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AJ100 2020

AJ100 2020: Salaries are stuck in the doldrums

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Salary stagnation continues – except for those at the top or at the bottom

For architects and architecture students, the salaries reported by the AJ100 practices have barely increased in a decade. This year’s findings perpetuate that trend.

Across the five levels of seniority surveyed, on average only those at the top and those at the bottom enjoyed pay increases in real terms in 2019, taking into account the Consumer Price Index of 1.8 per cent for the year to January 2020. By contrast, those at associate, architect, and – marginally – Part 3 student levels experienced pay cuts in real terms.

Architects’ median pay rose very slightly to £40,125, while median pay to associates, who on average did well the previous year, was unchanged at £55,000. On average, pay to Part 3 students almost kept pace with inflation, rising 1.7 per cent to £30,000.

Median salaries

Partners/directors and year-out students fared better. Their median pay went up 2.3 per cent, to £90,000 and £22,500 respectively.

This long-term trend of stagnating pay levels is also borne out by Office of National Statistics data on hourly earnings in the architecture industry and in architecture occupations, which show little growth in pay in these activities over the past decade or so.

According to Jill Showell, managing director of architecture and design recruitment agency Bespoke Careers, there was a marginal rise in salaries during 2019 across all levels.

‘There was certainly more confidence in hiring and employees looking to make their next career move,’ she said, adding that the commercial workplace and residential sectors remained strong and demand outstripped supply for those with Revit expertise.  

‘We are now noticing a slight dip in salaries being offered. This is now a client strong market and they are able to harness some incredible talent below their true market rate.’

And Del Hossain, group managing director of Adrem recruitment agency, said: ‘Since the recession of 2009 there were salary increase in 2011 and 2016 but otherwise it has been fairly consistently not going much above inflation.’ 

He did not see any increase in architecture salary levels last year, with the exception of experienced Part 2 qualified staff. However, pre-pandemic he thought market confidence was starting to return after the timeline for Brexit was announced last autumn. 

This year, 28 practices reported paying their partners/directors £100,000 or more, which is one fewer than last year. Four reported paying their partners/directors more than £150,000 a year, again one fewer than last year. The median of £90,000 for partners/directors lags well behind the £109,500 figure it would have been if their pay had kept pace with the CPI since 2005.

Bruce Tether is professor of management at the Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester and Research Director of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre. Additional reporting by Pamela Buxton.

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