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How To Become a Software Architect
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Building the Blueprint: How To Become a Software Architect

11 minute read | August 14, 2023
Monica J. White

Written by:
Monica J. White & reviewed by Akita Emmanuel

Monica J. White

Reviewed by:
Akita Emmanuel

Ready to launch your career?

A proficient software architect crafts robust, efficient software systems that cater to the specific needs of businesses or projects, ensuring their long-term success. Due to their critical role in shaping software foundations, the demand for skilled architects remains consistently high, leading to well-compensated positions throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

But the path to becoming a software architect isn’t always straightforward, and it often involves a blend of education, hands-on experience, and continuous learning. Many people choose to complete a college degree in computer science to build a strong foundation, while others, especially those transitioning from another career, look for alternative forms of online education.

If you want to know how to become a software architect, start with this guide. Below, we’ll dive into the details of what you need to learn and how to study, so you can master the skills that will land you your dream job.

What Does a Software Architect Do?

Software architects are responsible for designing the blueprints of complex software systems. In addition to thinking about technical requirements, they also have to ensure their architectures meet business objectives. Their primary goal is to create scalable, robust, and efficient solutions that can adapt to evolving needs while minimizing risks and costs.

Software architects have a significant impact on the success of projects, as their decisions lay the foundation for the entire software development process. Daily tasks for a software architect may include conducting design reviews, guiding a team of developers, and troubleshooting complex issues. They also collaborate with stakeholders— including developers, product managers, and clients—to understand project goals and constraints.

How To Become a Software Architect: A 7-Step Guide

Every software architect has to start somewhere. In the below guide, we’ll start at the very beginning, covering everything from the foundational education you need to the network you’ll build.

  1. Invest in Your Education (and Take a Course)

  2. Explore Software Developer, Software Engineer, or Related Roles To Acquire the Relevant and Necessary Experience

  3. Build Your Skillset

  4. Learn the Essential Tools

  5. Keep Learning To Grow Your Technical Expertise (and Consider a Mentor)

  6. Your Network Is Your Net Worth

  7. Land a Job as a Software Architect

Invest in Your Education (and Take a Course)

The first step to becoming a software architect is learning the skills of the trade. It’s not something you can finish in a week, but it is something you can start today. Before you start looking into schools and paid courses, you can explore the basics through free resources and find out if software architecture is right for you. Here are just some of the areas you’ll cover throughout your education:

  • Programming languages (Java, Python, C#, JavaScript)
  • Software design patterns (Singleton, Factory, Observer, MVC)
  • System design
  • Data structures and algorithms (arrays, linked lists, trees, sorting, searching)
  • Cloud computing (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud)
  • Security
  • Networking
  • Testing and quality assurance
  • Version control
  • DevOps
  • Containers and container orchestration (Docker, Kubernetes)
  • API design

Even if you’re already familiar with programming languages and data structures, there are plenty of other areas you’ll need to look into. You can explore free resources for as long as you want but when you start to feel motivated and ready for more, you should consider enrolling in a more comprehensive course.

This could be a computer science course at a college, or an online software engineering bootcamp. Both have their own advantages, such as the widespread acceptance of formal degrees, versus the accessibility, affordability, and accelerated curriculum of bootcamps.

If you go the online route, there are a few things to consider. One of the easiest ways to find reputable and quality coding bootcamps is to check dedicated review sites like Course Report, Switch Up, and Career Karma.

It’s also good to know what features to look out for yourself, so you can spot a promising course when you look through its website. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the skills taught align with the skills employers are looking for on job posts
  • Look out for courses that offer specializations like web development or a specific programming language
  • Always prioritize bootcamps that offer comprehensive career support that ensures you can talk to real humans about your unique circumstances
  • Look for courses that offer 1-on-1 mentoring 

Explore Software Developer, Software Engineer, or Related Roles To Acquire the Relevant and Necessary Experience

Aspiring software architects often work in other tech roles to get exposure to different aspects of software development, project management, and problem-solving. This diverse experience helps them develop a holistic understanding of software systems, which they’ll need to transition into the software architect role. Not only is the experience essential to your growth, but it’s also essential for your resume. Most companies want to see some former tech experience from a potential software architect. Here are some other roles you can look into:

Build Your Skillset

The skills you need to work as a software architect are many and varied. Technical skills, domain knowledge, interpersonal skills, project manager skills, and many other soft skills play important roles in making software architects proficient at their job. Here’s what you need to know:

