What Does a System Architect Do? (Plus Skills and Qualifications)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 14 December 2022

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Computer systems play an important role in many industries and businesses. These systems are often complex and require specialised knowledge to design, build and maintain each part of the system. Understanding the duties of a system architect can help you understand how these professionals operate in their job setting and what credentials you can earn to become one. In this article, we explore the question, 'what does a system architect do?' and provide information on the qualifications, skills and salaries of these professionals.

What does a system architect do?

A system architect is a professional who analyses the IT components of a company project and may assist in designing and implementing certain IT systems. The architect serves as both a developer and an advisor to the company and helps the business reach its goals through the use of IT tools. Here are some of the primary duties of a system architect:

Performs project cost analyses

The system architect performs both project and component cost analyses for any IT necessities of an organisation. For example, if a customer requests proprietary inventory software for a shipping warehouse, the system architect may perform a cost analysis on the project's needs to deliver an estimate to the project manager or directly to the customer. The cost analysis helps with planning for the costs of the project or components. This analysis also creates an expectation of the cost threshold and indicates where the project might fall outside of the initial budget.

Related: What Is Software Development: Definition, Processes and Types

Creates a design plan for IT components

The system architect helps create design plans for IT projects and components. They might assist the development and design team in designing the best possible product and inform project managers or executives of the project's status. System architects use their extensive knowledge of computer science, coding and IT infrastructure to help businesses create viable, high-quality IT products and services. They may also design IT components for internal use and oversee the design and implementation process.

Advises the company on IT systems needs

The system architect also acts as an advisor for the company in all of its IT needs. They can advise the company on costs, project requirements, skills for IT employees or industry standards. As an advisor, the system architect helps keep the company aligned with modern standards in development and design, cyber security and computer science. Having a system architect as an advisor helps save the company time and money through the architect's direct expertise in information technology.

Identifies system definition requirements

The system architect identifies the system definition requirements of any hardware or software the company is using or developing. System definition requirements are the system's requirements to operate hardware or software. This might be certain lines of code, connections or specific operating systems. The architect advises the company on system definition requirements and may also help the company update its hardware or software to meet new standards in system definitions.

Ensures adherence to customer or industry standards

The system architect also helps the organisation adhere to industry standards and customer requirements. For example, if a customer requests a hardware system with built-in software that counts each box coming down an assembly line, the system architect oversees the development of the hardware and software to ensure it meets specifications. This is the quality assurance part of the system architect's job and is crucial to the company because it ensures the business only produces high-quality products that align with modern standards and customer requests.

Performs system backup management

The system architect also manages the business' backup systems to ensure the team creates backups and stores them correctly. Ensuring backups are complete and accurate is critical to data management in a company because incorrect or missing data can cost money and time to relocate or replicate. The system engineer applies advanced knowledge in hardware, software and computer infrastructure to also help create backup solutions for the business.

Performs troubleshooting and diagnostic testing

The system architect also performs various troubleshooting and diagnostic testing tasks for the business and the IT products it produces. Troubleshooting helps identify potential problems with hardware or software and allows the architect an opportunity to fix errors before final delivery. The system architect also troubleshoots internal software and hardware for the company, working closely with the IT team to ensure the company's IT components stay operational. Diagnostic testing sometimes requires presentations and documentation, which the system architect creates and provides to company executives or project managers.

Related: 24 Careers in STEM

Documents the design and testing process for company logs

The system architect also creates logs for any design processes, diagnostic testing or troubleshooting and errors in products or internal software and hardware. The system architect often manages project logs and is responsible for updating them accordingly as the team completes their projects. They may also help design cloud storage solutions for the company and oversee data audits on these records as necessary. Architects work closely with project managers, executives and IT team members to ensure logs are complete, accurate and accessible to anyone with permission to access the records.

What skills does a system architect need?

System architects have many skills for their position in the IT industry, including:

  • Computer science: System architects are experts in computer science and architecture. This expertise helps them identify the IT needs of the company and assist in the design process by identifying necessary components and correct procedures.

  • Data management: System architects typically manage data logs for testing and diagnostics, which requires data management skills. System architects learn how to collect, organise and store data correctly and accurately in digital storage solutions.

  • Interpersonal skills: System architects typically work as part of a larger IT team for a business. This requires good interpersonal skills, such as strong verbal, written and non-verbal communication, active listening skills and compassion or empathy.

  • IT knowledge: System architects have extensive knowledge of the information technology field, IT business structures and the IT needs of businesses. They also understand various disciplines within the IT field, such as development, system design and IT management.

  • Creativity: System architects use creativity to establish unique solutions to design problems and design proprietary software and hardware. Creativity also helps system architects create unique business strategies for IT components and projects.

  • Business management: System architects typically possess strong business management skills and understand how the IT needs of a business intersect with growth and company goals. This helps them align IT goals, projects and components with company goals and create growth plans.

  • Organisational skills: System architects organise projects and data, which requires a thorough understanding of organisational management and delegating tasks. They also know how to use IT tools to organise data.

Read more: Computer Skills: Definition and Examples

What qualifications does a system architect need?

System architects typically possess various qualifications that validate their extensive knowledge in IT, business management and computer systems. Here are some common qualifications:

  • A bachelor's degree: System architects typically possess at least a bachelor's degree in system architecture, computer architecture or a similar field.

  • Management experience: System architects gain management experience in IT positions to prepare them for managing IT projects and advising executives and project managers.

  • Additional certifications: Some system architects hold specific certifications in various IT disciplines, such as coding languages, cloud architecture or business management. Architects gain these certifications through university and tertiary education or online training programs.

  • IT experience: System architects have experience in IT environments and working or managing IT projects. They also understand current IT standards and technological innovations.

  • Coding knowledge: System architects typically have certifications or experience with various coding languages. They also understand how these languages correlate with software and hardware design and how to edit code or check for errors.

  • Cloud integration: System architects understand how to integrate cloud solutions into business IT management. They also understand how to develop solutions for cloud services and how to organise information on the cloud.

Related: How To Become a Software Developer

Salary information for system architects

A typical system architect earns an average salary of $140,556 per year. With additional certifications in coding languages, project management, business management or IT disciplines, system architects can potentially earn higher wages. Wages can also vary depending on the territory you're working in and your level of experience with system architect duties.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles