What Does a Software Architect Do? (Duties and Requirements)
Updated July 25, 2023
A software architect is an IT specialist whose work can improve software and technology systems for a business. These senior-level developers offer crucial skills and duties related to software design and structures. Learning about the primary duties and job-specific requirements of this role can help you determine whether it's right for you and guide you in how to prepare to pursue it as a career.
In this article, we define a software architect, discuss what a software architect does, along with information about their common requirements, work environment and how to become one and review their average salary, including a sample job description and a list of related careers.
What is a software architect?
A software architect is a computer programmer who makes project-specific software design choices, coordinates technical teams and selects and enforces technical coding standards when creating new programs or software to fulfill business goals. They're engaged in every step of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and perform regular code inspections to ensure the product meets quality standards.
At the pre-development stage, they work to identify and define the client's problems correctly. A software architect then studies requirements, risks, constraints and costs to determine the project's budget and time feasibility. They offer support at the post-development stage by resolving coding or design issues to ensure the software product is fully functional. Here are common types of software architects:
Solution architects: A solution architect focuses primarily on identifying technological solutions to potential challenges a business encounters. They ensure the overall technical solution they create for a specific business problem fulfills the enterprises' requirements as well as end-user needs.
Enterprise architects: For an enterprise architect, the main goal is usually to maintain and update a company's IT networks regularly and in the long term to ensure optimal performance. They analyze business needs to ensure the overall design and implementation align with the business goals.
Data architects: They're responsible for defining procedures, policies, tools and models the software development team uses to create, organize, store and retrieve organizational data. Data architects also create standards for the collection, storage and migration of information from existing data structures or legacy systems.
Cloud architects: Cloud architects are responsible for creating, designing, managing and executing the organization's cloud computing infrastructure. They develop and deploy applications to the cloud and keep track of cloud activities such as taking account of maintenance schedules and monitoring resource usage.
What does a software architect do?
The primary responsibilities of a software architect include:
Researching and evaluating technical standards and tools for a project
Separating a project's goal into several smaller solvable problems
Communicating business requirements, criteria and needs to software development teams
Designing and revising a project's structure and Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagram
Distributing software development tasks to a team of developers
Testing segments of project code and checking for errors during quality assurance periods
Writing sections of code as part of development in a project
Software architect requirements
Software architects have years of training and experience in software development and design. Some earn certifications to widen their job opportunities and increase their earning potential. Here are some of the most common qualifications for software architects:
Usually, software architect roles require at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems, software engineering or another related field. However, software architect positions typically favor training and experience over formal education, so it's possible to get a software architect position without a degree. Some software architects also pursue higher education to earn their master's or doctorate degrees and gain more knowledge in the field.
Software architects often receive professional training within their company or at seminars and conferences. This can help them stay up-to-date with the continually changing technological industry. These specialists can get training in specific areas of development, including development operations (DevOps), where they learn software testing, automation and continuous improvement to reduce delivery times and increase efficiency.
Another common area of training for software architects is object-oriented analysis and design (OOAD) where they learn design principles and architectural styles that apply to large software systems. This training can equip them with fundamental object orientation concepts and help them better manage development cycles, reduce maintenance costs and increase software quality. They can also complete formal training in programming, which can give them a working knowledge of multiple programming languages and frameworks so they can effectively create codes or systems.
Software architects can choose from a wide variety of certifications to enhance their skills and advance their careers. Some roles or specializations may require certain certifications that cover the exact subjects or duties of the position. Here are useful certifications a software architect can consider:
OMG-Certified UML Professional 2 (OCUP 2)
The OMG-Certified UML Professional 2 (OCUP 2) credential is an advanced certification in UML offered by The Object Management Group (OMG). Most software architects work primarily with UML when designing project structures, and a certification in working with UML shows that a software architect is capable of systems design and dedicated to their role in the development process.
Microsoft Azure Certification
Microsoft's Azure certification program can serve as a general DevOps certification for software architects. Software architects in any role can use this certification to show their comprehensive understanding of the DevOps skills required for the position.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional Certification
Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers this certification to validate a developer's experience in deploying cloud architecture and expertise in designing and building distributed systems or applications on AWS. To earn this certificate, developers must first sit for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam and pass.
