IT Architect

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Written by ComputerScience.org Staff Writer
Last Updated: January 13, 2020

An information technology architect, also known as an enterprise architect, organizes and manages the security, communication, and related technological components within organizations and companies. Information technology architects provide oversight while ensuring compliance with rules and regulations, a position that requires advanced education and career experience.




Information technology architects have opportunities at large and small organizations and companies across economic sectors. Information technology architects build communities within the field by joining professional associations and groups, an activity that also facilitates continued education and professional development. As the technology industry continues to change, information technology architects are at the forefront of organizational safety and success.

What Does an Information Technology Architect Do?

Information technology architects help manage the technological aspects of a business, particularly its security architecture and business plans. These professionals ensure compliance with set rules and regulations. They also create and implement new and updated security systems and architecture. Information technology architects must hold at least a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field and five years of professional experience; some employers require candidates to hold a master's degree.

These professionals should know how to explain their work to those outside of their field and communicate effectively with other information technology specialists in their company. Information technology architects enjoy a high earning potential, bringing home an median annual salary of $91,000 in their first five years of employment and $135,000 after 20 years of employment.

Key Hard Skills

Information technology architects develop essential hard skills through education, training, and experience. Technical skills in systems architecture, virtualization, and cloud computing accompany security and infrastructure knowledge. Security, one of these professionals' key duties, requires an understanding of computer systems, structures, and applications. Information technology architects also need managerial skills to prioritize and allocate needs and resources.

  • Systems Architecture: Systems architecture defines the behavior, structure, and views of a system through a conceptual model. It often includes sub-systems and system components, which work together to implement the overall system.
  • Virtualization: Virtualization refers to the creation of a virtual version of something, such as storage devices, computer network resources, and computer hardware platforms. This method began as a way to logically divide system resources from mainframe computers among various applications.
  • IT Management: This discipline refers to managing a firm's information technology resources in accordance with its needs and priorities. IT management covers data, networks, computer hardware and software, and data center facilities. Professionals in this discipline also coordinate budgets, staffing, and change management.
  • IT Security and Infrastructure: IT security and infrastructure refers to the security provided to protect critical infrastructures, including rail transport, hospitals, highways, airports, transport hubs, bridges, media, the electricity grid, power plants, oil refineries, and water systems. Security protects these structures and systems from terrorism, contamination, and sabotage.
  • Cloud Computing: Identified as the shared pools of configurable computer system resources, cloud computing relies on sharing resources to accomplish coherence and economies of scale, relative to public utility. This skill allows organizations to focus on their core businesses rather than using their resources on computer maintenance.

Key Soft Skills

As information technology professionals who oversee technological systems and structures, information technology architects need analytical and problem-solving skills to assess needs and troubleshoot issues as they arise. Communication, both written and oral, is at the core of information technology architecture, as well.

  • Analytics: Analytical skills allow individuals to interpret and understand information to make effective, efficient decisions. Analytics also include problem-solving abilities, critical thinking acumen, and informed decision-making. With analytical skills, information technology architects consider all relevant information, identify patterns and gaps, and address concerns as they arise.
  • Communication: Communication skills include verbal and written techniques for expressing ideas and information. With verbal communication skills, information technology architects explain complex concepts to colleagues and non-technological professionals while listening, interpreting, and observing needs. For information technology architects, written communication skills allow for the exchange of information using appropriate tone, language, and context.
  • Problem-solving: Problem-solving skills include active listening and observing, with the ability to research and innovate as needed. As information technology architects implement and manage security and business operations, they identify solutions to concerns and challenges as they arise. Problem-solving involves working independently and as part of a team.
  • Organization: Organizational skills involve time-management, prioritization, resource allocation, and the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Information technology architects must recognize larger goals and needs while constructing a plan and maintaining smaller-scale projects and duties. Organizational skills help information technology architects set and meet goals accordingly.
  • Project Management: This refers to the practice of planning, initiating, executing, controlling, and closing a project to achieve certain goals and meet certain criteria for success in a specific timeframe. Project management allows individuals to work as part of a team to accomplish a common goal.

