Preliminary Observations from the Inaugural Salary Survey

15 July 2013

The ACA ran its inaugural Salary Survey in mid-2013. So what does it tell us? Some preliminary observations follow.

The ACA National Salary Survey benchmarks salaries for 32 different roles. Participating practices can run reports to show how they compare in each role category against the lowest, highest and average results of similar firms. Practices will also be able to run reports with a range of different demographic figures. A separate email will be sent out advising how to access the data and run these reports.

Analysis of the data is also underway and an overview report will be available once the second iteration of the survey has been run. Preliminary analysis of the inaugural survey highlights the softness of the market, confirming that these are tricky economic times in which to be running an architectural practice. However, there are also some surprises and some outliers at the top end are still being paid well. Initial observations include the following:

  • 91.8% of respondent firms have increased salaries by CPI or less than 5%.
  • 48% of firms did not increase salaries in the last 12 months. This is not surprising given the market conditions, but it does mean that salaries have effectively reduced by the Consumer Price Index.
  • Salary results overall appear similar to those published by recruitment agencies, but the ACA report includes the total package, while some of the others only include superannuation.
  • While 76% of firms offer other packaged benefits to staff, mostly these benefits are targeted at directors and senior management/professionals. 72% of respondents did not offer additional benefits to all staff.
  • Salaries for senior administration staff are lower than expected. For example, average salaries are $84,000 for Practice Managers, $112,000 for General Managers and $150,000 for CEOs.
  • The emerging role of BIM manager is proving to be a desirable career path, with an average salary of $100,000 nationally.
  • 54% of firms do not employ students. In past years students have been a key part of the office support team and documentation output. The lower numbers of students employed may partly be a result of the current tertiary emphasis, which at many schools includes little or no workplace learning. As a result, graduates are generally not ‘work ready’ following graduation. This is an area for ACA action.
  • There are significant differences in salaries according to region.

One worrying observation is that minimum salaries in some categories are below award levels. This suggests that some member firms are not paying Modern Award rates. The ACA reminds members that they are legally required to pay award wages. To do otherwise is to risk investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Contravening a Modern Award can lead to significant penalties – up to $10,200 for an individual and $51,000 for a corporation.

The Salary Survey will be repeated annually. This is already a very useful resource for members – many ACA members comment that decision making around salaries is often done in a context of incomplete or inaccurate information. The salary survey will give members a much firmer ground on which to base their salary decisions. Over time the results will also give excellent longitudinal information about the state of the profession.

We encourage all members to participate – the more practices contribute, the more reliable the resulting data and the better informed we all will be.

This article was first published in ACA Communique, July 2013.