Data Science

How Much Do Data Architects Earn?

How Much Do Data Architects Earn?
According to the most recent findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for data architects is $109,020 per year—regardless of level of experience. Image from Unsplash
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Katie Marcus June 4, 2019

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First Things First: What Is a Data Architect?

At some point in the last decade, the data-breach became the modern day bank heist. Data is the currency of the digital world, and it’s worth its weight in gold.

The average consumer has personal information stored in the hands of dozens of third-party companies. This information can be stolen and then sold on the dark web to hungry scammers (Equifax, anyone?), but it can also be used for good: companies glean critical insights from the thoughtful analysis of consumer data, and use it to build products for which there is already a data-demonstrated demand.

Data architects: Design, build and oversee the massive structures that collect, store and safeguard our precious data. It’s a complex job that requires a lot of technical training, but it’s time well-spent, especially when you think about earnings within the field.

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How Much Do Data Architects Earn?

According to the most recent findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for data architects is $109,020 per year—regardless of level of experience. Payscale offers a clearer pictures of how experience impacts earning potential, putting entry-level data architects at an average salary of $86,130, and mid-career data architects at an average of $103,296 per year.

What Impacts a Data Architect’s Salary?

Where You Work.
Compensation is, of course, also impacted by demand—which, for IT and technology jobs varies widely by where you live. For example:

  • In San Francisco, data architects make an average of $160,426 per year
  • In New York, data architects make an average of $140,350 per year
  • In Chicago, the average data architect makes $111,335 pear year—a great salary by any measure, but also significantly lower than the average salary on either coast, where competition in tech is fierce.

Who You Work For.
Another way to anticipate earnings is by industry.

  • The highest-paying industry for data architects is Internet and Technology, according to Glassdoor. At internet and technology companies that produce software or electronic hardware, or provide internet services, data architects earn an average salary of $138,406 per year.
  • The second-highest average salary for data architects is found in Energy and Utilities, where data architects make an average of $132,609 per year working for companies that provide basic services like water and sewage services, and natural gas delivery.
  • Consulting, Biotech and Banking industries compensate data architects around $130,000 on average. The lowest-paying industry for data architects is Media and Publishing, which offers an average salary of $83,013 per year.

What You Know.
Education is important but not the most crucial factor in determining a data architect’s salary. Almost every entry level data architect will have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a similar field. While many higher-seniority data architects hold graduate degrees, they’re not always a must—five to ten years of experience in specific functions of data architecture is equally as valuable.

What Can I Expect to Do Each Day as a Data Architect?

There are a lot of similar-sounding jobs in the technology world, and it can be easy to get data architects confused with cloud engineers, data engineers, or cybercrime investigators.

In reality, there is overlap between these positions—both in terms of skills and work experience—and they often work on the same cross-functional teams within a company. Data architects are tasked with:

  • Designing and building a communication network’s process of data collection, storage, and access—and providing solutions to issues that may occur along the way.
  • Controlling the flow of data, to ensure that data is accessible to those who need it. Because of this, data architects must be highly skilled with technical systems and proficient in languages designed for data captures, such as SQL and XML. Fluency in a data-storage software frameworks, like Hadoop, is a skill that most data architects working for large companies will need.
  • Serving as in-house experts on data science, consulting other engineering teams within their company on best practices to build and design products and applications that facilitate successful data collection and analytics.

What Degrees Do You Need to Become a Data Architect?

An entry-level data architect has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, information technology, or a related field. Those hoping to jump into the workforce straight out of college should strongly consider landing internships to gain hands-on problem-solving experience. While a quality education is important in tech, experience and demonstrable expertise go a long way in setting you apart from other applicants.

A master’s degree is a great option to consider when leveling-up as a data architect. Candidates with graduate-level educations are more likely to manage direct reports and lead cross-functional teams. Some of the top master’s degree in computer science programs include:

Other popular graduate degrees for this field include information systems, information and communications technology, or even an MBA with a concentration in one of the above fields.

For those who are in between undergraduate and graduate programs or simply looking for a skill boost, the Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) certificate is a well-known credential for data architects. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree and two years of work experience to qualify.

What’s the Typical Career Path?

Due to the demanding work and mission-critical responsibility that this profession holds, most data architects are hired once they’ve acquired demonstrable skills in database management. This is part of the reason why the average salary is so high; companies like to see at least a few years of hands-on work experience in related fields like programming and database administration before hiring a data architect.

While most data architects earn around $100,000, team leaders or “chief data architects” can easily make more than $200,000 per year. According to Glassdoor, senior data architects at Amazonmake about $150,000 a year, and principal data architects at Amazon make close to $200,000. The company prefers candidates to have a graduate-level education and at least 10 years of IT experience.

Where Are the Best Data Architect Jobs?

Tech giants like Amazon and Facebook are always looking for top data architects to join their teams.

But who else is hiring?

  • Higher education, surprisingly, holds some of the most significant opportunities for data architects. Universities track of huge amounts of information about students, faculty, and staff as they travel through the various departments of a school (think admissions, financial aid, course registration, transcript tracking—it’s a lot of data). A Glassdoor search for Data Architects in the Education and Schools industry reveals high-paying openings at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Washington.
  • Wayfair is hiring a data architect who can pair data science with business development to determine key business metrics. This role’s estimated salary is between $95,000 and $138,000.
  • Shell is hiring a data architect with an estimated salary between $110,000 and $158,000. Applicants should expect to build relationships and manage stakeholders as they work alongside Shell’s IT teams.
  • Procter & Gamble is hiring a senior data architect to shape future marketing technologies and harness data to develop deeper relationships with their customers. This role’s estimated salary is between $100,000 and $141,000.

Think you have what it takes?

Do you have the data-driven mindset it takes to make it as a data architect? Do you love helping businesses find efficiencies through the intelligent capture and analysis of raw data? If so, you’re in luck—companies are paying closer attention to the insights gleaned from data. And using that information to their benefit is impossible without people like you.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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