Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Is your job boring?

Megan McArdle , who is guestblogging at Instapundit, writes about her brief experience in investment banking. She points to how boring it was for her and that this justified the big bucks those who work in that field. I've already come across two people in my firm who decided to give up their careers in investment banking to become an architect. For those of you who are not aware, architects are poorly paid relative to other professions. It is understood by everyone who embarks on a design career that one must sacrifice monetary rewards for the joy of realizing buildings from your imagination. Sure some architects can make a decent income in the low six-figures, usually as partial owners of the firm after decades of hard work. But most young architects won't attain that status, as they advance very slowly up the profession and plateau income-wise. Others will leave architecture altogether for a better paying career, usually in real estate, graphic design, and even law.

So when I or many people who work in an architecture firm encounter a person who abandons a better paying profession, the initial reaction will be: "what were you thinking?" or "are you sure you know what you're getting into?" As McArdle is a journalist, I'm sure she is familiar with the financial precariousness that affect those who work in the more "fun" professions like art, writing and design. I will admit that my job is not boring in the way some high-paying jobs are described in this Washington Post article, but money is an issue.

From my point of view, those who've been engaged early on in the low-paying creative and academic fields will never fully appreciate what they truly have because the lack of money will always be among the foremost concerns on their minds. I'm willing to bet that the opposite case, those who began in high-paying but tedious jobs and transfer over to low paying but rewarding jobs, get the better part of the deal. They have the advantage of financial stability which begets an important sense of freedom and confidence that those working in the trenches of design firms and academia rarely enjoy.

3 comments:

lindsey said...

When you say that architecture is a poorly paying profession, what level of income would you say most people max out at? How poorly paying: $20,000? 40,000? 60? 100? I'm planning to apply for architecture school, so I'm curious about this aspect of the profession. Obviously.

corbusier said...

Bearing in mind that salaries tend increase incrementally with the rate of inflation, you can expect to earn in 35-40K after getting your BArch or MArch. That starting range is influenced by the city's local job market. One tip: sunbelt and midwestern cities pay interns better than hip coastal cities like NY, San Francisco or Seattle.

You will probably have to be working for at least 6 or 7 years to break the 50K barrier. If you're still at it for 10 years with an architectural license at hand you will probably reach the 60K barrier. If you stick around for 20 years, my guess is you will be at least a principal in a firm which can earn you at least 75K or higher. Partner or Vice President will earn at 100K or sometimes much higher depending on the success of the firm. For example, a partner at SOM, one of the world's largest architecture firms owns a collection of Ferraris. But by that point, they are more or less businessmen and are quite busy finding work by wining and dining.

Since no one talks about what they earn, this is my best guess. A better resource would be for you to go to the local AIA chapter office in your city and request to see a pamphlet that lists average salaries for every level in every major American city. They would be glad to help you.

Joe Noory said...

Hey, don't worry - It's only money. :-)