IT Architect

What do information technology architects do?

Information technology (IT) architects are highly skilled developers who envision, design and provide the foundation for new and improved information management and communication networks. They lead teams and work with designers and developers to create organizational systems that make information retrieval and use simple.

IT architects either work with – or act as – project managers. They are often viewed as trusted advisors, key knowledge directors and liaisons while working out complex concepts between clients and development teams.

Many of these professionals are involved with every aspect of building systems, from the initial brainstorming to final testing; they are often the first to spot problems and come up with alternative methods for the successful completion of projects.

IT architects build the systems that make information accessible. The projects these professionals work on can be as simple as creating a sitemap and as complicated as developing a file storage database for a healthcare facility. Some may focus on the big picture, making sure that the entire system functions properly, while others may work solely on one aspect, such as security or organizational language.

Key Skills

  • Fluency in database security, cloud computing, backup and storage, and server hardware
  • Awareness of vulnerabilities, errors and corrective actions for systems software
  • Strong ability to design and manage information technology projects and resources of all sizes
  • Communications skills to present complex ideas to key stakeholders
  • Knowledge of coding and programming languages such as C++, HTML and Javascript
  • Creative and trained to produce technical formulations and specifications from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • Extensive organizational business plan knowledge for designing networks that support goals

While these are just a few general skill areas that IT architects must possess, most develop key areas of specialization and expertise when they gain work experience. Some IT architects become highly valued consultants based on the types of projects that they’ve worked on, making it possible for them to be independent contractors or in-house project team leads.


Areas of IT Architecture

IT architects are in demand across multiple industries, mostly due to an increase in networking and data management found in all major markets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information architects will continue to be in demand; the BLS has projected a 15% growth in employment opportunities for computer network architects between 2012 and 2022.

There are several speciality areas where IT architects may find the most promising career paths:

IT Infrastructure Architect

Infrastructure architects may be employed by a single organization or contracted to work with several. These professionals work on teams that research, design and develop the physical and digital foundations for computer and mobile networks. Typical duties include:

  • Optimally developing physical and digital networks
  • Delivering IT infrastructure strategies, including product development standards, selection and design patterns
  • Analyzing network performance, monitoring technical issues and acting as tech support when problems arise
  • Developing and implementing network security and emergency plans.
  • Training others how to use the network

Technical Consultant

Consultants are instructors, developers or tech support in corporate and retail settings. They often work as contractors, teaching employees and customers how to use equipment and products. Key responsibilities include:

  • Providing support to the field operators establishing and maintaining mobile networks
  • Troubleshooting client problems and network server errors
  • Showing clients how to solve technical problems
  • Analyzing help tickets to determine how to improve products, networks, software and troubleshooting strategies

Information Systems Manager

Information systems managers find work in a number of industries, including hospitals, universities, banks and the government. They head teams of IT professionals, maintaining technical networks within an organization. These professionals understand how every aspect of a network functions. Other duties include:

  • Working closely with high-level managers to determine organizational objectives for their systems, security needs and information retrieval strategies
  • Managing IT teams to monitor, analyze and improve network functionality.
  • Keeping abreast of trends, common practices and the latest software and hardware in the field
  • Making recommendations for how and when companies should upgrade their information systems
  • Working with third party vendors and IT architects to develop new strategies for computer networks

How much do IT architects make?

Due to a rapid rise in mobile technology, wireless networks and big data, and stemming from the need for skilled professionals across multiple industries, the demand for IT architects is high for the next 10 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual wage for computer network architects in 2014 was $100,710; the lowest 10% earned around $55,160, while the top 10% earned $150,460 or more per year.

The tables below illustrate the changes in employment and annual salaries for information technology architects. In the first, the BLS did not report figures for computer network architects on their own; this profession was grouped with information security analysts and web developers until the 2012 report.

