New AIA firm survey indicates that while business is good, the profession itself changes slowly
One interesting trend is that the number of sole practitioners declined 9 percent since 2002, while two-to-four-person firms increased by the same number, indicating perhaps that sole practitioners are partnering up. The report indicates that, “Architecture firms have remained predominantly smaller practices.… the percentage of firms with five or more employees remained fairly constant in recent years.” Moreover, small firms are still dominant, with 96 percent of all offices, yet large offices (50 or more employees) control almost 42 percent of all staff, and almost 52 percent of all billings. Predictably, the largest firms, according to the survey, also have much higher average net billing per employee—$143,000 in firms with 50 or more employees, while firms with fewer than 20 average $83,000. The survey implies that the larger firms’ investment in advanced technology allows their staff to be more productive, although it seems likely that many other factors influence these sums.
Sadly, women and minorities are still grossly underrepresented in firms, but there has been some incremental improvement. Women now compose 26 percent of all architecture staff; minorities, 16 percent. These numbers have been growing about 1 percent per year since 1999.