Technical Skills

No matter how you go about acquiring them, it’s important to have these technical skills:

  • Programming: A software architect needs proficiency in multiple programming languages, as they may need to evaluate which language is best suited for a particular project or design. Each language has its strengths and weaknesses, and understanding them helps in making informed decisions.
  • Software design patterns: Design patterns are proven solutions to common software design problems. Architects should be well-versed in various design patterns to apply the most appropriate ones in different situations, leading to more maintainable and extensible software.
  • Architectural styles: Different projects may require different architectural styles. For instance, microservices architecture is suitable for large and complex systems, while monolithic architecture may be appropriate for smaller projects. A software architect should know when and how to apply each style effectively.
  • System design and analysis: Software architects need strong analytical skills to gather and understand business requirements, translate this into technical specifications, and design the overall system architecture that meets those needs.
  • Database management: Technical knowledge of database systems and data modeling is essential for designing efficient, scalable, and well-organized databases that store and manage data effectively.
  • Cloud computing: Cloud platforms offer various services and tools to build scalable and resilient applications. Software architects should be familiar with cloud computing concepts and services to make informed decisions about cloud adoption and design.
  • API design: Well-designed APIs promote seamless integration and interoperability with other systems, making this skill vital for architects working on distributed applications.
  • SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle): Understanding various SDLC methodologies helps architects align their design processes with the overall development approach of the organization.
  • Software documentation: Clear and comprehensive documentation is essential for sharing architectural decisions and guiding the development team.
  • Diagramming: Diagramming skills facilitate effective communication of architectural concepts to stakeholders.

Soft Skills

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy
  • Negotiations
  • Time management
  • Decision-making 
  • Collaboration
  • Organizational skills
  • Conflict resolution 
  • Presentation skills
  • Mentoring
  • Customer focus
  • Strategic thinking

Learn the Essential Tools

The tools and technologies software architects use can vary from project to project and depend on the industry they work in. Here’s a list of some of the most well-known and commonly-used tools.

Development Languages

  • Java
  • Python 
  • C#
  • JavaScript
  • C++

Web Development Frameworks

  • Spring Framework (Java)
  • Django (Python)
  • ASP.NET (C#)
  • React.js (JavaScript)

Database Management

  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • Oracle Database 
  • Microsoft SQL Server

Back-End Technologies

  • Node.js (JavaScript)
  • Express.js (JavaScript)
  • Flask (Python)
  • Django REST framework (Python)

Cloud Platforms

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
  • IBM Cloud

Containerization and Orchestration

  • Docker
  • Kubernetes
  • Apache Mesos

API Design and Management

  • Swagger/OpenAPI
  • Postman
  • API Gateway (e.g., Amazon API Gateway)

Version Control

  • Git
  • GitHub
  • GitLab
  • Bitbucket

Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)

  • Jenkins
  • CircleCI
  • Travis CI
  • GitLab CI/CD

Testing and Quality Assurance

  • JUnit (Java)
  • pytest (Python)
  • NUnit (C#)
  • Jest (JavaScript)
  • Selenium
  • Jira
  • Bugzilla

DevOps Tools

  • Ansible
  • Chef
  • Puppet

Frontend Tools and Libraries

  • Webpack
  • Babel
  • Sass/SCSS
  • Bootstrap
  • Material-UI
  • jQuery

Microservices and API Gateways

  • Spring Cloud
  • Netflix OSS (Eureka, Zuul)
  • Istio
  • Kong

Keep Learning To Grow Your Technical Expertise (and Consider a Mentor)

Remember, a software architect is a senior role for experienced tech professionals, so you can’t just sit still after you’ve landed your first role in software. It’s essential that you keep building your knowledge, growing your technical expertise, and developing your professional reputation. To do this, you’ll need to learn from those around you. This is where a mentor can come in handy, as they’re someone who you can go to for technical guidance, career advice, and fresh perspectives. Check out the next section for ways you can find yourself a mentor.

Your Network Is Your Net Worth

Networking is talked about endlessly by everyone everywhere, and for good reason. The key to networking is jumping on opportunities. Your work will bring new people into your life all the time, but if you don’t make a move, the connection won’t last. Here are some ways to keep networking:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the best and easiest way to keep a connection going. Everyone has LinkedIn, and it’s easy to find the people you meet by searching for their names, looking for the right face, and double-checking the company and role. Once you’re connected, you can develop the working relationship however you see fit.

