Licensed architects generally earn more than their unlicensed colleagues. The salary gap starts small–$2,000 at 3 years of experience–but grows over time. This finding is consistent with data from DesignIntelligence. Their Compensation and Benefits Survey, 2014 found that 70% of firms offer increased compensation upon licensure. Most firms–35% in total–offer a base compensation increase of 5 to 9%, while 21% of firms offer smaller increases, 12% of firms offer larger ones, and a few offer a lump sum bonus.
That said, licensed professionals are a self-selected group, so this salary gap could reflect other differences as well. For example, those who get their license might be more focused on advancing their career in other ways as well, by learning new skills or receiving other certifications.
Because this data doesn’t include those working in design, technology, or most other built environment-related careers, it doesn’t tell us whether licensed architects earn more than non-licensed architecture graduates in general.
But if you are planning to stay in architecture, earning a license seems to make sense financially because even a modest salary boost early in your career can increase your lifetime earnings by $100,000 or more.