When writing this report last year, although Brexit dominated the headlines, it was felt the underlying jobs market was still quite strong and salaries were only lagging due to the lack of confidence in what was going to happen post Brexit. As the deadline has been repeatedly pushed back, the situation hasn’t improved and the impact of political indecision is beginning to be felt.
According to the PMI “The UK construction sector remained firmly stuck in a downturn at the end of the third quarter. Building activity fell at the second-fastest rate since April 2009, only narrowly outpaced by June's decline.”
Despite all of this, a number of firms in predominantly the housing and hospitality sectors are still busy and we are receiving a healthy number of new opportunities. This combined with far fewer EU Architects coming to work in the UK and a lot leaving, points to some early signs of skills shortages.
To see how this climate has affected salaries, we ran our annual salary survey during September and were delighted to receive well over 2,200 responses from architectural staff across the UK. Sadly, the results have shown that on average, salaries within practices have declined by around 0.8% compared to 2018. With inflation currently at 1.7%, architectural salaries are again falling a long way behind.
Although the average salary has declined, this covers many different stories within architecture and there are still a number of positives to be taken from the report. At 9B, we are fortunate to receive feedback on the market on a daily basis and although there appears to be a good amount of work within the industry, a backlog is forming as projects are increasingly being put on hold. This has had the net effect of slowing down the recruitment of staff at senior levels where it appears the greatest salary declines have occurred.
Parag Prasad, Managing Director of The Business Growth Agency, has said: "With Brexit fears looming large it’s easy for practice owners to fall into the trap of thinking they need to lower fees in order to win work. For the practices we mentor that’s probably the mistake that hits profits the hardest. I’d encourage Directors to be proactive rather than sit and hope for the economy to improve. For instance, the solution to price objections is professional sales and negotiation training. When you know how to build trusting relationships and you can convince prospects that your services are worth the price you’re quoting, objections around costs usually disappear. The larger message is that Partners and Directors need to invest in their entrepreneurial skills if they want to see their salaries increase next year."
For architectural assistants and project architects, however, the market has been far more positive and with large-scale projects often under-resourced, people with strong Revit skills are in especially high demand.
For many years the salaries of architectural assistants have stagnated, but this year Part 1s working in practices have earned around 4% more than 2018 and Part 2 salaries have increased by 3%. The benefit of gaining your Part 3 is also still very worthwhile with recently qualified architects being paid around £3,500 more than Part 2s with the same number of years’ experience in practice. This, however, is down from £4,650 last year.
The most notable change in 2019 has been the surge in demand for more technical staff. BIM Coordinators have seen their rates increase by an average of 9% and Architectural Technicians and Technologists have increased by around 6.7%. As more and more practices transition to BIM, it appears there is a shortage of knowledge in this area and we are often finding the skills of Architectural Technicians and Technologists are well suited to fill this gap. Invariably anyone who has strong experience of BIM is being paid a premium by practices looking to improve their knowledge base.
In terms of regions, areas outside London have often appeared to be far less affected by Brexit and that has been reflected in the survey results with average pay in the capital around 5.8% above the average compared to 6.4% last year. This lead has been bitten into by places like Manchester where AJ100 practices are expanding. Salaries in the North West are now just 4.4% below the average compared to nearer 10% below last year.
The salaries of Office Managers have stayed static and on average they are paid £38,805 compared to £38,900 last year. We also added Visualisers to the survey this year who are being paid approximately £42,500.
For architectural staff looking for significant increases in pay, these opportunities are predominantly found away from traditional architectural practice. Although this can appear to be an easy option, these positions (with developers or client side for retail or hotel chains) tend to be a move into more project management roles and demand a lot of specific sector experience. The roles also tend to involve taking on more responsibility but without the support network often found within an architectural office.
Previous salary surveys have highlighted the disparity in the wages of male and female architects with the same number of years’ experience. Encouragingly this gap appears to be narrowing with women generally being paid the same as their male counterparts for the first 5 years of their careers. Beyond this, however, the gap still opens up with female staff with 21+ years of experience being paid around £4,000 less than their male counterparts. The percentage of women receiving a bonus is also often lower than for men.
The final section of the report looks at the additional benefits practices offer. For instance, in many cases, flexible working arrangements can have a greater impact on someone’s life than salary and bonuses and a good overall package can lead to better staff retention.
I hope you find this a useful guide to the current salaries and if you would like to discuss further, please do give us a call.
Click here to read the full 2019 report.