Architects Award: The Definitive Guide

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The Architects award wage can be pretty confusing if you’re just trying to work out what you should be paid when you get your first entry level job or work experience position in an Australian architecture firm.

In this article, I’ll strip out the extra detail so that you can understand the most important figures for some pretty common situations and figure out what you’re entitled to.

The info in the blog post is for September 20th, 2019 onwards, and will be updated when a new Architects Award is published.

Minimum annual wages for full-time graduate employees

A full-time employee works 38 hours per week.

Level 1. Graduate of Architecture Salary (excl. Super)

Entry – $52,551 per annum – $1007 per week before tax

1st Pay point – $55,330 per annum – $1060 per week before tax

2nd pay point – $58,106 per annum – $1114 per week before tax

What is a pay point? The Architects Award says that there should be an annual review every 12 months of employment, with reasonable goals and objectives for the next year agreed on and set out in writing. If you meet the objectives, you will progress to the next salary pay point!

What are the goals your annual review should focus on? The Architects Award gives more detail in section 15.2, but basically, it’s things like:

  • Prepare architectural drawings with regard to the location, extent of building elements, components, finishes, fittings and systems.
  • Co-ordinate the documentation of the project.
  • Establish site conditions, site related requirements and limitations and existing facilities.
  • Assess applicable codes, regulations and legislation.
  • Prepare preliminary project evaluations, programs and feasibility studies.
  • Establish and co-ordinate specialist consultants, contractors and suppliers.
  • Administer the project contract.

You know, architect stuff!

Minimum rates for full-time students

Under the Architects Award, you’re a student while you’re enrolled in a full-time course of architecture and you’re employed to gain experience in the practice of architecture. Students are entitled to a percentage of what an entry-level graduate earns, based on your age and experience.

Salaries for students under 21 years of age (excl. Super)

  • First 13 weeks of employment – 35% ($352 per week before tax)
  • Next 13 weeks of employment – 50% ($503 per week before tax
  • Next 26 weeks of employment – 65% ($654 per week before tax)
  • 2nd year of experience – 70% ($705 per week before tax)
  • 3rd year of experience – 75% ($755 per week before tax)
  • 4th year of experience – 85% ($856 per week before tax)
  • 5th year of experience – 90% ($906 per week before tax)
  • 6th year of experience – 95% ($957 per week before tax)

What is a year of experience? When I was studying, I thought that it meant that if I’m in the 3rd year of my degree, I have three years of experience, right? Wrong! A year of experience means a minimum of 30 hours per week of employment over a 12 month period.

Salaries for students over 21 years of age (excl. Super)

  • Less than 3 years of experience – $740.8 per week before tax
  • 3rd year of experiemce – 75% ($755 per week before tax)
  • 4th year of experience – 85% ($856 per week before tax)
  • 5th year of experience – 90% ($906 per week before tax)
  • 6th year of experience – 95% ($957 per week before tax)

What about part time and casual?

The most common situation for a student is to do one or two days a week in an architecture firm, but the difference between being casual and part-time means a lot to your bank account.

A part-time employee works less than 38 hours each week, and usually works regular hours (eg Monday and Thursday every week). You will sign an employment contract, and you’ll be entitled to the same entitlements as a full-time employee such as sick leave, annual leave, and specific rules around how you can be let go.

It’s super important that your firm provides a proper employment agreement that lays out all of the details about your pay, conditions and entitlements.

In the Architects Award, part-time employees get paid 1/38th the weekly wage for their level of experience, multiplied by the number of hours you work each week.

Working 10 hours per week as a student over the age of 21 with 2 years of experience? That’s $740.8 divided by 38, times 10 = $194.95

A casual employee, on the other hand, doesn’t get entitlements like leave. You can also quit, or be let go pretty easily, or given no hours.

With casual employment, you get what’s called loading. Loading means you take the normal hourly rate for your experience (weekly rate divided by 38), and add 25%.

Casual is more flexible for you and the employer, and you will most likely have irregular hours that change week to week. But, you won’t get the security and conditions of a part, or full time employee.

What about overtime?

If you work more than 38 hours in a week, you are entitled to overtime.

Paid overtime is given at a rate of time and a half. So say you worked 3 extra hours (41 hours total) in a week, you would take your normal hours rate (Weekly for your experience divided by 38) and multiply it by 1.5, then by 3.

If your firm uses a book-keeping package like Xero to manage payroll, you can actually manage your own overtime in your timesheet by selecting the 1.5X rate when you enter your hours. If these settings are missing or the firm pretends like overtime doesn’t exist, it’s time for a chat!

It’s a sad fact that a lot of firms don’t follow the rules by avoiding paying overtime. If that’s the case in your firm, and a discussion doesn’t change the situation, you can get advice or report them to Fairwork here.

The other alternative is time off in lieu instead of payment for overtime, which means that for every hour of overtime you work, you get 1.5 hours of time off. Time off must be taken within 6 months at a time agreed to by both you and your employer.

If you change your mind, you can still request to be paid your overtime and your employer needs to follow it. The same thing applies if 6 months passes and you haven’t taken the time off.

Remember, the decision as to whether you accept payment or time off for overtime is yours.

Superannuation: how it works

If you are paid $450 (before tax, so check your pay slips to see the full amount) or more by your firm in a calendar month, your employer has to pay an additional Super contribution of 9.5% of your earnings (excluding overtime) into your Super account.

To be clear, that is 9.5% on top of the rates mentioned above in the Architects Award.

Independent Contractor Sham

So you’ve started at a firm and the director has asked you to send an invoice with your ABN and bank account details each fortnight or month? Dodgy!

So many firms do this because it means they don’t have to give you employee entitlements that you’d get from a full or part time contract, and they don’t have to give you loading as a casual. They also don’t have to pay you super.

You can see all the differences between an employee and a contractor on the Fairwork website, but here are the biggest points.

  • Employees perform work under the direction of an employer. Contractors control how their work is done.
  • Employees have an ongoing expectation of work. Contractors are usually engaged for a specific task, quote for it, and perform the work.
  • Employees usually have their equipment, supplies, computers and software provided. Contractors use their own tools.
  • Employees are paid regularly (weekly, fortnightly or monthly). Contractors submit an invoice for work and get paid at the end of a project.

Basically, if you’ve set up your own business and provide services to firms, you’re a contractor. Otherwise, employee, because you’re part of their business.

Also, internships?

If you are, like I was, required to log a certain number of weeks in a practice as a part of your architecture degree, then it’s legal and common for you to be unpaid for these hours. However, if you work beyond the requirements of your course, you must be paid.


Hopefully this article will act as a helpful reference for architecture employees and employers.

That said, it’s also important to remember that the wages in this post are legal minimums, and you can be paid more than what’s stated in the Architects Award.

If you have any specific questions about the Architects Award, you can read this (and many other) great articles on the Association of Consulting Architects website.