What’s the salary outlook for new architecture grads?

December 05, 2019 | 6 minute read

There’s good news for new architecture grads entering the workforce! AIA’s latest compensation report reveals the highest salary increase for architecture positions in over a decade. And firms are investing in a bevy of new benefits like bonuses, firm culture, technology, training, and more to attract and retain top talent.

As you weigh your options for your first job, make sure you understand your value in the marketplace. Read on for more key highlights from AIA Compensation Report 2019.

Compensation continue to climb

Compensation across all architectural staff positions averaged in excess of $92,000 at the beginning of 2019, up more than 6% per year from early 2017 levels. This pace of growth matches the strongest annual rate seen over the past two decades.

Salaries strongest on coasts

As in previous years, coastal metro areas have the highest starting salary levels, led by San Jose, Calif., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, and Washington, D.C.

However, those areas also have a higher cost of living, especially in regard to housing costs. The portion of salary recent college graduates have to spend on rent is high in many metro areas, even where compensation levels are elevated.

Firm size matters less at entry level

Although there continues to be a wide variation in salaries between smaller firms and larger firms, junior and entry-level positions had measurably lower variations: Less than a 24% difference in average salaries at firms with fewer than 10 employees and firms with 250 or more employees compared to 40% for managers and department heads.

Focus on firm culture increases

Compensation isn’t just about salary, new grads should consider that the average value of benefits package is 17% to 18% in addition to base salary. Across the profession, the value of benefits offered as a share of employee compensation has been stable to modestly declining in recent years.

Given the financial challenge of expanding the value of benefits at the pace of compensation gains, firms have been expanding benefits focused on employee quality of life, such as casual office dress, telecommuting, and flexible hours. More than 80% of firms currently make them available to at least some of their employees, and the share of firms offering them has risen over the past two years.

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