How Do I Become a Software Architect?

If you enjoy working with both computers and people and envision yourself in a management role, you might wonder how to become a software architect. Just as building architects develop the plans for creating the structure to support a physical building, software architects devise the structures, or strategies, plans and designs, to create the software used to run computerized devices and accomplish tasks. Essentially, software architects manage software development projects. As decision-makers, software architects are often in high-level positions within a company hierarchy, and they may serve as a link between management and technology or information technology (IT) departments ensuring that goals are met.

As high-level employees, software architects consult with company management and use their extensive computer knowledge to develop computer strategies that will fulfill the requirements of the business. They determine the technical specifications for projects, including what tools and programming platforms software developers and computer programmers will use in designing and writing software systems and applications. To make these important decisions, software architects must understand the objectives of the business and the goals of a specific project as well as computer framework.

To begin a new career as a software architect, candidates should first pursue a formal education. While some positions in software architecture may be available to candidates who have earned only an associate’s degree, prospective software architects will have more employment options if they earn a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, software engineering, information technology (IT) architecture or computer science. Because many software architect positions are high-level roles, candidates can improve their marketability, earning potential and opportunities for advancement by pursuing a master’s degree in computer science or a related field. For some positions with certain employers, an advanced degree might be a requirement.

Regardless of formal education level, software architects must familiarize themselves with writing computer programming code, though their job responsibilities typically are more closely related to big-picture decisions and designs rather than software programming tasks. They must understand each part and process of software in order to guide a team of software developers and computer programmers to create the desired program. Because the fields of computers and information technology are continually evolving, software architects must be willing to continue learning new programs, technologies and solutions to problems throughout their careers.

In 2012, CNN Money ranked software architect third on its list of the 100 “Best Jobs in America,” citing flexibility, an above-average job outlook, and a high, six-figure pay rate. Software architects earn a median salary of $119,000 per year but have the potential to earn up to $162,000 per year at the peak of their career, according to CNN. Over a ten year period, career opportunities for software architects are expected to increase by 24.6 percent. If you possess both technical capabilities and people skills and make sound decisions, knowing how to become a software architect could be the beginning of a satisfying and lucrative new career in the rapidly-growing field of information technology.

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