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Salary for an Architect


Name: Stephen Jones
Job Title: Architect
Where: Marina Del Rey, CA
Employer: Principal/Owner SFJones Architects, Inc.
Years of Experience: 10+
Education: BA in Design at University of Florida – 1986, Masters of Architecture at UCLA – 1992
Salary: See PayScale’s Research Center for the average salary for an architect.

Salary for an Architect

It’s no exaggeration to say that Stephen Jones is one of the most sought-after architects in the country. Stephen has designed many high-profile restaurants, from the internationally known Spago in Beverly Hills to the Lucky Strike Lanes which grace several major cities. But can the salary for an architect match an awe-inspiring design? We decided to find out more about architect salaries and how to become an architect from one of the best.

Stephen discussed his different creations, factors that affect the average architect salary and how to become an architect. Primarily a commercial architect, Stephen is equally adept as a luxury home architect, having designed his own house. He truly loves what he does, sans the architect salary.

Stephen reminds us that the salary for an architect takes a back seat to the passion one must have for this creative and challenging field. If you’re wondering how to become an architect – or earn a higher architect salary – keep reading to find out how Stephen rose to the top.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Architect Job Description:

I operate a 10-person architectural design firm. My primary role is overseeing all projects, including conceptual design. I work with my project architects to develop the designs, see the project through construction and manage client relations. As the face of SFJones Architects, I market the architect firm, meet with prospective clients, work to promote the firm and recent projects, and prepare proposals.

For those wondering how to become an architect, what were your career steps?

Fortunately, I found my calling in Jr. High School. I was fascinated by my uncle’s engineering firm and my dad’s silkscreen printing business. I also found that I was good in my drafting class and kept taking the class for an easy “A.” I recall writing my 9th grade career report about wanting to become an architect and it became my passion. Later, I was able to get a job with a landscape architect, which was my foot in the door.

I got accepted into the University of Florida, and since I wasn’t taking a full load of classes for the first couple of years, I was able to work for an architect 30 to 35 hours a week and take classes at the same time. Eventually, after a few more years I decided to get my Master’s Degree at UCLA where I was able to work with a small firm that specialized in restaurants; I found that I was intrigued with the building type.

That led to a position with the Wolfgang Puck Food Company where I was one of the in-house architects for the new restaurant concepts that they were rolling out. My big break came from an opportunity with Wolfgang Puck and his wife Barbara Lazaroff to design their new Spago restaurant which they were planning to open in Beverly Hills. That turned out to be the project that launched SFJones Architects, and almost 11 years later, we are still going strong.

What do you like about working as an architect?

I love creating my own environment and making client’s concepts come to life. Work is not work to me; it’s what I would be doing anyway. It’s dynamic in that it’s never boring and always challenging, and the payoff at the end of a project makes the process worth it all. Plus, the added bonus of designing restaurants is that you can visit your actual completed work.

As an architect, can you recall any memorable or funny moments that took place on the job?

Memorable moments during my job usually occur during construction, when something either doesn’t work out as expected or an unexpected situation comes up and you, as the architect and designer, have to fix it or “make lemonade out of lemons.” When you are put in that position and are able to come up with a creative solution, then you have good stories to tell of why something was created a certain way, especially when it becomes a big part of the design… I’m full of good stories.

What are some of the well-known restaurants that you have designed?

Spago in Beverly Hills, The Hump at the Santa Monica Airport, Lucky Strikes Bowling in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and a few other cities, The Daily Grill and The Grill on the Alley at various locations around the country, plus others that are listed on my website at

What is the typical salary for an architect? Can you give us an architect salary range?

First of all, if you are in it for the money, you are in the wrong profession. For me, it’s the lifestyle and creative freedom. The range in architect salaries greatly depends on whether you are running your own firm or work for an established firm. A project architect working for a firm can expect to earn an architect salary ranging from $60K to $90K, depending on experience and the size of the firm you are working for.

A principal of a large firm can expect to earn an architect salary of up to $150K, or more, depending on the size of the firm and what part of the country you are in. A sole proprietor has a salary range that varies greatly, depending on the firm’s success and the owner’s business sense. During good times, those architect salaries are $125K and up. However, during slow times, you are the last to get paid so it can be rough.

How does your salary compare to an architect’s salary?  Do the calculations with PayScale’s salary calculator.

Matt Schneider
Read more from Matt

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aiden mcknight

i am highly interested in being an architect, I am in year 12 and have started taking interest in this area for a few years and come to the conclusion that i need to know what i want to do when i have left school, i am taking a gap year to work in Europe to work out what i want to do when i go back home and study, what is it like to own an architectural firm, i… Read more »

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