ACA releases findings on the National Salary Survey

Jun 23, 2014
  • Article by Online Editor

The Association of Consulting Architects Australia (ACA) recently released a report on its findings of the first two iterations of the National Salary Survey. The report outlines broad trends and identifies a number of worrying issues that the profession will need to work together to address.

Pay rates and increases

The practices surveyed are predominantly paying a little above the minimum rates identified in the Architects Award, however it is apparent that some practices are still paying salaries below these minimums. The ACA reminds practices that is essential to understand their obligations under the Award, and to ensure that these are met. (Remember, breaching the Award can incur hefty fines.)

Salaries for registered architects at the bottom end of the range are worryingly low. The survey contains some outliers, but a consistent finding is that there is very little salary increase for registered architects at the lower end of the scale from being newly registered to being very experienced or even a Principal/Director. This is of real concern and has serious consequences for the ability of these architects to stay in the profession, and the economic viability of the profession as a whole.

In contrast, both surveys identify the role of BIM manager as the highest earning technical role across all salary bands – this is clearly a case of quality supply versus demand.

Pay increases over 2013 and 2014 were very slight. Nonetheless, the 2014 survey did see a small increase in the number of firms who had been in a position to pay increases above the CPI. The ACA hopes that this might hint at improved economic and business conditions in some sectors of the profession.

The low salary levels reflect the difficult economic conditions that the profession has faced for some time now. Fee competition is tight and some architects are submitting fees at uneconomic and unsustainable levels. This short-term tactic has long-term negative impacts and puts pressure on the profession as a whole. While not explicit from the survey, other indicators make it clear that many firms are surviving on the unpaid overtime worked by staff – and once again employers need to ensure they are not in breach of the workplace legislation.

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 exploring a range of ways to support architectural businesses and to advocate for better business environments and improved fees.

Gender pay gap

One of the most worrying findings of the report is the identification of a gender pay gap in all by two of the ten levels surveyed. As Gill Matthewson explains in her report, some of these differences may be due to small sample sizes, or to the significant differences in numbers of men and women in some categories. However, this is not enough to fully explain the gap.

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. Fortunately, the profession now has access to the Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice. These are an excellent, practical resource, and include a guide specifically on Pay Equity.


Students were employed by only 45% of the practices surveyed in 2014. The ACA is concerned that recent changes to educational programs, combined with the current tight economic climate, mean that many students are not benefiting from early exposure to architectural practice. As a result, many graduates are not well equipped when they enter the full-time architectural workforce as previously. ACA – Qld is continuing to work with TAFE to develop a complementary course for undergraduate architects to run as a summer semester to fill the gaps left by the new Masters approach to architectural education. Other state branches are also exploring how to address this issue.

What should practices do?

Ensure that you understand the Architects Award and your obligations under it. This includes observing the Award rates as a minimum.

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.

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.

Participate in the regular ACA Salary Survey. This provides an benchmark for your own practice, while also helping to build broader knowledge. The more practices participate, the more meaningful the survey will be.

The ACA National Salary Survey is conducted every six months and provides members with vital information about their position within the broader marketplace. Architects are in a competitive market for both labour and projects, and the better informed we are the better we are able to strategise and respond. The survey questionnaire covers a wide range of roles and positions including professional, technical, and administrative and line management. It will have filters for location, size and type of practice, as well as a question regarding benefits within packages. The survey is independent and anonymous, and the results are available to members through a private portal.

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