The Association of Consulting Architects Australia (ACA) has released its first report on architectural salaries across Australia, developed from the first two iterations of the ACA National Salary Survey.
Initiated and run by the Queensland branch of the ACA, key trends identified in the report show that the majority of the practices surveyed are paying a little above the minimum rates identified in the Architects Award, which ACA manages under Fair Work Australia, although some firms continue to pay salaries below these minimums.
Most notably, findings show that there has been very little salary increase for registered architects at the lower end of the scale, from those who are newly registered to principals and directors.
“Salaries are depressingly low for those in this band – a range from $53,000 as newly registered and remaining in the $50ks through to senior positions,” comments ACA – QLD President Geoff Street.
The ACA says that this troubling trend has serious consequences for the ability of these architects to stay in the profession, whilst affecting the economic viability of the profession altogether.
In contrast, both surveys identify the position of BIM manager as the highest earning technical role across all salary bands. This is attributed to the limited supply of experienced candidates versus the increasing importance and demand of BIM within the profession.
The report also identifies that a slightly larger number of practices were in positions to offer pay increases above the CPI in 2014 as compared to 2013. The ACA says that it is cautiously optimistic that this might hint at improved economic and business conditions in some sectors.
“The low salary levels reflect the difficult economic conditions that the profession has faced for some time now. Fee competition is tight and some architects are submitting fees at uneconomic and unsustainable levels,” the report says.
“This short-term tactic has long-term negative impacts and puts pressure on the profession as a whole.”
While not explicit from the survey, the ACA also notes that other indicators make it clear that many firms are surviving on unpaid overtime work by staff. They remind employers to ensure that they are not in breach of the workplace legislation, and to understand their obligations under the Architects Award.
Gender pay gap
Another worrying trend identified by the ACA survey is the glaring gender wage gap in all but two of the ten categories surveyed. While some of these differences might be because of small sample sizes or the significant differences in the number of men and women in both categories, the report does state that this does not fully explain the gap.
The ACA also draws attention to the number of students employed by practices, with only 45 per cent of those surveyed in 2014 hiring architecture students. It is concerned that recent changes to educational programs, combined with the current tight economic climate, may mean that students are not benefiting from early exposure to architectural practice.
This lack of work experience means that many graduates are not well-equipped to enter the full-time architectural workforce.
According to ACA – Queensland, it will continue to work with TAFE to develop a complementary course for undergraduate architects to fill the gaps left by the new Masters approach to architectural education. This will run as a summer semester, with other ACA state branches also exploring how to best address this issue.
What practices should do, courtesy of the ACA:
Ensure that you understand the Architects Award and your obligations under it. This includes observing the Award rates as a minimum.
Be conscious of pay equity and make sure you understand the significant costs that pay gaps bring to both practices and individuals. Access and use the Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice – in particular the ACA encourages all member practices to conduct a pay equity audit, to reflect honestly on the findings, and to take steps to address any unfair discrepancies.
Ensure that your practice has good HR policies and processes in place. This is vital for developing productive, fair and equitable workplaces. The ACA’s HR Policy templates provide a very useful resource, which can be adapted to suit practices of all sizes.
Participate in the regular ACA Salary Survey. This provides a benchmark for your own practice, while also helping to build broader knowledge. The more practices participate, the more meaningful the survey will be.
The ACA Salary Survey is conducted bi-annually, and charts remuneration in architectural practice across ten levels. The full report is available to ACA members and researchers. Please email [email protected] to enquire about obtaining a copy.