Beyond $$: What benefits & perks are architecture firms offering?

April 2, 2019 | 5 minute read

When considering your first job offer, it’s easy to focus on the number and all of the zeroes at the end. But don’t lose track of the part of your compensation that falls outside of that dollar figure—the benefits, from health insurance to vacation days to bonuses, that you’ll need to weigh nearly as much as salary. In fact, the value of benefits packages provided by architecture firms averages an additional 18 percent of base pay. It’s important to know how the benefits offered by the companies you’re interviewing with stack up against the greater industry. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from AIA’s latest Compensation Report that can help you plan. And keep in mind that benefits can vary widely based on firm size; while larger firms may have heftier packages important to some job seekers, smaller companies may offer flexible or lifestyle perks more appealing to others Healthcare & retirement:

  • Nearly all firms—93 percent—offer health insurance to full-time employees; 92% of those firms contribute to some or all of the costs.
  • Three-quarters of companies provide dental insurance, with a little more than half of those covering some or all of the costs.
  • More than 60 percent of firms offer life insurance, vision care, and/or long-term disability insurance.
  • 83 percent of firms provide a retirement program such as a 401(k), including 100 percent of the largest firms.

Time off: Good news: Firms upped their paid-time-off (PTO) offerings in the past few years, now providing an average of 30 paid days off in some combination of vacation days, sick days, holidays, and general PTO.

“But the more noticeable change was the increase in the share of days off classified as PTO,” the study reported. “Many businesses are moving away from having different types of paid time off (e.g., sick days, personal days) to lumping all paid time off into one general PTO bucket, and architecture firms are doing the same. Paid holidays remained relatively consistent across firms of all sizes … with large firms typically offering two to three more paid holidays than small firms.”

Bonuses: Firms continue to offer bonuses, but to a lesser degree than a few years ago.

  • Eighty-three percent of firms offer discretionary annual bonuses.
  • Signing bonuses are less common in all but the largest firms; 81 percent of companies with more than 100 employees say they offer signing bonuses, though the survey does not indicate to what level hire those bonuses are typically doled out.
  • Performance and spot bonuses aren’t as common, offered by half or less of all firms.

Other perks: Finally, don’t forget to ask about those benefits that don’t capture as much attention but can make a difference to both your wallet and your morale. For example:

  • Professional development benefits are common across the board, with the majority of firms offering training meetings and workshops, covering the cost of AIA membership dues, and paying licensure fees. Some firms, including a significant percentage of large organizations, also will pay for professional certification fees.
  • Firms are recognizing the growing importance of flexible schedules: Nearly seven in ten companies offer flex-time, and nearly half of firms provide telecommuting opportunities.
  • Smaller firms are more likely to offer pet-friendly offices and also have higher prevalence for casual dress codes.

As you consider your options for your first job, include benefits as part of the compensation conversation. They’re not as cut-and-dried as a salary figure, but determining which perks matter most to you, and factoring in the cost savings they bring, will help you find the right match.

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