Salaried architects in private practice pull off a double trick – salaries rise and the gender pay gap closes
For the third year in a row, architects’ earnings have stood still. Overall average earnings remain £45,000. Since 2016, inflation has increased by 5% but average earnings have stood still. The profession might be losing out against inflation, but there are substantially more architects registered with ARB so despite the lack of movement in earnings, the net worth of the profession has increased. The ARB figures show that the number of architects has increased by 3,300, and we calculate the net addition to the workforce is 2,800. That’s a 12% increase in the workforce in just two years.
In the context of adding that many new architects to the workforce, most of whom are likely to be young and less experienced (and therefore paid less than the average), it becomes quite impressive that the average earnings figure has remained the same and not fallen. At the same time, reported unemployment remains below 1%. Average earnings for private practice salaried architects – the destination of most of those new architects – have increased, by 2.5%. Unlike most other employment groups, private practice salaried architects record an inflation-beating rise (although only just). There’s been quite a shake-up of salaried architects’ pay in medium and large practices. Last year, average pay at larger practices was substantially higher than at medium ones – now the differential is insignificant. This levelling out is probably so that medium sized practices can compete with the larger ones to attract or retain talented staff; but it appears to have come at the expense of partners & directors’ remuneration, which has slipped significantly in these same medium sized practices. The fall in directors’ pay is such that now, the average pay reported by a partner & director in a 31 to 50 size practice is very similar to one with 11 to 30 staff. Move up to the largest practices, though, and directors’ pay improves dramatically; average remuneration for directors in a firm with more than 50 staff is not only 50% higher than for those in the next size down, it is also 41% higher than it was last year.
Partners and directors in medium sized practices may well have seen a reduction in pay this year, but for those in small practices (up to five staff) remuneration is slightly higher. Their increase is easily beaten by the rise experienced by sole principals. Yet despite their 14% increase – the highest of any employment field this year – sole principals still earn less than any other employment group. And a quarter of sole principals earn no more than £24,000 a year.
In the public sector, the decline in local authority architects’ average salaries continues. Last year average earnings fell by 2% and this year by another 1%. By contrast, architects working in central government report a higher average, up by 6% this year.
The profession’s highest average earnings continue to be reported by private in-house architects, although their average figure has remained broadly flat for the last three years. Private in-house architects are, perhaps, the least homogenous group in the survey, reporting the widest range of salaries (an inter-quartile range of more than £50,000 compared with £15,000 for private practice salaried architects).
What’s really noticeable this year is the convergence in average earnings between London and the South East. London architects still earn more than anywhere else but the gap between the capital and its neighbouring region has narrowed substantially. Plus, average earnings in these two regions are pulling away from the rest of the country. London architects record the highest or joint highest average earnings in the UK – as in previous years – for every staffing category in private practice. Overall, earnings in London average £48,000 and are 7% higher than the national average. The South East of England records the second highest average at £46,200, just 4% lower than London. In all other parts of the country, average earnings are in the range between £40,000 and £43,000.
The modest growth in earnings reported by private practice salaried architects masks something remarkable; they have closed the gender pay gap. For each of the past 10 years, there’s been a gender pay gap among private practice salaried architects of between 7% and 11%, in favour of males. This year the gap is 2% – in favour of females. As universities report the numbers starting architecture courses are split precisely equally between the genders, private practices appear to be adopting principles of gender pay equality.
There’s still a gender pay gap across the profession as a whole, 10% in favour of males. The gap is 22% among partners and directors, and 25% among sole principals. But the public sector has the largest gap – among architects working in central government, the gender pay gap in favour of males is 33% this year. These figures don’t, of course, take account of seniority or experience. Nationally across all sectors, the ONS gender pay gap figure is 18% in favour of males. Data for firms with fewer than 250 employees was extracted from the government’s gender pay gap service, and for these smaller firms (more comparable in size with architectural practices) the average pay gap is 12%, in favour of males. This year’s gender pay gap among architects is only slightly narrower than this figure.
Aziz Mirza is a director of The Fees Bureau.
THE MAIN FINDINGS
architects’ average earnings
on 1 April 2018
change in average earnings
2017 to 2018
inflation 2017 to 2018
not working for other reasons
more paid to women
in private practice
increase in earnings
in private practice
Conducted by The Fees Bureau, the annual RIBA / The Fees Bureau Architects Employment & Earnings Survey is a research survey conducted exclusively among UK-based RIBA members. A sample of members was invited to complete an on-line questionnaire form in April to June 2018. Around 1,350 architects responded. Together they represent private and public sectors; full-time and part-time; men and women; and all ethnic groups. The profile of the sample by age and region is broadly consistent with previous years. RIBA members can see summary statistics or buy the full report at feesbureau.co.uk