Minimal compensation gains continue to weigh heavily on architecture firms, according to the 2011 AIA Compensation Survey. Compensation for architecture positions increased less than one percent annually over the last three yearsa $1,600 gain over the entire periodcompared with the 4.4 percent growth compounded annually between 1990 and 2008, the survey says.

“In addition to reducing benefits offered to employees, architecture firms have been faced with devastating conditions and had to make difficult reductions in expenses,” said Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, the association’s chief economist, in a statement. “Salary freezes or reductions, scaled back hours, the conversion of full-time to part-time or contract positions, and mandatory furloughs have all taken a toll on the compensation of architects.”

The compensation trend for architecture positions during the last decade reflects the industry’s relationship to the economic climate. Between 2002 and early 2011, architecture compensation grew by 32 percent while all related professional compensation increased by 27 percent, and private workers’ by 25 percent, the survey says. Overall, industry compensation grew most rapidly between 2005 and 2008, slowing due to the recession and its prolonged recovery.

The effect this has had on industry compensation rates varies by professional experience level but reflects a continued, long-term decline in all cases, with the extent of the cutbacks most severe for top-level positions, the survey says. Senior titles saw a net 3 percent decline, with architects’ and designers’ compensation dropping by 1.7 percent. Interns experienced a 0.3 percent drop, according to the survey.

Average Compensation 2011 2008 2005
Senior design/project management staff 94,900 98,800 85,800
Architects/designers 71,600 71,600 57,700
Interns 47,300 45,400


*2011 AIA Compensation Survey  But the news isn’t all bad. Firms—often larger ones—continue to reward employees for advanced degrees and for technical training and experience, the survey says. More than half of firms report higher salaries for employees with a master’s degree in architecture while nearly one-third of firms pay employees more who have “sufficient” building information modeling experience, according to the survey. Smaller firms are less likely than larger firms to reward a MArch degree, however, but are more likely to offer a higher salary to registered architecture staff members.

Percentage of firms offering higher salaries
All firms Fewer than 10 employees 100+ employees
MArch 52.9 45.5 88.4
Registered 71.9 74.7 52.5
Revit/BIM expertise 31.4 23.4  43.0

*2011 AIA Compensation Survey