Average Salaries, 2010-2014

  • $100,710 2014
  • $97,700 2013
  • $94,000 2012
  • $81,670 2011
  • $79,370 2010

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES Archives

States with the Highest Employment of IT Architects

State Employment Employment per 1,000 people Avg. Annual Salary
Florida 15,800 2.06 $72,440
California 13,990 0.93 $120,590
Texas 11,180 1.00 $104,880
Virginia 8,980 2.46 $112,430
New York 6,740 0.76 $112,240

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES

Pay by Experience

Median Salary

Entry-Level 0-5 yrs $78,000
Mid-Career 5-10 yrs $104,000
Experienced 10-20 yrs $121,000
Late Career 20+ yrs $133,000

Source: PayScale

Top Paying Cities

Avg. Annual Salary

San Jose, CA $137,550
Portland, OR $130,170
San Francisco, CA $129,980
New Brunswick, NJ $128,830
Oakland, CA $123,870

Top-Paying Industries

Avg. Annual Salary

Specialized Design Services $154,620
Other Information Services $128,020
Semiconductor and Electronic Manufacturing $125,480
Audio and Video Equipment Manufacturing $124,580
Securities and Commodities $123,700

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - OES

How do I become an IT architect?

Most jobs in computer networking and IT architecture require at least a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science or a related field. While there are some entry-level IT architect jobs, most employers require a minimum of 2-5 years of on-the-job experience. Some jobs require a master’s degree and 5-10 years of industry and technical experience. Students should focus on courses in project management, data security and analytics in order to be well-prepared for a career in this challenging industry.

It’s important to note that graduates of colleges and universities known for their computer science programs are generally considered for jobs first. You can get a better understanding of your options by reading our bachelor’s degree guides.

I Have Completed my Undergraduate Degree

Decide if you need a second degree in IT Architecture or Computer Networking

  • Should you pursue a second bachelor’s degree or apply to a graduate program?
  • Did your undergraduate degree prepare you for a Master’s in Computer Science?
  • What are your career goals? Does the job you want require a different bachelor’s or advanced degree?
  • Are you changing careers or just entering the field?
  • Can you gain the knowledge you need for this field by pursuing certification rather than another degree?

Find a school that fulfills your educational needs

  • If you’re currently working or have other responsibilities, look for programs that fit your schedule.
  • Talk to the computer science departments or professors to determine what academic path you should follow to meet your end goals.
  • If you’re new to the field, check out free online courses (MOOCs) in IT architecture to determine if this is the right move for you.

Choose additional industry certification or training opportunities

  • If your undergraduate degree was in computer science or a related field, look into certification requirements for IT architects.
  • Pursue internships in this field to gain hands-on work experience.

Locate and speak with current IT Architects

  • Network with current professionals at conferences or on forums.
  • Ask them how they entered the field and get advice on your next steps.

I’m Currently an Undergraduate

If you’re undeclared

  • Take an introductory computer science course to determine if the subject is right for you.
  • Ask the CS department or professors about the kind of workload you can expect in a computer science program.
  • Remember that you might not grasp the concepts overnight and that it’s okay for you to ask questions until you understand.

If you’ve declared your computer science major

  • Build relationships with your professors. They’ll be able to help you through your studies and in the early stages of your job searches.
  • Talk with upperclassmen and alumni of the program for insight into how to succeed in the classes.
  • Consider signing up for newsletters from professional organizations, tech magazines and blogs that will keep you informed of advances to the field.
  • Make use of free coding programs to gain a deeper understanding of some of the concepts you’ll learn in class.

Explore careers in IT Architecture to uncover what degrees and experience are required for this path

  • What are the most required degrees and skills needed for this job?
  • What are employers looking for in the industries and regions you want to work for?
  • Work with career services and academic advisors to find internship opportunities.
  • Have a plan to gain job-specific experience along with a degree as this is generally desired by employers.

Career Advancement

Most companies and organizations require their IT architects to have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science and three years of experience working on tech support teams. They look for individuals who are up-to-date on the latest IT trends and practices, and they expect their potential employees to have the ability to work well on teams. Those who want to jumpstart their careers while still in school choose to participate in internships that allow them to put classroom theory into practice and gain hands-on, marketable skills for their job searches.

There are a variety of general industry certifications that make sense for an IT architect to pursue, or they can focus on a specific area, such as security or information systems. Maintaining certification in information technology architecture requires professionals to continue their education. Not only does this allow them to gain more experience in their field, they also remain on top of the current trends in IT.

Information technology architects tend to start out in a variety of entry- and mid-level jobs specific to industries they are interested in. They develop the skills that allow them to advance in their careers as they work.


There are many free or low-cost tools online to help you build your IT architect skills and abilities. You can take free online courses as refreshers to certain topics or gain connections with other professionals by participating in forums and conferences hosted by professional organizations.