Architect Salary and Career Outlook

You’re fascinated with building design and intrigued by everything that goes into creating a new structure. You want to be an architect. But, what can you do with a master’s in architecture? And what are architect salaries like? Is there a positive job outlook for architects?

This article will answer the above questions to help you understand more about architecture, its specializations, and the top paying locations to start an architect career.

Architect Job Description

Architects plan and design structures such as homes, factories, commercial buildings, stadiums, schools and parks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) page on architects, they’re responsible for determining structure objectives, providing cost estimates, preparing designs, following legal building requirements, and visiting work sites to make sure construction execution measures up to the architectural plan they created.

Preparing designs and scaled drawings are central aspects of architect careers. Hand drawings are required, especially at the beginning of a project, but so are computer-generated drawings. Architects use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) systems to create scaled drawings and plans. Proficiency in these systems is a necessary skill for architect careers.

Architects also need to have a strong understanding of buildings’ structural systems, because their designs don’t just show what a building will look like—they outline critical details of its construction. Architectural designs include information related to a structure’s electrical, air conditioning, heating, cooling, plumbing and communication systems. Because architects are so involved in a building structure’s design phase, they frequently collaborate with civil engineers, surveyors, drafters, interior designers, and urban and regional planners.

Architect Work Setting

Architects spend most of their time in offices meeting clients, creating plans and working with other architects and engineers. They also spend time on construction sites checking to make sure that design objectives are being met.

Industries employing architects in 2018 and the percentage of architects employed, according to the BLS, include:

  • Architectural, engineering and similar services: 69%
  • Self-employed: 20%
  • Government: 3%
  • Construction: 3%

Careers for architects are flexible, because you can work for yourself or seek employment in a variety of settings. Keep reading to learn more about architect careers.

8 Great Architect Jobs

We researched common types of architecture and used our findings to develop a list of eight architect careers. Within each of these careers, there’s opportunity for further specialization. For example, a commercial architect may specialize in the design of senior living facilities.

One reason for specializing is that each building structure has a different set of codes, regulations and other ordinances that must be adhered to. As you grow in your career, you’ll develop a solid understanding of the legal guidelines you must follow. Which architect career is right for you?

1. Residential Architect Jobs

Residential architects specialize in the design of single-family homes. They know the ins and outs of home floor plans, design systems and materials. Residential architects may design a single house for a homeowner or multiple homes for a community.

2. Commercial Architect Jobs

Commercial architects design commercial buildings such as hospitals, offices, malls, hotels, apartment complexes and colleges. They have a solid understanding of commercial spaces and the structural systems that support them. Commercial architects have to adhere to different codes and regulations, depending on the commercial building they’re designing. For example, senior living facilities and commercial office spaces have different codes and standards to follow.

3. Landscape Architect Jobs

Landscape architects design parks and other outdoor areas. This architect career functions in both residential and commercial settings, as homes, college campuses and businesses all require landscape architecture services. These architects have extensive knowledge about landscape materials such as shrubs, trees and flowers.

4. Industrial Architect Jobs

Industrial architects design industrial buildings such as factories, data centers, manufacturing plants, warehouses and refrigeration properties. If you choose this career, you’ll develop and apply knowledge of each industrial structure’s nuances. For example, an oil refinery requires different design specifications than a data hosting center.

5. Naval Architect Jobs

Naval architects are responsible for the design of ships, including aircraft carriers, submarines, sailboats and tankers, according to the BLS. Pursuing this architect career requires specialized knowledge of the structure and stability of ship hulls. As a naval architect, you’ll work closely with marine engineers to design ships and oversee their building and maintenance.

6. Sustainability Architect Jobs

Sustainability architects apply their specialized knowledge of sustainable design, eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient systems to structures. Sustainability architects can apply “green” design to commercial and residential buildings. If this is of interest to you, consider searching “sustainable architecture firms.”

7. Restoration Architect Jobs

Restoration architects usually work for an architecture firm that specializes in the preservation of historic buildings. This is a unique architect career, because you likely won’t design new buildings. However, you’ll apply your architectural knowledge to the maintenance and upkeep of historic structures. Restoration architects need to have specialized knowledge of historic buildings and their designs, particularly structural flaws.

8. Architectural Manager Jobs

Architectural managers coordinate the activities of architecture companies. This is a great architect career for individuals who want to apply their education and experience to the operations side of the architectural business. According to the BLS, most architectural and engineering managers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in some form of engineering or a master’s degree in architecture.

Architect Job Outlook

Architecture and engineering occupations are expected to increase 4% from 2018 to 2028, the BLS reports. Employment of architects, specifically, is projected to increase 8% in the same time period, which is greater than the average of all occupations.

Top Reasons for Architect Job Growth

Here are some of the factors the BLS job outlook for architects says will drive the increase in employment through 2028:

  • More construction and renovation of buildings: Construction projects for homes, offices, stores and schools expected to update their facilities will drive employment of architects.
  • Increased demand for health care facilities: As baby boomers age, the need for health care facilities equipped to care for them increases.
  • Continued demand for “green” design: Architects with knowledge of sustainable, eco-friendly construction and energy efficient structure design will continue to be in demand.

Since architecture work is related to the construction industry, architects may experience periods of unemployment or decreased work when construction declines.

What Is the Median Salary for an Architect?

The median salary of architects was $80,750 in 2019, the BLS reports. The top 10% of earners made more than $137,620, while the lowest 10% made $48,700 in the same year. While this data provides a good overview, it’s important to realize that a lot of factors affect an architect’s salary.

Architect Salary Factors

Your architect salary depends on a variety of factors, such as the industry you work in, the type of work you do, and where you work.

Type of Architect Industry Specializations

Architects’ salaries vary by specialization and whether you are a residential, commercial, industrial, sustainability or restoration architect.

The BLS breaks down the median pay for architect and engineering occupations:

IndustryAnnual Median Pay
Architects (general)
Landscape Architects
Marine Engineers and Naval Architects

Architect Employment Level

The demand for the type of architecture work you want to pursue can also affect your earning potential. For example, based on 2019 annual mean wages, BLS data breaks down the top industries for architects based on the highest levels of employment:

IndustryAnnual Mean Wage
Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services
Residential Building Construction
Specialized Design Services
Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)
Nonresidential Building Construction

Architect Job Location

One of the biggest factors affecting your salary is geographic location. You could find comparable jobs in different cities, but it’s possible they’ll have different salaries. ossible factors include the location’s job market, construction activity and general demand for architects. If you’re comfortable with the idea of moving to a new city or state, it’s worth knowing more about locations with the highest architect salaries.

5 Best Paying Cities for Architects

According to the occupational employment and wage data from the BLS, here are the five top-paying metropolitan areas for architects and 2019 annual mean wages for them:

Metropolitan AreaEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Salinas, CA
Estimate not released
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
Lubbock, TX
Modesto, CA
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA

Other top-paying metro areas include:

Metropolitan AreaEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX
Worcester, MA-CT
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

5 Top States for a Career in Architecture

Based on the same BLS data referenced above, the top-paying states for architects include:

StateEmploymentEmployment per Thousand JobsAnnual Mean Wage
New York
District of Columbia

Is an Architect Career Path Right for You?

You must do your own research to decide whether an architecture program is right for you. If you’re interested in the architecture industry or you are intrigued by the architect job opportunities and salary figures, it’s time to learn more about how to become an architect.

Last Updated June 2020