In 2012, architects earned an average of $78,690 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was a decrease of nearly 1 percent from the previous year, when the average salary was $79,300. The relatively high salaries are at least partly due to training. Architects can only enter the field by completing a five-year architecture degree program or a master’s degree in architecture.
After completing a professional degree in architecture, graduates must complete an internship to become a licensed architect. Internships usually last three years, and like many professional internships, these programs are paid. A survey by the American Institute of Architects found that first-year interns earned an average of $40,000 a year, as of 2013. Those in their second year averaged $45,400, while third-year interns brought home $49,200.
As with almost any profession, earnings vary by location -- even for interns. For example, first-year interns earned some of the highest wages in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, at an average of $41,800 a year. Those working in the South Atlantic region were a close second, averaging $40,900, while those in the Pacific region ranked third, averaging $40,800. Some of the lowest wages reported were in East South Central U.S., where the average was $34,800.
Once graduates complete their internships, they must sit for and pass the Architect Registration Examination. Until that time, the architecture firm may choose to hire interns as unlicensed design members. On average, unlicensed architects earned $54,100 a year during their first year, with an increase to $62,900 for their second year, according to the AIA survey. If interns pass their exams, the firm may then choose to hire them as licensed architects. First-year architects earned 10 percent more than their unlicensed counterparts, at an average of $59,700 a year. Salaries jumped to $72,500 with experience.
Though earnings seem to be at a standstill, the BLS expects employment for architects to grow as much as 24 percent between 2010 and 2020. By comparison, this is much faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations, an estimated growth of 14 percent. In this somewhat large field, the anticipated growth works out to nearly 28,000 new jobs during the course of a decade.