Project managers are increasingly valued as vital, asset-intensive employees, and compensated accordingly. In North America, project managers with 10 years' experience earn $74,793 to $86,116. A project manager with 15 years' experience can earn a salary of between $80,328 and $108,496. The best of these can earn upward of $150,000, with some firms paying just over $200,000, plus benefits. Most project managers are licensed architects, but because not all firms require licensure, engineers, architectural engineers, interior designers, and construction managers have moved into project manager positions in some practices.
Another role that has reaped larger salaries is that of equity partner and principal. Before bonus, base compensation starts at a low mean of $128,799 and reaches a high mean of $173,983. These are consistent with last year's reports, except that bonuses have been significantly richer due to profit increases of 6 percent or more. For the CEO position in a firm, the base range is from a low mean of $173,271 up to $212,348 as a high mean. The base salary increase for these CEO positions, from 2006 to 2007, was approximately 6.4 percent.
For all equity positions, including officer positions such as COO and CFO, the target bonus is usually 20 percent or more of base salary. Increasingly it is 100 percent or more, with some firms reporting even higher targets. In the current economic climate, therefore, it is not unusual for an officer and equity partner to earn a base salary of $235,000, with a bonus of $200,000. However—because of the major stake in ownership that equity partners may have—they can earn incomes approaching and occasionally surpassing seven figures.
The 2007 survey found that the increase in total cash compensation was more accelerated for equity principals than it was for other positions. Ownership carries risks, but it can have its financial reward in well-run practices.
Another key talent category for practices is that of marketing director. To illustrate how crucial this position is, you can draw an analogy with health care: A firm without clients is like a hospital without patients. Having talented marketing professionals on staff as well as principals who are “rainmakers” is paramount to a firm's success.
Salaries for marketing professionals at architecture firms vary widely. In the 2007 study, firms were asked to provide a salary range from low to high for each marketing position. Based on this information, the mean low salary for marketing directors in 2007 is $73,894, with a mean high salary of $87,648. Marketing director salaries ranged from a low of $28,000 (for part-time directors) to more than $165,000, not including bonuses. Marketing associate and marketing assistant positions can also be well compensated.
Architectural practices today can be adept not only at design, but also at human resource management and staying competitive as a business. Successful firms can clearly articulate their value to their own staff and to clients, and follow through on it. All architects should be aware of the fact that enhanced productivity leads directly to better practice management—and better compensation.
James P. Cramer is chairman and principal of the Greenway Group Inc. and editor of DesignIntelligence.