Computer Science

How to Become an Enterprise Architect

How to Become an Enterprise Architect
If being the mastermind behind an entire company's use of information technology appeals to you, you may want to consider becoming an enterprise architect. Image from Unsplash
Eddie Huffman profile
Eddie Huffman December 21, 2022

Help businesses navigate the shifting seas of today's technology by becoming an enterprise architect. These professionals bridge the enterprise and IT worlds, combining technical expertise with business savvy, a knack for big-picture thinking, and strong leadership skills.

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The good news: Companies have more information about their markets and processes than ever before.

The bad news: Companies have more information about their markets and processes than ever before.

The world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day (and yes, “quintillion” is a real number—it’s a 1 followed by 18 zeros.) That’s a wealth of information, buried in which are invaluable business, science, and sociological insights. But how to tease them out of overwhelming data sets?

Enterprise architects help organizations order and structure seas of info to make it manageable and useful. And that’s just a part of their responsibilities. They also handle big-picture IT duties, managing the oversight and improvement of software and hardware.

Various job specialties fall under the umbrella of data management, including:

Enterprise architects stand above all of those positions and duties, keeping a hand in each and making sure an organization has the tools it needs. That’s why the job requires years of experience and education.

So, what are the steps to become an enterprise architect? This article enumerates them and also discusses:

  • What is an enterprise architect?
  • How to become an enterprise architect?
  • Master’s degree or certifications?

What is an enterprise architect?

The enterprise architect role sits near the top of an IT department, and with great IT power comes great IT responsibility. They “do nothing less than ensure that technology and business goals align,” according Red Hat.

Who hires enterprise architects? Any business or organization that has a substantial IT infrastructure—meaning most large businesses and organizations. Recent job listings for enterprise architects include tech companies (Pinterest), manufacturers (tire maker Bridgestone), pharmaceuticals (AstraZeneca), regional staffing companies, insurance companies (Allstate), financial services (Citizen), and government agencies (Indiana Public Retirement System).

Enterprise architects have a long list of duties that enable them to assume weighty and complex responsibilities. That list may include:

  • Maintaining and upgrading systems and networking infrastructure
  • Monitoring, recommending, and implementing technological improvements
  • Optimizing information management systems
  • Developing standards and policies for using IT assets
  • Monitoring and addressing vulnerabilities in efficiency, performance, or security
  • Educating employees on using IT products

Some enterprise architect positions have additional responsibilities; others will have fewer. But all require a bird’s-eye view, as the London School of Economics CIO told ZDnet. “Your enterprise architect should be looking at what the business develops and they should know what the business does really well, and be able to articulate that in systems, processes, and business views,” Laura Dawson said.

Compterscience.org lays out a typical day on the job for an enterprise architect. Activities include making a presentation on a new IT architecture project, troubleshooting problems with IT architecture, completing a hardware upgrade, and attending a webinar on a current issue in IT architecture.

At a smaller company, an enterprise architect might handle a wide variety of roles. At larger companies multiple architects might take on more specific roles. Project Management Institute (PMI) breaks those roles down as follows:

  • Enterprise architect
  • Chief enterprise architect (an enterprise architect with additional leadership responsibilities)
  • Architecture owner (guides teams in architecture/solutioning decisions)
  • Chief architecture owner (usually a senior architecture owner who leads at the program level)
  • Specialized architect (focus on a particular aspect of the enterprise architecture)

The high level of responsibility borne by enterprise architects usually comes with a six-figure salary. Red Hat lists the average annual income at $156,000, while Payscale puts the average salary at $139,676, with a range of $98,000 to $177,000. Indeed lists an even higher range—$53,000 to $267,000 per year—with a $139,857 average.

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How to become an enterprise architect

Long-term career planning is a must in becoming an enterprise architect. You’ll most likely need a Bachelor of Science degree, multiple certifications, and years of experience doing high-level IT work. Some positions will require a master’s degree and some may even seek PhDs.

Step 1: Go to college

The first step on your career path: Earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, IT management, data science, or a related field. A master’s degree will also help you land a job as an enterprise architect. More on that below.

Step 2: Get certified

Some specialty certifications will serve you well, though requirements vary from employer to employer. Examples of certifications that may be helpful in becoming an enterprise architect include:

Step 3: Go to work

Don’t expect to become an enterprise architect right out of college. Most jobs require a minimum of five to 10 years of experience with IT systems, according to CIO magazine. Enterprise architects are expected to have a broad range of skills. Here are some sample requirements from a variety of recent job listings:

  • Experience with enterprise level Cloud applications (i.e., Oracle Cloud ERP, EPM, HCM) and modern cloud-based integration tools (i.e., Azure Integration Service)
  • Proven experience with overall solution architecture including business architecture, application architecture, data integration architecture, and software solution architecture domains
  • Experience implementing enterprise technology, including in collaborative environments
  • Act as a technical liaison between the customer and vendor, providing technical expertise in analyzing requirements, recommending solutions and performing validation on various components built within the new cloud environment
  • Experience with rationalization, consolidation, and integration across business domains

Other important attributes for enterprise architects include such soft skills as creative problem solving and communication skills. PMI lists several key skills:

  • Work closely with stakeholders, including senior leaders and solution-delivery teams
  • Share skills and knowledge to help team members improve
  • Understand both the business and the technology that supports it
  • Learn a variety of specialties
  • Work directly on implementation, don’t just direct others
  • Present real-world examples, not just detailed documents
  • Plan ahead, but proceed with caution
  • Remain flexible in working with teams and implementing changes
  • Stay on top of technical debt

Master’s degree or certifications?

Not every enterprise architect job requires a master’s degree, but having one may give you a competitive advantage in the workforce. Some jobs also require significantly fewer years of work experience for candidates with a master’s degree. Schools like Tufts University and Stevens Institute of Technology offer master’s degrees in data science, and both offer the option to earn a degree entirely online.

You may want to consider more than computer-related grad school options. A Master of Business Administration could also serve you well in pursuing a career as an enterprise architect, according to Business News Daily.

Industry certifications like the ones mentioned above can serve as a substitute for an advanced degree. While certifications may not convey the same advantages as a master’s, they can boost your chances of getting hired and increase your earning potential above an undergraduate degree alone.

(Updated on February 20, 2024)

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About the Author

Eddie Huffman is the author of John Prine: In Spite of Himself and a forthcoming biography of Doc Watson. He has written for Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Utne Reader, All Music Guide, Goldmine, the Virgin Islands Source, and many other publications.

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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