How Much is an Architect Salary in the UK?

- by Elizabeth Redfern
Different jobs and their salaries – Chapter 10

In August 2018 there was a shocking article in the Architects’ Journal. It stated that 1 in every 3 architecture students had stress-related mental health problems! The main reasons given for this worrying trend were growing student debt and architect starting salaries being too low to pay it off. It was also attributed to working and studying for excessive hours and to fears that courses were not preparing students adequately for their chosen profession.

In this article about working as an architect we will discuss the architect salary and what working as an architect is like.

Cashfloat examines the architect salary.

How much does an architect earn?

Part 1 architectural assistant£19,250 to £24,000
For Part 2 architectural assistant£25,500 to £30,500
Newly-qualified architect£31,500 to £37,250
Architect with over 5 year’s experience£36,000 to £45,000
Associate architects£40,000 to £53,750
Salaried partners and directors£50,000 to £80,000
Partners, directors and sole principals£25,000 to £70,000

Qualifying as an architect in the UK usually requires students to do two years of supervised professional work experience, on top of 5 years of study. In a profession which we assume to be one of the highest paying, why are so many architects having such difficulties in getting by? Also, why are so many applying with lenders offering payday loans for architects to subsidise their salaries? In terms of future expected earnings, are the seven years of architectural studies really worth it?

How To Become an Architect

Entry to the profession starts by obtaining a degree at university. There are about 40 institutions in the UK which run courses in architecture and entrance is highly competitive. Seven years of training are broken down into 3 stages. All 3 stages involve a mix of academic work and practical experience.

In Part 1, students usually do a 3 year degree course, which is then followed by 12 months in a recorded and supervised work placement. Part 2 is then a further two years of study (possibly for a Masters degree), which is then consolidated by another 12 months of assessed work experience. Finally, to pass part 3 and to register as an architect, students must sit written and oral exams in professional and practical management. These exams draw on all of their academic and practical experience.

For those who have worked as architectural technicians for at least three years, rather than studying, there is a RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) exam for office-based candidates, which qualifies them up to Part 1.

FAQ’s about working as an architect

What happens after the Architect is qualified?

After their qualification, architects need to register with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). This is the statutory body which regulates the architecture profession. You must be registered with the ARB in order to call yourself an architect.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a professional organisation which serves the needs of architects and the public. Their aim is to advance architecture and to promote high standards. Membership of RIBA is not a legal requirement for an architect. However, most architects are members of RIBA and those who join are eligible to gain Chartered Architect status. This is on the condition that they complete 35 hours of continued professional development, annually.

26% of architect students had sought treatment for mental health problems

Where do Architects Work?

In the Architects’ Registration Board Annual Report of 2019, it said there are about 42,000 registered architects in the UK, with around two thirds of them working full-time.

There are job vacancies in architecture firms, engineering and construction companies, in central or local government and in various commercial or industrial organisations. Architects can work in a private practice as freelancers, although this tends to be those who have more years of experience. It is thought that around 28% of architects are self employed and the rest are employed.

Architects’ Grievances

One of the major problems facing architects is the issue of working hours. This is a major issue for pre-qualified architects, not only on their course but also during their part 1 and 2 placements. In a survey reported in the Architects’ Journal (July 2016), 91% of pre-qualified architects said that they had had to work all night in an effort to catch up with work while a third said it was something that they regularly did. This can be a major source of stress.

Working hours is also an issue for qualified architects. There is believed to be a culture of working over contracted hours, as this article in the architects journal explains (Weekend roundup: Architecture’s illegal long-hours culture). Architects feel they are expected to work longer hours than they should. The situation places stress on all architects, but also disadvantages women who are more likely to have childcare responsibilities and, therefore, are less able to compete for jobs.

The other issue with working overtime was the question of money. Not all architect salaries include pay for overtime. In the Architect’s Journal article (July 2016), 31% of qualified architects claimed that they were asked to work overtime for free by architectural practices.

High demand for architects

Part of the reason that architects have to work long hours is that they are in such high demand. The unemployment rate of architects is very low at just 0.16%. Quite often there just aren’t enough architects to go around. While this may result in architects having to work long hours, it does mean that they have a lot of job security and hardly need to apply for payday loans for unemployed people.

Pre-qualified Architects in Debt

Since the introduction of university tuition fees in 1998 student debt has been an issue. This problem increased even more in 2006, when variable fees were introduced. This is a problem for all students, however, the situation for pre-qualified architects is in some ways unique.

