AIA Report Reveals How Architecture Firms Weathered the Pandemic

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WASHINGTON- Despite a steep economic recession during the first half of 2020, compensation for architectural staff at U.S. architecture firms essentially held flat over the 2019–2021 period, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) biannual Compensation Report.

“Like many professions, architecture firms across the country have had to weather an incredibly volatile period,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “While we have seen an unprecedented recovery in architecture firm billings during 2021, this report provides a valuable snapshot of the impact the pandemic had last year on firm compensation and employment levels.”

According to the report, architecture firms lost 16,000 positions between February and their low in July of 2020, which is 8 percent of all payroll positions at firms. Meanwhile the overall economy lost over 21 million payroll positions between February and April of 2020, or 16.5% of total payrolls.

The biannual compensation report provides salary data for more than 40 architecture firm positions in cities across the United States as well as industry salary trends and analysis on where the market is headed.

Key findings of this year’s report, include:

  • Average compensation for recent architecture graduates was just under $56,000, however, there continues to be considerable variation in starting compensation nationally, with average starting compensation ranging from around $48,000 to $69,000, depending on the region of the country.
  • Despite generally outpacing compensation growth in the broader economy, architect compensation is also much more volatile. Between 2019 and 2021, architect compensation increased 0.3 percent per year, while all professional compensation increased 2.4 percent annually, and 3.1 percent for all private workers.
  • At firms with fewer than 50 employees, benefits as a share of base pay declined to 14.4 percent on average in 2020, after averaging just over 18 percent nationally two decades ago.

Complete results from the 2021 AIA Compensation Survey can be purchased online.

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