What Does a Data Architect Do? A Career Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Like traditional architects, data architects design the blueprints organizations use for their data management systems.

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Much like traditional architects draw up blueprints for the framework used to create structures, data architects design the blueprints that organizations use for their data management systems. This includes drafting a data management framework to meet business and technology requirements while ensuring data security and compliance with regulations. Data architects work in a variety of industries, including the technology sector, entertainment, health care, finance, and government.

Interested in launching your career in data architecture? Learn how to get started in this guide.

What is a data architect?

Data architects are IT professionals who leverage their computer science and design skills to review and analyze the data infrastructure of an organization, plan future databases, and implement solutions to store and manage data for organizations and their users. 

Since almost every company uses data, data architects can work in nearly any industry, including technology, entertainment, health care, finance, and government. 

Data architect tasks and responsibilities

Typical responsibilities range from evaluating the current data architecture to keeping databases secure. Depending on your organization and industry, your day-to-day tasks might include:

  • Translating business requirements into databases, data warehouses, and data streams

  • Creating procedures to ensure data accuracy and accessibility

  • Analyzing, planning, and defining data architecture framework, including security, reference data, metadata, and master data

  • Creating and implementing data management processes and procedures

  • Collaborating with other teams within the organization to devise and implement data strategies, build models, and assess shareholder needs and goals

  • Researching data acquisition opportunities

  • Developing application programming interfaces (APIs) to retrieve data

Curious about data architecture? Get an overview of common database architectures through this video.

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After watching this video, you will be able to: Describe deployment topologies for DBs Explain 2-Tier and 3-Tier architectures, including their layers such as database drivers, interfaces, and APIs.

Types of data architects

The volume of data that businesses and organizations deal with every day continues to grow rapidly. It's a critical element for business leaders who rely on data to make sound decisions. It's also important to consumers who want to make sure that their data is kept safe. 

There are multiple ways that data architects can use their skills and a variety of roles they may fill. Examples include:

  • Data architects define an organization's data vision and put it into practice.

  • Project managers oversee projects associated with the planning and building of data architecture.

  • Cloud architects employ company data in a cloud environment for optimal performance.

  • Security architects design and employ safeguards to ensure data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

  • Machine learning architects design scalable systems for use with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) models.

Data architect salary

The average annual salary for data architects in the US is $118,868 according to Glassdoor (October 2021). Your salary will depend on factors like where you work, your level of experience, and the industry you work in, among others. For example, data architects working in major metropolitan areas like San Francisco and New York tend to earn salaries higher than the national average.

Data is an increasingly important component of businesses across many industries, which may account for the demand for data architects. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that careers working with databases and data will increase by 8 percent between 2020 and 2030 [1].

Data architect skills 

To become a data architect, you’ll need a mix of job-specific and more general workplace skills that empower you to leverage data tools and technologies to help data drive business goals. Here are some of the useful skills you’ll need: 

Technical data architect skills

  • Data mining to uncover patterns, anomalies, and correlations in large data sets

  • Data management to efficiently and cost-effectively collect, store, and use data

  • Coding languages like Python and Java to develop applications for data analysis

  • Machine learning to build scalable systems for handling big data

  • Structured query language (SQL) to manipulate data

  • Data modeling tools like ERWin or Visio to visualize metadata and database schema

Workplace skills

  • Communication skills to help you effectively collaborate with other departments

  • Problem-solving and analytical skills to safeguard data integrity, security, and organization

  • Time management and the ability to multitask so that you can accomplish tasks and complete projects in a fast-paced environment

How to become a data architect

Developing the right skills is a big part of becoming a data architect. If you’re interested in this advanced data career, here’s a quick guide on how to get started. 

Consider a degree in data or computer science. 

A bachelor’s degree is the most common entry-level requirement for data architects, according to the BLS [1]. Consider a degree in computer science or data science to start building the skills you’ll need on the job. 

Taking courses in operating systems, technology architecture, data management, database systems, and systems analysis can give you a solid foundation of knowledge and skills that can translate to professional expertise. 

Build a foundation in data. 

Many boot camps, workshops, and courses available online can sharpen your skills in specific areas of data management. If you’re new to the world of data, you might consider an introductory program, like the Google Data Analytics or IBM Data Analyst Professional Certificate. As you advance, consider classes in more advanced topics, like Python, SQL, or data warehousing

Start with an entry-level job in data.

A job as a data architect is rarely an entry-level position. Instead, employers typically look for data architects with at least three to five years of experience in a related field such as database administration, programming, managing data systems, or a similar role. You might start out as a data analyst, data engineer, or solution architect and work your way up.

Read more: How to Land a Data Science Internship: Guide + List 2022

Earn a data-centric certification. 

Once you’ve started gaining experience, you might also opt to pursue a professional credential to enhance your resume. These are some options you might consider. 

  • Certified Data Professional (CDP): This credential from the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals allows applicants to choose from specializations like data analytics and design, business analytics, data integration and interoperability, data warehousing, enterprise data architecture, and data management.

  • Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP): This widely-known data architecture certification is offered by the Data Management Association. It offers four certification levels depending on the amount of experience you have. 

  • IBM Certified Data Architect - Big Data: Industry leaders at IBM offer this certification geared toward those who design large-scale and complex data processing systems. 

Next steps

Having skills in data architecture can open professional possibilities across a variety of industries. If you’re ready to take the first step toward a career in data, consider enrolling in the Google Data Analytics or IBM Data Engineering Professional Certificates. Build job-ready skills in less than six months as you learn at your own pace.

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Database Administrators and Architects, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/database-administrators.htm." Accessed May 22, 2022.

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