How to Become a Data Architect – A Complete Career Guide
Data architects design and manage vast electronic databases to store and organize data. They investigate a company’s current data infrastructure and develop a plan to integrate current systems with a desired future state. Data architects then write code to create new, secure framework for databases that may be used by hundreds or thousands of people.
Six Steps to Launching a Successful Data Architect Career
Like a lot of fields in data science, there’s not just one singular path that all prospective data architects need to take. Rather, it’s about gathering experience and developing skills — like a solid background in Java, Python, ETL, Hadoop, Spark, Yarn and Kafka, RDBMS and SQL systems and analytics platforms — which you might come by through a combination of school, bootcamps, online classes or prior work experience. Still, the following is a fairly typical six step process that will give you a sense of the route you will need to take to get started in data architecture.
While no specific path exists for becoming a data architect, a potential candidate needs extensive skills. Typically, a data architect will come with a degree in computer science, IT, or a similar field. Hands-on experience can be gained from entry-level IT jobs in database administration or programming. Years of experience are typically necessary to become a data architect. If one has the experience and skills, but lacks the degree, IBM offers a certification process that might be used in place of the degree.
Step 1: Obtain your Undergraduate Degree
Appropriate bachelor’s degrees are in computer science, computer engineering, information technology, or a related field.
Data architects usually have very solid backgrounds in:
- Application design
- Systems development
- Information management
You’ll want to successfully complete coursework in these topics, as well as in computer programming, web development, operating systems, systems analysis, and technology architecture.
Step 2: Complete an Internship
Data architecture is not usually an entry-level job. Therefore, you’ll want to gain as much experience early on as you can to prepare you for this role. Look for internships in IT fields that help you build skills in:
- Application architecture
- Network management
- Performance management
Step 3: Gain Work Experience in Information Technology
Again, your first job title probably won’t be “data architect.” You’ll likely need at least 3-5 years of job experience with proven project success before becoming a data architect. Apply for entry-level jobs in programming or database administration. Continue to work on your skills in database design, development, management, modeling, and warehousing.
Step 4: Get Hired as a Data Architect
After the necessary training and years of experience, you’ll be ready to start your career in data architecture. Look for jobs in finance, large educational entities, healthcare firms and insurance companies, businesses, and other organizations that take in and process large amounts of client data. You can also find success looking for data architect jobs with computer manufacturers and software corporations.
Step 5: Earn Professional Certifications
The most well-known professional certificate is the CDMP (Certified Data Management Professional), offered by the Institute for Certified Computing Professionals. This certificate requires candidates to have 2 years of work experience as well as a bachelor’s degree before taking the certification exam, either at the “practitioner” or “mastery” level.
Step 6: Pursue a Master’s Degree
A master’s degree is preferred for many senior positions in data architecture. The best options are master’s degrees in computer science or data science.
What is a Data Architecture?
According to CIO magazine’s Thor Olavsurd the goal of data architecture “is to translate business needs into data and system requirements and to manage data and its flow through the enterprise.” Data architects are defined as “visionaries who translate business requirements into technology requirements and define data standards and principles.”
Data architects are generally senior-level professionals, and are highly valued in large companies. They use sophisticated computer design skills to develop databases for organizations, allowing for the collection and analysis of big data. Data architects must be creative problem-solvers who use a vast amount of programming tools to innovate and design new solutions to store and manage data.
What Does a Data Architect Do?
A database architect helps a company understand its strategic goals with regards to data management, and works with software designers and data engineers to develop plans for new integration of databases. Data architects must have keen business intelligence to work with higher level officials in a company and assess the particular needs of that company. Keeping aware of industry trends, data architects then create a new platform that can function for many people and in many areas.
Data architects are also in charge of scheduling updates and improvements to the database they have created with minimal impact to the company. This can mean that a data architect must work long hours and/or on the weekends to complete projects and updates on time.
Data Architect Job Description
- Communicate with many different company stakeholders to assess needs and goals
- Evaluate current data architecture and databases to determine needed upgrades and improvements
- Creating end-to-end model and plans for data consumption and analysis
- Code and design new data architecture, integrating existing databases
- Ensure all data structures are in strict compliance with industry standards as well as all local, state and federal regulations
- Use ETL (extract, transform, load) best practices in the creation of the database
- Research and discover new methods to acquire data
- Monitor databases and report on effectiveness and accuracy, setting up feedback systems and updating as needed
- Maintain security of the database, and create standards to ensure that the system is safe
- Preserve a repository of all data architecture artifacts
Skills Needed to Become a Data Architect
Data architects are highly trained workers, who are fluent in a wide range of programming languages as well as other technologies, and must be good communicators with keen business insights. Data architects must have strong attention to detail, as any problems in coding can cost a business millions to repair.
Technical skills involved with being a data architect include strength in:
- Applied math and statistics
- Data visualization and data migration
- RDMSs (relational database management systems) or foundational database skills
- Database management system software, especially Microsoft SQL Server
- Databases such as NoSQL and cloud computing
- Hadoop technologies, like MapReduce, Hive, and Pig
- Information management and data processing on multiple platforms
- Machine learning
- Data mining and modeling tools, especially ERWin, Enterprise Architect, and Visio
- Programming languages, especially Python and Java, as well as C/C++ and Perl
- Operating systems, including UNIX, Linux, Solaris, and MS Windows
- Application server software, especially Oracle
- Backup/archival software
Successful data architects have a number of other business skills. Though they must have a depth and breadth of experience in the field, data architects must also be creative problem-solvers, who are ready to innovate new solutions, and change along with evolving technology.
As data architects are often senior officials on a project, they must be able to effectively lead members of a team, such as data modelers, data engineers, and database administrators. They must also be able to communicate solutions to colleagues with non-technical backgrounds. Finally, data architects should have a deep knowledge of their own particular industry, including best practices and trends for how data is collected, stored, and analyzed in that industry.
Data Architect Salary
As of May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that database and data architects in the United States earn a median salary of $96,710 per year, with the highest salaries ranging reaching over $151,400. The New York City, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles metropolitan areas are home to the three highest mean wages for data architects in the country.
Data Architect Job Outlook
Data architects report high job satisfaction, probably due to the fact that the role presents new and important challenges every day. The role will certainly continue to change as technology evolves, and the best data architects welcome this change by staying up-to-date with new systems and languages. Massive amounts of data are generated by the minute, and data architects are necessary to solve problems on a daily basis, as well as take the long view and try to imagine what problems a company will face in 3-5 years.
More and more companies are realizing that data architects are one of the most important links in the data chain. Because of this, the BLS expects data architect employment to grow by 9% from 2021 to 2031 — a fast pace considering how advanced the role is.
Gain the skills and necessary degree to pursue your career as a data architect. Explore choosing a Master’s in Information Systems program or online information systems options and take the next step in your journey. Your future as a data architect awaits you!
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for data and database architects reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2023.