How Are Architecture Firms Structured?

Like most professional jobs, architecture has different levels or ranks depending on what position you are in. Starting at the bottom is where architects work with general contractors to complete projects. These projects can be anything from building an office space to designing a house or even both!

Architects that have their own firm usually have higher rank than those that don’t. The only difference between the two is how much control they have over the project.

Higher ranking professionals get more responsibility as the job goes up. This could mean overseeing other members of the team, finding new clients for your company, or even leading the design process yourself.

There are many ways to become an architect but not all programs offer degree programs that truly prepare students for the career. Some schools may focus more on educating students about drawing and colors, while others emphasize theory of mathematics, physics, and engineering.

While these things are important parts of being an architect, none of them make up for lack of experience working in the field.

Design Manager

how are architecture firms structured

As you can see, most architecture firms have two major players: an owner/founder and a senior designer. The architect is typically referred to as a “senior” design professional or “architect”.

Typically, the founder/owner hires the senior designer and then both work together to develop the firm’s style and signature look.

The founder usually takes a more hands-on approach, which is why he or she is considered the main player in the company. This person is also responsible for the daily running of the business, including marketing, client relations, and finance.

The senior designer is typically given much greater responsibility than what I just mentioned. They are usually in charge of developing concepts, plans, and designs.

They may even be asked to do preliminary sketches and drawings! While the founders handle some project management tasks, like finding contractors, the senior designers mostly take care of everything else. This includes researching necessary materials, keeping up with current trends, and producing quality artistic creations.

Incidentally, the term ‘designer’ comes from the word ‘draughtsman’. Before architects were hired, engineers would hire freelance artists to help them conceptualize projects. So, before there was such a thing as a design manager, they were called draughtsmen.

Project Manager

how are architecture firms structured

As I mentioned earlier, not every architecture firm has an owner or CEO that is directly involved in project management. This is mostly due to one of two things: they are too busy running the business to also manage projects, or they hired someone else to handle this part of their job.

Project managers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree in art or design so they can put together plans for how to organize and run a project. They may be trained in construction methods as well.

That doesn’t make them any more professional though! Hiring a project manager who isn’t certified means you will need to do extra work making sure everything goes smoothly, which costs time and money. Make sure your architect is professionally qualified before letting them take charge of major projects.

Administrative Assistant

how are architecture firms structured

An administrative assistant is an integral part of any architecture firm. They are typically not paid as much as other professionals, but their value cannot be overstated. Your architectural project will most likely fall behind or fail if there isn’t someone in your organization that can manage client relations, organize documents, and take notes during meetings.

As such, it is important to pay attention to how well your senior staff members handle these tasks so that you don’t have to worry about them. The more organized they are, the less work you will have to do!

If you are ever having trouble managing your own workload, try looking into what positions at your office might be able to help out with this task. You would probably find it helpful to ask around and see who people feel like has strong leadership qualities.

Office Manager

how are architecture firms structured

As an architect, you will need to keep up with all of the tasks that have to be done for your firm. Starting with managing your own team, then overseeing accounts, marketing, website design, and more — it is not only about what position you hold, but who you are as person and how well you manage those around you.

As an office manager, you will be in charge of making sure that everything runs smoothly at the architectural studio. You will have to make sure that everyone has their assignments and materials they need to do their jobs.

You will also have to handle the different departments within the architecture firm, from accounting to research and development. Since architects deal with both creative concepts and math concepts, there can be many areas where someone does not feel comfortable, so having a good manager helps fix this.

Office Staff

how are architecture firms structured

As part of an architecture firm, your success will depend largely upon the staff that works for you. The people in your organization make the biggest difference between if your business succeeds or fails.

Some of the most important positions within any architectural practice are made up of three main parts – project manager, associate, and senior architect.

Project managers coordinate all aspects of a project, from finding new projects to hiring and supervising team members. Associates work under the supervision of the senior architects and carry out specific tasks such as drafting plans, designing interior spaces, or overseeing construction. Senior architects oversee everything else - creating designs and getting feedback from other professionals in their field.

These three positions typically come with different levels of pay dependent on years of experience, but overall compensation is determined by how successful each individual department head is.

Staff members can be paid either hourly, per diem (paid at one time), monthly direct deposit, or weekly via check which must be processed and deposited daily. Dependent on the position, some additional benefits may exist as well.

Financial Advisor

how are architecture firms structured

As mentioned before, an architecture firm is not run as a business unless it has an internal finance team that includes at least one accountant, a lawyer, and someone who handles other general business affairs like marketing and communications.

These individuals are typically called financial advisors, but they do not have “advising” in their job title. That term belongs to the architect.

Instead, their position is usually titled something along the lines of project manager/financial advisor or senior vice president (SVP) of projects. They help the architect make sure all of the money comes into the office smoothly and stays within budget.

Architects can also look for additional professionals via referral from these individuals, but most architects already know of some good ones.

Client Representative

how are architecture firms structured

As I mentioned earlier, not all architecture firms have an associate program. Some firm types do not offer employment to directly hired architects.

Office Staff

As part of an architecture firm, your success will depend on how well you manage the office staff. Architects are usually not in charge of doing any one thing – they oversee the entire process.

As such, their time is often spent more efficiently when there are people working under them who can take care of certain tasks.

This way, the architect has more time to devote to other parts of the project, like designing new buildings or planning future projects.

The person running the show behind-the-scenes is typically referred to as an associate or senior partner. They are also called a principal builder due to the importance of their position within the company.

Architects with higher positions make bigger decisions than those below them, which is why it is important to keep up with them. When something needs to be done, these individuals will handle it for the rest of the team.

However, do not get too familiar with this policy - it would go both ways if someone with lower rank was promoted ahead of you. This could create resentment that may affect work relationships.

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