Conferences and Meet-Ups

Conferences and meet-ups are another great place to learn and meet other professionals. These events gather like-minded professionals and foster exchange and idea-sharing within the industry. By attending, you can get exposed to diverse perspectives, innovative practices, and emerging technologies.

Online Communities

When you’re starting out, online communities are one of the best places to be. Reddit, Slack, Discord, Stack Overflow, GitHub, Dev.to, and Hashnode are also places you can start your search.

Land a Job as a Software Architect

Your first role in tech isn’t going to be as a software architect role. But once you’ve built up enough experience and technical knowledge, you’ll be able to start applying for jobs or going for promotions within your current organization. And remember, the job title can vary based on the company or the specialization. Here are some of the possible variants:

  • Solutions Architect
  • Application Architect
  • Enterprise Architect
  • Systems Architect
  • Technical Architect
  • Software Design Engineer
  • Chief Architect
  • Platform Architect
  • Cloud Architect
  • Integration Architect
  • Infrastructure Architect
  • Data Architect
  • UX/UI Architect
  • Mobile Architect

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What Does the Career Path to Becoming a Software Architect Look Like?

The career path to becoming a software architect typically involves a progression through various roles and experiences that build the necessary skills and expertise. While the specific path can vary based on your preferences and the opportunities you come across, a common trajectory includes the following stages:

1. Entry-Level Software Developer: Most software architects start as entry-level developers. Here, they gain hands-on experience in programming, software design, and development practices.

2. Mid-Level Developer or Technical Lead: After gaining a few years of experience, developers may move into mid-level positions or take on technical lead roles. Technical leads start to take on more responsibilities, such as guiding development teams and making architectural decisions.

3. Senior Developer or Solution Architect: With further experience and expertise, developers may advance to senior developer roles. Some may transition to solution architect roles, where they focus on designing software solutions for specific software projects.

4. Software Architect or Senior Software Architect: At this stage, you can officially become a software architect or senior software architect. These roles are responsible for designing complex software systems, making high-level architectural decisions, and ensuring alignment with business goals.

This doesn’t have to be the end, though. You can also move on to roles like lead architect, chief architect, principal architect, and enterprise architect.

How Much Can You Make as a Software Architect?

how to become a software architect, annual salary

The seniority of the software architect position becomes clear when you look at the average salary. In the United States, the common salary range for a software architect is $172,000-$275,000, with an average of $215,162. At big companies like Google, Apple, and Meta, the annual salary can reach as high as $361,540.

how to become a software architect, big companies annual salary

Becoming a Software Architect: Real-Life Stories To Inspire You

Have a look at these examples of software architects discussing their roles and showing off their daily grind.

CodeOpinion

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With a career starting back in the 1990s, this veteran software professional talks about his position as a software architect and his views on the role.

Stefan Mischook

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In this video, Stefan discusses the details of moving from a programmer role to a software architect role.

How To Become a Software Architect FAQs

Here are a few commonly asked questions about how to become a software architect.

Is Software Architecture a Good Career?

Yes! The pay is great, and as a software architect, you’ll play a pivotal role in shaping the foundation of projects and making critical decisions that impact the success of the software. The role offers opportunities for continuous learning, career growth, and the chance to work on diverse projects across different industries.

Are Software Architects in Demand?

As businesses across various industries seek to develop sophisticated applications and platforms, the need for skilled software architects continues to rise. Organizations understand the value of sound software architecture in achieving their strategic goals, making software architects a crucial asset for successful project delivery. The demand for software architects is expected to remain strong.

What Degree Should a Software Architect Have?

While there is no specific degree required to become a software architect, most professionals in this field typically hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. A degree in these disciplines provides a strong foundation in computer programming, algorithms, data structures, and software development principles. However, practical experience, continuous learning, and staying updated on the latest technologies and architectural trends are equally important for a successful career as a software architect.

Does Software Architecture Require Math?

While having a strong grasp of mathematics can be beneficial for a software architect, it is not a strict requirement. Most software architects do encounter mathematical concepts, especially when dealing with algorithms, data analysis, and optimization. However, a deep understanding of advanced mathematics is not typically a core requirement for the role.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Software Architect?

The time it takes to become a software architect can vary depending on your starting point, educational background, work experience, and dedication to continuous learning. On average, it may take several years of professional experience as a software developer, coupled with specialized training and skill development, to become a software architect. In some cases, this process may take around 5 to 10 years.

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About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.