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Architects' wages and conditions



  • Anonymous
    edited January 1970

    im sorry but i know very few architects, infact MAYBE one
    who consider the broader context when designing....

    of course all of them analyse (barely) the obligatory adjacent sites, the streetscape two to three sites either way.... etc etc, you know the rest. - i mean really when do they have the time? with clients on their back, councils, objectors, builders, etc...

    and you very well know that ANY urban design reports prepared outside the office are ONLY prepared when vcat come in to the equation AND its only to ensure they are justified against the short-falls of rescode. - an urban design analysis is much more than a neighbourhood context plan and design response.

    to be honest, a good architect acknowledges this and will work in conjunction with an urban designer to relate the building to its location.

    i still draft, i still design, im still involved in the industry because i love it, i envy no-one. - i think the only difference i have experienced is that im not a CAD monkey!
  • Anonymous
    edited January 1970
    Oi! Steady on.
  • Anonymous
    edited January 1970
    :lol: nice one!
  • Anonymous
    edited January 1970
    'Planner', peace brother.

    You've certainly put us all in our place.

    I wish you all the success in the world. :o
  • Anonymous
    edited January 1970
    its not about 'placess
    its spaces...
    and where 'your face is'
  • Anonymous
    edited January 1970
    any students reading this and despairing-

    get a job with a building company.

    you may start doing some of the same 'clerical' work you get in an architect's office, but you will learn quickly. and there is simply much more money there.

    i worked for a builder when i was at uni, as did a few of my mates. we got paid well (better than the graduate archi award rate) and now understand much more about tenders, contracts and unions than you will ever learn in a classroom.
  • Anonymous
    edited January 1970
    Hi all

    I've given it a go for the last 8 years in a large national practice with offices in the major cities in Australia, asia and the middle east, all under the name of one superstar architect, an old master of the craft. I think you can all guess which company this is.

    Sydney HQ is the worst company to work for if you're in the first five years of your career.
    Young architects are stuck in the role of CAD monkey/ disciple/ sycophant.
    Project Architects who have taken 10 years to get the measly role of running a project team are not about to let a young architect tell them anything they don't know.
    Associates who have taken 15 years or more to get there are not about to jeapoardise their position by disagreeing with the big boss, who doesn not know the roject as well and whose ego is as big as his masterplans.

    It's the people that make a company.
    People who have been around for too long become quite twisted insecure individuals who guard whatever they have achieved jealously.

    In the big scheme of things, most successful profitable businesses out there are not run like a sweatshop. Patriarchal corporate structures like this are becoming a thing of the past. What does the Sydney HQ do every 5 years? They fire and re-hire. The people re-hired are mostly new graduates, foreign architects and contractors. Money is spent in retraining them- or not at all. You get a bunch of people who are willing to do as they're told, but lack the experience to actually get things done (a load of operations and systems and standards come into play for cad monkeys). Apparently, in the already twisted minds of management, this is more profitable. Fire em or make em leave before they wake up and smell the coffee.

    As long as young, eager and nubile architects are willing to submit to this sort of treatment, the company will continue in this fashion. Petty people will breed petty people.

    My advice? Do a commerce degree instead.
    You get more practical experience, exposure and it'll give you better returns on your capital.
  • Anonymous
    edited January 1970
    It really surprises me how people who have gone through the experience of being students and graduates can be so condescending and outright negative about the young people in this industry who they so often exploit and profit from.
    time for a proper architect's union.
    thank god for "architects for peace" or the rest of melbourne would think that we're a bunch of self-interested, egotistical(can't forget patronising) prima donnas.
  • Anonymous
    edited January 1970
    As a bloke currently on the tools with 20 years on-site building experience along with a job dealing with close to 2000 CAD clients inclusive of many architects a broad spectrum of the profession demographics has been obtained..

    Many of the older Architects still cling to their boards yelling "oh but the art" yet expect clients to hand over money equivilent to the hours at the rate they deserve.

    Currently some universities still expect students to teach themselves CAD as potentially the proffessors havent the skills themselves.

    Those students are embracing technology which accelerates design time. Tthe architect which uses CAD technology instead of projecting hers/his thoughts to a CAD monkey to provide concept images and plans is the one who doesnt appear to be producing the work fast enough.

    The Arch students of the future who use products such as Revit, ArchiCAD etc etc producing product up to ten times faster will make the cash.

