Industry Outlook

The employment outlook in architecture is roughly proportionate to the level of skill of the workers; that is, the occupations with a higher level of skill have a good outlook, whereas the outlook is not as good for low-skill occupations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of architects will grow 8 percent, faster than the average for all occupations, through 2028. Demographic trends suggest that schools and universities will need to undergo construction and renovation. In addition, a population shift to the sunbelt will create a need for new housing and businesses there. Finally, the aging of the Baby Boom generation will require the construction and renovation of health-care facilities, assisted-living centers, and nursing homes. Job growth will be tempered by increases in the number of new graduates from architectural programs; new entrants to the field can expect considerable competition for available jobs, especially in the largest and most prestigious firms. Opportunities are expected to be good for architects who are knowledgeable about sustainable ("green") designs and construction techniques. A high level of creativity will be especially valuable.

Some jobs for architects are not in design firms but in government agencies, urban planning consulting firms, and construction companies.

Landscape architects are projected to have average job growth through 2028. Work experience from an internship can be very helpful, especially for the most sought-after jobs at large firms. Also advantageous is knowledge of environmental codes and regulations, experience or training in urban planning, or skill with sustainable practices, especially the conservation of water. Recently, landscape architects have been enlisted to design green roofs for buildings: plantings that reduce water runoff and pollution while decreasing the costs of heating and cooling the buildings.

Interior designers are projected to experience average job growth. Work will come not only from new construction but also from routine overhauls of the interiors of businesses and public spaces. These organizations understand the need to present a fresh impression to the public at regular intervals and therefore budget for interior design work years in advance. As always, work in private homes will be more plentiful in upscale communities. Expertise in a specialized design area, such as kitchens, can be a competitive advantage.

Slower than average job growth is expected for architectural drafters through 2028. However, powerful and easy-to-use CADD programs are allowing architects to do much of their rendering work by themselves rather than hand this work to drafters. In addition, because CADD files are easily transmitted electronically, some architectural work is being outsourced to lower-wage drafters in foreign countries. Architectural drafters skilled with BIM software are likely to have the best job opportunities.

The architecture industry is sensitive to ups and downs in the nation's economy. During times of economic expansion, there is great demand for architectural firms to design new homes and business structures or to find ways to renovate and repurpose existing structures. Firms may be able to outsource some work to other firms, even in foreign countries. When the economy contracts, however, businesses and governments tend to postpone plans for construction and renovation, so architecture is one of the first industries to feel the impact. During lean times, architecture firms often lay off workers. For the duration of these slumps, they also result in greatly reduced earnings for the many architects who are self-employed or who hold an ownership share in their firm.

Fluctuations in the rate of construction are not uniform across the nation. For example, in 2008, the collapse in the housing market affected many regions severely but was muted in other regions, such as Texas and North Dakota, where energy extraction kept economic activity humming. Willingness to relocate can improve employment prospects in this industry.

In 2018 the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported that record revenues were being generated by architecture firms toward the end of the decade because of healthy construction activity. Following the difficult years of the Great Recession, the AIA noted that the industry was enjoying the second-longest period of economic expansion and recovery since the end of World War II. Looking ahead, the organization's overall outlook was bright, though a potential slowdown in nonresidential construction activity was a concern.

Workers in this industry frequently put in more than 40 hours per week to keep projects on track and meet deadlines. During a boom time, when commissions are plentiful, the volume of work may require long hours; but when a slump has led to layoffs, workers in a firm that is shorthanded and not yet ready to rehire may need to log extra hours to handle the more limited load of projects.

Travel restrictions and safety concerns generated by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 created many obstacles for the industry. In a 2020 survey of 387 leading architecture firms, the American Institute of Architects found that 94 percent expected a dip in revenue for the year. This severe forecast was compounded for architecture firms that rely on regional and international travel. In addition visiting sites and maintaining schedules become a difficult task for firms concerned with the health of their workers. Shortages of some building materials also inhibited the work of architecture professionals.

The steep decrease in construction, particularly in nonresidential construction, in 2020 due to the pandemic was expected to cause a 20 percent decline in revenue for the U.S. architecture industry, according to a January 2021 IBISWorld report. Revenue growth will accelerate through 2026, however, as the economy gains strength and construction activity resumes. A tight housing market in 2020 has also increased consumer demand for residential construction, which will require architectural services. An article in Architecture Magazine points out that the outlook for the architecture industry depends on the architectural specialty. For example, architectural services are expected to be especially strong in the near future for new single-family homes and home-improvement projects. Firms that specialize in commercial, industrial, or institutional facilities, however, are expected to have declines in revenue in 2021.