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How to Become a Solutions Architect: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a solutions architect. Explore the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you'll need to advance your career in solutions architecture.

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Should I Become A Solutions Architect?

Solutions architects, also be referred to as system architects, build and integrate information and computer systems that meet specific needs. This involves integrating the software and hardware that will best meet the purpose defined by a customer. They function as consultants, examine current systems architecture, and work with business and technical staff to recommend solutions that result in more effective systems.

Some solutions architects may oversee the programming, integration, and testing of software systems and associated devices. Solutions architects, like other types of systems or computer network architects, work full-time, and overtime work is sometimes needed. They spend most of their time working indoors in an office setting. Little physical activity is associated with this career, but it may involve meeting strict deadlines and performance standards.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree or higher
Degree Field Computer science, information technology, software engineering or related field
Experience Five-to-ten years of network administration or three-to-five years of additional education and experience may be needed
Licensure and Certification Certifications are optional; related certifications available from sources like IBM, Microsoft, etc.
Key Skills Extensive knowledge of computer systems, operating systems, system security measures, database management and web platforms. Background in both hardware and software. Excellent ability to communicate technical information to lay persons, especially in management. Some positions may require program management and mentoring experience.
Salary (2015) $111,969 (Median Salary for Solutions Architects)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, Payscale.com, CareerBuilder.com Job notices (December 2012).

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Systems architects usually need a bachelor's degree or higher related to information technology, software engineering or computer science. Undergraduate programs typically provide coursework that covers different operating systems and hardware compatibility training.

A master's degree is usually needed for a specialization in systems architecture. Some employers may prefer applicants to have a Master of Business Administration in Information Systems. Graduate coursework includes advanced computer architecture theory, systems design, project management and software engineering. Some colleges also provide graduate-level certificate programs in systems architecture to complement undergraduate training. Courses are similar to those in the master's degree program, but certificate programs might require less time and have fewer requirements.

Success Tips:

  • Develop communications skills. Solutions architects primarily work as liaisons between business managers and computer programming engineers. They need to coordinate with non-technical staff to address a variety of needs.
  • Minor in communications. Another way to improve and further hone your skills is to minor in communications. Typical coursework includes ethics, interpersonal communication, mass media analysis and rhetoric.

Step 2: Consider Certification

Certification is not mandatory, but it showcases a solutions architect's expertise in certain fields. There are specific programs that certify computer professionals in systems architecture. Some employers might require solutions architects to participate in certification programs and periodic training.

Organizations that provide certification in systems and enterprise architecture offer programs for individuals and teams. Some organizations, such as The Open Group's IT Architect Certification Program, don't require traditional exams. Candidates could be required to submit a skills-based resume for review or participate in an individual or team project.

A private consulting firm, iCMG Enterprise Architecture has a two-tier certification process consisting of an architecture course followed by a two-hour online exam and a second tier based on a case study. The resulting certification is the Certified Software architect.

Step 3: Obtain Relevant Experience and Advance Your Career

Solutions architects often have approximately five-to-ten years of experience with network administration or information technology systems. The type of experience will vary, and tends to fall within a few set categories, such as complex database management systems or business intelligence tools.

Most employers require a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science or information systems. A combination of education and experience may also be acceptable to enter this advanced and specialized field.

Success Tips:

  • Learn a variety of technology platforms and software programs. Solutions architects use a wide variety of technology and software. Review job notices carefully in order to determine both the required as well as the preferred systems.
  • Consider independent contractor jobs. Some employers may hire independent contractors to meet their architectural solutions. Some of these positions may only require two-to-three years of experience.
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