As we delve deeper into architecture as a field, we start realizing its subjectivity and its vastness. While learning architecture and partaking the education for a minimum of 5 years, we begin getting involved in many of the nitty-gritties, thus encompassing knowledge about a lot of subjects and a plethora of philosophies. We learn and eventually come to accept that design and design solutions would be different for different people and thus would demand a different perspective in addressing it every time. This subjectivity unfortunately has extended into architectural profession as well as career.
This article dives deeper into the dynamics of a fresher’s salary, taking into account 2 very different perspectives, the fresher architect and the principal architect, to ultimately answer the question, Why are architects paid so less?
Elaborating the point about subjectivity, I would like to point out that there are a few flaws in the architectural education that leads to a certain indecisiveness while choosing a career path after completing 5 years of graduation study. Because of its vastness, the educational pattern is successful enough to convey and touch upon the basics of every field that falls under the architectural umbrella but fails to convey or hone a student according to his/her interests and giving an insight of what line the student could take after graduation. The education as much as it opens up avenues towards understanding varied perspectives and design related awareness, fails in conveying about opportunities that lay ahead. Though teachers and professors try their best in informing their students about the avenues that can be pursued, but not being in the syllabus, thus, becomes a bit haywire and students cannot just rely on the experiences shared by their mentors but need a specific source to get this information.
This leads to a very unfair way of letting students do their internship as well as freshers who have just completed their education to go and work in firms that they do not have any idea about. Not having enough knowledge about the ways in which architectural and design firms work, not understanding their own true potential and where their interests lie, students don’t realize what is good for them and what is not. Thus, they end up going to firms that might not be paying more, might not be working according to their interest field and eventually end up interning or working as mere necessity. This loop continues till at least 3-4 years until they realize what has been going on in the surrounding market, what their peers are doing, what the current global trends are, what are the ways in which a standard architectural firm works and eventually to boil down towards quitting one’s job and setting up an independent practice. All this takes up a good whopping 10 years of one’s life. With so much of time and money investment in education, and gaining peanuts for a salary, the dilemma of why I am getting paid so less continues to become serious day by day.
Now, if we look at all this from an architectural firm’s or owner’s point of view, the entire ball game hits a complete spiral. With so many workers, right from the Principal Architect at the apex to the contractors, Junior architects to the admin department and the HR department, to the different agencies and ultimately the workers on site, a firm houses many people in the loop. Not to mention, the support system and the services required to maintain the work to go on smoothly. For all these purposes, the payment has to come from the client and has to be divided as per the hierarchy of the jobs. Bigger the firm, more the people working, bigger the client and more is the money involved. And vice versa. This becomes a huge concern which gives rise to disparity in terms of payments to interns and freshers. Since there are no definite universal guidelines in charging the clients and neither are there any standard guidelines for payments to different people working in a firm, every firm comes up with an individual set of standard payment methodology and adopts it for smooth functioning of operations. To a very large extent, this method directly gets influenced by the economic flow from the clientele. Since universal adherence doesn’t exist, each firm makes and follows its own set of rules and thus, the newer generation also adapts to the same kind of thought process.
It’s very easy to rope in students and freshers to work for minimum salary or no salary, with a promise that they would be learning lot of techniques and getting exposure to the real architectural world where money and resources are at stake. The glamour of the existing world that had been painted before, slowly wears out while working at firms who pay very less or nothing. And comparing it to the IT professionals and their peers earning huge salary packages further adds to the anxiety of the newbies, thus making them question their decision of pursuing architecture in the first place.
So, the first thing that needs to be addressed is the set of guidelines to the firms denoting a certain salary to various people who work. The payments could be in terms of their seniority and ultimately boiling down to the interns who are looking forward to a bright future lying in front of them. A certain pay-scale would help them to understand the value as well as take up a responsibility more efficiently. Along with the pay-scale, it is also necessary to form a certain set of guidelines for allocation of various jobs to a range of people, thus, ensuring a good balance between teamwork and maximum output from every person who works under the team. Usually, this pattern is very much in practice in some of the western countries, which helps them to get things done in a more efficient way and every expertise gets the benefit of standing separate and tall. With certain strict demarcations and channeling this expertise, a sense of responsibility and liability stems up and eventually all the people working towards building a site together end up respecting each and everyone’s efforts and work.
To conclude, I would like to mention that. Architectural profession is a slow one as compared to most others, and it takes time for an individual to build up to a certain level and establish a strong foothold. But addressing the loopholes mentioned above, we, the same architectural fraternity, can try to make a difference and create an awareness about this disparity and the number of difficulties that stem up, thus ensuring to build a healthy co-working environment as well as boost as well as retain the enthusiasm of the youngsters that join this profession with a positive outlook.