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Computer Architect: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a computer architect. Learn about job duties, educational requirements, salary, and career outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Computer Architect?

Computer architects rely on their knowledge of hardware, software, systems, and network platforms to address a variety of business needs. The main goal of these professionals is to use their skills to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of computer systems for a variety of uses, such as banking, finance, sales, scientific research, and more while keeping in mind network safety as a key goal. They must analyze systems for issues and devise inventive new solutions to problems as they are identified. They must work with programmers to fix problems in software and replace and upgrade hardware as necessary.

The table below includes important details about becoming a computer architect.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer science, information technology
Key Skills Problem-solving, technical, programming
Job Growth (2018-2028) 9% (for all computer systems analysts)*
Median Salary (2019) $122,421 (for computer architects)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Do Computer Architects Do?

Computer architects, also called system analysts, apply specialized knowledge of computer hardware and software structure to help optimize the performance of computer systems. These can include financial, point of sale, scientific, and banking systems.

As an expert in computer architecture, you help design computer systems, target the effectiveness of the system and conduct in-depth analysis to diagnose problems and system shortcomings. Once you identify areas where improvement is necessary, you can add hardware, update, or reconfigure firmware, operating systems, and applications, and work with computer programmers to fix problems. You might also be called on to repair, update, or adjust current programs, settings, and network connectivity, as well as provide general system troubleshooting and security analysis.

Since computer security has become a major concern, you need to be able to analyze and implement network safety features. This typically requires knowledge and experience configuring, troubleshooting, and installing virtual private networks (VPN), firewalls, or other security and antivirus applications on Linux, Windows, or Mac platforms.

What Training Should I Get?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you'll typically need to hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field (www.bls.gov). Since this is a position that requires some expertise in a number of disciplines, employers might place more value on your technical knowledge and experience rather than your level of education. You can often demonstrate your proficiency with professional certification through industry organizations, such as CompTIA, or hardware and software vendors, such as Microsoft or Cisco.

It also helps if you have some educational background in the industry you want to work in. For instance, if you plan to work in a bank, investment firm, or accounting office, it could help if you choose elective coursework in banking or finance.

What Skills Do I Need?

As a computer architect, you should be experienced with a number of computer systems, platforms, and networks in order to help develop, configure, and harden applications and systems that meet your employer's specific needs. You might need to be able to develop software or methods for connecting different types of computers or operating system platforms. This requires knowledge of technology methodologies, system architecture, and network infrastructure, as well as some knowledge of computer programming languages and the ability to analyze software, network, and hardware connectivity. Since you provide highly technical services and serve as a facilitator, it's crucial for you to have strong business negotiation skills and the ability to communicate complex technical procedures to outsiders and coworkers in clear and understandable language.

How Much Can I Make?

Your salary can vary based on your experience and level of expertise in certain technologies. The BLS reported in 2018 that all computer systems analysts - including computer architects - earned an annual median salary of $88,740. In 2019, Payscale.com reported that computer hardware and software architects earned a mean salary of $122,421. According to the BLS, job opportunities were anticipated to increase 9% from 2018-2028, which is faster than average. Those who have business knowledge of the field in which they plan to work should have the greatest prospects.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

IT project managers run the information technology division within a company, organizing teams of professionals to realize the IT goals of a company and improve existing systems already in use. Computer programmers write the code that instructs computers and applications how to function, rewriting as needed to correct errors and improve efficiency. Database administrators use encryption software to keep digital files secure from unauthorized use while providing an easy way for users to access data. All of these jobs require bachelor's degrees.