Daily Tasks

By creating plans and layouts for data communication networks, information technology architects serve as leaders and support staff alike. Information technology architects design, implement, and oversee security and business technologies for businesses and organizations. Information technology architects ensure efficiency and efficacy by communicating with colleagues and team members about software, network, and database architectures, as appropriate.

FAQs

How Do I Become an Information Technology Architect?

To become an information technology architect, individuals need a bachelor's degree in information technology or computer science. These professionals need five years of experience in the field to advance into this leadership position.

What Is the Difference Between a Solution Architect and a Technical Architect?

A solution architect specializes in assessing current technological problems, issues, and challenges to create plans for future change. Technical architects work with solutions architects, implementing their findings based on business or organizational needs.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Information Technology Architect?

Information technology architects need a bachelor's degree and five years of professional experience. Most bachelor's degrees take four years. Information technology architects advance their career prospects by earning a master's degree, another two-year endeavor.

How Much Does an Information Technology Architect Make?

Salaries for information technology architects vary by location and experience level. Junior-level information technology architects earn roughly $75,000 annually, while their senior counterparts earn over $125,000.

What Do Entry Level Information Technology Architects Do?

Entry-level information technology architects communicate technical design plans and designs to executive staff and fellow information technology professionals. They ensure functionality of information technology software and hardware in accordance with overall institutional goals and needs.

Information Technology Architect Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labors Statistics (BLS), computer and information technology architects earned a median salary approaching $110,000 as of 2018. Earning potential varies by education, experience, and geographic location. With 5-10 years of experience in the field, as indicated by the table below, information technology architects earn nearly $30,000 more than their entry-level counterparts.

The highest number of information technology architects work in the computer systems design and telecommunications industries. These information technology architects earn salaries exceeding the annual median wage. With high levels of information technology activity, California and Texas employ the largest groups of information technology professionals.

The top-paying industries for information technology architects include building construction and computer and electronic manufacturing, both of which pay annual median wages far above the national figure. California provides the highest salaries for information technology architects, as it is home to two of the 10 top-paying metropolitan areas for the profession.

Information Technology Architects by Job Level

Entry Level (0-12 Months) $76,572
Early Career (1-4 Years) $91,914
Midcareer (5-9 Years) $106,343
Experienced (10-19 Years) $119,273
Source: PayScale

How to Become an Information Technology Architect

Earn Your Degree

With a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, you can enter information technology and advance into an architect position. A bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or computer engineering usually takes four years to complete, but students may also complete accelerated programs online or in the classroom. Students with associate degrees or previous coursework in the field may significantly shorten their bachelor's program length.

Computer-related bachelor's degrees build understanding of software applications, computer hardware, and network administration. Learners gain a breadth of knowledge and skills to model, analyze, and implement cloud and virtualization technologies, as well.

Gain Experience

Bachelor's graduates qualify to work as software programmers, information technology analysts, and other entry-level roles. On-the-job training and experience prepares junior technology professionals to advance into architect positions. While building a professional portfolio over five years in the industry, future information technology architects demonstrate their ability to serve as leaders in the field.

Learners with professional histories as data scientists, information security specialists, and computer support specialists all possess foundational competencies for architect roles.

Earn Credentials

Information technology architects benefit from industry certifications, and some employers may require them for architect positions. Certifications include training classes and a formal exam, which incur a fee. However, the earning potential they provide often cancels out that cost.

IASA Global, an association that brings together information technology architects from around the world, offers a certification at the foundational, associate, specialist, and professional levels for individuals at all stages of their careers. Cisco provides a certified architect certification at the highest achievable level in the field, while The Open Group -- tasked with developing open, vendor-neutral technology standards and certifications -- offers an enterprise architecture certification at foundation and certified levels.

