You have finished your portfolio, resume, and business cards. Now it is time to start interviewing… But what is a fair salary for graduates? How do you figure this out?

The very first thing we recommend you need to do is get an estimate of what your range should be by looking at what others have posted online. After you research this, we suggest fine-tuning the estimate by consulting with the human resources you have. We will explain a great way to do this, right here in this post!


Make Quick Estimates Online

Start with AIA salary calculator / Glass / Research quick numbers online. Use more than one site, the more you can find the better. When you find a salary online, be sure to note the position the job was for. You will want to research positions at your experience level, one position above your experience level and one position below your experience level.

EXAMPLE: You are graduating in two months with your masters degree in architecture with zero experience. You will want to research positions which include: Summer Internships, Post-Graduate Architecture, ARCH 1, or ARCH 2. There are many names firms will use for similar positions, but look for everything plus or minus 2 years of your experience.


When you have the position below you, the position you are at, and the position above you, you are ready to make an initial range.

EXAMPLE: During your research online you discovered a Summer Intern position which was $18/hr ($35,000), a post-graduate position making $42,000/yr, and an ARCH 2 position with a salary of $49,000/yr.

Add $1000 to the lowest figure, and subtract $1000 from the highest figure to determine your range: $36,000 – $48,000

Notice that is a huge range. The next step is crucial to determining a more exact range which is both fair to you and accurate to your abilities.



Connect with Your Contacts

Ask yourself, “what part of the country do I want to work in?” Deciding this is important. Salary depends on how the market is, which differs between cities. After you have decided where it is you want to work, you need to find contacts in those areas who can provide you with the information you need to have an informed salary range. The two main ones we are going to talk about are Professors and Recent Graduates.



For everyone still enrolled in school, your best resource are your professors. They want to see you do well and should be keen to offer any advice or connections they feel will benefit you the most. But YOU must start the conversation. Ask for a little help or advice. It will go a long way. Professors often know what their recent grads are making and can suggest a salary range. You can either ask your professors what they feel is a good range, or show them the research you have found and ask if it is accurate.


Some questions to ask your professor may be:

“Do you have any connections in that area I am trying to work in?” or

“Are any recent graduates in the area I could be connected with?”


Finally, learn from your professors where their recent grads are going into the workforce. After you get a couple of names, introduce yourself through email.



Recent Graduates

Throughout architecture school we meet people within our program a year or two ahead of us. While professors are in the know of how their former students are doing in the workforce, it is these men and women who hold the keys to the most up to date information on salary, working conditions, and who is hiring. You can get in touch with recent grads you know personally and ask for advice on what is an appropriate salary range.

You may want to start a conversation through email like this:

__(Contact’s Name)__,

My name is __(Your Name)__. I am graduating from __(Your University)__ with a Masters of Architecture. My graduate adviser, __(Professor’s Name)__ mentioned your name and recommended I connect with you. I have questions about what to expect after graduation and would appreciate an opportunity to speak with you if you have the time.


__(Your Name)__

Some questions to ask this contact may be:

“I am considering working in the __(City of Interest)__ area as well. How do you enjoy the area you are working in?”

“What is an appropriate salary range in __(City of Interest)__  considering my current experience?”


Other Sources

LinkedIn- you can search for former employees of any company you wish, connect, and ask for advice and insight.

Classmates- There are more than likely a few classmates whom have worked in an architecture firm and can suggest salaries.



Determine Your Salary Range

Given your connections and the advice of hopefully several people, take your research and come up with a shorter range of what you are looking for:

Lets’s take the example estimate from earlier in the post: $36,000 – $48,000

Now sort out the information from your contacts you learn that recent grads are all making over:


EXAMPLE: A professor of yours tells you #36,000 is selling yourself short, and that you should take no less than $40,000. A recent grad whom you were friends with in school is making $43000 in the Dallas area. An older mentor of yours working in Texas tells you that he sees recent grads making anywhere from $42,000 – $47,000.


For this example the asking range you are looking for it going to be with the range of $42000 – $47000


Other factors to keep in mind when researching your salary range: 

Every city has a different job market, and are hiring based on that. So be specific and research per city. In general, the larger the firm, the more they can afford to offer. A corporate architecture firm with 1000 employees will pay more than a 5 person firm. There are more resources for larger firms to tap into. That means research the size of the firm’s your contacts work at. If you can, decide on a minimum salary you can take determinant on your personal budget. Be realistic with your budget. Finally, it is possible to walk in and ask for something outrageous and get the offer. Anything is possible. But you don’t want to be overly confident when you have no professional experience. Research what is fair to your abilities and always start with your highest number in your salary range when you are negotiating.