Survey reveals architects were handed a real terms pay cut in 2023

Where to earn the most (based on 11+ years of experience)


Studying and becoming an architect – is it worth qualifying?

For instance, senior architects, who reported an average salary of £47,800 this year, would be earning £10,000 more had their 2016 wages kept up with inflation.

The only significant pay hikes came for those at the most senior levels. In a reversal of the trend in 2022, where they received the lowest percentage increases, in the last 12 months partners obtained an average rise of 8.5 per cent. 


Gender pay gap persists

Apprentices’ average pay



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Meanwhile, architectural apprenticeships are being hailed as one route to avoiding racking up huge debts. Yet level 7 architectural apprentices get paid on average £26,800 – roughly £4,000 lower than the equivalent Part 2s with the same number of years’ experience.

The latest salary data, which covers firms of all sizes, suggests the situation could be even worse, most notably at the very top of the industry where a male partner can expect to earn 20 per cent more a year than a woman at the same level.  

Analysis of the anonymous data revealed that pay at almost every level continues to lag behind inflation – currently 4.6 per cent according to the Office for National Statistics. ‘In real terms,’ says recruitment specialist Chappell, ‘the architectural profession has taken another significant pay cut.’

‘Last year saw some of the largest salary rises in a generation,’ says Paul Chappell, of 9B Careers, who compiled the latest data on architects’ pay. ‘But 2023 has been far tougher and it appears the architecture industry is facing another challenging period.’

How to earn the most (average salaries based on years of experience)

In terms of a making a sidestep in career direction, the earnings of interior designers and design managers continue to outstrip architects. Meanwhile, an urban designer with less than five years’ experience can expect a a salary of £38,500 – £8,000 more than their counterparts in architecture studios.

It is a burden that the low levels of pay once in the workplace do little to ease, even after qualification – particularly when compared with the significantly higher earnings of those in other professions such as law or medicine. 

Percentage receiving bonus payments – women v men

AJ research in 2022 uncovered that a jaw-dropping 77 per cent of full-time students in England and Wales expected to owe more than £40,000 by the end of their Part 2. 

 

A poor year for pay 

Average percentage increase in salaries of architectural staff (in practice)

Sadly, the benefit of gaining your Part 3 has also reduced, the salary survey reveals. Recently qualified architects are now being paid around £4,200 more than Part 2s with the same number of years’ experience in practice. In 2022 this difference was £5,550.

Chappell says that, with redundancies creeping up, the employment landscape has shifted from a ‘candidate market’. He adds: ‘Architectural studios have been far more restrictive in their salary offers and made an increasing number of architects question how to make a career in architecture more affordable.’

One option is to look beyond traditional practice and seek opportunities with those who normally pay the bills. Contractors are willing to pay an average of £54,700 a year to those with between six and 10 years’ experience – £22,000 more than the average  £42,700 paid to someone with similar experience working in practice. And the average salary paid by contractors rises to £69,100 for those who have spent more than 11 years working in the profession.

 

Annual pay value of gaining Part 3

Architects’ pay by job title/role (in practice)

The headline figures are stark. On average, architects saw their pay packets rise by just 1.3 per cent in the last 12 months – a significant drop-off from the 6 per cent rises experienced by many in 2022. More than 2,250 respondents completed the recruitment agency’s annual survey during September and October.

 

Back in April, the AJ revealed a widening in the difference between male and female architects’ salaries, as reported by the UK’s top 10 largest practices under the government’s gender pay gap regulations. Women at those companies, on average, earned 15 per cent less than men, based on median hourly pay.

And though the last 12 months has been tough for everyone, it has been especially hard on women. Female respondents only saw their pay rise, on average, by 0.8 per cent compared to 2 per cent for men. Women were less likely to get a bonus too – just 39.4 per cent received one while 48.4 per cent of men had a bonus payment.


Want to earn more? Look beyond traditional practice

Male:female average salary split within architecture practices 2023