How to Become a Software Architect

Software architects design computer systems and applications.

The expanding role of computers in everyday life has created numerous job opportunities, one of the best being that of software architect. Software architects are sometimes called computer programmers or developers, and in some companies there is some separation between the roles. A software architect’s primary responsibility is to design software systems and applications, much as a building architect designs buildings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a software developer in 2010 was $90,530. Job growth is expected to be faster than average between 2010 and 2020, with the BLS estimate at 30 percent growth.

    Get a college degree in computer science or information technology. The minimum education requirement for a software architect is a bachelor’s degree in one of these areas. Most community colleges and technical schools offer degree programs in one or both. The classes for these programs include general computer knowledge, computer programming, program design and systems analysis. Computer science programs are typically more directed at the programming aspect.

    Enroll in classes at a private training company. Several companies offer classes that may span a couple of days or even a week. These classes typically go for eight hours a day and are expensive. However, the amount of knowledge covered in a week is comparable to a semester college class. Classes such as Visual Basic, COBOL, Java and C++ teach the basics of working in each of the languages, giving you a foundation to build upon.

    Get certified in a programming language. Several companies and certifying organizations award certifications for passing tests on a given programming language. Employers like certifications since they represent a third party’s confirmation that you know a computer programming language well enough to pass a test. Certification tests are not easy and require that you know the content. The passing criteria is typically an 85 percent or better score on the test.

    Get some experience with a programming language. Design and build an application for someone at a reduced rate, just for the experience. Experience is highly valued by potential employers, and if you can prove that you have valid programming experience, you are more likely to get that software architect job.

2016 Salary Information for Software Developers

Software developers earned a median annual salary of $102,370 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, software developers earned a 25th percentile salary of $78,570, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $129,310, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,256,300 people were employed in the U.S. as software developers.

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