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What is the situation like on the job market for architects?

The corona pandemic is also affecting the construction industry. Accordingly, architecture and engineering offices assess the expected order situation for the year 2021. According to a joint survey by the Federal Chamber of Architects (BAK) and the Federal Chamber of Engineers (BIngK) among 4,600 independent chamber members on the economic consequences of the pandemic, 41 percent expect sales to decline in 2021. Every fifth office reported massive or impending liquidity problems. According to the BAK and BIngK, interior designers, self-employed people, planners active abroad and those who work for commercial clients are already in some cases in need.

How many architects are employed?

In 2019, before the outbreak of the pandemic, the future looked bright for architects: Low interest rates and rising demand for housing ensured good business in the construction industry. According to a structural survey by the Federal Chamber of Architects, in which almost 20 percent of the approximately 140,000 chamber members working in Germany took part, in 2019 almost a quarter (36 percent) were self-employed, almost three quarters were employed: 34 percent in an architecture or urban planning office, 14 percent in the commercial economy and 16 percent in the public sector.

What is the salary of an employed architect?

According to the Federal Chamber of Architects (BAK) there is a collective agreement for employed architects; However, this only applies to the percentage of engineering and architecture firms that belong to the employers' association. In addition to these largely non-binding collective wages, the salary recommendation of the Employers' Association of German Architects and Engineers offers a good orientation for your own salary expectations. In addition, the BAK regularly publishes surveys on the actual income situation. Since architects can freely negotiate their salaries, it is worth taking a look at these surveys.

Where in Germany do salaried architects earn the most?

The salaries of employed architects are heavily dependent on where they live. According to the BAK, the front runner is the state of Hesse: Here architects were able to book an average annual gross salary of 63,276 euros. Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate were also above the national German average (58,976 euros). Architects in Thuringia earned the least, where the respondents stated an average annual gross salary of 48,000 euros.

What does a self-employed architect earn?

An average of six out of ten freelance architects settle their fees according to the so-called HOAI, the fee schedule for architects and engineers. This is a federal ordinance - with previously binding minimum and maximum rates. After a ruling by the European Court of Justice in July 2019, however, these were overturned because, according to the judges, they could disadvantage architects in neighboring countries - a violation of European law. According to a communication from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Home Affairs (BMI), the HOAI can and should still be used as a guide. The detailed explanations of the Federal Ministry of the Interior regarding the HOAI changes and how these should be applied from January 1, 2021 can be found here.

Three quarters of the architects surveyed by the BAK stated that this ruling had no effect on them, but 30 percent complained about higher competitive pressure or higher discounts demanded by clients.

Per capita sales: Depending on the size of the office

The possible effects of the HOAI change are not yet reflected in the BAK survey, which relates to 2019. Independent architects commissioned by offices reported an average fee turnover of EUR 74,476 per person. The following applies: the more employees an office has, the higher the fee is usually. In one-person offices, the average fee turnover in 2019 was 64,900 euros, in companies with ten or more employees (permanent and freelance) it was 91,912 euros per person.

The bigger the office, the higher the surplus

Sales are one thing, surpluses are another. Here, too, there is a clear difference between one-man offices and larger companies: While architects working alone generated an average surplus of 45,000 euros in 2019, in offices with ten or more employees it was 176,250 euros - per owner.

Freelancer: Revenues also depend on location

As with salaried architects, freelancers do not earn the same amount everywhere in Germany. According to the survey, architects recorded the highest sales with an average of EUR 81,633 per capita in Schleswig-Holstein, and the lowest in Bremen: EUR 58,947. Since in some cases only very small numbers of cases were included in the analysis, according to the Federal Chamber of Architects, these data may be distorted.

What do the different industries pay?

The professional group of architects does not only include those who plan buildings (structural architects), even if they make up the clear majority with 85 percent. It also includes:

  • Interior designers (six percent)
  • Landscape architects (eight percent)
  • Urban planners (seven percent).

(Note: some combine several specialist areas in their activities, such as urban planners and architects, which is why the sum is more than 100 percent.)

The BAK survey again provides information on how much is paid in the various industries. The following picture emerges for 2019 (median):

How does the type of employer influence the architect's salary?

In all areas, the gross annual salaries increased significantly between 2012 and 2019. The curve shows the steepest upward trend for employees in architecture and planning offices: Their salary rose from 40,500 (2012) to 50,400 euros (2019) - a whopping 25 percent. There was also a big plus for architects in the commercial economy: if they earned an average of 62,000 euros p.a. in 2012, seven years later it was 75,000 euros (plus 21 percent). For public sector employees - 95 percent are paid according to the tariff - the gross wage rose by 17 percent in the same period from 55,000 to 64,412 euros.

How does earnings change with increasing professional experience?

Graduates do not start their careers with above-average salaries, but the industry attracts with good development prospects: If the national German average salary is 43,000 euros per year after up to five years of activity, it is already 55,000 euros after eleven to 20 years , so about a third more. Architects with at least 30 years of professional experience earn an average of 60,000 euros annually.

Bachelor, master, diploma: which degree leads to which starting salary?

The former diploma courses have now been transferred almost everywhere to the bachelor and master system. Only the technical universities in Dresden and Kaiserslautern still offer a diploma course. The proportion of working architects with a diploma (TU and FH) is falling continuously, but is still around 80 percent among employees and even 96 percent among the self-employed.

As a Bachelor graduate it is possible to work in planning offices. However, since the Chamber of Architects only recognizes studies of four years or more as qualifying for a profession, the opportunities for promotion and income remain limited. The majority of students in the fields of architecture and urban planning therefore follow a master’s degree. In the BAK survey, seven percent of interior and landscape architects said they had a bachelor's degree.

The degree also has a direct impact on the starting salary. According to an evaluation by “berufsstart.de”, graduated architects still get more money when they are first employed than those with a master’s degree, but only about two percent. Those who start their professional life with a bachelor's degree have to make clear cuts: According to the evaluation, these graduates receive almost 15 percent less salary than those with a master’s degree, and in the public service it is even 20 percent.