As a technical architect you'll get to design, build and deliver programs or systems for business clients using your technical expertise, carefully managing each project through each stage of the process
What is a technical architect?
If you want to combine your IT knowledge with elements of a managerial or leadership role, then you may want to consider becoming a technical architect. This job acts as a bridge between technology and the business side of an organisation.
You'll oversee IT projects from start to finish, act as a vital link between managers and teams of designers and developers and possibly have an input into an organisation's overall IT strategy and direction.
What does an IT architect do?
In most cases, you'll work within the IT department of a large organisation, or for an IT firm that specialises in delivering assignments for business clients. The responsibilities of a technical architect include:
- working alongside managers or clients to agree their IT requirements
- identifying the hardware and software that will be needed
- explaining plans agreed with managers to designers and developers
- organising the workloads of the technical teams in the most efficient way
- monitoring progress of the project and ensuring it's completed on time
- reporting progress back to managers or clients
- carrying out some of the technical work, depending on your level of seniority
- checking IT systems work as intended
- advising and suggesting future IT developments to managers or clients.
As a technical architect you'll generally work standard office hours, but often with the expectation you'll put in overtime or work weekends to ensure deadlines are met.
How much can I earn?
According to the National Careers Service (NCS), technical architects can earn anywhere between £40,000-£90,000 per year depending on experience, with the possibility of higher salaries at senior levels.
What types of roles are available?
Technical architect is a general job title referring to the person who supervises an organisation's technical work (or IT architecture as it's referred to). However, it can be divided into more specific roles that fall within the same field. These include:
- Applications (or software) architects take the lead on individual parts of major IT projects and also carry out hands-on technical tasks.
- Solutions architects are more senior than applications architects and lead entire projects.
- Enterprise architects have overall responsibility for an organisation's IT strategy and direction.
- Infrastructure architects lead on projects involving hardware and infrastructure equipment.
Jobs advertised as 'technical architect' may combine some or all of these, depending on factors such as the size of the employer.
Bear in mind, though, these terms aren't standardised across the IT sector. Always check job adverts carefully to find out the details of a vacancy, as the duties and level of seniority involved can vary significantly even within the same job title.
Technical architect jobs are available everywhere in the UK, with the majority based in London.
What skills do technical architects need?
You'll need a broad and up-to-date knowledge of software applications, programming languages and hardware, as well as an understanding of quality standards, legislation and best practice in the IT industry.
For the most part, you'll gain this knowledge of technical architecture over the course of your study and in your early career.
Once you've moved into employment you should consider taking short courses that lead to professional qualifications in areas of particular relevance, such as Agile and ITIL methodologies.
It may be necessary to have at least a basic understanding of programming languages - for example, C#, Java/J2EE, Oracle, SAP and SQL - and what they do.
In addition to technical ability, you'll also need advanced soft skills for the management side of the job:
- Anticipating and solving problems - a key part of the role is seeing where problems might arise during an IT project and finding solutions before they go 'live' and disrupt the organisation.
- Communication skills - you'll need to be adept at listening to, understanding and explaining concepts to both managerial and technical colleagues.
- Dealing with pressure - technical architects have a lot of responsibility and you'll have to deliver results in high-pressure circumstances.
- Prioritisation and time management - IT projects often have tight deadlines and missing them can have significant consequences for your organisation or client.
- Relationship-building - it's important to develop trust and understanding between the technical teams and managers or clients to ensure a project runs smoothly.
Take every opportunity to develop and gain evidence of these skills so you can use them later to show employers that you're ready to make the step up.
Do I need a degree to become a technical architect?
Employers expect you to have a degree or postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject, such as computer science, software development or business information systems. These courses provide you with the necessary technical knowledge.
However, you're unlikely to walk into a job as a technical architect straight after leaving university. As mentioned, this is a more senior role, and it therefore requires you to spend time building up experience of working in the IT sector.
Get your career started by looking for vacancies in areas such as software engineering, programming or testing - for instance, by working as a systems analyst. You'll be able to climb the career ladder from there.
After making it to technical architect, you could then go on to become a senior architect or move into IT consultancy.
What IT architecture courses are available?
There are plenty of opportunities for professional development, with a range of courses available from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT at foundation, practitioner and higher levels.
For example, the Foundation Certificate in Architecture Concepts and Domains is designed for those who work in any aspect of enterprise and solution architecture, including those new to their role.
No experience of information systems (IS) or IT architecture work is required before taking this three-day course through a BCS-accredited training provider. The course fees are set at £228.
However, you'll require more than just the qualification above (or the former Intermediate Certificate in Enterprise and Solutions Architecture award) to take the Practitioner Certificate in Enterprise and Solutions Architecture.
Geared towards those involved within any aspect of enterprise and solutions architecture, you'll need to have gained at least six years' experience of IS/IT work, including some contact with technical architects, to be eligible for a place on this three-day course. While the costs vary, according to the training provider, QA offers this course from £2,240 (including the £155 exam fee).
Find out more
- Search for postgraduate courses in computer sciences and IT.
- See IT courses for an overview of your training options.
- Consider other IT graduate jobs.