Does Architecture Pay Well? A Detailed Look At Architect Salaries

With its combination of art, science, and business, a career in architecture can be immensely rewarding. But does it also pay well? If you’re wondering whether architecture is a lucrative profession, this comprehensive guide has the answers.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Architects earn salaries that are well above the national median wage, with the top 10% of architects making over $138,000 per year. Although salaries vary based on factors like location and experience, architecture is considered a relatively high-paying profession overall.

Average Salary for Architects

When it comes to the average salary for architects, there are several factors to consider. Let’s take a detailed look at the national salary data, starting versus experienced salaries, and salaries by location.

National Salary Data

The national salary data provides a comprehensive overview of what architects earn on average across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for architects was $80,750 as of May 2020.

However, it’s important to note that this figure can vary depending on factors such as experience, specialization, and location.

Architects working in specialized industries such as aerospace or pharmaceuticals tend to earn higher salaries compared to those in general architectural services. Additionally, architects with advanced degrees or certifications may also command higher salaries.

Starting vs Experienced Salaries

Starting salaries for architects can vary greatly depending on factors such as education, experience, and location. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the average starting salary for an architect with a bachelor’s degree is around $50,000 to $55,000 per year.

However, as architects gain experience and advance in their careers, their salaries tend to increase significantly. Architects with more than 10 years of experience can expect to earn well above the national average. It’s not uncommon for experienced architects to earn six-figure salaries or more.

Salaries by Location

Location plays a significant role in determining an architect’s salary. Different cities and states have different costs of living and demand for architectural services, which can impact salaries. For example, architects working in major metropolitan areas such as New York City or San Francisco generally earn higher salaries due to the higher cost of living and increased demand for architectural expertise.

According to the AIA, the highest-paying states for architects include California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and Illinois. However, it’s important to consider the cost of living and other factors such as job availability and competition when evaluating salaries by location.

For more information on architect salaries and industry trends, you can visit reputable websites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( and the American Institute of Architects (

Factors That Affect Architect Salaries

When it comes to architect salaries, there are several factors that can have a significant impact on how much an architect earns. Understanding these factors can help aspiring architects plan their career path and make informed decisions about their specialization and work environment.

Experience and Qualifications

One of the most influential factors in determining an architect’s salary is their level of experience and qualifications. Architects with more years of experience tend to earn higher salaries due to their expertise and proven track record.

Additionally, architects who have advanced degrees or certifications, such as a Master’s in Architecture or a LEED certification, may also command higher salaries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for architects in the United States was $80,750 as of May 2020. However, architects with several years of experience and those who have established themselves in the industry can earn well into six figures.

Firm Size and Type

The size and type of the architecture firm an architect works for can also impact their salary. Larger firms, especially those with a global presence and high-profile projects, often offer higher salaries to attract top talent.

These firms may also provide additional benefits such as bonuses, profit-sharing, and opportunities for career advancement.

On the other hand, smaller firms or boutique architectural practices may offer a more personalized work environment and the opportunity to work on unique and innovative projects. While salaries at smaller firms may be lower on average, architects in these settings may have more creative freedom and a greater sense of ownership over their work.

Architectural Specialty

The specific area of architecture in which an architect specializes can also influence their earning potential. Certain specialties, such as healthcare or commercial architecture, are in high demand and may offer higher salaries due to the complexity and specialized knowledge required for these projects.

For example, architects who specialize in sustainable design and green building practices are increasingly sought after as sustainability becomes a greater focus in the industry. These architects may have opportunities to work on cutting-edge projects and earn higher salaries due to their expertise in sustainable design principles.

It’s important to note that these factors are not the only ones that can affect architect salaries. Geographic location, economic conditions, and market demand for architects also play a role. Architects who are willing to relocate or work in areas with high demand for their skills may have greater earning potential.

Job Outlook for Architects

For those considering a career in architecture, it’s important to understand the job outlook and potential salary expectations. Architects play a vital role in designing and creating the built environment, and their work is highly valued in society.

Let’s take a detailed look at the job outlook for architects, including projected job growth and the competition for jobs.

Projected Job Growth

The demand for architects is expected to grow in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of architects is projected to increase by 1% from 2019 to 2029. This growth rate is slower than the average for all occupations, primarily due to fluctuations in the construction industry.

However, the need for architects will continue to exist as new buildings and infrastructure projects are planned and executed.

It’s worth noting that certain areas of architecture may experience higher job growth than others. For example, sustainable design and green architecture are becoming increasingly important, as more emphasis is placed on environmental sustainability.

Architects with expertise in these areas may have better job prospects and opportunities for growth.

Competition for Jobs

While there is a demand for architects, competition for jobs can be fierce. The field of architecture attracts talented individuals with a passion for design and creativity, resulting in a competitive job market.

Architects with a strong portfolio, relevant work experience, and advanced technical skills are likely to have an advantage in securing employment.

Additionally, the location can also impact the level of competition. Urban areas with a high population tend to have more job opportunities but also attract a larger pool of applicants. On the other hand, rural areas may have fewer job openings but less competition.

It’s important for aspiring architects to stay updated with the latest industry trends, technologies, and design methodologies to stand out in the job market. Building a strong professional network, attending industry events, and gaining practical experience through internships or apprenticeships can also enhance job prospects.

Highest Paying States for Architects


When it comes to high-paying states for architects, California is often at the top of the list. The state of California is known for its thriving architectural industry and its demand for skilled professionals.

With its vibrant cities and booming real estate market, architects in California have the opportunity to work on exciting projects and earn lucrative salaries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for architects in California is $115,600. This is significantly higher than the national average for architects, which is around $82,320.

Architects in California can expect to earn above-average salaries due to the high cost of living and the competitive nature of the industry in the state.

New York

Another state that offers high earning potential for architects is New York. With its iconic skyline and world-renowned architecture, New York City is a hub for architectural innovation and design. Architects in New York have the opportunity to work on prestigious projects and collaborate with top professionals in the field.

The average annual wage for architects in New York is $111,870, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is also above the national average and reflects the high demand for architects in the state.

The competitive nature of the industry in New York, coupled with the high cost of living, contributes to the higher salaries offered to architects in the state.


Massachusetts is another state that offers attractive salaries for architects. With its rich history and diverse architectural landscape, Massachusetts provides architects with a range of opportunities to showcase their skills and creativity.

From historic preservation projects to cutting-edge designs, architects in Massachusetts can find fulfilling work and earn competitive salaries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for architects in Massachusetts is $107,770. This is higher than the national average and reflects the demand for skilled professionals in the state.

With its strong economy and thriving architectural industry, Massachusetts continues to be a top choice for architects looking for high-paying opportunities.

It’s important to note that while these states offer higher salaries for architects, the cost of living in these areas may also be higher compared to other parts of the country. Additionally, salaries can vary depending on factors such as experience, specialization, and the size of the architectural firm.

Architects should consider these factors when evaluating potential job opportunities and deciding where to establish their careers.


While the road to becoming a licensed architect is long, it can certainly pay off in the end. Architects earn salaries that tend to be higher than many other occupations. With the right combination of education, experience, skills, and geographic location, it’s possible to earn a very lucrative living as an architect.

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