Types of Careers in Information Technology Architecture

Location and industry factor heavily into career opportunities and earning potential for information technology architects. According to PayScale, the average salary for information technology architects exceeds $115,000, with entry-level professionals earning about $75,000 each year. With 10 years of experience, that number goes up by nearly $30,000, demonstrating the importance of experience to the profession.

Education and experience represent essential career considerations, as well. To become information technology architects, individuals should pursue a bachelor's degree, but a master's may provide increased job opportunities and upward mobility in the field. Master's degrees in information technology allow students to specialize in or emphasize architecture as part of the curriculum, further expanding their skills and professional options.

Careers for Information Technology Architecture Graduates

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Computer and information systems managers develop, oversee, and maintain information systems in a business, institution, or organization. They coordinate with computer technology colleagues and determine overall organizational technology goals and needs.

Median Annual Salary: $142,530

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists invent and build new computing technologies while finding new, improved techniques for using existing software and hardware. They work in a laboratory setting, carrying out experiments and tests -- and publishing their results.

Median Annual Salary: $118,370

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers use programming languages to write computer applications and software programs. They test their work, making corrections as needed. They also update and add to existing applications and programs.

Median Annual Salary: $84,280

Computer Systems Analyst

Computer systems analysts look closely at the information technologies of an institution or organization to determine their functionality and efficiency. They work with executives and managers to determine costs, benefits, and overall expectations for efficacy of financial, communication, and engineering computer systems.

Median Annual Salary: $88,740

Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers build computer hardware after researching, designing, and developing components such as routers, processors, and networks. They perform tests to assess performance, making improvements and changes as needed.

Median Annual Salary: $114,600

Where Can I Work as an Information Technology Architect?

Information technology architects enjoy opportunities in the telecommunications, computer services, government, and finance industries. The need for technology professionals across economic sectors creates options around the country, as well. In states with strong technological economies, such as California, and areas with extensive government services, including the District of Columbia, these professionals can access extensive career options.

Locations

Information technology architects earn the highest salaries in California and Texas. California is home to major metropolitan areas in the northern and southern parts of the state, offering plenty of high-paying positions. This state employs the most information technology architects.

Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia offer lucrative options, as well. New York City represents the metropolitan area with the highest employment rate of information technology professionals, while New York state also provides nonmetropolitan opportunities in its southwestern region.

States With the Highest Employment Level of Information Technology Architects (Applications) Number of Information Technology Architects (Applications) Employed
California 16,650
Texas 12,560
Florida 10,280
Virginia 9,700
New York 8,660
Top Paying States for Information Technology Architects Annual Mean Wage
California $127,500
Delaware $126,990
New Jersey $124,310
New Hampshire $123,310
District of Columbia $123,200

Settings

Information technology architects work for companies of all sizes. Smaller settings afford information technology architects chances to work in close-knit environments. Working in large companies may provide opportunities to live in urban areas, travel, and oversee large teams of employees.

Computer systems design and related service entities employ the most information technology professionals in the United States, with nearly 43,000 positions. Telecommunications and management enterprises constitute the second- and third-largest employers.

Industries With the Highest Level of Employment for Information Technology Architects Number of Information Technology Architects (Applications) Employed
Computer Systems Design and Related Services 42,960
Telecommunications 17,370
Management of Companies and Enterprises 12,440
Employment Services 7,050
Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services 5,210

Professional Spotlight

Mark Runyon

Mark Runyon works as a principal consultant for Improving. He focuses on systems architecture and the development of enterprise web and mobile applications. As a full stack programmer, Runyon primarily works in the Microsoft stack, leveraging cloud technologies in Azure and AWS.

Why did you decide to pursue Information Technology architecture?

I originally chose to pursue web development following my master's work in management of information systems at Georgia State because it tapped into my creative side. As my career has progressed, I ended up architecting more and more systems. It has been a natural progression of my career path, and it's been a fun challenge to take on.

