Software Architect Vs. Building Architect

Building architects design physical structures. Digital structures also require a designer known as a software architect. This article explores these distinct architecture careers and skills in detail.

Comparing Software Architects to Building Architects

Architects plan and design structures using technical expertise and creativity. Software architects work to build the systems and applications used on computers, while building architects design and plan the construction of physical buildings.

Job Title Minimum Education Required Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Software Architect Bachelor's degree $121,605 (2017)** 17% (software developers)
Building Architect Bachelor's degree $76,930 (2016)* 7%

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

Responsibilities of a Software Architect vs. a Building Architect

Both software and building architects work with clients to develop plans for a specific job. A software architect may design a simple database for tracking sales or a complete integrated system for a major company to run its operations. Likewise, a building architect may create plans for a single room structure to display artwork or a complete high-rise building to house multiple businesses and organizations. In both cases, the architect is responsible for designing the appropriate structure which will meet the client's needs within a specified budget.

Both software and building architects must test the integrity of the structures they build and verify that their structures conform to the drafted outline presented to the client. Though they share the same fundamental responsibilities as architects, the mediums in which they work are completely different, as are the tools they utilize to accomplish the task. Software architects are computer science experts who work with IT teams, while building architects are construction experts who work with engineering and construction teams.

Software Architect

Software architects collaborate with computer programmers and IT managers to build a digital product that meets the technological needs of a company. They analyze the existing condition of company software to determine if an upgrade will work. If a new operating system or software is needed, the software architect prepares an outline or flowchart which the programmers can use as a guide for connecting the computer code they write. Throughout the process of building new software, data is collected to monitor the efficiency and accuracy of the program and the compatibility with the computer hardware employed. Once the new software is constructed, the software architect may be responsible for training the employees of the company on the implementation and use of the new programs.

Job responsibilities of a software architect include:

  • Gathering information on computer limitations for data processing
  • Consulting with computer engineers to determine hardware capabilities
  • Reporting on design, implementation and functional capacity of new software
  • Determining power needs and cost of project

Building Architect

Building architects collaborate with state and local officials to determine requirements for the construction of new structures. They analyze the need for building components such as air conditioning, plumbing and communications infrastructure to create a design that fulfills client needs. The architect prepares a draft or outline using computer programs which becomes the guide for the builders to follow during construction. Once the draft is finished and construction begins, the architect monitors the work of all the contractors to verify that they are using the appropriate materials. Building architects may specialize in an artistic style, environmental impact reduction, or technology integration. The client often chooses an architect based on how well these specialties fit with the project purpose.

Job responsibilities of a building architect include:

  • Completing a feasibility study prior to construction
  • Preparing scale models of building project
  • Verifying engineering components of building project
  • Estimating cost and construction time
  • Negotiating contracts with client and contractors

Related Careers

If you are interested in building software, you may also like working within an organization to manage computer technologies and troubleshoot network issues as an information systems manager. For those interested in building physical structures, the job of a civil engineer may be an option because they work not only on buildings, but also on bridges and roads.

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