2017 Salary Survey - Findings

31 May 2017

The findings of the 2017 National Salary Survey, with analysis by Dr Gill Matthewson, are now out – salaries are up very slightly, but worrying trends continue for the third year. There is still a gender pay gap and some practices persist in paying under Award minimums!

The report by Dr Gill Matthewson outlines the broad trends identified this year and compares these to the results from previous surveys. The full report is published in the members’ section below and is available to ACA members. Dr Matthewson’s reports on surveys from 20162015, 2014 and 2013 are also available. A summary of the findings follows, and members can also download the full report.

The ACA National Salary Survey gathers data on thirty-one different roles within architectural practice. In addition to architectural staff, salary information is gathered for technicians, interior designers and other staff ranging from reception and clerical positions to chief executive officers. Details on salary packages and conditions and geographic location are also collected. The salary figures discussed in the report include superannuation and benefits but exclude bonuses, dividends, distributions and the like.

Who responded?

The 2017 survey had a slight increase in the number of respondents from last year, and this resulted in an increase of 17% more staff covered. Once again staff numbers were skewed towards larger practices, with staff numbers dominated by the large firms – this year nearly 60% of the staff surveyed were located in 50+ firms.

Over the years, the greatest increase in responses has come from medium-sized firms, with substantially more firms in the 10 to 29 size bracket than in 2015. This would seem to belie the widespread assumption that mid-size practices are disappearing from the profession.

The spread of firms is not geographically representative of the profession as a whole, with lower response rates from the most populous states Victoria and New South Wales.

What is happening with salaries?

Key findings from this year are as follows:

  • Generally, there were only slight salary increases across the board
  • There are some very wide ranges of pay within role categories. The highest paid person in each category is being paid an average of three times the lowest paid person.
  • Firm size matters for pay rates – generally, the larger the firm, the higher the rates of pay, particularly in senior and managerial roles. However, there are exceptions for particular role categories.
  • A gender pay gap persists for architects and for interior designers.
  • The number of surveyed firms paying architects under the Award is steadily increasing (17% of firms compared to 13% in 2016).

Of the respondent firms, the majority (55%) had increased salaries by the CPI or less than 3%. This is similar to 2016 (and 2015), but this year more practices have complied with CPI and fewer are in the ‘less than 3%’ category. The number of firms who had raised salaries by more than 6% also increased slightly – from 15% in 2016 to 18% this year. Two percent of the firms reported increases of over 20%.

Salaries tend to increase within each category according to practice size – with larger practices paying more.

Over the years of the survey, the proportion of responding firms offering benefits to all staff has also increased, while the proportion of those offering no benefits has decreased (from 38% in 2015 to 31% in 2017). The type of benefits offered is also revealing – this year only two of the firms acknowledged support for registration as a benefit, and more practices offered gym membership than membership of the Australian Institute of Architects. This lack of professional support is rather surprising.

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The ACA believes that good business practices and better fees are vital for improving salaries for architects and others involved in the profession. We need to work together on this, and the ACA is continuing to identify ways to support architectural businesses and to advocate for better business environments and improved fees.

Two areas need particular attention – the gender pay gap and the persistent habit of some practices paying under Award rates.

Under-Award wages

ACA is very concerned to note that some practices appear to still be paying below the minimums stipulated by the Architects Award, and that this trend has increased rather than decreased! Nineteen firms (17% of those surveyed) reported salaries below Award. In the worst case, the category ‘Graduate up to 2 years’, the lowest figure stated was 37% below Award.

The Award rates in place when the survey was conducted were $47,721 for an entry-level graduate, and $55,171 on registration (with two more stepped increases after that point) and for experienced but not-registered. Of even more concern is that the Award does not include superannuation, while the survey does. This means that it is probable that even more of the firms who responded to the survey are paying below the Award.

Once again the ACA reiterates its reminder to practices. It is essential to understand the employer’s obligations under the Award, and to understand that Award wages are a minimum. (Underpaying staff is illegal and breaching the Award can incur hefty fines.)

Gender pay gap

The gender pay gaps for architects identified in previous surveys persist, and women continue to cluster in the junior categories rather than the senior.

Men earn more in all but two of the role categories, and in seven categories the extent of that difference is more than 5%. (In the two role categories where women are earning more, the difference is less than 5% and only for the average salary and not the weighted average). The surveys reveal a varying but continuing gender pay gap over time. Because the survey sample changes from year to year, it is not possible to say that the gender pay gap is definitely increasing or decreasing. The ongoing suggestions of gender-based gaps in this and other data are of serious concern, and monitoring the changes over time through the Salary Survey will help to trace the larger patterns at work.

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The ACA urges all practices to understand the issue and the role they can play in addressing it – and remember that there is a clear business case for pay equity, as well as the obvious ethical issue. We encourage members to familiarise themselves with the Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice, which include a guide specifically on Pay Equity.


What should practices do?

  1. Ensure that you understand the Architects Award and your obligations under it. This includes observing the Award rates as a minimum.
  2. Use the ACA Salary Calculator to determine Award-compliant salaries. This takes into consideration variables such as non-standard hours, superannuation and award categories, as well as the requirements of the National Employment Standards (NES) and the latest version of the Architects Award.
  3. Ensure that you understand the full cost of providing appropriate levels of service, and craft fee proposals accordingly. The ACA Architects Time/Cost Calculation Guide is an important tool to help guide these decisions.
  4. 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. Read Leone Lorrimer on why paying employees fairly is good business.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Dr Gill Matthewson report author

Dr Gill Matthewson is a researcher, architect and educator, currently based at Monash University in Melbourne. She is a national expert on the demographics of Australian architecture. Her PhD “Dimensions of Gender: women’s careers in the Australian architecture profession” (awarded by the University of Queensland in 2015) included significant analysis of the most up-to-date data on architects, and she is a and is a co-founder of Parlour: women, equity, architecture. Gill is widely published and her research forms a core of the advocacy undertaken by Parlour.

For the ACA, Gill has undertaken the analysis of the previous National Salary Surveys and is the author of the ACA Architects in Australia reports, which chart the professional profile of architects and the industry’s development in recent years through the 2001, 2006 and 2011 Censuses.

Full report

The full 2017 National Salary Survey report is available to ACA members. Members can log in below to access it. if you are not already a member you can find out more about joining the ACA here.

If you are not eligible to be a member, or are a researcher, journalist or other media representative interested to read the report, please contact ACA – Qld/NT to enquire about obtaining a copy. Email qld@aca.org.au.


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