What are the most challenging aspects?

The most challenging part of being an architect is asking the right questions to capture the full scope of the system requirements and to ensure you are in sync with the product owner. If you have holes, your plan will be off, or you may be forced to rearchitect midway through the project if you haven't taken into account a critical feature. Clients can also be challenging when they don't have realistic expectations for the time the work will take, and when they don't see the value in properly architecting a system before diving into coding.

Was it challenging to find a job in the field?

It was challenging coming out of grad school. When I exited, the dotcom bubble had burst, and it was a month before 9/11. The market wasn't hiring tech and any company who was hiring wanted 2-3 years' experience. After sending out 100-plus resumes, I received two interviews that I turned into two job offers. I took the one with better compensation and was a closer culture fit.

What kind of job settings have you worked in?

I've had three jobs in technology since I completed my graduate degree. First was an 80-person financial services company, working in a small, seven-person IT department. I followed that up by going out on my own to do independent consulting, which was done out of my home. I'd augment my development team on larger projects by bringing on a few trusted overseas developers to assist. For the past four years, I've worked at a 500+ person consulting firm called Improving out of our Atlanta office.

With Improving, I have worked out of our office, as well as being onsite at the client. This is usually an office park type setting.

Advice for newcomers to the profession?

It is a great job that you are well compensated for, but you need to love it. Architecture and development should be the kind of job that you would be doing even if you weren't getting paid for it. If you don't love it, it can turn into a grind. Project deadlines and emergency situations can necessitate long hours at times.

Since you continually have to learn new technologies to remain relevant, you've got to be willing to put in the time on your own to further yourself. Without that driving passion, you aren't going to have the motivation to go that extra mile that is required of IT professionals.

What are some of the best ways you gained experience outside of primary education?

I believe the best way to learn is by doing. During grad school, all the way up to the present, I assigned myself little side projects to get my feet wet in a new technology. Book learning is fine, but it pales in comparison to actually building a project from scratch and implementing a feature set. I've had all sorts of fun little side projects over the years that were vehicles for expanding my toolset. Working on open-source projects or taking part in internships can also be great ways to add experience when your professional resume is thin.

What direction do you see your career path trending in?

I really have a passion for both the technology as well as the business side of things. I am currently the technical lead on one of our firm's larger accounts, which has helped me grow my leadership skills. I see my career path heading toward an executive role in the future. I would never want to leave behind the technology, but I would like to have a heavier focus on helping our business grow in the years ahead.

Continuing Education for Information Technology Architects

Information technology architects benefit from membership to professional organizations, resources obtained through colleagues, and continuing education options that enhance their current skills. National and international groups, including the Association of Enterprise Architects and the Society for Information Management offer webinars, online trainings, and comparable programs.

Groups like Code for America, a nonpartisan organization that connects information technology and computer science professionals to government agencies and resources, provides information technology architects with opportunities to expand their knowledge. Colleges and universities offer certificate programs, as well.

Furthermore, Cisco and CompTIA offer certifications in infrastructure architecture and project management. Professional associations provide professional development opportunities online and in face-to-face settings.

Continuing Education Resources

  • Association for Information Science and Technology ASIS&T offers information on continuing education programs around the world, plus an extensive database available online. ASIS&T also holds its own programs and offers opportunities for organizations and groups to host continuing education activities on-site.
  • Institute for Certification for Computing Professionals As the global standard for certification, ICCP offers training and certifications to business, technology, and managers seeking competencies in emerging technologies. Programs include data and information quality, business intelligence and data analytics, and data modeling.
  • CompTIA CompTIA offers a continuing education program, which allows credentialed professionals to renew and maintain their certifications. Additional training and testing opportunities accompany certificates in core information technology competencies, infrastructure, and cybersecurity.
  • Cisco Cisco's continuing education programs include classroom, self-study, and electronic learning options for information technology professionals at all stages of their careers. Network architects can complete coursework in implementation essentials and case-based digital network design.