Some common skills for software architects include:
Software architects identify and determine a client's needs and use problem-solving skills to create possible solutions to solve existing and potential challenges during the pre-development stage. Then, they can implement these solutions with the help of the software development team.
Software architects often create and update large and intricate UML diagrams of a software project as it proceeds through the software development cycle. Understanding visualization and design principles require an architect to think systematically and keep detailed sections of a project organized.
Attention to detail
A software architect works to ensure the functionality of each project segment and checks the project code for quality assurance to prevent any issues from reaching a project's release. On large-scale projects, this requires the architect to read thousands of lines of code quickly and accurately and pay close attention to identify and fix minor errors.
Software architects typically oversee the development of a project and manage the responsibilities of a team of developers, each completing distinct parts of an application. Coordinating the work of a team of developers and ensuring that each segment of a project meets the standards of the design requires strong leadership abilities.
To create a healthy compromise for design decisions, architects require the ability to communicate the requirements of a project to their team. This can help them develop a reasonable timeline for project completion based on their teams' suggestions.
The creative ability to process a situation in unique ways allows a software architect to find alternative solutions to issues that arise during the development of a project. Creativity can also assist a software architect in designing a project's UML diagrams.
Software architect work environment
As a software architect, you may work full-time in an office environment with the development team. Some employers or roles may allow you to work remotely or interface with other developers as they work off-site. Software architects typically work on weekdays and sometimes complete extra hours in the evenings or over the weekend to meet project timeline goals. Since the role involves the use and development of technology, you may sit in front of the computer for extended periods of time to create, edit and test software.
How to become a software architect
You can follow these general steps to become a software architect:
1. Earn a degree
Earning a bachelor's in computer science, software engineering or another related field can make you a more competitive candidate when applying for software architect positions. A degree in one of these fields also provides you with much of the fundamental training to become a developer. Consider earning your degree and pursuing courses that teach the specific skills for any specializations or interests you want to pursue.
2. Start your career as a software engineer or developer
Spending time attending coding boot camps, working as an intern or junior software engineer or developer helps you learn relevant skills. Software architects often have between four and eight years of development experience when they acquire their positions. Beginning with an entry-level role can allow you to gather the skills and experience to advance to a software architect position later in your career.
3. Build a portfolio
Creating a portfolio involves developing software on your own or earning certifications in development technologies, then presenting them in an organized way. You can use a digital portfolio to compile and display systems you've created on your own or in past roles to convey your skills to employers. The stronger your resume and portfolio are, the easier it can be to impress hiring managers and earn a software architect position.
4. Try to earn a promotion
While you work as a software engineer or developer, express interest in the role of a software architect and seek opportunities to improve your qualifications. Your employer may offer you the opportunity for advancement without having to search for a software architect position elsewhere. You can also look to network with senior-level employees or volunteer to help with higher-level projects to improve your skills and prove your abilities for an architect role.
Software architect salary
The national average salary for software architects is currently $136,350 per year. Most software architects work as full-time salaried employees, though some may choose to work as freelancers or take contract positions. The salary for a software architect can vary based on regional factors, qualifications and certifications and the size of the development team. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.
Software architect job description example
Here's an example of a software architect job description to help you understand the duties and requirements of the role:
MathCubed Software is seeking an experienced developer to fill the role of Software Architect for a new project we're undertaking. The ideal candidate for this role can interpret business requirements and make high-level structural decisions about the direction of the project. The Software Architect's responsibilities include assigning software engineers with their segments of the project and guiding them in how to use UML to design and communicate system specifications. In addition, they provide preliminary quality assurance to the development team and may be required to develop elements of the project.
The optimal candidate for this role has strong technical skills and leadership abilities. Preferred candidates hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Qualified candidates require at least four years of professional software development experience for this position.
Here are some related careers in IT and software development fields that you can consider to find a role that matches your skills, experience and interests:
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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