To Survey or Not to Survey

Angelina Pillai , 8 May 2019

Our recent questionnaire about the ACA’s National Salary Survey uncovered some interesting findings and observations. ACA CEO Angelina Pillai unpacks the results.

As part of the ACA’s ongoing development of the resources offered to members, last month we sent you a short questionnaire asking if the National Salary Survey was relevant to your practice. For all who participated, thank you for taking the time to respond. With 170 practices responding to this short questionnaire, there were some clear messages.

The ACA National Salary Survey gathers data on 31 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. We also collect details on salary packages, conditions and geographic location. It is a valuable resource for architectural practices.

Making Data More Meaningful

The National Salary Survey is currently opened only to ACA members. A very high proportion of the respondents stated that it should be opened to non-members. This would enable a much larger proportion of the architectural population to contribute to the salary survey results. The more responses we collect, the more meaningful the data is for your practice.

Of those who responded to the usefulness of the survey, approximately three quarters agreed it was useful and an even higher proportion recommended that the ACA continues to conduct this survey annually, with most indicating that the July–September period is the most convenient time to run the survey.

Benefits of the Survey

More specifically, when asked about the importance of the various functions of the salary survey to their practice, the following were listed in order of importance:

  • Providing reliable, independent, up-to-date annual data on remuneration in Australian architecture
  • Tracking remuneration trends in architecture over time to understand longitudinal trends
  • Enabling practices to benchmark against similar firms within the survey platform
  • Collecting up-to-date data to inform remuneration within individual practices

In addition to these functions, respondents also offered that they used the salary survey to:

  • Establish benchmarks for tiers of staff in the practice
  • Identify firms that are under-paying lower-level architects (such as students)
  • Increase the overall perception of the value of architecture to the wider community
  • Hold unscrupulous employers to account, particularly during performance appraisals
  • Clearly capture salary increases on an annual basis

As for the benchmarking option, only a quarter of the respondents use this function.


Interestingly, nearly half the respondents declared that they have participated in the survey over the years (though only 20% complete every year). Reasons for not participating range from not having all the information at hand, being too busy, employed as a sole practitioner, or just not being aware of the survey.

Over the course of the next month, we will undertake a more detailed review of this feedback and find ways to ensure that the National Salary Survey can deliver the most value to you and your practice. As always, we will keep you updated.

What can you do?

In the meantime, what should your practices do to keep on track? Here is a reminder of the important ACA tools and resources to help you and your business.

  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 next ACA Salary Survey. The more practices that participate, the more meaningful the survey will be!