24 November 2023

Early Career Architects and The Pay 100

Fighting for living wage standards within the architectural industry

If you’re a fledgling architect, and you’re wondering “What is The Pay 100?”, then it’s time to get acquainted – this motivated and forward-thinking, worker-led organisation has been supporting and inspiring open wage cooperation in the architectural industry since 2022.


And if you’re looking for new architectural job opportunities in 2024 and beyond, this can only mean one thing – early career architects and The Pay 100 are a match made in heaven. Why? Because it’s fighting for living wage standards within the architectural industry.


Currently focusing on three of the core roles, The Pay 100 publishes its annual anonymous salary survey to shine a spotlight on the top 100 UK architectural studios paying the highest wages to architects with less than five years’ experience, as well as Part I and Part II Architectural Assistants.


This year’s report includes two useful new additions. The first shows how many unpaid hours of overtime per week were required. The second is a benchmark line of the Living Wage marker, which allows potential architectural recruits to easily see on which side of it each studio is positioned. Another handy section allows firms to advertise any employee benefits on offer.


But it’s important to remember that this isn’t an exercise in ‘name-and-shame’. As The Pay 100 told Dezeen:

“First and foremost, our key aim is to incentivise improved salaries across the architectural workforce via the introduction of full wage transparency.”


“We feel obligated to open the discussion on this, as the Living Wage isn’t in the same category as another benefit to offer employees – it may be the difference between being able to survive and not being able to survive in the current economic climate. ‘


The reported salaries stretch between £19,000 and £31,000 for Part 1 assistants, which increases to between £28,000 and £43,000 for Part 2s. This then goes up further for architects and architectural designers, who reported receiving anything between £34,500 and £56,000.


Looking at the lowest salaries, it’s clear that there’s a lot of room for improvement. And for some industry insiders backed by RIBA, this is concerning. How many talented people are turning away from a career in architecture because they cannot fathom how they’ll pay their bills?


However, it’s not the same picture across the entire architectural business landscape. This year, the unofficial Shiny Gold Star Award goes to Foster + Partners. Apart from having a swoon worthy view of the Chelsea Embankment from its studio windows, it was reported as paying its Part 1 architectural assistants the average highest annual salary – currently listed as £31,000. Precisely nobody will be surprised that Foster + Partners recruits the cream of candidates.


Additionally, it explains why The Pay 100 group believes the lists are an incentive to push some of the most woeful wage packages up to an acceptable level, and draws positive attention to studios who are doing the right thing.


“Pay transparency might just be the helping hand the profession needs,” they told Dezeen.


“There are already some practices emerging that are beginning to reap the rewards of improving well-being, whilst demonstrating that they value their employees,” the group continued. They added that the inclusion of this category and its results “has shown that there is still some work to be done to achieve a happier, healthier profession”.


Amongst The Pay 100’s other very noble aims is reducing potential fee-undercutting between practices “so those who truly value their employees are more likely to win work, and in turn become more profitable”.


They also seek to keep wages in line with inflation, and are passionate about combating pay inequality.


On top of this, they work consistently hard to provide a valuable tool for recruitment professionals that truly appeals to potential employees. This in turn, enables these fresh candidates and their recruitment agencies to target applications towards the most wage-responsible employers.


“We aim to empower individual employers and employees alike.”


And for 2024’s architectural new recruits, this is a welcome and evolving story.


We hope this has given you the inspiration and drive to find an architectural studio who’ll appreciate your budding talents. If you’ve got what it takes to get noticed within the world of architecture, then we’ve got the job vacancies which will keep you awake at night. And if you’re an architectural firm looking for the best people the business has to offer, you’ll find them on our books. The mustard BE team is waiting for your call – the number to dial is 0117 929 6060.

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