to be updated and find newer avenues to showcase your talents and skills. On that note, we would like to sign off.

Till next time!

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