    CAD Monkey? :D A company I worked for has some drafting students on $40 p/h within a 3 year period. They make the cash because they embrace the technology.

    I have had an Architectural student working with me onsite for 4 weeks laying stone in his holidays. 105 tonne in 6 weeks between the 2 of us.
    He informed that his lecturer stated that pushing the price of a job up meant further fees could be aquired out of a job. As if the trades dont know and the public perception is just this probably because the trades discuss some of the overdesigned elongated methods "some" Architects use to construct different aspects of a building.

    As a tradesman that never has been a member of the CMFEU without holidays,super,sick leave, RDO's, picnic days? :), pay for your own truck, plant and equipment, workers compensation, public liability things became bad before many of the now in demand gave the bird to the industry till realisation set in that oh crap, we got no trades left..

    While a student maynot know some of the more intricate detail of construction some have the technology skills to produce faster design concepts (Renders)..

    The Architects on the drafting board doin the Michael Angelo. They're the ones that whinge..

    The Architects who have embraced technology producing results incredibly fast are makin the cash..

    As a bricklayer I can tell you that this forum is built out of PHP a derivitive of Perl utilising Cascading Style Sheets probably sitting on a linux server..

    Yep I know computer programming, CAD, and do just about every wet trade in the industry..

    I still cant spell... :lol:

    Your all in the business of making money.
    CAD packages cost money but they make a darn site more if you are fast at it..

    If you want to be artists in the pencil dont expect to be millionares..

    Grab a tissue princesses, dry ya eyes and actually work faster :)

    * gloat gloat, ducks the biros*

    Happy festive season :lol:
  • anon
    edited January 1970
    I am a 4th yr archi student, doing work experience, luckily i get payed well. people with issues over pay, or bad bosses/jobs need to stop being so submissive, and quit, find a good job. or start your own. weigh up if the experience is worth it.

    the big issue here is the lack of value society places on architecture in australia. in Norway architects get paid more than doctors, its because there is an understanding of the benfits that architecture can bring to society etc. this isn't happening here because society doesn't know enough yet about these things. solve this, and you'll be set.
  • cadcowboy
    edited January 1970
    Why do hourly rates go up each year, and wages stay the same ?
  • Ramya
    edited May 2006
    OK so i deleted the original message coz all of it wasnt displayed!!!
  • Ramya
    edited May 2006
  • Ramya
    edited May 2006
  • Timbo
    edited January 1970
    Hey guys,

    Ive just finished 3 years of my degree and am 3 months into a year or 2 off. Just doing basic cad monkey kind of work. I agree that it sucks that after all this time studying we still get pretty crap pay, (my room mates are in the computer industry and are getting payed twice what i am with the same qualifications). But i do realise that we have to start somewhere.
    My firm is mainly made up of younger people and they're running their own projects, which gives me hope that it wont be all crap work forever. There are firms out there that give young people a chance, you just have to be wiling to work for it.

    If you want to be an architect you have to be in it for the long haul. If your just looking for the dollars then your in the wrong proffesion.
  • FBE Rocks
    edited January 1970
    bloody oath. this is depressing. But what about allthese advertisements for graduate that pau around 35K+? i guess they are developers eh.

    oh well. I think if i was gonna get paid this much anyway id rather go work in china and live like a king on similar amount of money. The work done in china by foreign firms are almost always interesting and you will not have to do boring drafing work.

    foreign firms in china do the design work and the local firms take over with documentation afterwards. its an architects ream come true.

    who wants to open a small firm wth me in shanghai? i need someone's anglo saxons name so the thing sounds legit. damn me and my chinese name. (that was tongue in cheek but it has some truth to it.)
  • Susan Barry
    edited January 1970
    I work for a small firm and get very well looked after, this is my first year out and i started out on 36K (before entitlements) working a relaxed 4 1/2 day weeek, after 6 weeks i was bumped up to 40K and after 6 months up to 50K. We do a range of work, all with strong architectural merit. My workmates are great and its a very relaxed lifestyle. So its not all bad.
  • lozmioz
    edited January 1970
    well done on bagging a good work place.
    out of interest which city are you in?
    i've got 6mths to go in my masters then i'll be out
    in the workforce. i've had a year out in a big firm
    and constant work over the past 3 years part time
    with varied work. out of interest what do you guys think i'm worth?
    what can i expect to get paid? i'm in melbourne by the way.
  • simon seasons
    edited January 2008
    I know I am a 'bit late' entering this one but it's been a great read. (aside from the annoyance of reading two, or is it three, anonymous contributers slanging it out while I work out who is on which bat). But then this is never an old topic.
    I am still a design student and when I finish I expect to do an intern for a bit with an architect and then open a private design practice whilst studying further to gain architects qualies. When I was a chef with apprentices we paid what some one was worth and we accepted what we thought we were worth. The saying of the week went like this. "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys".
    Now if anyone as a chef accepted of $3:50 per hour then it was their own damn fault and no one elses. Sure, those sort of employees exist, but what is stopping people from walking out the door other than a lack of faith in thier own worth.

