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Andre S

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Hi All,

I would very much appreciate some input on this sector of the employment market from other professionals such as architects, quantity surveyors, engineers, project managers, developers (in no specific order) or anyone else with an opinion.

I am an architect in Johannesburg and plan to have my PR visa by mid to end 2008. My wife would most likely find a job in Sydney (advertising) as the big companies tend to be located in the business capital cities.

So, it seems we are doomed to find jobs and housing in Sydney, which also happens to be the most expensive place to live. It is my no.1 choice of location because I get the feeling that Sydney is where everything happens. I wouldn't mind living elsewhere either. Adelaide is much more affordable but Brisbane looks to be less expensive than Sydney and bigger and more like Durban than Adelaide. I liked Durban in the 70's- 90's. Adelaide strikes me as being a bit like Pretoria by the sea, which isn't necessarily bad. I haven't been to Australia yet, so all my perceptions are from hearsay, so please forgive me.

Does anyone have an idea of how architects are doing in Sydney (& elsewhere) and are there jobs available? I have seen a bit of a slow-down in the housing market in Johannesburg but there seems to be a shortage of architects in the big firms, so salaries have been adjusted lately. Unlike North America, South African architects aren't paid very well at all. That seems to be the case for most professionals in the UK as well, where any mid career salary above 35k annually is unheard of. What are things like in Australia?

I've been self employed for the past five years, doing big houses in Gauteng. I wouldn't mind getting into a different career path or even ending up as a "developer". What is it like buying houses, fixing them up and selling them on in Australia? I have helped some clients make a LOT of profit in Johannesburg and have my own experience of being a small time developer too.

Would appreciate any ideas.


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Hi there. We just sent off all our applications last month. Also looking at hopefully getting PR Visa mid to end next year.

I have an undergrad degree in Arch, and masters in Landscape arch. I've been doing a bit of research into jobs in the industry. There are loads of jobs available in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne.

Salary varies greatly depending on your experience level - from about 40k to about 140k it seems. Junior Architect is up to about 80k and Senior Architect is from 80k upwards.

Check out


Also look at the dates the jobs were posted - most loads in the past week alone!

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My husband, Marius is an architect. First, have a look at the following Skills in Demand labour market analysis:


I recently found the above link and I wish we had seen it before moving here! It would have certainly made us a bit more prepared for all the rejections... :ilikeit: Having said that, there is huge demand for architects here in Adelaide at least (you will see that the report unfortunately mentions that NSW is the one place where they are not that hugely in demand). There are jobs advertised on a weekly basis and the firms have huge trouble filling those positions. There are simply not enough qualified architects out there with the right kind of experience. This last bit is crucial - be prepared to be told over and over again that you have all the qualifications, experience etc. etc., but it's such a shame that you just don't have local experience (you will see that the above report confirms that Australian architects in almost every state will not employ overseas qualified architects very willingly). Marius found this a bitter pill to swallow becasue he is not only registered in SA, he also worked blood sweat and tears to get his RIBA registration - a prestigious qualification everywhere else but here, it seems!

Don't despair though, Marius found a job within 3 weeks of our arrival. The trick is to be very persistent and to contact the firms directly. Then charm them into realising that your lack of local experience will not be a problem, because of your overall brilliance :angry: He initially worked through a recruitment agency who were simply not putting his details forward (possibly because of the abovementioned overseas qualifications problem). He hand delivered his resume to every architect firm that was advertising and even those who were not advertising at the time, but had been before. Therefore, it's important to keep your eyes on the employment market even now. Start getting a feel for whose looking and what they are looking for. In the end, he didn't stay with his first employer and went back to one of the other firms who offered him a job (he had two offers out of 6 interviews).

Salary-wise expect to earn around $50K to start with. You will not be able to call yourself an architect until you are registered ( a min 2 year process) and employers will exploit this fact at every opportunity to pay you the minimum they can get away with). Architects are unfortunately also very poorly paid here, like everywhere else :ilikeit: . But hey, that's not why you became one, was it? It was the burning passion, the creative drive, the fact that you would die if you couldn't design, design, design, 24/7, wasn't it? ;)

Developing is a good idea, but you will need a fair bit of money to get into the game here. There are excellet opportunities in Adelaide. I don't know much about the rest of the country. Most architects who actually make a decent living out here also develop. B) You will have to register first though if you want to be self-employed and this involves the aforementioned 2 year process, going for a panel interview, working under supervision of an Australian architect and then sitting for the Part 3 exams. You can however do small jobs like extensions, renovations and even houses as long as you don't call yourself an architect. Your clients will love the fact that you have to charge them much less because of this, but they can still tell their snobby friends that they actually have an "architect designed" house or extension... nudge, nudge, wink, wink! :D

