Become a Systems Architect: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 04, 2020

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

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Should I Become A Systems Architect?

Systems architects are computer professionals, who design, implement, and maintain databases and complex computer systems. They plan projects and activities, solve architectural issues, and maximize quality and efficiency throughout the network or system. Systems architects might work long hours to address database issues without interrupting a company's workday.

Career Skills and Info

Key career skills for systems architects include those related to customer service, speaking, and writing. They should also have experience with Microsoft Windows and Server software, Linux, TCP/IP, and other relevant software applications. According to in February 2020, systems architects earned a median annual salary of $111,600.

Let's take a look at how much education you'll need to qualify for a job as a systems architect:

Requirements at a Glance

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Experience Computer science or software engineering
Licensure and Certification Voluntary; the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) or Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is preferred
Key Skills Customer service skills; excellent speaking and writing skills; experience with Microsoft Windows and Server software, Linux, TCP/IP and relevant software applications
Salary* $111,600 per year (median salary for systems architects in 2020)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, *

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in computer science or software engineering can prepare students for careers as systems architects. A bachelor's degree program in computer science may include coursework in web design and programming, database administration, and network infrastructure. Some schools offer computer science programs with an emphasis in networking, programming, software engineering, or security. Any of these programs can be valuable for a career in systems architecture.

Success Tip

  • Participate an internship. Internship programs offered by schools or companies can provide hands-on experience with computer programming and analysis, hardware, operating systems, and storage knowledge. Experience can be invaluable when looking for employment.

Step 2: Work Experience

An entry-level position as a systems architect can provide the necessary experience for a higher-level position. Entry-level job duties might include planning and overseeing projects, solving issues, and participating in meetings. Higher-level job duties include providing development support and assistance, writing processes, documenting results, and managing projects.

Step 3: Certification

The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification that demonstrates competency and experience in project leadership. Certification requirements include a bachelor's degree with 4,500 hours of experience in project leadership and 35 hours of project management education. Alternatively, candidates with a high school diploma plus 7,500 hours of experience and 60 hours of training may also qualify. All applicants must pass a written exam to become certified. The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification must be renewed every three years by completing 60 hours of approved coursework or volunteering services.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) offers several levels of certification. The foundation certification demonstrates general knowledge of information technology (IT) framework. Requirements include two years of professional experience and a passing score on a written exam. Additional levels of certification include intermediate, managing across the lifecycle, expert, and master. Applicants for these certifications must pass additional examinations.

Let's review… Systems architects usually need a four-year degree in computer science or software engineering. As of February 2020, the median annual salary for a software engineer was $111,600.

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