Professional Development Resources

  • CompTIA Information technology architects benefit from CompTIA's vendor-neutral, performance-based programs. CompTIA offers core certifications in network, security, cloud, and server fundamentals -- alongside infrastructure and cybersecurity credentials.
  • IASA Global Association IASA Global offers independent architect certifications, designed by practicing architects. Professional development options include foundation, associate, specialist, and professional programs offered in instructor-led or self-paced formats.
  • CompTIA IT Pro and Student Membership Formerly known as the Association of Information Technology Professionals, the professional and student membership options provided by CompTIA include discounts on networking and professional development opportunities, career guidance, and industry updates.
  • Association of Enterprise Architects AEA offers webinars, collaboration opportunities, publications, and special interest group content to build networks and facilitate professional development among enterprise architect professionals.

How Do I Find a Job in Information Technology Architecture?

Candidates seeking information technology architecture positions can use online options, including job listing sites such as Indeed and Monster. With options limited by location and industry, employer ratings, and salary information, information technology architects can find opportunities that best meet their needs.

Websites like LinkedIn allow information technology architects to network and learn about positions, granting additional opportunities for potential employers to contact them. Professional organizations also host job boards and career information, providing additional networking options through online and face-to-face activities.

Indeed

Indeed provides comprehensive information on careers around the country. Information technology architects can search by location and company and apply instantly by uploading their resumes. Additional resources include salary information and company reviews.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn facilitates professional networking, allowing employers and potential employees alike to post job information. LinkedIn features subsidiaries around the world, opening up global career opportunities.

Monster

Monster allows individuals to search positions by location and company, offering additional salary tools, resume help, and career advice. Individuals can upload resumes to apply for appropriate positions with relative ease.

Glassdoor

Glassdoor provides a platform for current and former employees to share information about companies. Anonymous reviews include information on salaries, bonuses, morale, and organizational structure.

Professional Resources for Information Technology Architects

Professional organizations and associations bring together information technology professionals to connect, collaborate, and build communities. Through online and face-to-face activities, professional organizations and associations facilitate communication and build networks of information technology architects. Additional content provided for members includes policy and technology updates, publications, and advocacy opportunities.

Professional resources also provide assistance to information technology architects. Industry leaders such as Cisco offer product and support services, plus partnership and training programs.

  • Association of Enterprise ArchitectsDesigned to advance the enterprise architecture profession and increase its visibility in the marketplace, the AEA offers individual, student, and chapter memberships. It unites enterprise architects by facilitating collaboration, exchange, and sharing through online forums, community blogs, and industry publications. Members gain access to on-demand webinars and job board information.
  • Information Architect Institute Initially formed as a legal business entity, the IAI is a nonprofit organization. It facilitates the exchange of information to promote and enhance information architecture across industries and disciplines. The IAI holds an annual information architecture day at sites around the world, and it offers news updates as they relate to the field.
  • IASA Global IASA Global facilitates the growth of information architecture communities to drive standards and professional practice. Members receive access to local education activities, networking and social events, and subscriptions to the latest IASA news. Additional benefits include discounts on industry conferences, certification eligibility, and online self-assessment and training materials.
  • Association for Information Science and Technology Tasked with advancing information science and information technology professionals and organizations, ASIS&T brings together information science practice and research. Members can join at student, professional, and retired levels, or as part of an institutional affiliate or partner. Benefits include access to ASIS&T's training programs, job information, and annual meetings and events.
  • SIM SIM builds connections among information technology leaders through meetings and online networking, publications, and outreach programs. SIM members join local chapters to attend meetings and events. They also receive discounts at regional and national gatherings and can participate in working groups to collaborate with peers across industries. Additional membership benefits include a quarterly journal, a leadership forum, and access to SIM's online library.