Be prepared to put in a lot of effort and hard work to prove yourself all over again and I can guarantee that the effort will not go unrewarded! Marius has not done this well ever in his career, and we haven't even been here 2 years! The future is very bright as far as he's concerned (of course, we as his family will have to accept the fact that he will be but a ghostly presence from now on, as he works probably around 70 hours a week at the moment...) :holy:

Please feel free to PM me if you need any more info and I will help where I can.

Edited by Annette
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Hi Gizmo, thanks for the link.

I have also looked on the net (not that recently though) but have learnt through experience that the architectural profession has its own quirks. The firms are notoriously slow/lazy when it comes to procuring talent or developing talent. Even here in Johannesburg they will sit on their hands until the eleventh hour and then run around looking to hire more help to deliver the project with a deadline looming. The result is that they always fight fires and newly hired people are the best available ones at the time. The Architecture profession has a high staff turnover because people are hired and fired depending on what projects they have on their books. This was my experience working in London around 1998-1999 as well.

I was relentless then and also hand delivered my CV to companies. I was lucky that I stumbled across a small ten man firm that had already employed two South Africans and weren't putt off by that. I think sending a CV now for an architect's job in Australia is a waste of time. Knowing the industry, I would wonder why they would be prepared to sponsor me. They must be offering too little in terms of salary or they are already in trouble with deadlines and have an impossible backlog of work waiting for the schmuck from South Africa.

Hi Annette,

Thanks for the local knowledge. That's exactly what I was looking for. My experience of working in London was that you were treated like a human being. Interesting to note that RIBA accreditation isn't much use in Australia. It's a helluva lot of effort to go through to proove yourself and then nothing! Must be very frustrating, but I'm sure Marius' company uses his RIBA accreditation for their brand building!

The last job I had as an architect's slave was five years ago. I worked for an abusive twit director at a large commerial company in Johannesburg and decided that I didn't want to spend my whole life at the office for a pathetic salary and no incentive bonus. (Two and a half years of poverty was enough for me with no promise of a future with BEE looming...) The normal going home time at this company was around 7:30 with a lot of time in the month spent burning the midnight oil, working until 12:00. We were often briefed with a new project at 5:30, to be finished by the next day. (The advertising industry is very similar if you are a creative.) Crap time management I say! I must admit I did work for a better big commercial company for a while (salary & time) but the thought of being stuck in a cubicle farm for the next 20 years waiting for my pension while doing window schedules for a monster fake tuscan sky scraper was too depressing...Ever seen the UK television sitcom "The Office?".

I hear what you say that people think architects do it for the passion, that our wives don't care to see us, our children don't need to eat or that our cars don't use petrol. Must be nice living on Candy Mountain, I just haven't found it yet. I'm now sorry I registered here in SA because the technologists doing the same residential work charge the same rates but have less liability. It is a factor of what the market is prepared to pay. Simple free market forces. The old days of being a respected member of society and being judged solely on the quality of your work as a professional with regulated fee tariffs and job reservation is over for ever. The same goes for all the professions. I sympathise with the pharmacists and doctors here. So, boys and girls, if you aren't studying to become an actuary or a chartered accountant, you should reconsider your options. Don't, whatever you do, become an architect! Too much responsibility for the money! Also there is a much better living to be made in the trades today, without the lengthy, financially crippling six year university bit. You can always do a general three year degree to develop your intellectual capacity or interests before going to trade school.

It amazes me how architects are such suckers for punishment. I think it is only fair that you get rewarded for the level of work you do. One client made about a million Rand profit in a very short time on a house I remodelled for him largely on my recommendations, I procured builders and supervised construction while he ran around questioning everything with his amateur architect friends and got snotty with me when he was stressed. They loved the finished house but he got transferred. He didn't even 'phone me to thank me for the profit and I guess he thinks it's all down to his own cleverness for hiring me. The guy is an investment portfolio manager and I know those guys take a comission on all the money they "manage" or move around. Point is, financial people claim they get paid for their clever ideas, however when it comes to paying architects, somehow the same doesn't apply. In fact, all my clients have made handsome profits from the better than average buildings I designed for them and not one was prepared to pay the recommended tariff fee at the start.

