For the professionals involved with brainstorming, designing and building the country's structures, concerns such as keeping things up to code, blue prints, green building and structure security may take up most of an architect's time. But architects don't work for free, and the negotiations and decisions involved in getting paid can be heavily dependent on the industry in which they choose to "build" their careers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 21 percent of architects are self-employed, as of September 2011. For the majority of the remaining percentage, employment is on a full-time basis, with a single firm or organization. For self-employed architects, payment may come as a lump sum, single amount or an ongoing fee based on an agreed contract. Full-time employed architects are usually subject to one of a few basic payment structures – weekly, bi-weekly or monthly paychecks.
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Methods of Payment
Architects receive payment for their work through different venues. Employers may continue to use the old paper check style payroll, where the check is handed to or mailed to the employee for him to deposit or cash on his own. Architects may also be paid through direct deposit, where a bank account is linked to the employer's payroll system and funds are deposited at an agreed time and recurrence.
For the country's approximate 87,700 architects, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a mid-range pay rate of $72,550. Architects at the low end of the pay scale are paid $42,860 at the 10th percentile and rise to $119,500 in the 90th percentile. Architect pay also varies depending on location. California's architects are paid the most, with annual statewide wages of $91,010. Vermont follows with salaries of $89,280, with employers in Nevada paying the third-highest salaries for architects at $88,560.
Architects' pay varies by their industry of employment. Although almost all architects are employed by the bureau's architectural, engineering and related services industry, this industry's mid-range pay rate of $78,040 was not one of the highest paying for the field. While it only employed a fraction of the sum total architects, the postal service paid the highest for them, at $91,670. Pay for architects employed by specialized design services was also higher, at $89,100 annually.
If employed by a large firm, architects receive their payment from the firm's payroll department. Payment may also be on a more personal basis -- self-employed architects may receive payment from individuals or contractors that hire them or who issued the work plans. In the residential building construction industry, the fifth-largest employer in the profession, architects may be paid by a branch office in franchise locations.