Becoming a Software Architect: Job Description, Salary, Skills
The title “software architect” encompasses many things. It’s a leadership role, a design role, a customer-facing role, and a technical role. But unlike an architect that designs buildings or bridges, a software architect designs software solutions that solve the problems that companies and clients may face.
The career path for a software architect is fairly straightforward. However, the role itself requires a broad skillset of technical and interpersonal skills. To get a better idea of what is involved in this career, here’s an overview of what software architects do and the training needed to become one.
What Is a Software Architect?
As the name suggests, a software architect is a type of designer. However, the best way to describe the position is that it is similar to a project manager. Software architects don’t just design solutions, though. They lead a team of developers, creating and assigning project tasks, speaking with clients to ensure the solution solves their problems and to keep them informed about the project’s progress, and making sure that, overall, everything runs smoothly.
Some of a software architect’s duties include:
- Evaluating the needs of the project to determine which standards or tools are best
- Breaking down the entire project into smaller steps
- Ensuring the project proceeds on time
- Communicating the business’ needs with the team to ensure the right product is created
- Checking the code for bugs
- Ensuring the product can handle future changes, like security updates
Types of Software Architects
Unlike network architects that build data communication networks, software architects design software systems. While network architects may build different types of communication networks, software architects focus on a specific type of software solution.
- Cloud architects focus on creating systems and solutions for and in the cloud.
- Systems or application architects create solutions that solve a single problem.
- Enterprise architects design solutions that solve problems across multiple projects or for an entire organization.
What Skills Do Software Architects Need?
Because the duties are so varied, a software architect also needs a wide range of hard and soft skills.
Hard Skills for a Software Architect
Software architects need extensive technical knowledge of software and code. However, being proficient in one technology or language is not enough. Software architects may use several languages or technologies and, therefore, must be similarly proficient in everything.
While software architects will often write code for the project, as the project leader, they need to “see beyond the code.” Specifically, software architects need to understand how all aspects of the project interact with each other. This helps the team design a complete solution that works and makes sense to users.
Software architects need additional hard skills outside of technical abilities. Because they create and assign the tasks, software architects should have good organizational skills. They should also possess an attention to detail since they may have to hunt for bugs in the code.
Beyond these technical skills, software architects use their organizational skills to create the project’s roadmap. It’s up to them to determine the timeline, actionable tasks, and milestones of the project.
Soft Skills for a Software Architect
As the project leader, software architects need excellent and adaptable communication and listening skills. As the client’s main contact (internally or externally), the software architect must listen to the client’s needs to understand what problem they want solved. It’s then up to the software architect to describe the solution in plain language to the client.
The software architect also needs to communicate the client’s desires to the team in their technical language. And it falls to the software architect to explain to the client what the team can and cannot accomplish.
However, software architects also need to be creative. Sometimes a novel solution is the best solution, and software architects need to think creatively to solve a problem. They also need to think past the present and into the future to ensure the software can be upgraded and improved over time.
How to Become a Software Architect
Many people wonder how to become a software architect, but it’s not an entry-level position. It’s a job title one only reaches after years of experience, increasing responsibility, and often advanced education.
While not necessarily a requirement, having a bachelor’s or even master’s degree in computer science or a related field is helpful. Beyond a degree (or equivalent education through a boot camp or certifications), you will need anywhere from 5 to 10 years of experience in software development across multiple languages and operating systems.
If looking to become a software architect in a particular industry, such as the healthcare field, an educational background in that field or direct prior work experience proves attractive to hiring managers.
Software Architect Salary and Career Outlook
On average, software architects earn $137,936. The salary range can vary from $124,850 to $153,104 depending on where you live, the type of education or certifications you possess, and your experience level.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track the salary or job outlook for software engineers, the BLS does predict that the software development field will grow 21% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average compared to other fields.
Software architects benefit from the continuously high demand for computer software—from new apps for smartphones and tablets to an increasing number of appliances and other consumer products depending on built-in software to function.
Find Software Architect Jobs
Though the path to becoming a software architect will take years of experience likely within several software development and IT jobs, it is likely well worth the effort if you enjoy flexing your hard and soft skills. Not only will you use your technical skills, as a software architect, you’ll also use your creative problem-solving and communication skills.
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