I think I have fulfilled my dream of becoming an architect and I've built numerous big houses but I'll say it is better not to make your hobby your job. Clients who fancy themselves as amateur architects are probably my worst disappointment. I doubt there are many architects out there who ever get the chance to do work that describes what they are about like a Frank Lloyd Wright. Forget Howard Roark. I'm equally happy to call myself a "designer" and do alterations etc. until I find something more substantial, even in a totally different sector (financial maybe; MBA?). At least there isn't BEE to worry about and a young(ish) man can start over again in any field. Well, I hope so anyway.

Of course I will look for an architecture job again in Australia and might just get lucky and find a decent company to work for, but I'm not holding my breath. I've also heard that Ozzie companies are becoming increasingly more cut throat and materialistic. This was told to me by a lawyer friend who is a director in a large SA firm and who has lawyer friends who emigrated. They don't see their families. Apparently the "fair dinkum" culture is fast being replaced with American values and a yearning for the SUV, macmansion and Prada.

I think I have become bitter and that's not pretty.


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Andre (or shall I call you howard, he he?), ou maat, at least you have ditched the rosy-tinteds in time! :P You and my hubby should get together (oh wait, no - he'll probably be working! :) - just called to say he'll be going in early and staying late all this week. At least this time he's getting paid for it :angry: ). You have hit the nail on the head with every single one of your comments. But, mate, don't despair! My OH was sounding abit like you before we came over here and he wishes he had done it YEARS ago. The opportunities are endless and he is doing a lot of fun jobs here. He is also lucky enough to work for a very nice Christian man (although he still has very shallow pockets! :ilikeit: ) and has lovely colleagues. There are several very good architects' firms in South Australia, but Brisbane is probably the place to be for you. There is a lot of work for architects there and if you like Durban, the climate will be right for you. Adelaide is more like Cape Town.

and yes, your last comment is absolutely spot on - unfortunately! :( money is starting to shout very loudly and being worshipped very enthusiastically - let's hope the current government really is on their way out because it seems their "successful" economic strategies had a lot to do with it.. but I digress!

Good luck mate, let us know how you get on!

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Hi Annette,

Thanks for the kind words. Your post has given me renewed hope!

I checked out the link you posted and it sounded predictable. Same old, same old. The companies need people, they advertise and interview them but decide not to hire them because they "need to know Australian building codes" or "have salary expectations beyond what the employer is prepared to pay." So basically, they need drones that can spew out the work on automatic without any management input. It is a great business for the director, if you think about it!

I also noted that there is a trend for construction companies to "include the cost of design by hiring building designers." That means the standards can't be very high.

Please give my warm regards to Marius. I pity him having to work so much over time, but as you say, it's not so bad if you get paid for it!

I can't wait to start my new life in Australia!

Ta-ra mate!

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  • 4 weeks later...

PM me for Di Macleods number - recruitment specialist - she asked me if I knew any architects the other day....not sure if she is still looking - but that would be for either Gold Coast or Brisbane...shortage of Architects here apparently and QS'S - anybody out there a Development Manager???? My hubbie's company is currently looking for one..

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Hi Heather,

I have sent you two PM messages but they don't show up in my sent items folder.

I hope you have received them. Please PM me direct if you didn't receive them.

Thanks again for your efforts in this regard.

André S

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Thanks Annette for all that local knowledge. I guess I should start taking my rose-coloured glasses off! :huh:

I guess in the industry, I have always been lucky. I have worked for three AWESOME firms in Cape Town - paid above average salary (but OK, lets not compare it to what other professionals are paid :huh: ). All of the firms have been very laid back and relaxing - no big egos or cut-throat politics. Ya, I guess from reading both your and Andres posts, I have been very lucky so far! :holy:

Gosh, I hope I am able to find a similar job to what I have here... I kind of like my laid-back work atmosphere. :)

On the hopeful side of things - a good friend of mine (she also has undergrad Arch degree and post grad masters in Landscape Arch), went to that job seek site I posted. She sent her CV to the first company listed and got a phone call the very next morning (at 4am!!! :D ). Basically what followed was a telephonic interview and she was offered a job! :D They paid for her entire relocation and organized ALL her paperwork!!! :lol: Her starting salary was 60k. I guess that is fair considering all our knowledge is SA based, and it would take a while for us to learn all the Au ropes. But they promised to review her salary after three months. We will see what happens.

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