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

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.

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Career Requirements

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 Excellent speaking and writing skills, customer service skills, experience with Microsoft Windows and Server software, Linux, TCP/IP and relevant software applications
Salary $104,873 per year (Median salary for systems architects in 2015)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in computer science or software engineering prepares students for a career in systems architecture. A computer science bachelor's degree program may include coursework in Web programming, database administration, Web design 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

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

Step 2: Gain 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: Get Certified To Move Your Career Ahead

The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers a project management professional (PMP) credential that demonstrates competency and experience in project leadership. Certification requirements include a bachelor's degree with 4,500 hours of experience in project leadership as well as 35 hours of project management education (or a high school diploma plus 7,500 hours of experience and 60 hours of training). Applicants must pass a written exam to become certified. The PMP certificate must be renewed every 3 years by completing 60 hours of approved coursework or volunteering services.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) offers several levels of certification. The foundation certificate level demonstrates general knowledge of IT framework. Requirements include 2 years of professional experience and passing a written exam. Additional levels of certification such as intermediate, managing across the lifecycle, expert and master require additional examinations.

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