What Is a Data Architect?

Updated October 3, 2023

Image description

A business woman is sitting at a desk typing on her computer with a plant in the background. There is a list titled "How To Become a Data Architect" with numbered steps:
1. Earn your undergraduate degree
2. Get an internship
3. Gain experience in IT
4. Complete professional certifications
5. Consider a master's degree

Data architects analyze data infrastructure for companies before they plan and implement databases potentially used by numerous users. Data architects must possess excellent creative and critical thinking abilities as well as well-honed design skills to complete their tasks and projects successfully. Understanding the data architect's career path may help you determine if it is a career you'd like to pursue.

In this article, we look at what a data architect is and what they do, and outline the steps to become one.

What is a data architect?

A data architect is a senior-level information technology (IT) professional who uses their expert skills in computer design to develop databases, which allows for the collection and analysis of big data. Data architects are essential, creative problem-solvers who use a variety of programming tools to innovate solutions to store and manage data for organizations.

Related: What Is Data Architecture? (With Uses, Principles and Types)

What does a data architect do?

Data architects help companies make and meet strategic data management goals. They also work with data engineers and software designers to develop plans to integrate new databases. Some additional responsibilities of a data architect include:

  • Evaluating a company's current databases and data networks

  • Planning end-to-end data models for analysis and consumption

  • Coding data architecture and combining existing databases

  • Researching new data collection methods

  • Updating and monitoring databases

  • Maintaining database security

  • Creating database standards to ensure the safety of the database

  • Communicating with top executives and stakeholders to assess their needs and goals

Differences between a data architect and a data engineer

Data architects and data engineers work together to create a company’s data framework. The data architect is responsible for envisioning the plan of the complete framework and the data engineer builds it using that blueprint. Data architects prepare the information and design the framework used by other data scientists and analysts. Data engineers help data architects compile the functional framework for data search and retrieval.

How to become a data architect

There are a few requirements to meet before you may become a data architect. Here are some steps you could take to become a data architect:

1. Earn your undergraduate degree

Prospective data architects are usually required to have a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science, IT or a related field at a minimum. Students learn essential skills for data architecture by completing coursework on web development, computer programming, systems analysis, operating systems and technology architecture.

2. Get an internship

Most entry-level IT jobs prefer candidates who have some experience in information technology. One way to gain entry-level experience is to complete an internship in college or right after graduation. An internship helps teach students the skills they need to prepare for jobs in their chosen field. During an internship focused on information and data tech, they may learn skills such as network management, application architecture and performance management.

Related: 10 Benefits of Doing an Internship

3. Gain experience in IT

Data architects hold senior-level positions in their organizations. Individuals interested in data architecture may need three to five years of experience and demonstrated project success in the IT field before becoming a data architect. Some jobs that may help future data architects are programming or database administration jobs.

4. Complete professional certifications

Professional certifications are optional, but they may help enhance a data architect's resume and bolster their skills and knowledge. The most popular certification is the Certified Data Professional administered by the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals. It requires candidates to have at least two years of IT work experience and a bachelor's degree before taking the certification exam.

IT professionals may also consider the Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) certification that is a part of the Data Management Association International. This certification doesn't focus on a specific program and provides candidates with a credential in general database management.

5. Consider a master's degree

Many companies prefer data architects that have a master's degree in data science or in computer science. Advanced courses for a master's degree may teach students applied statistics, data mining, in-depth programming and data science algorithms.

Related: 40 Database Architect Interview Questions (Includes Sample Answers)

Job outlook for data architects

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment of database architects is projected to grow 8% from 2020-2030. Employment is expected to be driven by the increasing data needs of companies in all sectors of the economy. The popularity of database-as-a-service, which allows third parties to do database administration online, is expected to increase the employment of database architects at cloud computing firms and other companies in the software industry.

Average salary

The national average salary for a data architect in the United States is $122,263 per year. Most data architects work full-time, part-time or on a contractual basis. Their average annual income may vary depending on their geographical location, software expertise, level of education and the industry in which they work.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a data architect and a data engineer?

Data engineers and data architects work together to visualize and conceptualize database management frameworks for companies.

Although they work together, their job duties may vary. For example, data architects envision the framework and create a blueprint and data engineers make or build the digital framework.

What skills do I need to become a data architect?

Data architects need these skills to become successful in their positions:

  • Programming skills: Data architects must have extensive knowledge of programming languages such as Java, Python and Hadoop. Some jobs require data architects to understand other specific programming languages to achieve organizational goals.

  • Communication: Data architects work as a part of a data science team to meet the goals and objectives set by executive-level decision-makers in a company. Data architects must be able to communicate their vision accurately to the data science team and executives.

  • Problem solving: When data architects create and integrate databases, they often use creative problem-solving to do so. This means they need to make important decisions regarding database security and data storage.

  • Design skills: Data architects should be able to maintain the quality and integrity of an organization's data by using various design techniques. They often design models that are right for the business solutions for services and users.

  • Attention to detail: Data architects must pay close attention to each part of their data modeling design and make sure there are no bugs or design flaws that may cause security breaches or other issues.

What is a data architect's work environment?

Data architects typically work in an office during regular business hours. They often sit for extended periods, work on a computer, attend meetings and give presentations.

They communicate with coworkers in the IT department and other senior-level executives. It is typical for a data architect to work overtime to meet deadlines.


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