Careers

Learn About Being a Software Architect

What does a software architect do?

A software architect is an expert-level software developer who communicates with businesses and clients to design and execute solutions with a team of software engineers. A software architect makes executive software design decisions. They often act as a designer, developer and communicator. Responsibilities include:

  • Researching and evaluating technical standards and tools for a project and determining which ones are the optimal choice

  • 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 UML (Unified Modeling Language) diagram

  • Distributing development tasks to a team of software engineers

  • Quality assurance testing segments of project code and checking for errors

  • Writing sections of code as part of development in a project

Average salary

Most software architects are full-time salaried employees, though some freelance or work contract positions. The salary for a software architect will vary based on regional factors, qualifications and certifications and the size of the development team.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $140,419 per year
  • Some salaries range from $49,000 to $277,000 per year

Software architect requirements

Software architects have years of training and experience in software development and design. Some earn certifications to widen their job search and increase their earning potential.

Education

Usually, software architects will have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, software engineering or another related field. However, software architect positions favor training and experience over a degree, and it is possible to get a software architect position with no degree at all. Some software architects earn their master’s or doctoral degrees to gain more knowledge in the field.

Training

As a general guideline, software architects usually receive training in:

  • DevOps: Development Operations, or DevOps, is a set of practices intended to speed up the software development process at every step. Trained software architects typically implement and manage DevOps practices and solutions within their development team to increase efficiency.

  • Systems design: Software architects design and maintain the structure of a software project. Training in UML or systems design prepares a software architect for their role in the development team.

  • Programming: Software architects usually train in computer programming and have a working knowledge of multiple programming languages and frameworks.

Software architects could receive training in these topics on the job with their company, or off the job at seminars and conferences. Many software architects attend seminars and conferences to keep up to date with a continually changing technological industry.

Certifications

There are hundreds of certifications that a software architect may obtain. Which certifications a software architect will need will vary depending on the development team and the projects the software architect will oversee. Here are two commonly useful certifications a software architect may seek:

  • OMG Certified UML Professional 2 (OCUP 2): The OCUP 2 is a certification in UML offered by The Object Management Group. 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. If you plan to earn an OCUP 2 certification, plan to pass the Foundation exam before earning Advanced and Expert certifications.

  • Microsoft Azure Certification: Microsoft’s Azure certification program can serve as a general DevOps certification for software architects. A comprehensive understanding of the DevOps process is a requirement for modern software developers in any role. There are nine Azure certification exams you can take to show a thorough knowledge of the service.

Skills

Some skills software architects require are:

  • Problem-solving: The primary responsibility of a software architect is to act as a problem-solver. A business provides the architect with a broad request and the architect must separate the request into smaller distinct problems they can solve with the software development team.

  • Organization: Software architects often create and update large and intricate UML diagrams of a software project as it proceeds through the production cycle. Understanding designing requires an architect to think systematically and keep detailed sections of a project organized.

  • Attention to detail: A software architect should ensure the functionality of each segment of a project, and must be able to easily check project code for quality assurance to prevent any codes issues from reaching a project’s release. On large-scale projects, this requires the architect to quickly and accurately read thousands of lines of code and have the insight to know what common errors to seek.

  • Leadership: Software architects 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.

  • Communication: Software architects often decide about a project that balances the needs of the business and the capabilities of the development team. To create a healthy compromise, architects must be able to communicate the requirements of a project to their team and develop a reasonable timeline for project completion based on their teams’ suggestions.

  • Creativity: The ability to process a situation in unique and creative ways allows for a software architect to find alternative solutions to issues that arise during the development of a project and helps reinforce their problem-solving abilities. Creativity can also assist a software architect in designing a project’s UML structure.

Software architect work environment

As a software architect, you will typically work full time in an office environment with your development team. You may conduct some of your work remotely or interface with other developers as they work off-site. Software architects typically work full time on weekdays and sometimes extra hours in the evenings or over the weekend to meet timeline goals with projects. You should be able to sit in front of a computer for extended periods of time.

How to become a software architect

You can follow these general steps to become a software architect:

  1. Earn a degree. Even though a degree is not always necessary for a position as a software architect, earning a bachelor’s in computer science, software engineering or another related field will make you a more competitive candidate when you’re seeking development positions. A degree in one of these fields will also provide you with much of the fundamental training you need to become a developer.

  2. Start your career as a software engineer or developer. Spending time as a software engineer or developer will help develop relevant skills and knowledge in the technology industry. Software architects often have between four and eight years of development experience when they acquire their positions.

  3. Build a portfolio. This may mean developing software on your own or earning certifications in development technologies. The stronger your resume is, the easier it is to find a software architect position.

  4. Try to earn a promotion. While you’re employed as a software engineer or developer, express interest in the role of a software architect. Your employer may offer you the opportunity for advancement without having to search for a software architect position elsewhere.

Software Architect job description example

MathCubed Software is seeking an experienced developer to fill the role of software architect for a new project we’re undertaking. The software architect needs to be able to interpret business requirements and make high-level structural decisions about the direction of the project. You will assign software engineers with their segments of the project and guide them using UML to design and communicate system specifications. In addition, you will provide preliminary quality assurance to the development team and may be required to develop elements of the project yourself. 

The optimal candidate for this role has strong technical skills and leadership abilities. A bachelor’s degree is preferred. At least four years of professional software development experience is required for this position.

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