Data Science

How to Become a Data Architect

How to Become a Data Architect
Data architects are the designers and managers of the electronic databases that hold information and keep it organized. Image from Unsplash
Kayla Matthews profile
Kayla Matthews February 13, 2019

Becoming a data architect is a smart financial choice. The average starting salary is quite high — and earnings increase substantially with experience.

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If you’re fascinated by data and its related infrastructure, working as a data architect could be an ideal career path for you. Increasingly, companies are paying close attention to the insights hidden in compiled data — and they’re showing bigger profits as a result. But handling such information would be impossible without the work of dedicated data architects.

Keep reading to learn how to make a difference in business and become a data architect.

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What Does a Data Architect Do?

Data architects are the designers and managers of the electronic databases that hold information and keep it organized. These professionals have to take a big-picture approach; as part of their job, they decide how best to maintain databases and how to make the content usable for businesses and other clients.

Often, data architects must create or edit a blueprint for updating current infrastructures. In this way, they contribute to a business’ overall strategy and the manner in which its information is disseminated to team members.

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“I’m Interested in Data Science!”

Data science professionals can use their knowledge and skills in many ways and in almost every industry. You might specialize in business intelligence or robotics or healthcare informatics. There are almost too many options.

90 percent of data scientists hold master’s degrees, and 47 percent hold doctoral degrees. (source)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics sets median data scientist annual pay at just over $100,000. Top-paying sectors include (source):

- Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing ($148,290)
- Semiconductor and other electronic equipment manufacturing ($142,150)
- Specialized information services ($139,600)
- Data processing, hosting, and related services ($126,160)
- Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, payroll services ($124,440)


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What Are the Skills of a Data Architect?

A data architect needs both technical and people skills to thrive in the role. From a technical standpoint, experience with database processing and management software (such as Hadoop and Cassandra) is important — but the preferred software used by data architects changes over time, so don’t restrict yourself to learning only one kind of software as a prospective data architect. What is popular today might not be popular tomorrow.

Data architects learn numerous programming languages. Python is most popular programming language, according to data published in 2018, but data analysts warn that it will not replace other still-prominent languages — which include Java and C++. If you’re not proficient in a programming language yet, consider starting with Python and working from there as you grow your skills.

As a data architect, you’ll also need to translate your vision for a database into words that nontechnical people can understand. For example, if you’re meeting with a business leader who is not tech-savvy, you may still need to convey your plans in an accessible and simple manner. For this reason, communication skills are essential — especially when directing a team.

Being able to look at specific details and understand how those factors fit into a larger vision is another useful skill for a data architect to possess. This is particularly important for assessing a company’s current database infrastructure and determining what changes are needed.

In your research to learn how to be a data architect, you’ll likely see mentions of other related roles — data/ analyst and scientist. Expect to work alongside such professionals; you will be in charge of creating the databases that they will work with on a regular basis.
What Education Do Data Architects Need?

If you’re interested in a data architect role, it’s ideal to start with a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. One such area is computer/ science. Computer engineering and information/ technology are also fields of study that prepare students to work as data architects.

Keep in mind that many aspects of a data architect role will require problem-solving. Ideally, your coursework features assignments that make you think outside the box and come up with creative solutions.

To prepare for a career as a data architect, it is helpful to supplement your schooling with internships. Future employers always want to see evidence of real-world experience, and internships help complete that part of your resumé.

If you have your sights set on higher-than-average salary and leadership roles, consider/ earning a master’s degree in addition to your bachelor’s. An advanced academic route may also be wise if you hope to demonstrate to future employers that you possess the dedication required to complete rigorous schooling. If your goal is to work at a large or prestigious company, a master’s degree will be especially advantageous.

Beyond schooling, it will be necessary to stay up-to-date on the technologies that are most likely to disrupt the data architect role in the near future. One of these is 5G, a network capable of offering speeds up to 1,000 times faster than the U.S. average. 5G also has the potential to increase the volume of avenues for collecting data, giving cloud architects more information than ever before with which to operate.

As a data architect, you will monitor current developments in cloud computing. An increasing amount of data gets stored in the cloud, and some of your future responsibilities may involve evaluating methods for moving information from a physical storage environment to a cloud-based one. In such instances, you’ll likely work closely with cloud architects.

Where Do Data Architects Work?

In learning more about how to become a data architect, you may have noticed that there are virtually no limits to where you might work.

Job listings for data architects on Indeed feature some big-name companies, like Accenture and Amazon, as well as a number of small- to medium-sized companies across industries ranging from tech to health care. Wile many of the jobs are in cities like San Francisco and New York, numerous other possibilities exist across the country. Whether you prefer big cities or places less busy, you’ll have plenty of job options as a data architect.

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What Is the Typical Data Architect Salary?

Becoming a data architect can be a smart financial choice, as the opportunity for substantial earnings increases with experience. The average entry-level salary for data architects is $over $84K, and most mid-career data architects earn an annual salary of over $112K. If your resume offers additional and complementary skills, such as expertise in data analysis, your earnings potential will grow.

In today’s digital landscape, companies are increasingly recognizing the need to store their data in a strategic manner. As such, data architect are in demand. Is becoming a data architect the right career path for you?

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

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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