Career Overview: Data Architect

Posted in Careers

What Is Data Science?

Data science involves using various scientific methods to extract meaningful knowledge out of different sources. Some of these sources have structured data while some do not. Data science, however, can be used in both structured and unstructured data. There are many titles for people who work in data science, with one of the more common being a data architect. This line of work tends to involve a lot of sitting behind a computer screen and the use of analytical thinking. Because data architects are in such high demand, they usually make good money. Let’s take a closer look at what a data architect is and how to become one.

What Is a Data Architect?

A data architect starts out projects by first examining the needs of his or her employer. Communication with employees and users of the employer’s databases will take place; these discussions will shed light on the parts of the database that need to be analyzed or altered. Once goals are set, the data architect then creates a blueprint of how architectural data changes are going to take place; this may include changing interfaces, building completely new database software from code, or even integrating two or more platforms together.

Much of a data architect’s time is spent building code. Creating a database from code can be extremely time-consuming and complex, but data architects are able to troubleshoot and create solutions to any complexities. As databases are being created, it is imperative that a data architect stays in regular communication with the employer to ensure expectations are being met. The types of databases being created can greatly vary, including inventory management systems, payroll software, and more.

Because databases are so pertinent to the overall operational success of a company, a single mistake in the architecture can cost millions of dollars. Data architects must have a keen eye for caution and detail. The coding that the architect creates must be strong and ensure the stored data is not retrieval by outside sources. While creating coding, however, that keeps hackers out, this same coding must allow existing employer platforms to be integrated. With all database systems integrated with one another, this gives an employer a bird’s eye view of its entire operation.

Common responsibilities of data architects include:

  • Evaluate data management needs
  • Assess existing data technologies
  • Create new data technologies/software
  • Coding
  • Develop data models
  • Collaborate with clients and users
  • Integrate new systems with each other

Where Do Data Architects Find Employment?

Most data architects have found employment through companies specializing in computer systems design, Internet service, and data processing. Insurance companies and financial institutions also employ a large number of data architects. The work environment may vary from one industry to another, but generally, data architects work on electronic devices, such as a computer, to perform their tasks. Much time is also spent, however, in meetings with clients and employers.

How to Become a Data Architect?

To become a data architect, you don’t necessarily need a degree. Some employers will even hire you without a high school diploma if you are good enough at coding. Most employers, though, will prefer at least a bachelor’s degree. And according to, 48 percent of data scientists hold a Ph.D., meaning if you want to keep up with the competition, you are going to need an advanced degree.

Before you decide on the exact degree you are going to earn, it is advised that you take a look at your options. There are more than 60 degree programs in the United States that you can enroll in to become a data scientist. These degree programs, however, will vary in their flexibility. For example, some may allow you to complete all of your coursework online, while some may require you to visit the school’s campus from time to time. Your lifestyle and individual preferences will help determine which program is best for you.

Ideally, you will start out by earning a bachelor’s in computer science. If you prefer, you can enroll in a computer engineering program. The primary topics that you want your undergraduate degree to focus on include:

  • Big data development
  • Technology architectures
  • Systems analysis
  • Data management
  • Programming and coding

Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree, you will then move on to a master’s program, followed then by a doctorate-level program.

Skills of a Successful Data Architect

There are a variety of technical and business skills that you will need to be a successful data architect. If you aren’t an analytical thinker, then this probably isn’t a good career choice. Technical skills that you will need to master include:

  • Machine learning
  • Coding
  • Data mining
  • ETL tools
  • Data visualization
  • Hadoop and NoSQL databases
  • Data modeling tools
  • Archival software
  • Application server software
  • Query software

Business skills that you need to master are:

  • Industry knowledge
  • Effective communication
  • Analytical problem-solving
  • Expert management

Salary Expectations of a Data Architect

According to, those working in data science tend to earn an average of more than $116,000 a year. During entry in this field of work, you will likely start out making around $92,000. As you gain experience, though, your pay will likely increase because you will be better suited for higher-paying positions.

Schools That Offer Data Architect Programs

  • Belmont University
  • Fisher College
  • Park University
  • Syracuse University
  • SUNY College at Oswego
  • University of Kansas

The Takeaway

Data scientists are highly intellectual. And while many skills of successful data architects come naturally, there is still a lot of analytical thinking that must take place. Becoming this type of architect will take you anywhere from four to eight-plus years. Fortunately, student aid, including grants and loans, can be used to pay for your schooling. There’s never been a better time to start your educational path to become a data architect, and that time is now.

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