    Elsewhere in this forum i have mentioned that designers and architects don't ask enough from thier clients to validate the worth of the product that a client recieves. In this country particularly, any old Joe thinks they can do it and so they don't see why they should pay someone else. Well that's the architects fault and noone elses. If you don't stand up for what your worth as a student or an architect, and i am not talking about your egos, i am talking about your production, then what do you expect a bunch of hokey clients to think of it.

    As a former 'tradie' (I am also a carpenter as well as a chef) i know only too well that a client wants cheap but they also want valuable. It's up to me to point out that the client or my employer, can't have both. It's up to me to educate the client. As a chef it was up to me unionise myself and demand a fair days pay for a fair days work and when I am in business as a designer and eventually an architect that's exactly how my clients will understand it too. Then, of course, I will be in a position to pay employees in the same manner.

    You can't have what you haven't asked for and if you don't think you have to ask, then you thought you were better than someone else somewhere along the track and that's where you got lost in your ego. Ego is a poor substitute for a hard working steady hand, and ego is artless as well. In fact ego is worth a pinch of shit compared to chopping wood, fetching water and designing buildings and laying stones.
  • Mupes
    edited November -1
    I have been following this thread with interest. I am a 3rd year (mature age) student having just finished a 6 month leave of absence during which I worked full time for an architect. I was paid twice the award for someone of my level of education/experience. It was a 50% pay cut from waiting tables (much more if you include tips - it was a very good restaurant!) which I was doing previously to pay my way through uni. I agreed to this rate because I thought it was fair - I was a second year student at the time and gained valuable experience working in this small design led practice. The thing I found very difficult to stomach, however, was the culture of working overtime for no pay. My pay was based on a 38 hour week: 7.6 hours a day: 9 to 5 with a lunchbreak. Noone in the office ever left before 6, rarely before 6:30, often after 7, sometimes after 9. Except me. I felt that settling for such low pay in exchange for good experience was one thing, but being expected to allow this rate to be eroded further by working extra unpaid hours was unacceptable. I decided that the looks I would get from my workmates and boss as the first one to leave the office at the end of the day were only my imagination. I stuck to my guns and thereby avoided feeling resentment, had normal healthy downtime at the end of each day thus improving my productivity while at work.

    I discussed this tendency with a colleague who admitted that it is common practice to understate hours spent on a job. My employer would remind us repeatedly that any hours spent over the allocated would have to be paid for by the practice (by him). It led me on a train of thought:

    - Employees understate their hours to exaggerate their productivity so as to look better in the eyes of their employer (and avoid being hassled by them)
    - They also do it to look better in comparison to their colleagues (who are also doing it)
    - They feel it necessary to do so to 'keep up' in a competitive industry
    - Employers overtly or otherwise encourage this
    - This widespread practice of nibbling away at your own pay amounts to the individual employee absorbing the shortfall in low architects' fees rather than the firm/company absorbing it or demanding realistic fees from the client
    - It creates a false idea in the minds of employers of how long a job actually takes. This is then passed on to clients who pay fees based on this false idea
    - This scaled-down idea of realistic hours spreads industry-wide encouraging lower quality, less thought-through design
    - Because of points 2 and 3, employees don't admit this is what they're doing so it is not addressed openly

    Any thoughts?

