A data architect is becoming a key role in today’s data-driven job market.
All organizations, big and small, store their important information in a database. These organizations rely on databases to access, manage, manipulate, and update information to aid decision-making, analyze markets, examine consumer data, and much more. When it comes to the design and development of crucial databases, organizations turn to professionals known as data architects.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nearly 14,000 job openings for data architects each year between 2020 and 2030. An increased need for organized data and continued use of cloud services, especially by businesses that lack their own IT departments, are seen as major reasons for this predicted job growth. The BLS reports that a bachelor’s degree is typically needed to become a data architect. Some companies prefer candidates who hold a master’s degree from a program focusing on data or data management.
Data Architect Degree
Some schools offer an associate’s degree program in information technology focusing on database administration or database management. However, these programs might be used primarily to prepare for further studies at the bachelor’s degree level rather than career preparation, even for entry-level positions. An associate’s degree might also be sufficient if you have work experience in a related area, such as programming or networking.
Few schools offer bachelor’s degrees in data management. Most commonly, aspiring data architects pursue a Bachelor of Science in Data Science. However, other programs such as the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics also contain courses addressing relevant topics in data architecture and database management.
Courses that data architects would focus on at the bachelor’s degree level include:
- Data Structures
- Data Analytics
- Data Mining
- Data Modeling
- Data Visualization
- Cloud Architecture
- Artificial Intelligence
- Big Data Management
- Computer Architecture
- Database Administration
- Database Management Systems
You could also expect to take linear algebra, statistics, programming, probability, and discrete mathematics classes.
While some companies might prefer candidates who hold a master’s degree to begin working in data architecture, a master’s could be necessary for any professional seeking advancement to senior management or executive positions. As with bachelor’s degree programs, no schools offer a Master of Science in data architecture; instead, you’ll find various programs in related areas containing courses in database design, database administration, and data analytics.
Some master’s degrees that you might consider are:
- Master of Science in Data Science
- Master of Science in Data Analytics
- Master of Science in Computer Science
- Master of Science in Information Science
- Master of Business Administration – Data Analytics
- Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology
- Master of Science in Information Systems – Database Administration
- Master of Science in Information Technology – Database Administration
Some courses you are likely to find in the curricula of these master’s degree programs include decision analytics, predictive analytics, information systems analysis, information security, advanced database management, and enterprise architecture.
Many master’s degree programs are available in a 100% online or hybrid format, allowing you to pursue this advanced degree while maintaining your professional schedule and other obligations.
In some programs, internships are available to bachelor’s and master’s students. Internships can be found with many large companies, such as IBM, Facebook, and Wells Fargo, and provide the opportunity to apply concepts and practices studied through the curricula.
How to Become a Data Architect
By most accounts, your first step toward realizing a career as a data architect is to obtain a relevant bachelor’s degree, as those described above. Courses you should be sure to take include those addressing database design, cloud computing, and data modeling. Many job postings for a data architect call for candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree.
While some colleges might offer associate’s degrees and even certificates in data analytics, database management, and data science, these might be used in some cases to obtain entry-level positions, if you find a company willing to accept this level of education or to prepare for degree studies.
Bootcamps in data science, data analytics, or similar areas offer quick education in programming, modeling, forecasting, data visualization, big data, and other data architecture and management aspects. These can help you build basic skills in much less time than it would take to earn a degree. You might develop strong enough skills to enter the field; however, an advancement may depend on obtaining a four-year or graduate degree.
Data Architect Certifications
Certifications are an effective way to demonstrate your knowledge and abilities in data architecture. These certifications are obtained mainly by passing an exam, though some might first require completing a course.
Some certifications are offered by large technology companies as well as professional organizations. For instance, the IBM Certified Solution Architect – Cloud Pak for Data v4.x certification shows one’s adeptness at designing solutions in a cloud environment. The IBM Certified Solution Architect – Data Warehouse V1 certification is used for professionals who wish to emphasize their proficiency in data warehousing, data storage, visualization, modeling, and analytics. And the Big Data Professional certification is administered by SAS, an analytics solutions company, and underscores one’s abilities in data manipulation, access, and analytics.
Other professional certifications related to data architecture include:
- Google Professional Data Engineer: shows an ability to design, develop, and maintain data processing systems.
- Data Science Council of America Senior Big Data Engineer: reinforces one’s depth of knowledge in streaming data storage, streaming data architectures, machine learning, and big data analytics.
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Data Analytics – Specialty: validates the ability to understand and integrate AWS data analytics services, from data collection and storage to processing and visualization.
What Does a Data Architect Do?
From analyzing data sources and structures to designing and implementing databases, it is up to a data architect to store, manage, protect, and maintain data for all types of organizations. Essentially, data architects conceptualize the framework by which a database is developed; then, a data engineer will build this framework based on a data architect’s visualization.
As outlined by Indeed.com, a data architect’s responsibilities might be listed as follows:
- Identifying installation solutions for new databases
- Determining the requirements for a new database
- Publishing or presenting design reports
- Identifying areas for improvement in current systems
- Coordinating with other team members to reach project milestones and deadlines
- Auditing database regularly to maintain quality
- Creating systems to keep data secure
An example of a data architect job description as seen in an actual job posting follows:
– Collaborate with the IT department and the business to understand their processes and requirements associated with the data.
– Lead the design of the data models and effectively communicate reasoning and structure of the new design.
– Build data models utilizing data modeling tool ERWIN (conceptual, logical, physical)
– Consult and build on cloud data architecture utilizing best practices (Azure).
– Design meta-data capture from modeling in Erwin in the new cloud environment.
- Design and construct large relational databases
- Integrate new systems with existing in-house structure
- Perform security assessment for potential risks
- Refine system performance and functionality
- Provide architecture guidance and support to technical leads
- Research new technologies and develop proofs of concept
- Previous experience in database architecture, development, or other related fields
- Experience with relational databases, such as MySQL, Oracle, and SQL Server
- Strong analytical and critical thinking skills
- Ability to prioritize and multitask
- Deadline and detail-oriented
- Must have experience working with ERWIN and Azure
Other skills commonly seen in data architect job posts include problem-solving, creativity, communication, math, and leadership.
Related job titles include solution architect; cloud architect, data designer; and business intelligence architect. Those who obtain the necessary skills and an advanced degree could move into a senior data architect role. They would oversee integration processes, manage data flow, and lead teams that optimize data and create solutions.
Once obtaining at least a bachelor’s degree, as discussed earlier, other career paths to consider are data engineer, data analyst, data scientist, big data engineer, database manager, and business intelligence manager.
The BLS reports that as of May 2020, the annual median salary of a data architect is $98,860. The highest salaries are seen in computer systems design, banking, software publishing, and data processing.
New Jersey ($124,470), Washington ($115,800), and the District of Columbia ($113,760) are the three top-paying states for data architects. California ($112,870) and Massachusetts ($111,690) round out the top five. According to Salary.com, the average salary for a senior data architect is $121,290 as of December 2021. Among metropolitan areas that see the highest employment levels of data architects are: New York, NY; Newark, NJ; Los Angeles; Dallas; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta.