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.