System Architect: Career Overview and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a system architect. Get a quick view of the requirements, as well as details about salary statistics and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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System architects require an associate's degree, and many positions require a bachelor's degree. They generally need many years of experience in IT management positions before becoming a systems architect. The average annual salary for system architects was about $103,000 in 2015.

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Essential Information

System architects are information technology (IT) professionals who develop and implement computer systems and networks. Most system architects hold an associate or undergraduate degree and have extensive experience in the IT administration field. The job outlook for these professionals is promising over the next decade.

Required Education Associate's degree
Additional Requirements Employers may require a minimum of two years experience in the field
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% for computer network architects
Average Salary (2015)* $103,100 for computer network architects

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Overview

System architects devise, build and maintain networking and computer systems. They may install both hardware and software during the setup and maintenance of these systems. These systems operate as part of a company infrastructure, and as such, this individual is responsible for provisioning, configuring and operating the network systems that allow the company to function. The job may entail technical research and development, the introduction of new applications for process improvement or long-term system roadmapping.

Communication is a key skill for system architects; job duties for this position include ensuring that client and company needs are met, offering technical support and creating installation instructions for users. This is often a supervisory position, and establishing rapport with other IT staff and developers is essential. Some other duties of a system architect might include:

  • System definition requirements
  • Cost analysis
  • Provisioning and maintenance across multiple locations
  • Server cluster administration
  • System backup management
  • Troubleshooting and diagnosis

Education

Some system architects hold associate's degrees or certifications; however, employers generally prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree in computer science or other IT-related field. Bachelor's degrees in computer science usually take four years to complete and prepare students for entry-level careers in the IT field. Courses in a typical program like this may include:

  • Systems architecture
  • Programming
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Algorithms
  • Data structures
  • Probability statistics
  • Technical communication

Experience Requirements

A perusal of available system architect positions on Monster.com in February 2011 revealed that employers prefer anywhere from 2-7 years of experience in IT administration. In most entry-level positions in IT, aspiring system architects may be responsible for basic tasks like monitoring computer systems and providing maintenance. Advancement and employment opportunities may be best for system architects with professional certification, which some employers consider industry standard. System architects may also gain experience as independent consultants or managers.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes system architects under computer network architects. These workers earned a mean annual wage of $103,100 in 2015. These wages varied according to industry and location. The BLS reported the highest-paying positions were in specialized design services, which paid a mean annual wage of $166,240. California was the highest-paying state, offering a mean wage of $126,990 per year, per BLS.

Employment Outlook

Also according to the BLS, computer network architects can expect to enjoy an increase of 9% in job availability from 2014 to 2024. This increase is an effect of constant upgrades in technology, increased usage of wireless networks and the need for workers to computer systems that work well with these networks. The best job opportunities are for system architects who are familiar with business principles.

System architects require a college degree as well as experience in a related field. They may also be certified in specific systems and softwares, which may be required by employers. The job growth outlook is predicted to be faster than for all jobs through 2024.

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