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AJ100 salaries frozen while opportunities for women dip

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A round-up of the headline statistics from this year’s AJ100 survey shows a stagnant profession in the economic doldrums

Salaries are down again in real terms, but fewer practices are slashing architecture fees and making redundancies, key findings from the AJ100 survey have revealed. Since 1995, the AJ100 has ranked the biggest practices in the UK by the number of architects they employ, while the accompanying survey provides a snapshot of the top 100 practices over the past year. 

Pay freeze
Salaries have continued to stagnate for the foot soldiers employed by the UK’s 100 biggest practices. Architects have taken home a median pay of £36,000 a year for two years running, while Part 3 students have been paid a median of £27,000 since 2008. 

Once inflation and tax are taken into account, this effectively represents an overall decrease in income. According to analyst Bruce Tether, ‘those who remain in employment are being expected to work much harder for their pay’. As with the 2012 survey data, it is the companies which pay directors more which also tend to pay junior staff more.

According to the RIBA Architect Salary Guide, architects should be paid between £34,000 and £42,000, while Part 3 graduates should earn £30-34,000.

Despite the pay freeze, 27 per cent of employees polled admitted they were very satisfied with their pay – a rise of 3 per cent from last year.  

And more optimistically, salaries for associates have risen again. Having bottomed out in 2010 at £46,000, take-home pay for associates has risen to £49,000. Partners are also being paid more, on average up to £75,500 a year – still a long way short of the £84,000 they earned in 2007 before the economic downturn began to bite. Indeed, with the exception of associates, all salary levels are below the 2007 pre-recession median rate. 

On a more positive note, fewer AJ100 firms brought in pay freezes or reduced salaries – just over half admitted squeezing pay, compared with two thirds in 2010. Job security has also improved. Only half made redundancies in the past 12 months compared to 78 per cent in 2009. But there has been a marked increase in companies using freelancers and subcontractors – up from 10 per cent in 2009 to 25 per cent now. 

Encouragingly, fewer AJ100 practices have admitted to lowering their fees this year – a heartening fall of seven percentage points on 2012 – with an 8 per cent drop in those reducing the costs of providing services and a 6 per cent drop in practices accepting lower margins. 

But 78 per cent of companies are still willing to accept lower margins and 71 per cent are willing to cut both costs and fees. The AJ100 fee scale has edged down for smaller jobs, where fees have fallen by 1 percentage point in some cases – a refurbishment through a traditional contract for a £250,000 job has dropped from 8 to 7 per cent. The fee scale has edged up for jobs of £10 million.

Where the work is
Fees coming from abroad into UK offices of the country’s biggest-hitters fell by 11.5 per cent to £200.8 million. Even so, 70 per cent of AJ100 practices reported ‘proactively’ seeking work abroad – the same proportion as last year. 

Women in architecture
The past year has not been good for equality in the profession. The proportion (see table below) of women architects working in the UK’s top 100 practices has fallen from 26 per cent to 25 per cent. The top 10 have an even lower ratio – just 22.7 per cent of the registered architects are female. However, the figure would stand at 24.5 per cent if calculated without Capita Symonds, which employs just 9 percent female architects.

Percentage of women in the AJ100 practices (2013)

Proportion of women working at the AJ100 practices (2013)






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