    One further point: Working 10 to 12 hour days in an architect's office profoundly compromises having a life outside architecture including meaningful family life, outside interests, genuine engagement in community, hobbies, sleep(?) etc. How can we as architects presume to make decisions about the physical environment of a community we have opted out of?
  • simon seasons
    edited January 2008
    I so agree with your notion Mupes, of losing out on life by working too hard. To then go on a discounting rampage through the hours of ones own work is just ridiculous. I have said else where in this forum that i intend to use time sheets rigorously in my business and it's good to find yet one more good reason to do so. What is the point in trying to add value to design by making it good only to undercut oneself for the sake of pleasing a client or some fatuous notion of market forces. My God, do people realise that your accountant is probably charging you about $180 to $250 per hour and they count every damn minute of work on your books. What is it with artists? If you do the work, record it and be damned if you don't. if you want the money, charge fairly for the work and be damned if you don't. Is it really that hard to rally around a cause and charge accurately for good design. It's not as if you have to design shit for a living is it? Well then charge for it!
  • frank & beans
    edited November -1
    Unfortunately this seems to be the norm in many architectural practices and it's sad really, all these young & enthusiastic architects who have been taught to live on a diet of 2 minute noodles, coffee & 5 hours sleep at university, some of which apply this work ethic well into adulthood to a point where most of there waking hours are spent in an office with spare time is devoted to flicking through the latest architectural magazines and all for an average pay packet.

    If money is no issue then good luck to you but for most the reality of a mortgage, bills & kids soon weighs in on many architects minds and money becomes more important than design in order to meet unrealistic deadlines set by the employer, client or the architect themselves.

    The only advice I can suggest to people working in offices where architects work long hours and put down '7.5' at the end of each day is don't sell yourself short. There is a once in a lifetime booming employment market out there go out and use it to your advantage and by that I mean put the focus back on design and ask for the money that you deserve.

    In return all I ask from you is to please stop documenting rubbish developer buildings. Thankyou.
  • simon seasons
    edited November -1
    I have said in my previous post that i intend to start a business. I have put it up in Notices that i am looking for partners, but I want to add here that the crux of the matter is making it clear to the client that your work is worth something beside the clients estimation of what you have done for them. No one argues with a plumber, unless they have photographic proof that the work wasn't done, about the value of thier work.
    It seems to me that there is an awful, and I mean BAD, an awful lot of grey area when it comes to quantifying what an architects office does in terms of billing the client (and subsequently paying the staff). If I was an average client I would happilly accept such a situation because with a minimum of research I would know that I was being way under charged for services rendered.
    I have mentioned time sheets before elsewhere in this forum and I am so far astonished to note that not one reply has been posted that agrees or otherwise with the notion of accurately quantifying ones hours and the tasks attended to.
    I feel that time sheets would benefit not just the proffesional (quality control, real time pay and hours dispute resolutions, due rest periods etc) but also the clients who would be given the benefit of fully understanding the amount of labour that has gone into realising thier dreams, and so facilitating them in the effort to write the cheques.
    Why as a proffession does architecture seemingly suffer from some antiquated 'artist in a garret who deservedly starves' mentality, when WE know how hard it is to produce a clients intentions, even if they don't care enough to know themselves.
    It;s a rhetoriacal question really when it must be considered a fault of the profession alone to allow this situation to continue.
    Did anyone see the doco on SBS last night about Louis Kahn? in Bangladesh he is considered a Guru. Why? because in that culture an architect is a revered entity in touch with the stuff of gods.
    Why do architects ACCEPT shit pay and conditions in this country? Because in this culture mediocrity is celebrated and artists are too meek to challenge that sort of shallowness. Elanor Rossevalt's great quote from the era of her husbands presidency was that "No one is inferior except by consent".
    Well, in my opinion, which is a minor uneducated one but i don't f'n care, It's up to us designers and architects to make clear what we are worth and when your dealing with mediocrity nothing makes it more clear than a filled in time sheet stapled to the documentation and the bill.
  • miles
    edited November -1
    lets fire this one up before easter. no-one mention rudd or i'll vomit. essentially architects are stupid. the profession has devauled its worth since the good old seventies and those old bastards we rever in the profession are out to st ives leaving us to deal with the increasingly litigous(sp) nature of this industry.
    fact the old boys screwed us for a good time. fib we have to continue to eat shit in the food chain of the construction industry. work less charge more. easy if the f'n (thanks mr seasons i like that) raia stood by this idea and became moe than a f'n defunct boys club we'd all be better off. times are changing.
  • mer
    edited November -1
    when i was at uni we were required to work a minimum number of weeks in the first three years as part of the course. being lazy i left my run for looking for a job to the last minute (end of year 3) and had great difficulty getting employment. i ended up offering a 2 week free trial in the hopes of getting my foot in the door and my work ethic would lead to a job. at the time i was working as a waiter (like mupes) and earning good money so seemed like a good idea. my 2 weeks turned into 24 weeks!! printing, archiving, basic admin and some CAD time when a computer was free...when i finally did get paid it was in the $3 range (lucky i was doing 2 jobs and living at home still). I finally quite there...


