What is a Data Architect? Skills, Salary & Career Guide

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The role of the data architect is increasingly vital in nearly every industry, since they bridge the gap between technology and business strategy. But what exactly is data architecture, and what does a data architect do?

In this career guide, we discuss the responsibilities, core skills, recommended education, and salary expectations for data architects, and lay out a potential career path for those fascinated by data management.

What Is Data Architecture?
What Does a Data Architect Do?
Key Data Architect Skills
Data Architect Salary Potential
Do You Need a Data Architect Degree?
How to Become a Data Architect

What Is Data Architecture?

Data architecture refers to the design, structure, and organization of a company’s data assets, systems, processes, and technologies. It provides a blueprint for how raw data is collected, stored, processed, and accessed throughout its lifecycle, with the goal of ensuring the data is accurate, consistent, secure, and accessible for the right purposes at the right times. Data architecture plays a crucial role in enabling effective data management, integration, analysis, and decision-making within an organization.

A familiar example of data architecture might be the Dewey Decimal System. The DDS is used by libraries around the world to categorize books by subject and ensures that a book will always be returned to the same place on the shelf. The DDS is designed in such a way that an unlimited number of new books can be added without disrupting the numbered system. Thus, this library-specific data architecture standardizes the way “data” (books) are collected, cataloged, stored, distributed, and used by the organization and its members.

What Does a Data Architect Do?

A data architect is a professional responsible for designing, creating, managing, and optimizing an organization’s data architecture. Data architects play a crucial role in bridging the gap between an organization’s business needs and its technical capabilities and work to ensure that data systems align with organizational goals.

These IT professionals leverage their foundational computer science and design skills to:

Data architects work wherever there is a need to collect, sort, manage, and analyze data. They are commonly employed in the technology, health care, finance, government, science, and entertainment sectors.

While they can go by a handful of different titles — including cloud architect, security architect, or data project manager — there is an important distinction between a data architect and data engineer. In essence, a data architect is responsible for assessing data management systems and identifying methods for maintaining that data in a way that best meets the needs of their organization; a data engineer is then responsible for building and testing the proposed data architecture solutions. It may help to think of the data architect as the project manager or director and the data engineer as the producer.

Key Data Architect Skills

Data architects need to possess a combination of hard and soft skills to understand how to best manage data as well as communicate that information to others.

Hard skills:

Soft skills:

Data Architect Salary Potential

A search for “data architect” and similar titles brings up median salaries ranging from $115,000 to over $158,000. Of course, these salaries can fluctuate depending on the job market, geographic location, the candidate’s level of education and experience, and the industry, among other factors.

However, the constant proliferation of data means that data architects and related professionals are in increasingly high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that opportunities for database administrators and architects will grow by 9 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations in the U.S. That amounts to around 11,500 job openings each year, on average, over the next decade.

Do You Need a Data Architect Degree?

Since data architects need a strong foundation in computer science, a bachelor’s degree in information technology, coding, engineering, or a related field is highly recommended. A degree in business can also be useful for developing the non-technical skill set required of many data architects.

Employers across industries increasingly prefer to hire candidates with master’s degrees, though equivalent experience in database management may be sufficient for data architect positions. There are master’s degrees available in data architecture and related studies including computer science, information systems, information technology, and data management.

How to Become a Data Architect

The role of “data architect” is rarely an entry-level position, since those tasked with managing data systems need to have a breadth of knowledge and experience to successfully design, implement, and optimize data infrastructure.

If you have a computer science background and are interested in data architecture, consider taking introductory courses in topics such as technology architecture, data management, database systems, operating systems, and systems analysis. You need to know several programming languages, particularly the ones that your future employers use; it helps to build a familiarity with Python, Java, and SQL, to start.

As you begin your career, you may find work as a data engineer or analyst and advance from there. Keep in mind that employers usually look for data architect candidates with 3–5 years of relevant experience. Once hired, you may need to become certified in the software and products your company uses (usually offered by the vendor).

Employers also look for applicants with professional certifications, such as the Practical Data Engineering Certificate from the University of San Diego School of Professional and Continuing Education. This hands-on certificate is designed for those interested in working with data and advancing into engineering or systems management roles. You’ll build the practical skills necessary to solve real-world problems and help organizations gain critical insights from the data they accrue. With four courses at seven weeks each, you can earn your Practical Data Engineering Certificate on your own schedule, without missing a day of work.

Invest in your future and start building your credentials today.

FAQs

What is data architecture?

Data architecture refers to the design, structure, and organization of a company’s data assets, systems, processes, and technologies.

What does a data architect do?

A data architect is a professional responsible for designing, creating, managing, and optimizing the systems by which an organization manages its data.

How much can you make as a data architect?

A search for “data architect” and similar titles brings up median salaries ranging from $115,000 to over $158,000. Of course, these salaries can fluctuate depending on the job market, geographic location, the candidate’s level of education and experience, and the industry, among other factors.

Where do data architects work?

Data architects work wherever there is a need to collect, sort, manage and analyze data. They are commonly employed in the technology, health care, finance, government, science, and entertainment sectors.

Curriculum covered in this article

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Business
Engineering Programs
2 Units
Online Fixed-Date

Business Programs – 25% Off May Sale

Valid May 1, 2024 – May 31, 2024

Some restrictions apply.  Offer valid only during sale dates. Not all courses apply.
**Only one discount can be applied per course.**

Business
Engineering Programs
2 Units
Online Fixed-Date

Business Programs – 25% Off May Sale

Valid May 1, 2024 – May 31, 2024

Some restrictions apply.  Offer valid only during sale dates. Not all courses apply.
**Only one discount can be applied per course.**

Business
Engineering Programs
2 Units
Online Fixed-Date
Business
Engineering Programs
3 Units
Online Fixed-Date

Business Programs – 25% Off May Sale

Valid May 1, 2024 – May 31, 2024

Some restrictions apply.  Offer valid only during sale dates. Not all courses apply.
**Only one discount can be applied per course.**

Business
Engineering Programs
2 Units
Online Fixed-Date

Business Programs – 25% Off May Sale

Valid May 1, 2024 – May 31, 2024

Some restrictions apply.  Offer valid only during sale dates. Not all courses apply.
**Only one discount can be applied per course.**

Business
Engineering Programs
2 Units
Online Fixed-Date

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