While architecture students are studying, they have additional expenses which a lot of other students do not have. These include expenses for travelling for site visits and field trips, and for buying specialist drawing instruments, tools and modelling equipment. On top of this, they also often need to use specialist printing facilities. Students can borrow books from the library and research on the internet, like all other students, but the additional costs they face make their course more expensive than a lot of others.

38% of architects believe they will never be able to pay off their studies.
38% of architects believe they will never be able to pay off their studies.

On top of this, the structuring of an architect’s path to qualification presents another problem. The length of the course is an obvious issue, with expenses adding up each year of the 5 years of study. On top of this again, work placements can often add to debt, despite the fact that students are usually paid for them. This is because most work experience positions are in big cities where costs are higher.

According to an article in the Architects’ Journal in 2018, the cost of an architecture qualification can now cost more than £100,000, with the average year’s study costing £24,000.

A newly qualified architect’s starting salary of £31,500-£37,250 is barely enough to pay their living expenses in some cities, let alone to pay off the money they owe. The salaries during part 1 working placements, which are between £19,250 and £24,000, often don’t cover costs, let alone allow students to repay any of their debt.

The RIBA and Pre-qualified Student Debt

The RIBA are sympathetic to the problem of pre-qualified student debt. For the last 180 years, they have offered bursaries (Trust Awards) and scholarships for students to study. Unfortunately, they are limited in number. To provide additional help, they started an Education Fund with voluntary donations from its membership. This Fund has distributed £1,300,000 in the last 20 years. Details of the scheme can be found here.

Payday Loans for Architects

Cashfloat noticed many applications for payday loans for architects coming through their online website during research into who takes out payday loans. The question is; Why do they need loans each month? Entering a profession at a £31,500 starting architect salary and needing to rely on payday loans, after an average seven years of study, must make some architects wonder if it was all worth it.

However, the answer would seem to be ‘yes’ as the RIBA’s annual report of 2016 stated that 80% of qualified architects were in employment and few had dropped out.

The main reasons why architects face financial problems is that they have to wait years to see the economic benefits of their years of study. Also, more than in any other profession, there are a limited number of job opportunities outside of the major cities. Therefore, they often have to relocate and do not have the choice of living with parents in their initial working years to save some money.

They also have the problems of finding money to pay for accommodation and the daily expenses of food and utility bills. On top of this, they have the burden of many years of student debt which they have to use their architect salary to pay off.

Their profession means that they must own a car and, in their first years of work, it is unlikely that they will be given a company one. They must find the money to run the vehicle and to pay all the other expenses,such as for the MOT, insurance, and maintenance.

Considering all these additional outgoings, it should come as no surprise that many have to resort to finding a payday lender that provides payday loans for architects as a way to cover their monthly expenditure.

Conclusion – Architect Salary

On the positive side, in a 2020 labour force survey, only 0.16% of architects did not have a job (Architects | Pay, employment, hours & equality data ( Unfortunately, salaries are a problem; employees in architectural practices often report that their earnings remain static. In a 2015 survey in the RIBA journal architects employed in central government had seen a 9% drop in wages. Only local government architects had received a raise of 7%. Architect salary growth in the private sector varies widely.

Underemployment has always been a problem for self-employed architects (sole principals). However, the same RIBA journal article of 2015, saw a reduction in this phenomenon from 29% to 13%. This reflected a growing sense of optimism in the construction industry, which still exists today. Self employed architects often work on smaller projects, such as domestic houses and often face this problem as these projects do not always require an architect. People are less likely to employ an architect when they feel that the additional 8%-15% fee is not worth it.

Pre-qualified and newly-qualified architects do have pressing financial problems when they first enter the workforce, which means they may need the help of a company that provides short term unsecured loans. However, this situation is usually temporary since they do possess a skill which is in demand. Therefore, they just have to be patient before they reap the benefits of their hard work. Cashfloat is more than happy to provide payday loans for architects who need it to overcome a temporary money problem.

Do you need a payday loan despite your profession? Consider a Cashfloat loan.
Do you need a payday loan despite your profession? Consider a Cashfloat loan.
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About The Author
Elizabeth Redfern
Elizabeth Redfern is a born and bred Londoner who loves the city life. She is a proud chocoholic who enjoys reading, jogging and eating - especially chocolate! Elizabeth attained a first class degree in Mathematics but chose to make a career out of her real passion, writing. She has published many poems and short stories, but decided to join the Cashfloat educational channel writing team because she is passionate about helping people take care of their finances leaving them free to enjoy the finer points of life - most notably (in her opinion), chocolate!
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