    as a result of working there i found out that a work colleague started his own firm shortly after i quit and i approached him for a job. forming part of his small business from the ground up allowed me to develop as an architect gaining valuable all-round experience within the office. 7 years later I am making back what i lost 10 fold. I am now an associate working within an office that does creative work, offers me flexibility of hours, pays bonuses and has a great office environment. my boss experienced similar conditions to the previous posts and is doing his best to correct conditions within his office.

    based on my initial experience within an office a career in hospitality was looking good. However i cant complain too much due to the position it has led me too (maybe this was just dumb luck).

    to reply to some of the previous posts, our office keeps time sheets, accurately costs projects based on hours and evaluates fee proposals regularly. We have had to present timesheets to one client to justify an invoice.

    putting down only 7.5 hours (when working more) is cheating your own business when trying to calculate the true cost of a project and offers no ability to accurately correct this for future proposals or to help improve efficiency. as an employee, putting down the actual hours of work (when greater than 7.5 and not paid overtime) offers leverage when requesting any pay increases in the future in my opinion.

    Miles, I think it is slowly changing from the old guard of employers as more disgruntled students of the past become business owners. More clients are slowly becoming prepared to pay for good design and the delivery of the project, relationship with the client and quality of the work can only assist in getting this again and again. So yes times are changin...
  • simon seasons
    edited March 2008
    Thankyou Mer for your fortitude and positivity. I myself am usually positive and though I sometimes feel a little lonely, I know with people like you that 'changin' is never a one person show. BUT It is a one person act when it comes to what one must do. I am thinking of Ghandi's quote that I think (I could be wrong here) was an inspiration to Nelson Mandela when they were young lawyers in contact in South Africa. "Be, yourself, the change that you want to see in the world". The principle has guided me through many lonely arguements.
  • lozzenator
    edited November -1
    I've read most of the posts on this thread- and really felt compelled to contribute so as to inject some hope into all the young struggling architects out there.

    I graduated about 15 years ago and worked for the two biggest firms (bigger is not better when it comes to architectural firms) in Sydney. I was a project architect for a few notable local and overseas developments when I left a few years ago. If I had gone to a smaller firm, I could have had a better life as an architect, maybe- but I chose the money and the exposure (to a range project types and to the knowledge within the organization). The conditions were bad but I chose to absorb any knowledge I could get and learn everything I could.

    I've since had my kids and completed an MBA. I have my own consulting firm now and I'll never look back.
  • mark_melb
    edited November -1
    <p>Good on you Loz. When I first started in the business I worked for 3 very small firms over 5-6 years, traveled and then to a couple of larger but still small firms.</p>
    <p>The smaller the firm the worse they treat you, the less you get paid but more importantly the better the work was, greater the experience (skills) and greater the satisfaction.</p>
    <p>Too many graduates want the big bucks and go to the large firms. Unless they really have the ego to push for more responsibility they will never be able to do a carport let alone a large development 'on their own'.</p>
    <p>There are registered architects in my current, large, firm that simply do not know the properties and uses of the materials.</p>
    <p>That said, I know how to but don't really need to as I'm now in a large firm with plenty of support. At my, not too vintage age, need to save for my retirement.</p>
  • peter
    edited November -1
    <p>Not sure about that second paragraph Mark, it depends on the practice. My experience has been the inverse. I remember that at one largish leading architectural practice that was doing good work, I used to be given the following spiel at annual reviews: "Well Peter we realise we don't pay like other firms but we'd like you to take into account how this position will look on your CV."</p>
    <p>If this is the thin end of the wedge, then at the fat end you have the large and famous european firms who think it's quite OK to have young people work for them for free, or to even charge them by calling the job an education and the office an atelier.</p>
  • sod
    edited November -1
    <p>given the current climate, self intrest should stop salaried architects winging about wages and conditions. body count must be 300+ in melbourne. all the crapfull firms and their nonce directors have the upper hand again.</p>
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